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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2006
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SCR1845-6357AB
Very cool brown dwarf discovered near the Sun
(Mar 26, 2006)


Astronomers have discovered a unique brown dwarf right in our solar neighborhood. If your city were the galaxy, it would be like finding someone you didn't know about living upstairs in your house, one of the discoverers said. The rare object is only 12.7 light years from Earth, circling a primary star that itself was discovered only recently in the southern hemisphere constellation Pavo (the Peacock). Only one other brown dwarf system has been found closer to Earth, and it's only marginally closer.

Read more. Source: University of Arizona

Hyshot III launch
Revolutionary jet engine tested
(Mar 25, 2006)


A new jet engine designed to fly at seven times the speed of sound appears to have been successfully tested. The scramjet engine, the Hyshot III, was launched at Woomera, 500km north of Adelaide in Australia, on the back of a two stage Terrier-Orion rocket. Once 35km up, the Hyshot III fell back to Earth, reaching speeds analysts hope will have topped Mach 7.6 (9,000 km/h).

Read more. Source: BBC

Mosaic of images taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at an altitude of about 2500 km, showing channel-like features and an old, muted crater. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ of Arizona)
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sends first snaps home
(Mar 25, 2006)


The most powerful camera ever sent into space has relayed its first batch of detailed test images of the Red Planet. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent four photos back to Earth early on Friday morning. "We're seeing brand new details things never seen before," says team member Chris Okubo on a blog kept by HiRISE team member Loretta McKibben.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

view from Falcon 1 shortly before it went out of control
SpaceX rocket fails first flight
(Mar 25, 2006)


The new Falcon 1 rocket has been lost on its maiden flight. The US vehicle, developed by the Space Exploration Technologies Corp, was destroyed soon after take-off from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The vision of Elon Musk, co-founder of the electronic payment system PayPal, the Falcon was designed to cut the cost of current satellite launches. An onboard camera appeared to show the rocket rolling out of control shortly before the video signal was lost.

Read more. Source: BBC

tunnels in Nakhla meteorite
Tiny tunnels in Mars rock hint at possibility of life
(Mar 24, 2006)


A study of a meteorite that fell in Egypt [the Nakhla meteorite] nearly 95 years ago may offer clues as to the search for possible life on Mars. Researchers studying the meteorite that originated from Mars found a series of microscopic tunnels within the object that mimic the size, shape and distribution to tracks left on Earth rocks by the feeding frenzy of bacteria. The discovery of the tiny burrows adds intrigue to the search for life beyond Earth. However, no DNA could be extracted from the meteorite, so it's not known if the tunnels are of biological origin. The scientists said the lack of DNA also does not derail the prospect.

Read more. Source: space.com

orbits of main belt asteroids
Clandestine comets found in main asteroid belt
(Mar 24, 2006)


You do not have to look to the outer edges of the solar system, or even out beyond Neptune to observe a reservoir of comets. A bevy of the ice-containing bodies lies disguised as main-belt asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, claim astronomers from the University of Hawaii. David Jewitt and Henry Hsieh have dubbed the new population "main belt comets". They describe three objects with near circular, flat orbits in the asteroid belt that stream volatile materials, producing an observable tail for weeks and months at a time.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

MiniBooNE experiment at Fermilab
'Sterile' neutrinos may solve cosmic conundrums
(Mar 24, 2006)


An as-yet undetected type of neutrino could explain a host of astrophysical conundrums, from the nature of dark matter to the ignition of the first stars, a new study suggests. But verifying the particle's existence could prove difficult. Neutrinos are elementary particles produced in the nuclear furnaces inside stars and in supernova explosions. They come in three known types called electron, muon and tau. Experiments within the last decade have proven that neutrinos oscillate from one type to another, something which is only possible if they have some mass.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Space Technology 5
NASA's Space Technology 5 satellites soar into space
(Mar 23, 2006)


NASA's Space Technology 5 successfully launched today at 9:04 a.m. EST, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on a Pegasus XL rocket. ST5 is testing new micro-spacecraft technologies and operations' techniques. The three spacecraft will conduct science validation using measurements of the Earth's magnetic field collected by the miniature boom-mounted magnetometers on each. Initial contact with ST5 was made at 9:27 a.m. EST, as the spacecraft passed over the McMurdo Ground Station in Antarctica.

Read more. Source: NASA

the early Earth, artist's impression
Methane-making microbes appeared early on Earth
(Mar 23, 2006)


Climate-changing microbes that produced methane may have appeared on Earth 700 million years earlier than previously thought – perhaps helping the world to keep warm while life took hold. These "methanogens" could have helped regulate the early Earth's climate by providing greenhouse gases, helping to prevent freezing conditions that would have stifled the fragile development of life on Earth.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Stardust
Stardust Part II: Deep Impact comet revisited?
(Mar 22, 2006)


NASA's Stardust spacecraft, which recently returned samples from Comet Wild 2, could be called back into action to study the comet hit hard by the Deep Impact mission in July 2005. Stardust could pick up where the other craft left off – by imaging the crater produced by Deep Impact, revealing the comet's interior structure.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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