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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: November 2006
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US Air Force Orbital Test Vehicle
US Air Force to build unmanned space planes
(Nov 21, 2006)

The US Air Force is working on an unmanned space plane based on NASA's X-37 program, which at one time was planned to be the basis for the space shuttle's successor. If successful, the plane would be the first spacecraft since the shuttle that would be capable of returning experiments back to Earth for analysis.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

two supernovae in NGC 1316
Supernovae explode in rare double-whammy
(Nov 21, 2006)

A portrait of two supernovae that exploded just five months apart in the same galaxy has been made by NASA's Swift telescope. The galaxy, called NGC 1316, has now produced four supernovae in 26 years, the highest rate ever measured. All four supernovae were of type Ia, which are thought to occur when a stellar ember called a white dwarf collects too much matter from a companion star, igniting a runaway nuclear reaction that tears the white dwarf apart.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Atlas detector, CERN
In the beginning: scientists get ready to hunt for God particle
(Nov 20, 2006)

At security posts dotted around the fields between the Jura mountains and Lake Geneva scientists are installing hi-tech retina scans above shafts descending 80m down – and leading to the largest scientific instrument ever built. The machine is being bolted together inside a tunnel 27km long, and when the power is thrown on next year it will recreate conditions unknown for 14bn years since the extraordinary fireball that marked the beginning of the universe.

Read more. Source: Guardian

Victoria crater panorama
Mars rover snaps panorama of yawning crater
(Nov 19, 2006)

A new panorama of Mars's Victoria crater has been released in honour of the hardy rover Opportunity's 1000th sol, or Martian day, on the Red Planet. Meanwhile, Opportunity's twin, Spirit, has started moving again after seven months of being parked in the same spot. Opportunity, which celebrated its 1000th sol on Wednesday, took the panorama on 5 October from a perch on the Cape Verde promontory at the edge of the 800-metre-wide crater.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Bruce Willis in Armageddon
Wanted: man to land on killer asteroid and gently nudge it from path to Earth
(Nov 17, 2006)

It is the stuff of nightmares and, until now, Hollywood thrillers. A huge asteroid is on a catastrophic collision course with Earth and mankind is poised to go the way of the dinosaurs. To save the day, NASA now plans to go where only Bruce Willis has gone before. The US space agency is drawing up plans to land an astronaut on an asteroid hurtling through space at more than 30,000 mph.

Read more. Source: Guardian

Supernova explosions appear as points of light in the top row of galaxy images. The bottom row shows the same galaxies before the supernovae or after the explosions faded (Image: NASA/ESA/A Riess/STScI)
Dark energy's presence felt in the early universe
(Nov 17, 2006)

Dark energy – the mysterious entity that is speeding up the expansion of the universe – has been present for at least 9 billion years, suggests a study of the most distant supernova explosions ever recorded. It appears to have been a repulsive force even in these early times, casting doubt on models that suggest it was once attractive.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

SCR 0630-7643 AB
Twenty new stars in the neighborhood
(Nov 16, 2006)

Astronomers have identified 20 new stellar systems in our local solar neighborhood, including the twenty-third and twenty-fourth closest stars to the Sun. When added to eight other systems announced by this team and six by other groups since 2000, the known population of the Milky Way galaxy within 33 light-years (10 parsecs) of Earth has grown by 16 percent in just the past six years. [Image: Artist's concept of newly-found binary red dwarf SCR 0630-7643 AB]

Read more. Source: NOAO

LDN 1415
Unruly star may be swallowing embryonic planets
(Nov 16, 2006)

A rare outburst from an infant star suggests the star may be swallowing embryonic planets. About a dozen infant stars have been seen to suddenly brighten, sometimes by more than a factor of 100, in events called FUors and EXors, after the identifying letters of the stars first seen to exhibit them. The FUors may last hundreds of years, while the EXors can be as brief as a few months.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

space mirrors around Mars
Space mirrors could create Earth-like haven on Mars
(Nov 15, 2006)

Mirrors in orbit around Mars could create Earth-like conditions on a small patch of the planet's surface, according to a NASA-funded study. The extra sunlight would provide warmth and solar power for human explorers, but some experts say the mirrors may be hard to deploy. Scientists and science-fiction authors have long dreamed of turning Mars into a more Earth-like planet for future human colonists.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mars Global Surveyor
Fleet of probes enlisted to contact silent Mars orbiter
(Nov 14, 2006)

NASA may call on its fleet of Martian probes – including the twin rovers – to come to the aid of its Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft, which has not called home in more than a week. On 2 November, the 10-year-old MGS notified Earth that it had had trouble adjusting the position of one of its two solar panels. Then it went silent for two days. A very weak signal was detected on 5 November but nothing has been heard from the spacecraft since.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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