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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: August 2006
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Hyperion
Reflections of Hyperion: an irregular, dark place
(Aug 8, 2006)


Saturn's oblong moon, Hyperion, reveals its surface variation in a recently released false-colour image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Hyperion is exceptionally dark for a Saturnian moon, reflecting only 30% of the light that falls on it, and it also has a distinctly red tint. Scientists are yet to account for the tonal variation emphasised by the new image, though it may be due to small differences in the composition of the surface or the size of the icy grains there.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Extremely Large Telescope
Record mirror for Euro telescope
(Aug 8, 2006)


European astronomers are planning to build an optical telescope that is four times bigger than any in existence. With a main mirror around 42m-wide, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will allow remote objects to be studied in greater detail than ever before. The powerful observatory will allow astronomers to see some of the first galaxies to form in the Universe.

Read more. Source: BBC

comet Hale-Bopp
Pre-life molecules present in comets
(Aug 7, 2006)


Evidence of atomic nitrogen in interstellar gas clouds suggests that pre-life molecules may be present in comets, a discovery that gives a clue about the early conditions that gave rise to life, according to researchers from the University of Michigan and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The finding also substantially changes the understanding of chemistry in space.

Read more. Source: University of Michigan

Parkes radio telescope dish
One giant blunder for mankind: how NASA lost Moon pictures
(Aug 6, 2006)


The heart-stopping moments when Neil Armstrong took his first tentative steps onto another world are defining images of the 20th century: grainy, fuzzy, unforgettable. But just 37 years after Apollo 11, it is feared the magnetic tapes that recorded the first moon walk – beamed to the world via three tracking stations, including Parkes's famous "Dish" – have gone missing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Read more. Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Triangulum Galaxy
Big bang pushed back two billion years
(Aug 5, 2006)


Our universe may be 15% larger and older than we thought, according to new measurements of the distance to a nearby galaxy. Researchers led by Alceste Bonanos at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, used data from telescopes including the 10-metre Keck-II telescope in Hawaii, to measure the distance to a pair of stars in the Triangulum Galaxy.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

pair of planemos, artist's impression
First pair of 'planetary mass objects' to roam alone
(Aug 4, 2006)


Two free-floating objects have been found orbiting each other for the first time. The find raises questions about how such small objects could form. Bodies that have the mass of a planet but are not bound to a star are called planetary mass objects, or "planemos". Astronomers are not sure how they form since planets such as those in our solar system took shape from a disc of gas and dust around a star.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

two planet-sized dwarfs
Dwarf survives in stellar furnace
(Aug 3, 2006)


A distant world that escaped the likely fate of the Earth – being fried when the Sun grows old and dies – has been discovered by UK astronomers. The brown dwarf withstood being swallowed by a red giant and is now locked in a perpetual dance with the remains of the larger star. The two objects, of different colours, rotate around each other in two hours.

Read more. Source: BBC

structure in Mars meteorite ALH84001
How to tell Earthlings that Martian life is here
(Aug 2, 2006)


A plan should be formulated for how to tell the public if signs of Martian life are found by future missions to the Red Planet, say scientists from NASA and the SETI Institute. Otherwise, incorrect information could be leaked to the public before studies on the potential life could be completed. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers that continue to explore Mars are not designed to search for life. But if a sample return mission is ever sent to Mars, scientists could test for it in the rocks brought back to Earth.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

lava tube
Can high-tech cavemen live on the Moon?
(Aug 1, 2006)


Moon caves would make good homes for astronauts and should therefore be mapped out, a space scientist argues. The Moon appears to possess long, cave-like structures called lava tubes that are similar to ones on Earth. They form when the surface of a stream of lava solidifies and the molten rock inside drains away, leaving a hollow tube of rock. Some of the tubes on Earth are big enough to drive a car through, and those on the Moon could be even larger.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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