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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2006
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Enceladus plume
New theory behind 'cold faithful' on Saturnian moon
(Dec 18, 2006)

An enormous plume erupting on Saturnís moon Enceladus may be emanating from a substance much colder than liquid water, scientists announced today. The great geyser, discovered by the Cassini spacecraft, was believed to have been fed by cavities of liquid water sitting below the frozen surface of the moon. But a new model suggests that these jets spring from an ice phase called clathrate.

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spacewalk outside the ISS on Dec. 16, 2006
Astronauts rewire space station
(Dec 17, 2006)

Two crew members of the space shuttle Discovery have completed the delicate rewiring of the International Space Station (ISS) during a third spacewalk. But Astronauts Robert Curbeam and Sunita Williams struggled to fix a jammed solar panel on the ISS. NASA has approved a fourth spacewalk, due to take place on Monday, which will delay the shuttle's return by a day.

Read more. Source: BBC

comet Wild-2
Comets hold life chemistry clues
(Dec 15, 2006)

The idea that comets delivered the chemical "seeds" for life to the early Earth has been given a big boost. Scientists studying the tiny grains of material recovered from Comet Wild-2 by NASA's Stardust mission have found large, complex carbon-rich molecules. They are of the type that could have been important precursor components of the initial reactions that gave rise to the planet's biochemistry.

Read more. Source: BBC

Spherules seen at Victoria Crater on Mars
Mars rover nears bathtub ring of blueberries
(Dec 15, 2006)

A bumper crop of "blueberries" has been found around the rim of Mars's Victoria Crater by NASA's Opportunity rover. The discovery suggests that when the rover descends into the crater in a few months, it may find a bathtub ring of the tiny concretions – an ancient high-water mark suggesting the area was altered by ground, not surface, water.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

European Extremely Large Telescope
Final stage for telescope design
(Dec 14, 2006)

A project to build the world's biggest telescope has been given the go-ahead to move into its final design stage. European Southern Observatory (ESO) officials have given approval for a detailed design study of the European Extremely Large Telescope to proceed. The 57m euro (£38m) design study, will make it possible to start construction of the telescope in three years time.

Read more. Source: BBC

mountain range on Titan
Mountain range spotted on Titan
(Dec 13, 2006)

The Cassini spacecraft has spied the tallest mountains yet seen on Titan, Saturn's major moon. The range is about 150km long (93 miles), 30km (19 miles) wide and about 1.5km (nearly a mile) high. The feature was identified by the probe on a recent pass, using a combination of radar and infrared data.

Read more. Source: BBC

astronauts from Discovery install a truss on the ISS
Astronauts make first spacewalk
(Dec 13, 2006)

Two astronauts have carried out the first spacewalk of Space Shuttle Discovery's 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The pair installed a truss that forms the backbone of the station during their walk of more than six hours. Earlier, the crew used a camera on the ISS's robotic arm to examine an area on the shuttle's left wing where sensors detected a "very low" impact.

Read more. Source: BBC

Geminid meteor
Peak of Geminid meteor shower set to dazzle
(Dec 12, 2006)

The annual Geminid meteor display is expected to peak on Wednesday night. With up to 100 meteors per hour visible from a dark site, the Geminids rival the Perseids in August for the title of best meteor display of the year. The paths of Geminid meteors appear to point back to a spot near the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini, giving the shower its name.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Discovery in orbit
Preliminary inspections show shuttle in good health
(Dec 11, 2006)

The space shuttle Discovery appears to have survived its lift-off on Saturday with no critical damage to its all-important heat shield from falling foam or ice, preliminary observations suggest. As the shuttle tried to catch up to the International Space Station on Sunday, the seven astronauts onboard scanned the leading edges of the orbiter's wings and its nosecap with a device mounted on the end of an extension to its robotic arm.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Discovery night launch
Shuttle lifts off in night launch
(Dec 10, 2006)

The space shuttle Discovery has lifted off from Cape Canaveral – the first night shuttle launch in four years. Discovery launched at 2047 (0147 GMT on Sunday), two days after poor weather forced a lift-off to be cancelled. Rocket flares from the shuttle were visible in the night sky across much of the south-eastern United States.

Read more. Source: BBC

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