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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: September 2006
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RCW 86
Oldest recorded supernova dated using X-rays
(Sep 20, 2006)

A "guest star" described in a Chinese journal nearly 2000 years ago has now been confirmed as the world's oldest recorded supernova, thanks to X-ray observations from space. On 7 December 185 AD, Chinese astronomers described the appearance of a 'guest star' that had "scintillating, variegated colours" and grew smaller until it disappeared about eight months later.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

HD 3651
Scientists snap images of first brown dwarf in planetary system
(Sep 20, 2006)

Scientists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered and directly imaged a small brown dwarf star, 50 times the mass of Jupiter, orbiting with a planet around a Sun-like star. Such an arrangement has never before been seen but might be common, the scientists say, leading to solar systems with distorted planetary orbits.

Read more. Source: Penn State University

Atlantis seen from the International Space Station
'Mystery object' delays shuttle
(Sep 20, 2006)

The US space agency's Atlantis shuttle has had its Wednesday landing postponed after an unidentified object was seen floating near the vehicle. The delay will give engineers an opportunity to investigate the incident – and time for poor weather at the Florida landing strip to pass.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mars reconnaissance orbiter radar
Mars probe obtains first radar images
(Sep 20, 2006)

A radar instrument designed to search for water underneath Mars's surface has been successfully deployed from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It has already obtained its first images, which demonstrate that it is working properly. MRO's Shallow Subsurface Radar uses two 5-metre long antenna to bounce radio waves off of Mars. Because some of the waves can penetrate as far as 1 kilometre below the surface, the echoes are used to build up a picture of the Martian subsurface, including possible pockets of frozen or liquid water.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Astronaut Jeffrey Williams packages air samples
Toxic spill on the International Space Station
(Sep 19, 2006)

Three astronauts cleaned up a toxic spill onboard the International Space Station on Monday morning. The cleanup appears to have contained the problem and NASA believes the crew is safe. NASA says a small amount of toxic potassium hydroxide may have been released from an oxygen vent that is part of the Elektron oxygen generator on the Russian side of the space station.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Anousheh Ansari
Lift off for woman space tourist
(Sep 18, 2006)

The first woman space tourist has blasted off on a Russian Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The mission is carrying Iranian-born businesswoman, Anousheh Ansari, along with a fresh crew for the International Space Station (ISS). Ms Ansari, a 40-year-old US citizen, is thought to have paid at least $20m (£10.6m) for the mission.

Read more. Source: BBC

extrasolar planet
Alien "ID chart" to aid search for extraterrestrial life
(Sep 17, 2006)

The search for planets with extraterrestrial life has gotten a new tool: an "ID chart" that scientists will use to compare alien worlds with Earth as it has appeared over the eons. Many astronomers say they expect to find Earthlike planets soon, when better technology enables them to spot small, distant worlds. "We believe that within 10 or 15 years we'll find the first planet that's Earthlike," said Lisa Kaltenegger, an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "Then the question will be, Is this a habitable planet?"

Read more. Source: National Geographic

Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper exits the airlock of the ISS to begin the shuttle missionís third spacewalk
Shuttle astronauts complete final spacewalk
(Sep 17, 2006)

The crew of the space shuttle Atlantis completed the mission's third and final planned spacewalk on Friday. "You looked like real pros, for sure," Atlantis astronaut Steve MacLean radioed fellow crew members Joe Tanner and Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper. Tanner made his seventh spacewalk on Friday. He has now flown outside the shuttle a total of 46 hours and 29 minutes, making him the third most experienced US spacewalker. US astronaut Jerry Ross is first with nine spacewalks totaling 58 hours and 18 minutes.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

HAT-P-1, artist's impression
Puffed-up planet puzzles astronomers
(Sep 15, 2006)

An amazingly swollen planet has been spotted circling a star in the constellation Lacerta. It is the second of its kind, which makes astronomers suspect these inexplicably puffed-up worlds are actually common. The average density of the new planet is about a quarter that of water, making it less dense than a wine cork.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Titan ethane cloud
Huge ethane cloud discovered on Titan
(Sep 15, 2006)

A giant cloud of ethane has been found near Titan's north pole. The finding suggests that ethane rain or snow could accumulate around the moon's poles, partially accounting for Titan's missing ethane oceans. Ethane is produced in Titan's atmosphere by the breakdown of methane, which is abundant there. Before NASA's Cassini spacecraft reached Titan, scientists expected this ethane to have accumulated in huge amounts, perhaps forming oceans of liquid ethane mixed with liquid methane.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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