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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: June 2005
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antimatter-powered spaceship
'Antimatter harvester' may fuel future spacecraft
(June 21, 2005)


Giant wire spheres may one day float near Earth, scooping up bits of antimatter for humans to use as space fuel. The far-fetched idea is one of 12 recently selected to each receive up to $75,000 from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. The institute promotes radical schemes that would not necessarily yield results within a decade. Antimatter particles share the same mass as their normal-matter counterparts but bear the opposite charge. And while both types of matter are thought to have been created in equal amounts in the big bang, today there is much more matter than antimatter in the universe.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

time machine
New model 'permits time travel'
(June 19, 2005)


If you went back in time and met your teenage parents, you could not split them up and prevent your birth – even if you wanted to, a new quantum model has stated. Researchers speculate that time travel can occur within a kind of feedback loop where backwards movement is possible, but only in a way that is "complementary" to the present. In other words, you can pop back in time and have a look around, but you cannot do anything that will alter the present you left behind.

Read more. Source: BBC

dropped rocket
Dropped rockets may take astronauts into orbit
(June 17, 2005)


Rockets that drop in a vertical orientation from carrier aircraft could carry astronauts into space safely and cheaply, suggest drop tests of the new approach. Development of the technique is being spearheaded by a consortium of small aerospace companies called t/Space that includes Scaled Composites, the firm that in 2004 won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight. With $3 million in seed money from NASA, t/Space is developing a rocket that would first be carried by aeroplane to an altitude of between 10 and 13 kilometres. The rocket would launch from that height before carrying four astronauts to low-Earth orbit.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

brain cells
Brain cells are matured in lab
(June 16, 2005)


US scientists say they have duplicated the generation of new adult brain cells in the lab in a controlled way. It is hoped the technique, tested so far on animal cells, will eventually allow scientists to produce a limitless supply of a person's own brain cells. The researchers believe they could potentially be used to treat disorders like Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. The study, by the McKnight Brain Institute, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more. Source: BBC

Ida
Magma oceans sloshed across early asteroids
(June 16, 2005)


Oceans of molten rock covered some asteroids in the early solar system, reveals a new study of meteorites. But researchers are still puzzled over why other asteroids apparently did not melt at all. In the solar system's first few tens of millions of years, collisions between rocky objects and the decay of radioactive isotopes melted the interiors of large objects. Magma oceans – perhaps hundreds of kilometres deep – lapped over the Moon, the Earth, and other planets, allowing dense material to settle towards their centres in a process called differentiation. But the extent of asteroid melting had remained unclear. Now, Richard Greenwood at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK, and colleagues have analysed groups of meteorites thought to have come from the 530-kilometre-wide asteroid Vesta and from a second, still-unknown, asteroid.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Jupiter
Superfast 'gun' addresses Jupiter's core issues
(June 15, 2005)


The fastest "gun" in the world has set a new speed record, shooting small pieces of aluminium to speeds of 34 kilometres per second. The feat may shed light on the mysterious cores hidden inside giant planets such as Jupiter. Jupiter is made mostly of hydrogen, and its heart is thought to be crushed by about 60 million times the atmospheric pressure on Earth. But researchers do not know how the element behaves at such pressures because they have not been able to reproduce the condition in labs. The knowledge could settle a debate over how gas giants form.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

extrasolar planet
Smallest extrasolar planet found
(June 14, 2005)


Astronomers have detected the smallest extrasolar planet yet: a world about seven and a half times as massive as Earth, orbiting a star much like ours. All of the 150 or so exoplanets found orbiting normal stars are larger than Uranus, itself 15 times Earth's mass. The new find may be the first rocky world found around a star like our Sun. The newly discovered "super-Earth" orbits the star Gliese 876, located 15 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Aquarius.

Read more. Source: BBC

fusion reactor
Plasma in reactors echoes distribution of galaxies
(June 13, 2005)


Nuclear fusion reactors could be used to study what the universe was like just after the big bang. So claims a physicist who noticed that the plasma created inside these reactors is distributed in a strikingly similar way to galaxies in today's universe. Nils Basse of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology does not normally concern himself with events in the early universe. Instead, he studies turbulence in the plasma created in fusion reactors. But when he chanced upon the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) – which is mapping a quarter of the sky in detail – he noticed something uncanny.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Stonehenge
Found: Europe's oldest civilization
(June 11, 2005)


Archaeologists have discovered Europe's oldest civilisation, a network of dozens of temples, 2,000 years older than Stonehenge (shown here) and the Pyramids. More than 150 gigantic monuments have been located beneath the fields and cities of modern-day Germany, Austria and Slovakia. They were built 7,000 years ago, between 4800BC and 4600BC. Their discovery, revealed today by The Independent, will revolutionise the study of prehistoric Europe, where an appetite for monumental architecture was thought to have developed later than in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Read more. Source: Independent

Deep Impact
NASA's shot at comet's secrets
(June 11, 2005)


NASA scientists are preparing the ultimate Independence Day firework – a copper missile shot into the heart of a giant comet. After a voyage of more than six months and 268 million miles, the Deep Impact spacecraft will intercept the 2.5-mile wide Tempel-1 comet travelling at 23,000 mph and fire a one-metre copper projectile into it. Astronomers hope the explosive encounter on July 4 will smash a hole in the comet's icy exterior and show what lies inside. Michael A'Hearn, chief scientist on the project, said: "The last 24 hours of the impactor's life should provide the most spectacular data in the history of cometary science."

Read more. Source: Guardian

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