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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: September 2005
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Tethys
Cassini spots huge "spear" on Saturn moon
(Sep 27, 2005)


The first close-up images of Saturn's moon Tethys have been sent to Earth from the Cassini spacecraft, which flew past the moon on Saturday. As well as the expected craters and chasms, one image reveals a peculiar, spear-shaped feature. Tethys is one of Saturn's inner moons, orbiting about 300,000 kilometres from the planet – closer than our Moon is to Earth. Scientists already knew that the 500-kilometre moon bears one huge crater, Odysseus, and a unique giant canyon system called Ithaca Chasma.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

milky sea
'Milky seas' detected from space
(Sep 27, 2005)


Mariners over the centuries have reported surreal, nocturnal displays of glowing sea surfaces stretching outwards to the horizon. Little is known about these "milky seas" other than that they are probably caused by luminous bacteria. But the first satellite detection of this strange phenomenon in the Indian Ocean may now aid future research.

Read more. Source: BBC

mammoths
Supernova explosion may have caused mammoth extinction
(Sep 27, 2005)


A distant supernova that exploded 41,000 years ago may have led to the extinction of the mammoth, according to research conducted by nuclear scientist Richard Firestone of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Firestone, who conducted this research with Arizona geologist Allen West, will unveil this theory at the 2nd International Conference "The World of Elephants" in Hot Springs, SD. Their theory joins the list of possible culprits responsible for the demise of mammoths, which last roamed North America roughly 13,000 years ago.

Read more. Source: Lawrence Berkeley Lab

Voyager
Voyager 1: Messages from the Edge
(Sep 27, 2005)


NASA's Voyager 1 has passed into the border region at the edge of the solar system and now is sending back information about this never-before-explored area, say scientists at the University of Maryland. "We have confirmed, for the first time, that Voyager 1 crossed the termination shock on Dec. 16, 2004," said Frank McDonald , a senior research scientist at the university's Institute for Physical Science and Technology, and a coauthor on two of four Voyager 1 papers published in the Sept. 23 issue of Science. The termination shock marks the beginning of a transition region at the edge of the solar system that is known as the heliosheath.

Read more. Source: Univ. of Maryland

Shenzou V launch
China set for second space shot
(Sep 26, 2005)


China's second manned space mission will blast off on 13 October at the earliest, Chinese news sources claim. The Shenzhou-6 spacecraft will launch from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Base, in the Gobi desert of northern China. Reports say the Chinese will send two astronauts into space for a mission lasting about five days. China's first manned launch in October 2003 made it only the third country to send a human into space on its own, after Russia and the US.

Read more. Source: BBC

Cronin (left), Perreault and the atom interferometer
Physicists measure tiny force that limits how far machines can shrink
(Sep 26, 2005)


University of Arizona physicists have directly measured how close speeding atoms can come to a surface before the atoms' wavelengths change. Theirs is a first, fundamental measurement that confirms the idea that the wave of a fast-moving atom shortens and lengthens depending on its distance from a surface, an idea first proposed by pioneering quantum physicists in the late 1920s. The measurement tells nanotechnologists how small they can make extremely tiny devices before a microscopic force between atoms and surfaces, called van der Waals interaction, becomes a concern.

Read more. Source: Univ. of Arizona

Sedna
When is a planet not a planet?
(Sep 23, 2005)


Astronomers are arguing bitterly over how to define a planet, with some proposing that the term be abandoned completely in favour of more specific labels based on where objects are located. Two competing proposals are expected to be put forward to a formal task group on Friday, but astronomers say the debate could drag on indefinitely. The International Astronomical Union, which is responsible for settling such issues, assembled a special working group to come up with a new definition about 18 months ago, when a large new body called Sedna was found in the outer solar system. "The hope was that we would come to some agreement before anything else dramatic happened," says the working group's chairman, Iwan Williams of Queen Mary, University of London, UK. "But then 2003 UB313 turned up."

Read more. Source: New Scientist

out-of-body experience
Out-of-body or all in the mind?
(Sep 22, 2005)


One in 10 people have had an out-of-body experience, yet scientists know very little about the phenomenon. Researchers say a new study could bring us closer to the ultimate question of what happens when we die. Out-of-body experiences involve a sensation of floating and seeing the physical body from the outside. They are often a symptom of the near-death experience, where people, whilst apparently dead, experience visions, tunnels of light and a feeling of peace, before being resuscitated.

Read more. Source: BBC

Andromeda Galaxy
Mysterious ring of stars guards Andromeda’s heart
(Sep 21, 2005)


The Milky Way's near-twin galaxy, Andromeda, harbours a supermassive black hole at its core that is surrounded by an unexpected and unexplained disc of young stars. These new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope answer one longstanding mystery: the source of bright blue light very close to the spiral galaxy's central black hole, first spotted using Hubble a decade ago. Yet solving this mystery has immediately created another in its place. The newly discovered disc is composed of over 400 very hot, young blue stars, orbiting like a planetary system very close to the black hole. That puzzles astronomers because the black hole's intense gravitational field should have torn apart any clouds of matter long before they could coalesce to form new stars.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

surface of Mars
Mars 'more active than suspected'
(Sep 21, 2005)


New images of Mars suggest the red planet's surface is more active than previously thought, the US space agency NASA has announced. New photographs from Nasa's orbiting spacecraft, Mars Global Surveyor, show new impact craters and gullies. The agency's scientists also say that deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near the planet's south pole have shrunk for three summers in a row. They say these changes suggest climate change is in progress.

Read more. Source: BBC

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