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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: October 2006
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Venus Express VIRTIS sees a peculiar double-eye vortex structure at the south pole
Probe peers into Venusian secrets
(Oct 13, 2006)

Venus is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, inside a dense cloud of carbon dioxide. But a suite of orbiting instruments is proving its ability to penetrate the thick atmosphere and create a new and dynamic picture of Earth's sister planet. Scientists at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Pasadena, California, this week said that data streaming from the Venus Express probe had provided unprecedented detail of the Venusian atmosphere and the first-ever peek at its lower strata.

Read more. Source: BBC

detail in Saturn's atmosphere
Bizarre "string of pearls" adorns Saturn
(Oct 12, 2006)

A mysterious "string of pearls" has been imaged in Saturn's atmosphere by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. These and other features indicate that the Ringed Planet's atmosphere is much more active than expected. Before Cassini arrived at Saturn, scientists thought the planet was a relatively placid place compared to Jupiter, where giant storms race through its atmosphere. Since then, infrared images that cut through Saturn's high-altitude haze have revealed that the planet is seething with activity lower down.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Ceres as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope
Fresh look at dwarf planet Ceres
(Oct 11, 2006)

First impressions count – unless you're Ceres. Last month, the asteroid was re-classified as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), and now new images of its surface reveal a surprisingly diverse surface terrain, scientists say. "We thought Ceres had a flat surface," said Benoit Carry, from the Observatoire Paris-Meudon, "but our images show that it is rich in surface features."

Read more. Source: BBC

ice volcano
Cosmic rays could power icy moon's plumes
(Oct 10, 2006)

Space particles could trigger chemical explosions on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus that could help create its remarkable plumes, a new study suggests. Scientists were astonished when NASA's Cassini spacecraft revealed water vapour spewing from a surprisingly warm region around Enceladus's south pole in July 2005.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

hole in Atlantis
Debris strike left hole in shuttle Atlantis
(Oct 9, 2006)

A hole has been revealed in the space shuttle Atlantis – one of the largest debris hits ever experienced by a space shuttle. The impact was caused by a micrometeoroid or piece of space junk during its September flight to the International Space Station, though there was little danger to the crew. The discovery was made during a ground inspection. Three in-orbit inspections had found Atlantis's heat shield to be free of damage. However the small round hole was not in the orbiter's heat shield, but on the radiator on the inside of the right-hand payload bay door.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

model of the starship Enterprise
Star Trek sale stuns auctioneers
(Oct 8, 2006)

A model of the Starship Enterprise has sold for $576,000 (£308,000) at an auction of memorabilia from 40 years of the science fiction television series. Before the sale, Christie's auction house in New York estimated the model would sell for about $30,000 (£16,000). The 78-inch-long (198cm) miniature of the Enterprise-D, used in the title sequences of Star Trek: The Next Generation, made its TV debut in 1987.

Read more. Source: BBC

Opportunity rover seen from orbit
Mars orbiter looks down on rover
(Oct 6, 2006)

NASA's new orbiter at Mars has taken a spectacular picture of the Opportunity rover sitting on a crater's rim. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived at the Red Planet in March and has only recently taken up a prime position to begin science investigations.

Read more. Source: BBC

2MASS map of mass distribution in the local universe
Astronomers complete mighty map
(Oct 6, 2006)

Astronomers have produced their biggest 3D map yet of the "local" Universe. They have detailed the positions of all the galaxies, and galaxy groupings, out to a distance of about 600 million light-years from Earth. The work by US, UK and Australian scientists is reported in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

Read more. Source: BBC

Hubble found 16 possible planets in the constellation Sagittarius (Image: K Sahu/NASA/ESA/STScI)
Hubble spots planets whose years hurtle by
(Oct 5, 2006)

The Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a crop of 16 possible planets circling stars near the bustling centre of the Milky Way. Five are whipping around their stars in less than a day, giving them the shortest “year” on record. Unlike the vast majority of extrasolar planets found to date, the new ones are also very distant, lying 26,000 light years away – well beyond our own galactic suburb.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Launch ring. Artist’s conception: J Fiske/LaunchPoint
Huge 'launch ring' to fling satellites into orbit
(Oct 4, 2006)

An enormous ring of superconducting magnets similar to a particle accelerator could fling satellites into space, or perhaps weapons around the world, suggest the findings of a new study funded by the US air force. Proponents of the idea say it would be much cheaper than conventional rocket launches. But critics warn that the technology would be difficult to develop and that the intense g forces experienced during launch might damage the very satellites being lofted into space.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

dark cloud on Uranus
Hubble discovers dark cloud in the atmosphere of Uranus
(Oct 3, 2006)

Just as we near the end of the hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, winds whirl and clouds churn 2 billion miles away in the atmosphere of Uranus, forming a dark vortex large enough to engulf two-thirds of the United States. Astronomers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to take the first definitive images of a dark spot on Uranus.

Read more. Source: Space Telescope Science Institute

Neil Armstrong
Armstrong 'got Moon quote right'
(Oct 2, 2006)

For nearly 40 years Neil Armstrong has been accused of fluffing his lines during his first steps on the Moon. On tapes of the Moon landings, he appears to drop the "a" from the famous quote: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." But new analysis of the tapes has proved Mr Armstrong right after all. Computer programmer Peter Shann Ford used audio analysis software to show that the missing "a" was blotted out by transmission static.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image of Mars
NASA's new Mars camera gives dramatic view of planet
(Oct 2, 2006)

Mars is ready for its close-up. The highest-resolution camera ever to orbit Mars is returning low-altitude images to Earth from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Rocks and surface features as small as armchairs are revealed in the first image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since the spacecraft maneuvered into its final, low-altitude orbital path.

Read more. Source: NASA

solar flare
Solar flares will disrupt GPS in 2011
(Oct 1, 2006)

Navigation, power and communications systems that rely on GPS satellite navigation will be disrupted by violent solar activity in 2011, research shows. A study reveals Global Positioning System receivers to be unexpectedly vulnerable to bursts of radio noise produced by solar flares, created by explosions in the Sun's atmosphere.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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