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Contact with troubled Hayabusa probe restored
(Mar 8, 2006)

Ground controllers have regained contact with the problem-plagued Hayabusa spacecraft they lost control of in December 2005. But they still do not know whether the asteroid-probing mission will be able to return to Earth as planned. The Japanese craft was designed to return the first-ever samples from an asteroid to Earth in 2007. But a series of instrument failures and communication glitches have meant it probably did not collect any samples during two landings on the 540-metre-long asteroid Itokawa in November 2005.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

new crustacean, Kiwa hirsuta
Divers discover new crustacean
(Mar 8, 2006)

A team of American-led divers has discovered a new crustacean in the South Pacific that resembles a lobster and is covered with what looks like silky, blond fur, French researchers said Tuesday. Scientists said the animal, which they named Kiwa hirsuta, was so distinct from other species that they created a new family and genus for it. The divers found the animal in waters 7,540 feet (2,300 m) deep at a site 900 miles (1,440 km) south of Easter Island last year, according to Michel Segonzac of the French Institute for Sea Exploration.

Read more. Source: MSNBC/AP

Blackstar, artist's impression
Spaceplane shelved?
(Mar 7, 2006)

For 16 years, Aviation Week & Space Technology has investigated myriad sightings of a two-stage-to-orbit system that could place a small military spaceplane in orbit. Considerable evidence supports the existence of such a highly classified system, and top Pentagon officials have hinted that it's "out there," but iron-clad confirmation that meets AW&ST standards has remained elusive. Now facing the possibility that this innovative "Blackstar" system may have been shelved, we elected to share what we've learned about it with our readers, rather than let an intriguing technological breakthrough vanish into "black world" history, known to only a few insiders.

Read more. Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

Jupiter and two red spots
Jupiter opens a second red eye
(Mar 7, 2006)

Jupiter no longer appears as a Cyclops, with its single bloodshot eye. Amateur astronomer Christopher Go of the Philippines has captured a photograph of Jupiter sporting the familiar Great Red Spot [upper left in photo] along with a lesser eye [upper center] that has only recently turned red. The smaller eye, peering out from Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere, is officially known as Oval BA. It became a heavily-observed target in 1998 and 2000 when three white storms that had been observed for at least 60 years collided, creating one large white oval.

Read more. Source: BBC

Kebira Crater
Huge impact crater found in Egypt
(Mar 6, 2006)

A giant crater made by a meteorite impact millions of years ago has been discovered in Egypt's western desert. Boston University experts found the 31km (19 mile) wide crater while studying satellite images of the area. It is more than twice the size of the next largest Saharan impact depression and more than 25 times the size of Arizona's famous Meteor Crater. The American team that found it says its sheer size may have helped it escape detection all these years.

Read more. Source: BBC

Stephan's Quintet shock wave
A shocking surprise in Stephan's Quintet
(Mar 6, 2006)

This false-color composite image of the Stephan's Quintet galaxy cluster clearly shows one of the largest shock waves ever seen (green arc), produced by one galaxy falling toward another at over a million miles per hour. It is made up of data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and a ground-based telescope in Spain. Four of the five galaxies in this image are involved in a violent collision, which has already stripped most of the hydrogen gas from the interiors of the galaxies.

Read more. Source: NASA/Caltech

Dawn spacecraft
NASA kills off troubled asteroid mission
(Mar 5, 2006)

The Dawn mission to study two of the solar system's largest main-belt asteroids, Vesta and Ceres, has been cancelled, NASA confirmed on Friday. The mission had been in development for more than four years. "As of Thursday we did make the decision to cancel Dawn," says Andrew Dantzler, director of NASA's planetary science division. In the end, the decision was not based on the quality of the mission's science, he told New Scientist: "It was based on fiscal responsibility."

Read more. Source: New Scientist

New model tackles Titan's methane
(Mar 3, 2006)

The mysteriously replenishing source of methane in Titan's atmosphere may be outgassings from chemical structures within the moon's icy crust that have caged the gas for billions of years. Methane currently makes up less than 5% of the hazy, nitrogen-dominated atmosphere around Saturnís giant moon Titan. No one can say exactly how the methane got there in the first place or what is sustaining it, though there must be a source or process topping up the gas, since radiation from the Sun breaks methane down over time.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Yellowstone geyser
Pulse reveals beating heart of a supervolcano
(Mar 2, 2006)

"I don't think visitors appreciate that they're standing directly on top of the largest, most dynamic magmatic system on the planet," says geologist Daniel Dzurisin. While the supervolcano that is Yellowstone National Park won't be erupting any time soon, he and his colleagues have uncovered a surprising source of volcanic activity beneath tourists' feet, which was probably the reason trails had to be closed in 2003.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

asteroid Gaspra
New asteroid at top of Earth-threat list
(Mar 1, 2006)

Observations by astronomers tracking near-Earth asteroids have raised a new object to the top of the Earth-threat list. The asteroid, which could strike the Earth in 2102, is one of only a few that has ever been assigned to a heightened alert level. However, Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told New Scientist: "The most likely situation, by far, is that additional observations will bring it back down to a zero." Image: the asteroid Gaspra.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

M101, Pinwheel Galaxy
Hubble pictures Pinwheel Galaxy in all its glory
(Mar 1, 2006)

The most detailed image ever made of a spiral galaxy has been compiled from 51 Hubble Space Telescope images. It may shed light on the cause of mysteriously bright X-ray emissions in the galaxy and has already revealed a stellar nursery where no stars were expected to form. About 10 years of observations with Hubble, as well as images from powerful ground-based telescopes such as the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, were superimposed to create this image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, or M101.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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