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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2006
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Guanlong wucaii
Father of Tyrannosaurus is unearthed in China
(Feb 9, 2006)

Fossils of the earliest known relative of Tyrannosaurus rex – one of the largest of the meat-eating dinosaurs – have been unearthed in the desert "badlands" of western China. A scientific analysis of the fossilised remains has revealed the creature lived some 160 million years ago, about 90 million years before T. rex, and had an ornamental bony crest on its nose.

Read more. Source: Independent

orbit of M12 around the Mily Way
Milky Way accused of million-star theft
(Feb 8, 2006)

The Milky Way appears to have stolen about a million low-mass stars from a dense globular cluster in the constellation Ophiuchus, astronomers have discovered. The finding suggests this cluster ventures closer to our galaxy's central bulge than previously thought, allowing the bulge's gravity to strip away many low-mass stars, while leaving the cluster's more massive stars behind.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Nakhla meteorite
Space rock re-opens Mars debate
(Feb 8, 2006)

A carbon-rich substance found filling tiny cracks within a Martian meteorite could boost the idea that life once existed on the Red Planet. The material resembles that found in fractures, or "veins", apparently etched by microbes in volcanic glass from the Earth's ocean floor. The evidence comes from a meteorite held in London's Natural History Museum that was cracked open by curators.

Read more. Source: BBC

NASA to divert cash from science into shuttle
(Feb 8, 2006)

NASA wants to divert money from its science program to help pay for billions of dollars of projected space shuttle cost overruns, says the agency's chief, Mike Griffin. The cuts mean several key science missions will be delayed indefinitely and have sparked criticism from space enthusiasts and law makers. Griffin and other NASA officials announced the cuts on Monday during a press briefing on US president George Bush's 2007 budget request to Congress. (Image: LISA, now indefinitely on hold.)

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Moon craters
Experts poles apart over Moon landing sites
(Feb 7, 2006)

A healthy debate over whether humans should go to the Moonís well-studied equatorial regions or its more enigmatic but sunny poles is emerging among lunar researchers, as NASA pushes towards a return to the Moon. Reminiscent of debates seen during the planning stages of the Mars rovers mission, its central question asks whether robotic landers and later human missions should focus on the known equatorial regions or the promising, but still largely unknown, polar regions of the satellite.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Xena, artist's impression
Xena reignites a planet-sized debate
(Feb 6, 2006)

The heated debate over what constitutes a planet has reignited following last week's confirmation that the most distant planet-like object ever seen in the solar system [2003 UB313] is larger than Pluto. But astronomers tasked with settling the issue say the argument could drag on for years. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), responsible for resolving such issues, assembled a special working group to decide on the definition two years ago, when a large new body called Sedna was found in the outer solar system.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Very Large Telescope
Research into dwarf galaxies starts to unlock the deep secrets of dark matter
(Feb 6, 2006)

Cambridge University researchers have creaked open the door to one of the greatest mysteries in science. For the first time they can describe some physical properties of dark matter. Cosmologists know that the stars and planets we can see add up to only 4% of the mass required to keep the universe in its ordered state. The rest is made of a combination of unknown particles called dark matter and a source of energy, which seems to push galaxies apart, called dark energy. Other than knowing that both these things must exist, scientists have been at a loss to describe anything about them. But by studying the motion of dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, Gerry Gilmore, the deputy director of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University, calculated that dark matter moved at 5.6 miles a second and that the smallest chunks it could exist in measured 1,000 light years across and had 30m times the mass of the Sun.

Read more. Source: Guardian
See also: BBC article

Andromeda Galaxy
Andromeda's new satellite galaxy is faintest yet
(Feb 5, 2006)

The faintest satellite galaxy yet found around the Milky Way's near-twin, Andromeda, has been turned up by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The discovery suggests other dim galaxies remain undetected and goes some way towards solving a mystery known as the "missing satellite" problem. Standard theories of dark matter and the evolution of galaxies calculate that small galaxies should merge over time to form large ones, and that many of these undersized, unmerged galaxies should be visible today.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Comet Tempel 1
Deep Impact mission reveals comet's icy cargo
(Feb 3, 2006)

Water ice is present on the surface of comet Tempel 1, suggest observations from NASA's Deep Impact mission. This is the first direct detection of exposed water ice on a comet. But the missionís science team says the water ice is present in surprisingly small amounts, covering less than 1% of comet Tempel 1ís surface. The finding suggests the cometís surrounding cloud of gas and dust may largely be fed by underlying ices, rather than by gas streaming off its surface.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Patroclus artist's impression
Icy Trojan asteroids boost planet-forming theory
(Feb 2, 2006)

A pair of asteroids that orbit in lockstep around Jupiter are more likely to be dirt-covered ice balls than rocky rubble piles, a new study suggests. The results back a new theory of how the giant planets formed. The asteroid pair is called 617 Patroclus and belongs to the Trojan asteroids around Jupiter. The duo may share a common lineage with far-flung objects that today orbit beyond Neptune, suggests a calculation of the objectsí densities.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

2003 UB313 artist's impression
Distant world tops Pluto for size
(Feb 2, 2006)

An icy, rocky world reported last year to be orbiting the Sun in the distant reaches of the Solar System really is bigger than Pluto, scientists say. New observations of the object, which goes by the designation 2003 UB313, show it to have a diameter of some 3,000km – about 700km more than Pluto. The measurement was undertaken by a German team using a Spanish telescope, and is published in the journal Nature. It is likely to bolster claims for the body to be given planet status.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mark-1 X Racer
Rocket Racing League names its first team
(Feb 1, 2006)

Two former US fighter pilots have become the first team chosen to compete in an Indy 500-like race involving rocket-powered aeroplanes. Robert "Bobaloo" Rickard and Don "Dagger" Grantham, Jr – both veteran US Air Force F-16 pilots – have paired up to form a team called Leading Edge Rocket Racing. The team is the first to be chosen for a series of future "air" races being organised by the recently formed Rocket Racing League. The team will be one of at least 10 expected to compete in a series of about six races across the US in 2007.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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