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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2006
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Paedocypris: worlds smallest vertebrate
The world's tiniest fish (all 7.9mm of it) is found
(Jan 25, 2006)

Scientists have discovered the world's smallest fish in a tropical acidic swamp where the water is the color of strong tea. Females grow no bigger than 7.9mm (0.31in) and the male measures up to 10.3mm. The diminutive size of the new fish species – Paedocypris progenetica – means that it now has the title of the smallest known vertebrate – an animal with a backbone. Biologists discovered the fish during an expedition to explore remote forest swamps on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where the peat water is a hundred times more acidic than rainwater.

Read more. Source: Independent

Array of polystyrene spheres held together by optical binding. Image credit: Colin Bain and Christopher Mellor
Laser beams build and hold nanoscale structures
(Jan 24, 2006)

A form of matter held together by nothing more substantial than light has been created by physicists in the UK. The method, known as "optical binding", was used to glue together about 100 polystyrene beads each 400-nanometres in diameter in a flat two-dimensional structure. Colin Bain from the University of Durham and Christopher Mellor from the National Institute for Medical Research say the phenomenon might one day provide a simple way to construct, or reconfigure, nanoscale structures.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

self-repairing material
Spacecraft skin 'heals' itself
(Jan 23, 2006)

A material that could enable spacecraft to automatically "heal" punctures and leaks is being tested in simulated space conditions on Earth. The self-healing spacecraft skin is being developed by Ian Bond and Richard Trask from the University of Bristol, UK, as part of a European Space Agency (ESA) project. The researchers have taken inspiration from human skin, which heals a cut by exposing blood to air, which congeals to forms a protective scab.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Rocket Racing League establishes New Mexico headquarters
(Jan 22, 2006)

That's the call from Granger Whitelaw, President of the Rocket Racing League. The group announced today it is establishing a world headquarters in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Instead of racing high performance cars around a ground track, the Rocket Racing League's track will host piloted, rocket-powered X-Racer vehicles zooming around a three-dimensional track that reaches into the sky.

Read more. Source:

circumstellar debris disks
Rocky rings around Sun-like stars revealed
(Jan 21, 2006)

Two discs of rocky material have been found around relatively old, Sun-like stars, a new study reveals. The finds may shed light on the formation and structure of a similar disc, called the Kuiper Belt, in our own solar system. The presence of a dusty, rocky disc has been inferred around more than 100 stars because the stars shine with an unexpectedly high amount of infrared light – the infrared excess is from the heat of the dust itself, which may arise through the star warming the rocks.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

space junk
Critical space junk threshold approaching
(Jan 20, 2006)

In January 2005, the US Space Surveillance Network saw a 31-year-old US Thor rocket body collide in space with part of the third stage of the Chinese CZ-4 rocket that exploded in March 2000. At least three pieces broke off the Thor rocket stage, adding to the growing collection of space junk orbiting Earth. Now, NASA researchers have calculated that such occurrences will only increase. Even without launching any additional spacecraft, the number of new fragments created by collisions will exceed the number falling back to Earth and burning up by 2055.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

New Horizons launch
Pluto probe launches from Florida
(Jan 19, 2006)

NASA has successfully launched its New Horizons mission to Pluto. The probe blasted off at 1900 GMT on an Atlas 5 rocket for a 10-year journey to the ninth planet after several delays to allow clouds to clear. The $700m probe will gather information on Pluto and its moons before – it is hoped – pressing on to explore other objects in the outer Solar System.

Read more. Source: BBC

Tips for space tourists
(Jan 19, 2006)

As NASA prepares to launch a mission to Pluto, the space tourism industry is gearing up for blast off in 2009. But before you book a ticket, consider this: weightlessness is just falling with style, and as for a spaceship... Planet Earth is the best you'll find, and it's free! It is easy to forget that we are in space already. We are moving through it on a rocky globe that has sufficient gravity to hold us firmly to its surface.

Read more. Source: BBC

asteroid collision
Eon of dust storms traced to asteroid smash
(Jan 19, 2006)

A cosmic dust shower that pelted Earth for one-and-a-half million years, more than eight million years ago, has been traced to the break-up of a large asteroid whose remnants still orbit the Sun, a new study reveals. The research may shed light on the effect of extraterrestrial events on the Earth's climate and life. Scientists studying the composition of sediments on the ocean floor have noticed two layers – one laid down about 35 million years ago and another 8.2 million years ago – rich in the isotope helium-3.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Stardust captured particles
UW astronomer hits cosmic paydirt with Stardust
(Jan 19, 2006)

Scientists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston were excited and awed Tuesday by what they saw when the sample-return canister from the Stardust spacecraft was opened. "It exceeds all expectations," said Donald Brownlee, a University of Washington astronomy professor who is principal investigator, or lead scientist, for Stardust. "It's a huge success. We can see lots of impacts. There are big ones, there are small ones."

Read more. Source: University of Washington

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