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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2006
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laser beam
Light's most exotic trick yet: So fast it goes ... backwards?
(May 16, 2006)


In the past few years, scientists have found ways to make light go both faster and slower than its usual speed limit, but now researchers at the University of Rochester published a paper on May 12 in Science on how they've gone one step further: pushing light into reverse. As if to defy common sense, the backward-moving pulse of light travels faster than light. Confused? You're not alone.

Read more. Source: Univ. of Rochester / Spaceflight Now

rich cluster of galaxies
Biggest map of Universe reveals colossal structures
(May 15, 2006)


Giant structures stretching more than a billion light years across have been revealed by two new maps of the distribution of galaxies in the Universe. The updated atlases lend more support to the idea that the Universe is dominated by dark matter and dark energy. Both studies used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to gather the colour and position in the sky of more than a million galaxies.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Two ovoids of melted saphire with tiny holes left behind by the laser blast. Credit: Juodkazis, S. et al
Record-breaking laser is hot stuff
(May 14, 2006)


With the heat of a burning sun, a laser pulse has ripped through pure sapphire, heating it faster than any explosion ever recorded. The experiment was a blast, say physicists who reckon their laser can drive temperature increases of a billion billion (1018) degrees per second, although they could only keep it going for a couple of hundred femtoseconds (with a femtosecond being 10-15 s). That tops the previous heating-rate record, they say. [Image: Two ovoids of melted sapphire with tiny holes left behind by the laser blast]

Read more. Source: Nature

breakup of comet Schwassmann_Wachmann-3
Comet break-up puts on sky show
(May 12, 2006)


A comet is delighting astronomers with a marvellous night-time display as it makes a near pass of the Earth. The ball of ice, rock and dust has broken up into more than 60 pieces; two of the larger fragments are visible through binoculars or small telescopes. At its closest approach this weekend, the comet will be some 10 million km (six million miles) from the Earth.

Read more. Source: BBC

Black strings disintegrate into spherical black holes – just like water dripping from a faucet (Image: David Duncan)
When is a black hole like a dripping faucet?
(May 11, 2006)


Physicists struggling to understand how black holes behave in the extra dimensions posited by string theory should turn off their computers and turn on their kitchen faucets, a new study suggests. The objects act just like narrow streams of water that begin to separate into drops. The research suggests relatively simple calculations could shed light on how gravity itself behaves in extra dimensions – a knotty problem that currently relies on complicated numerical solutions to Einstein's equations of general relativity.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Triton and Neptune
How Neptune snagged a passing moon
(May 11, 2006)


Finally, a plausible explanation for how Neptune captured its errant moon Triton. It seems that Triton was wandering through space locked in the gravitational embrace of a companion when the pair happened to pass by Neptune. The gravity of the giant planet extricated Triton from its partner, flinging one into deep space and keeping the other as a moon.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

fragment of asteroid found in Morokweng crater
Relic of ancient asteroid found
(May 10, 2006)


A large fragment of an asteroid that punched a 160km-wide (100 miles) hole in the Earth's surface has been found. The beachball-sized fossil meteorite was dug out of the 145-million-year-old Morokweng crater in South Africa. It is a unique discovery because large objects are widely believed to completely melt or vaporise as they collide with the planet.

Read more. Source: BBC

International Space Station
Space station loses orbit-boosting options
(May 10, 2006)


Several failures on the International Space Station in recent weeks have left the orbiting outpost with fewer altitude-boosting options. The failures leave the station slightly more vulnerable to being hit by a piece of space debris, although it is a remote possibility. The station has to move to avoid space debris about once a year on average, explains Johnson Space Center spokeswoman Kylie Clem.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Venus Express
Venus Express has reached final orbit
(May 10, 2006)


Less than one month after insertion into orbit, and after sixteen loops around the planet Venus, ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft has reached its final operational orbit on 7 May 2006.

Read more. Source: ESA

Sagittarius stream
Our galaxy's halo is round not squashed
(May 10, 2006)


Streams of stars that are being ripped to shreds as they spiral into the Milky Way have been imaged in unprecedented detail using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The so-called Field of Streams suggests the halo of dark matter that cocoons our galaxy is spherical – not squashed like an American football as previously thought.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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