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Titan disappoints ocean hunters
(June 10, 2005)

Although pictures of Titan seem to show rivers, deltas and oceans, Saturn's giant moon is as dry as a bone, scientists say. Researchers know that the moon has methane in its atmosphere, and they had speculated that this came from fumes evaporating from giant lakes of hydrocarbons. They envisaged rainstorms of liquid methane and other wild weather events on the alien surface. So they eagerly anticipated pictures from the Cassini probe which flew past Titan on 26 October 2004 and peered through the moon's thick smog using its Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. Surprisingly, a detailed analysis of these images, published this week in Nature, has shown no significant bodies of liquid anywhere on the moon.

Read more. Source: Nature

MOL spacesuit
'007 spy suit' found in NASA bunker
(June 9, 2005)

The spy was definitely not called Bond, for that name is not among the military officers selected 40 years ago to conduct reconnaissance missions for the US from an orbital laboratory in space. But secret agent Bond shares a number – 007 – with one of the US spies-in-training. Space historians are trying to find out who the mystery man is after his spacesuit turned up, along with an identical outfit bearing number 008, in an abandoned space agency blockhouse last used to launch Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom into space in 1961.

Read more. Source: BBC

possible ice volcano on Titan
'Ice volcano' found on Titan moon
(June 8, 2005)

The Cassini spacecraft has identified a possible ice volcano on Saturn's moon Titan, according to Nature magazine. The supposed cryovolcano shows up in images as a bright, circular, domed region about 30km in diameter with two possible flows extending westwards. It may be formed by an upwelling of hot ice from the interior, scientists say.

Read more. Source: BBC

Cosmos 1
Launch date set for solar sailing ship
(June 7, 2005)

After years of false starts, disappointment and delay, one of spaceflight's brightest hopes could be about to take to the skies. Cosmos 1, the world's first solar sailing ship, could be launched from a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea in two weeks. On June 21, if all goes well, a Soviet Volna rocket originally designed to deliver nuclear warheads will push a 100kg (220lb) American-designed spacecraft to an orbit 500 miles high. The payload will open and like the petals of a flower, eight huge triangular blades 15 metres long will unfurl to reflect the rays of the sun.

Read more. Source: Guardian

Blue Gene
Mission to build a simulated brain begins
(June 6, 2005)

An effort to create the first computer simulation of the entire human brain, right down to the molecular level, was launched on Monday. The “Blue Brain” project, a collaboration between IBM and a Swiss university team, will involve building a custom-made supercomputer based on IBM’s Blue Gene design. The hope is that the virtual brain will help shed light on some aspects of human cognition, such as perception, memory and perhaps even consciousness.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Next US Mars lander gets go-ahead
(June 5, 2005)

NASA has given the green light to Phoenix, its next mission to land on the surface of Mars. The announcement allows project team members to proceed with preparations for launch of the spacecraft in 2007. The lander will touch down in Mars' northern polar region to explore its climate and geology and to look for signs of life, past or present. Its robotic arm will dig down to the Martian ice layer and deliver samples to the lander's deck for analysis.

Read more. Source: BBC

Earth microbes may survive on Mars
(June 2, 2005)

Terrestrial microbes that hitch a ride to Mars on spacecraft may be able to survive under special circumstances, according to a new laboratory study. The research suggests scientists should take extra care when analysing potential signs of life during future missions to the Red Planet. Most spacecraft that touch down on Mars have not been thoroughly sterilised by heat or radioactivity – so they carry with them living microbes from Earth. But Mars's thin atmosphere allows such intense ultraviolet radiation to reach the planet’s surface – triple that found on Earth – that any life inadvertently carried on the spacecraft is thought to be wiped out quickly. Indeed, Martian-level doses of UV radiation have destroyed some microbe species in just seconds in laboratory tests.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

white dwarf pair
Astronomers find best gravitational wave prospect
(June 2, 2005)

Two burned-out stars are spiralling towards each other so fast they may ripple the fabric of space-time more than any other source near Earth, suggest new observations. A future space mission may detect the ripples – or gravitational waves – within 10 years. Massive, accelerating objects such as black holes and the dense corpses of stars are thought to release gravitational waves as they orbit each other. This allows them to fall inwards until they eventually collide and merge – unleashing even more powerful gravitational radiation. Though widely theorised, no such waves have yet been detected. But new observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory may have identified the most likely candidate for a future detection.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Comet put on list of potential Earth impactors
(June 2, 2005)

A comet has been added to the list of potentially threatening near-Earth objects maintained by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Comet Catalina 2005 JQ5 is the largest – and therefore most potentially devastating – of the 70 objects now being tracked. However, the chances of a collision are very low. The listing of Comet Catalina underscores the uncertainty in the knowledge of whether comets or asteroids pose a greater threat to Earth. Previous estimates of the proportion of the impact risk posed by comets have varied widely, from 1% to 50%, with most recent estimates at the lower end.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

cluster of galaxies
A duplicate universe, trapped in a computer
(June 2, 2005)

Scientists have recreated a vast segment of the universe inside a computer and written a brief history of time, black holes and galaxy formation. The Millennium Simulation – the biggest exercise of its kind - required 25 million megabytes of memory. But it tracked the 14bn-year history of creation in months and now offers a tool to explore mysterious events in galaxies far away and long ago. "It is the biggest thing we have ever done," said Carlos Frenk of the University of Durham. "It is probably the biggest thing ever in computational physics. For the first time we have a replica universe which looks just like the real one. So we can now for the first time begin to experiment with the universe.

Read more. Source: Guardian

Nazi nuclear weapon diagram
Drawing uncovered of 'Nazi nuke'
(June 1, 2005)

Historians working in Germany and the US claim to have found a 60-year-old diagram showing a Nazi nuclear bomb. It is the only known drawing of a "nuke" made by Nazi experts and appears in a report held by a private archive. The researchers who brought it to light say the drawing is a rough schematic and does not imply the Nazis built, or were close to building, an atomic bomb. But a detail in the report hints some Nazi scientists may have been closer to that goal than was previously believed.

Read more. Source: BBC

carved rock
Mystery of the smiling Buddha
(June 1, 2005)

The little Buddhist sage sits underneath the tree only yards from the sea from which he was plucked, a whimsical smile upon his face. Villagers gather before him with offerings of incense and food. “We must look after him,” Gajendram, a fisherman, said as he knelt to light a candle. “He was sent 1,000 miles across the sea to protect us and he will stay with us for ever.” A few miles up the coast at Mahabalipuram, a group of daytrippers marvel at the weathered carvings on a huge rock sitting in the middle of the beach.

Read more. Source: Times (London)

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