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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2006
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A tiny bit of aerogel contains a carrot-shaped track carved by comet dust particles, as seen in this cross-section
Comet dust sparks scientific intrigue
(Feb 21, 2006)


Giving a sneak peek of results to come, a top mission scientist said flecks of material collected during the Stardust spacecraft's seven-year journey bear the unmistakable signature of an ancient comet, including sulfides, crystalline silicates and probably organic compounds as well. "We're seeing a variety of things that we know absolutely come from a comet," University of Washington astronomer Donald Brownlee, Stardust's principal investigator, told reporters here Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Read more. Source: MSNBC

The near-infrared image of the galaxy, captured by the Cosmic Background Explorer mission (color) matches very closely the X-ray data collected by the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (contours), suggesting the X-ray emission is generated in the same place as older stars (Image: NASA/GSFC/RXTE/COBE /M Mevnivtsev et al)
Faint stars may supply the cosmic X-ray fog
(Feb 21, 2006)


Millions of stars too faint to be seen are collectively responsible for a haze of X-rays that suffuses the Milky Way galaxy, two new studies suggest. The work avoids the problems dogging previous studies that attributed the radiation to clouds of hot gas, but could not account for the source of such gas. (Image: Near-infrared image of the galaxy (color) closely matches X-ray data (contours))

Read more. Source: New Scientist

orbital space plane
Public space travel: Building the business case
(Feb 20, 2006)


In the last few years, personal space travel has become a far more feasible business proposition. But much work remains in fostering and then sustaining such an enterprise. For one, there is need not to over-promise ticket-paying customers about prospective space jaunts – adventure that will be costly for the foreseeable future and far from risk-free. Meanwhile, passenger space travel into Earth orbit may well be accelerated by a new NASA effort to bolster the commercial orbital transportation business.

Read more. Source: space.com

Milky Way
Top stars picked in alien search
(Feb 19, 2006)


An US astronomer has drawn up a shortlist of the stars most likely to harbour intelligent life. Scientists have been listening out for radio signals from other solar systems in the hope of detecting civilisations other than our own. Margaret Turnbull at the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC looked at criteria such as the star's age and the amount of iron in its atmosphere. Her top candidate was beta CVn [Chara], a Sun-like star 26 light-years away.

Read more. Source: BBC

Space Adventures Explorer shuttle
New fleet of private spaceships announced
(Feb 18, 2006)


The company that has already arranged for three space enthusiasts to visit the International Space Station is building a global team to develop a fleet of commercial suborbital spaceships, dubbed Explorers. On Friday, Space Adventures in Virginia, announced its plans to build a $265 million spaceport in the United Arab Emirates, with prospects for additional ports in Singapore and North America. The news comes a day after Space Adventures announced its partnership with Prodea and the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation to create a fleet of suborbital space vehicles for commercial purposes.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

iron meteorite
Mars rover to seek safe winter haven
(Feb 17, 2006)


While Spirit busily studies a finely layered outcrop dubbed Home Plate, mission planners say the rover's daily power supply is steadily dropping. And with the Martian winter looming and dust accumulating on Spirit's solar arrays, the team is preparing to drive Spirit to a safe haven. The Martian winter does not officially begin until August, but Byron Jones, rover mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) says the team would like to get Spirit situated on a slope called McCool Hill, with its solar arrays tilted northward, in plenty of time.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

iron meteorite
Iron meteorites may be solar system boomerangs
(Feb 16, 2006)


Iron meteorites thought to have originated in the asteroid belt beyond Mars may actually have formed near Earth, a new study reports. The work may resolve a mystery over why only a few asteroids appear to have melted in the past and could offer researchers insights into the composition of the Earth's interior. Iron meteorites are made up of iron and nickel alloys and comprise about 6% of all catalogued space rocks on Earth.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

artist's concept showing greenish crystals sprinkled throughout the violent core of a pair of colliding galaxies. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Spitzer finds violent galaxies smothered in 'crushed glass'
(Feb 16, 2006)


NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has observed a rare population of colliding galaxies whose entangled hearts are wrapped in tiny crystals resembling crushed glass. The crystals are essentially sand, or silicate, grains that were formed like glass, probably in the stellar equivalent of furnaces. This is the first time silicate crystals have been detected in a galaxy outside of our own.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

space elevator concept
Space-elevator tether climbs a mile high
(Feb 15, 2006)


A slim cable for a space elevator has been built stretching a mile into the sky, enabling robots to scrabble some way up and down the line. LiftPort Group, a private US company on a quest to build a space elevator by April 2018, stretched the strong carbon ribbon 1 mile (1.6 km) into the sky from the Arizona desert outside Phoenix in January tests, it announced on Monday. The company's lofty objective will sound familiar to followers of NASA's Centennial Challenges program. The desired outcome is a 62,000-mile (99,779 km) tether that robotic lifters – powered by laser beams from Earth – can climb, ferrying cargo, satellites and eventually people into space.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

giant storm on Saturn
Biggest lightning storm ever recorded on Saturn
(Feb 15, 2006)


Scientists are tracking the strongest lighting storm ever detected at Saturn. The storm is larger than the continental United States, with electrical activity 1,000 times stronger than the lightning on Earth. Radio outbursts were first detected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft Jan. 23. The storm is about 2,175 miles wide (3,500 kilometers). "It's really the only large storm on the whole planet," said Andrew Ingersoll, a member of the Cassini imaging team.

Read more. Source: space.com

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