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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: November 2005
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Minerva
Japanese asteroid probe apparently lost in space
(Nov 14, 2005)


Japan's space agency suffered another glitch in its mission to collect surface samples from an asteroid and return to Earth when a can-sized robot lander apparently became lost in space while attempting a practice touch down. The rehearsal landing followed an earlier attempt that was aborted due to mechanical trouble, but the space agency said it is still targeting actual landings on the potato-shaped asteroid Itokawa on Nov. 19 and Nov. 25.

Read more. Source: space.com/AP

ISS crew
McCartney in live space broadcast
(Nov 13, 2005)


Sir Paul McCartney has become the first musician to broadcast live music to an audience in space. The former Beatles member treated two astronauts at the international space station to a live wake-up call with the Beatles song Good Day Sunshine. The performance was broadcast to the crew, 220 miles (354km) above Earth, from a concert in California. Sir Paul said he decided to make the broadcast after Nasa used the song to wake the Space Shuttle Discovery crew.

Read more. Source: BBC

Ariane 5-ECA
Technical hitch delays Ariane 5
(Nov 13, 2005)


A technical problem has delayed Saturday's lift-off from French Guiana of Europe's heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket. Space officials postponed the mission shortly before launch from the Kourou spaceport. The rocket operator, Arianespace, said a problem had been encountered during the final preparations. The heavy-lift vehicle was set to blast-off carrying its largest payload yet of two telecoms satellites weighing more than eight tonnes.

Read more. Source: BBC

The trajectory of speeding star HE 0437-5439 is shown in this artist's illustration
Black hole ate my twin, but it can’t catch me
(Nov 12, 2005)


A young star has been caught in the act of speeding out of the galaxy – seemingly on the run from a giant black hole that had already swallowed its twin. Astronomers used the UVES spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope in Chile to spot the young runaway, called HE 0437-5439, in the dark outer reaches of the Milky Way. The star appears to be 30 million years old and about eight times the mass of the Sun. It drew notice in part because it was found in a vast enclave of ancient stars – most of them billions of years old – that surrounds the disc of the galaxy like a bubble.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Nebula N66 in the Small Magellanic Cloud
Surprising star birth seen in bear-shaped nebula
(Nov 12, 2005)


Nearly 5000 faint, embryonic stars have been found in a small galaxy that orbits the Milky Way, a new Hubble Space Telescope image reveals. The find confirms that star formation occurs in the same way even in very different galaxies. Astronomers led by Antonella Nota at the European Space Agency used Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys to view a star-forming region about 210,000 light years away, called N66. The 300-light-year-wide stellar nursery, in the rough shape of a bear cub, lies in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy on the outskirts of the Milky Way.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Rhizocarpon geographicum
Hardy lichen shown to survive in space
(Nov 11, 2005)


Lichens can survive unprotected in the harsh conditions of space, a European Space Agency experiment discovers. The organisms are a composite of algae and fungi. They are commonly found on the surface of rocks on Earth and can survive in extreme conditions such as high mountains latitudes. Lichens are the most complex form of life now known to have survived prolonged exposure to space. In an experiment led by Leopoldo Sancho from the Complutense University of Madrid, two species of lichen – Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans – were sealed in a capsule and launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket on 31 May 2005.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

space ferry concept by Transformational Space
NASA seeks private space-ferries
(Nov 10, 2005)


NASA is looking to private companies to launch both supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station, it announced this week. The agency will form a separate office at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to coordinate contracted trips to the station. It will be called the Commercial Crew/Cargo Project Office (CC/CPO). On 22 November, NASA is scheduled to officially request proposals from companies, who must submit their ideas by 27 January 2006.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

gravitational tractor
Gravity tug to deflect asteroids
(Nov 10, 2005)


Two NASA astronauts say they have devised a plan to stop an asteroid potentially colliding with Earth. The US spacemen Edward Lu and Stanley Love propose sending up a huge rocket to "tow" away any such objects. Their vehicle would simply hover over the asteroid and use gravity as a "towline" to move it out of danger. A 20-tonne craft could safely deflect an asteroid 200m across in about a year of such "towing", Lu and Love report in the journal Nature. Scientists believe that if an asteroid this size collided with the planet, it would cause widespread damage and loss of life.

Read more. Source: BBC

Launch of Venus Express by a Soyuz-Fregat rocket. Image: European Space Agency
Europe's Venus mission blasts off
(Nov 9, 2005)


The first space mission in more than a decade to Earth's closest neighbour, Venus, has lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Europe's Venus Express probe blasted off on a Russian rocket at 0333 GMT on Wednesday. The robotic craft will orbit the planet to study its atmosphere, which has experienced runaway greenhouse warming.

Read more. Source: BBC

Robert's Quartet
Intergalactic attraction creates bumper star crop
(Nov 8, 2005)


Hundreds of new stars are igniting in the wake of intense gravitational interactions between four galaxies, new observations reveal. The four galaxies – called Robert's Quartet – lie about 160 million light years from Earth in the southern constellation Phoenix. They are crowded into a space just 150,000 light years across – only 1.5 times the width of our galaxy, the Milky Way. That proximity makes them one of the best known examples of a compact group of galaxies, whose members gravitationally disturb each other.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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