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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2006
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gravitational lens caused by galaxy cluster SDSS J1004+4112
Galactic lens reveals its inner self
(May 24, 2006)


A kaleidoscopic image produced by a cluster of galaxies acting as a gravitational lens may reveal the complex distribution of matter within the lens itself, a newly released Hubble Space Telescope image reveals. Gravitational lenses are produced by concentrations of mass – stars and galaxies as well as mysterious dark matter – that bend the path of light passing near them. They often produce multiple images of a single object behind them.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

space elevator
The space elevator: going down?
(May 23, 2006)


Is it possible to make a cable for a space elevator out of carbon nanotubes? Not anytime soon, if ever, says Nicola Pugno of the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy. Pugno's calculations show that inevitable defects in the nanotubes mean that such a cable simply wouldn't be strong enough. The idea of a space elevator was popularized in science fiction, where writers envisioned a 100,000-kilometre-long cable stretching straight up from the Earth's surface and fixed in a geosynchronous orbit.

Read more. Source: Nature

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope
Powerful telescope set for Chile
(May 22, 2006)


A large telescope that will scan the entire visible sky every three nights is to be built on a mountain in Chile. The 8.4m (28ft) Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will be 50 times as powerful as other survey telescopes. The observatory will be able to produce colour movies of objects that change or move on rapid timescales.

Read more. Source: BBC

Opportunity view while traveling from Erebus Crater to Victoria Crater
Cobbles in troughs between Meridiani ripples
(May 22, 2006)


As NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity continues to traverse from "Erebus Crater" toward "Victoria Crater," the rover navigates along exposures of bedrock between large, wind-blown ripples. Along the way, scientists have been studying fields of cobbles that sometimes appear on trough floors between ripples. They have also been studying the banding patterns seen in large ripples.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Space Shuttle on launchpad
Space shuttle moved to launch pad
(May 21, 2006)


The Discovery orbiter has been moved onto its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, as part of preparations for a July lift-off. The slow procession from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the pad took almost eight hours. The space shuttle is scheduled to fly some time between 1 and 19 July.

Read more. Source: BBC

asteroid impact
Asteroid risk to Earth lowered, scientists say
(May 19, 2006)


After a fresh round of radar observations, astronomers said Thursday that the chances of a catastrophic asteroid impact in the year 2036 are lower than previously thought – and they're hoping the threat will be completely ruled out once more readings are made. The chances of collision with the asteroid Apophis in 2036 now stand at 1 in 24,000, said Steve Chesley, an expert on near-Earth objects at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Read more. Source: MSNBC

artist's impression of planets around HD 69830
Planets found in potentially habitable setup
(May 18, 2006)


Three medium-sized planets of roughly the same mass as Neptune have been discovered around a nearby Sun-like star, scientists announced today. The planets were discovered around HD 69830, a star slightly less massive than the Sun located 41 light-years away in the constellation Puppis (the Stern), using the ultra-precise HARPS spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter La Silla telescope in Chile. The finding, detailed in the May 18 issue of the journal Nature, marks a first for astronomers because previously discovered multi-planet solar systems besides our own contain at least one giant, Jupiter-sized planet.

Read more. Source: space.com

The heat shield sample is glowing bright yellow to the right of the arc jet, having been moved aside on completion of a test (Image: NASA/Ames)
Heat shields tested for shuttle replacement
(May 17, 2006)


NASA has finished tests of five heat shield candidates for the shuttle's successor, the Crew Exploration Vehicle. Several of these have been used in space before – in the Apollo moon landings and space science missions like Genesis and Stardust – but the planned CEV capsule is much larger than any of these craft. It will measure 5 metres across, posing a new set of heat-shield design challenges.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

2001 monolith
Looking for aliens on the Moon
(May 16, 2006)


When astronauts return to the Moon, they should keep their eyes peeled for extraterrestrial artefacts – pieces of technology from alien civilisations that have wound up on the lunar surface either by chance or design. So says Ian Crawford, a researcher from University of Londonís Birkbeck College in the UK. He told a SETI specialist meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in London last week that although he considers such a find a long-shot, it is definitely worth bearing in mind.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Big Bang
Penn State researchers look beyond the birth of the Universe
(May 16, 2006)


According to Einstein's general theory of relativity, the Big Bang represents The Beginning, the grand event at which not only matter but space-time itself was born. While classical theories offer no clues about existence before that moment, a research team at Penn State has used quantum gravitational calculations to find threads that lead to an earlier time.

Read more. Source: Penn. State University

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