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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2005
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solar flare
Superflares could kill unprotected astronauts
(Mar 21, 2005)


A study of the most powerful solar flare of the past 500 years suggests that another like it would carry enough punch to kill astronauts in a poorly shielded spacecraft. The crew of a future mission to Mars might be at risk unless their craft is made of the right materials. Solar flares send high-energy protons streaming through the solar system, and the radiation is sometimes intense enough to endanger the health of astronauts. In January, the two men on the International Space Station had to shelter in the bulkier Russian side of the station during a particularly powerful series of flares.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

hourglass-shaped craters on Mars
'Kissing craters' on Mars reveal glacial activity
(Mar 21, 2005)


Two kissing craters revealed in a new image from Mars shows evidence of past glacial activity, according to the European Space Agency. The hourglass-shaped pair were found at the eastern edge of Hellas Basin – roughly 38 South latitude and 104 East. The impact craters lie near a mountain and scientists suspect a glacier accumulated at the base at some time in the past. If so, ice first flowed into the upper, smaller crater, which measures about 9 kilometres across. The glacier then continued its flow downhill into the lower crater, which is about 17 km in diameter. Stripes in the craters probably indicate the direction of glacial flow from one crater to another.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

remote galaxies
Giant space-time ripples may cause cosmic expansion
(Mar 20, 2005)


Dark energy is not necessary to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe observed by astronomers, suggest controversial new calculations. Instead, gigantic ripples in space-time – larger than the observable universe – may be the cause. Astronomers have known since the 1920s that space itself has been expanding since the big bang about 14 billion years ago. But in 1998, they discovered the expansion must have sped up about a billion years ago, based on observations of supernovae that appeared farther away than expected. So cosmologists came up with several exotic explanations, including dark energy and a theory in which gravity behaves differently over large distances.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Silverpit Crater
North Sea crater shows its scars
(Mar 19, 2005)


What is thought to be the UK's only space impact crater has been mapped in detail in 3D for the first time. The so-called Silverpit structure lies several hundred metres under the floor of the North Sea, about 130km (80 miles) east of the Yorkshire coast. The new pictures show a spectacular set of rings sweeping out around a 3km-wide (1.8 miles) central hole. Researchers report their description and interpretation of the images in the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

Read more. Source: BBC

mountain massif
Mars still alive, experts agree
(Mar 18, 2005)


New data from Europe's Mars Express spacecraft suggests liquid water, active volcanism and large glaciers scoured the Red Planet in recent times. Images from the probe's stereo camera show there was geological activity in the last few million years – just yesterday in geological terms. Signs of a huge frozen sea on Mars hint the planet could still hold the right conditions for microbial life. Details of the findings appear in a series of papers in Nature journal.

Read more. Source: BBC

black hole
Lab fireball 'may be black hole'
(Mar 17, 2005)


A fireball created in a US particle accelerator has the characteristics of a black hole, a physicist has said. It was generated at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in New York, US, which smashes beams of gold nuclei together at near light speeds. Horatiu Nastase says his calculations show that the core of the fireball has a striking similarity to a black hole. His work has been published on the pre-print website arxiv.org and is reported in New Scientist magazine.

Read more. Source: BBC

Enceladus
Cassini finds an atmosphere on Saturn's moon Enceladus
(Mar 17, 2005)


The Cassini spacecraft's two close flybys of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus have revealed that the moon has a significant atmosphere. Scientists, using Cassini's magnetometer instrument for their studies, say the source may be volcanism, geysers, or gases escaping from the surface or the interior. When Cassini had its first encounter with Enceladus on Feb. 17 at an altitude of 1,167 kilometers (725 miles), the magnetometer instrument saw a striking signature in the magnetic field. On March 9, Cassini approached to within 500 kilometers (310 miles) of Enceladus' surface and obtained additional evidence.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Martian dust devil
Martian dust devils finally caught on camera
(Mar 16, 2005)


Swirling dust devils on Mars have given NASA scientists both a scientific treat and a very welcome power boost. On 10 March, the rover Spirit captured images of two dust devils in one day. It is the first time any have been seen on Mars since first being identified in a single image from the Mars Pathfinder mission in 1997. One of the two appears on two different images from the rover's Navigation Camera, making it possible to track its direction and speed. Furthermore, a separate dust devil has apparently swept the rover clean.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Europa
Europe tells US: 'Come to Europa'
(Mar 15, 2005)


The next big cooperative European-US space mission will be to Europa, the ice-crusted moon of Jupiter. A joint working team is being set up to consider what sort of spacecraft would be needed and what each side could do. Officials in Washington and Paris are keen to follow up the spectacular success of Cassini-Huygens at Saturn. "It was a beautiful marriage and we really are looking to do a repeat," said Professor David Southwood, from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Read more. Source: BBC

water planet
Young universe looks like "vegetable soup"
(Mar 14, 2005)


What did the universe look like when it was only 2 to 3 billion years old? Astronomers used to think it was a pretty simple place containing relatively small, young star-forming galaxies. Researchers now are realizing that the truth is not that simple. Even the early universe was a wildly complex place. Studying the universe at this early stage is important in understanding how the galaxies near us were assembled over time. Jiasheng Huang (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) said, "It looks like vegetable soup! We're detecting galaxies we never expected to find, having a wide range of properties we never expected to see."

Read more. Source: Harvard-Smithsonian

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