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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: October 2006
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University of Saskatchewan space elevator model
Thrills and spills abound at rocket fest
(Oct 22, 2006)

The competitions at a New Mexico rocket festival went to the bitter end and beyond on Saturday. The Wirefly X Prize Cup ended in disappointment for Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace, which made two unsuccessful bids to win a $350,000 prize in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Meanwhile, the $400,000 Space Elevator Games – another marquee event at the X Prize Cup – went into overtime.

Read more. Source: MSNBC

Mars may be cozy place for hardy microbes
(Oct 22, 2006)

A class of especially hardy microbes that live in some of the harshest Earthly environments could flourish on Mars and other chilly planets, according to a research team of astronomers and microbiologists. In a two-year laboratory study, the researchers discovered that some cold-adapted microorganisms not only survived but reproduced at 30°F, just below the freezing point of water. The microbes also developed a defense mechanism that protected them from cold temperatures.

Read more. Source: Space Telescope Science Institute

Armadillo Aerospace's twin Pixel and Texel vehicles use four spherical fuel tanks placed around a central engine (Image: Armadillo Aerospace)
No winner in lunar lander challenge
(Oct 21, 2006)

This year's sole competitor for the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge did not win the $350,000 prize on Friday at the Wirefly X Prize Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Armadillo Aerospace of Mesquite, Texas, will try to rebuild their damaged Pixel rocket and try again on Saturday. The competition, designed to help develop technologies necessary to land rockets on the Moon, was timed.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mponeng gold mine in which Desulfotomaculum was found
Gold mine holds life untouched by the Sun
(Oct 20, 2006)

The first known organisms that live totally independently of the sun have been discovered deep in a South African gold mine. The bacteria exist without the option of photosynthesis by using radioactive uranium to convert water molecules to useable energy. Similar life forms may exist on other planets, experts speculate. The bacteria live in ancient water trapped in a crack in basalt rock, 3 to 4 kilometres down.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

astronaut Lisa Nowak
Astronauts offer etiquette lessons to space tourists
(Oct 19, 2006)

Don't look directly at the Sun. Don't play with your grape juice. And don't hog prime viewing space at the windows. This was the advice several astronauts and space doctors gave to prospective space tourists on Tuesday at the International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Many of the next space explorers will not be chosen from the highly trained, highly accomplished astronaut corps.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

South polar region of the Moon
Doubt cast on lunar ice deposits
(Oct 19, 2006)

Hopes that the Moon's south pole has significant water ice deposits that could be used to set up a lunar base appear to be unfounded, a study says. Hypothesised deposits of lunar water-ice have figured in NASA's planning for future Moon landings. The study in Nature journal suggests radar echoes thought to be from frozen water could be from rocky debris.

Read more. Source: BBC

The Antennae
Colliding galaxies reveal ephemeral stars
(Oct 18, 2006)

A colossal collision between galaxies is seen in greater detail than ever before in an image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The rampant star formation visible in the galaxies should help astronomers figure out the maximum mass with which a star can form. Called the Antennae, they are among the nearest examples of colliding galaxies.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Titan bright spot
Active volcano may explain changes in Titan's bright spot
(Oct 17, 2006)

The brightest spot on Saturn's moon Titan has been seen brightening and growing, suggesting it might be an active volcano, a controversial analysis of images from the Cassini spacecraft suggests. If so, it would be the first indication of current volcanic activity on the giant moon. Scientists are interested in whether Titan is volcanically active because volcanoes could help supply the large amount of methane seen in its atmosphere.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

artist impression of a hot Jupiter
NASA'S Spitzer sees day and night on exotic world
(Oct 16, 2006)

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has made the first measurements of the day and night temperatures of a planet outside our solar system. The infrared observatory revealed that the Jupiter-like gas giant planet circling very close to its sun is always as hot as fire on one side, and potentially as cold as ice on the other.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

nested structure of the two lakes at centre in this Titan radar image suggests that they are the sites of repeated collapse
Slushy volcanoes might support life on Titan
(Oct 14, 2006)

Dozens of structures on Saturn's moon Titan that appear to be collapsed slush volcanoes have been revealed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The heat and chemicals associated with these possible volcanoes could provide a niche for life on the frigid moon. Figuring out whether Titan is volcanically active is important because volcanoes could be a source of the methane found in relatively large amounts in the moon's atmosphere.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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