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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: April 2007
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Mars Global Surveyor
Software 'fix' responsible for loss of Mars probe
(Apr 14, 2007)


A software 'fix' sent up to NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft in June 2006 ultimately led to its failure five months later, a preliminary new report reveals. The report also finds that the existing procedures used by the mission team were not thorough enough to catch the resulting problems, and that reductions in budgets and staff may have played some role in the loss of the mission.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Red Square
Red Square nebula displays exquisite symmetry
(Apr 13, 2007)


A newly discovered nebula, called the 'Red Square', displays a dazzling, gem-like symmetry, new observations reveal. But the nature of the star or stars that produced it remains a mystery. Towards the end of their lives, many low-mass stars, like the Sun, slough off their outer layers to produce striking planetary nebulae. But the hot star at the heart of the Red Square nebula, called MWC 922, appears to be relatively massive, suggesting another process formed its signature shape.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

hailstone damage to external tank
NASA aims for June shuttle launch
(Apr 13, 2007)


NASA has again delayed the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis to finish repairs to its fuel tank which was damaged in a hailstorm in February. The US space agency had hoped the shuttle, which is due to take equipment to the International Space Station, would be ready for a May launch. But NASA officials said 8 June was now the earliest possible date.

Read more. Source: BBC

alien plants
For plants on alien worlds, it isn't easy being green
(Apr 12, 2007)


The greenery on other planets may not be green. Astrobiologists say plants on Earth-sized planets orbiting stars somewhat brighter than the Sun may look yellow or orange, while those on planets orbiting stars much fainter than the Sun might look black. Vegetation color matters to astrobiologists because they want to know what to look for as a sign of life on planets outside the solar system.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

HD 209458b
First sign of water found on an alien world
(Apr 11, 2007)


Water has been detected in the atmosphere of an alien world for the first time, a new analysis of Hubble Space Telescope data suggests. Water was widely believed to exist on the planet, but previous observations with other telescopes had failed to find it. The planet, called HD 209458b, is about 70% as massive as Jupiter and is scorched by the heat of its parent star, which it orbits 9 times as close as Mercury does to the Sun.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Arches cluster
Galaxy's 'wunderkind' stars may actually be old pro's
(Apr 9, 2007)


'Young' stars that seem to have formed impossibly close to our galaxy's supermassive black hole could in fact be ancient interlopers merely masquerading as youngsters, a new study claims. Several clusters of what appear to be massive young stars (including the Arches cluster, shown here) have been found just a few dozen light years from the black hole at the centre of the galaxy.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

supernova 2006jc
Star's odd double explosion hints at antimatter trigger
(Apr 8, 2007)


A star that survived a massive explosion only to be destroyed in a second blast just two years later has piqued the curiosity of astronomers. Its bizarre death might be due to the production of antimatter in its core towards the end of its life.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Hayabusa
Japanese asteroid probe set to return to Earth
(Apr 6, 2007)


Japan's problem-plagued Hayabusa spacecraft will attempt to return to Earth in the next several weeks, mission controllers say. If the craft does return as planned in 2010, researchers would finally find out whether it collected the first-ever samples from an asteroid during its two landings on the tiny space rock Itokawa.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Soyuz
Space 'nerd' readies for lift-off
(Apr 6, 2007)


A 58-year-old software engineer is set to become the fifth ever space tourist when he blasts off onboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft this Saturday. Billionaire Charles Simonyi, who led development of Microsoft's Word, will lift off from Kazakhstan at 1731 GMT. The $20m ride will make him the 450th person to enter orbit and by his own admission "the first nerd in space".

Read more. Source: BBC

Mars
Dust blamed for warming on Mars
(Apr 5, 2007)


Scientists have been puzzling over the cause of dramatic global warming on Mars, which has made parts of the south polar ice cap disappear in recent years. The answer, it seems, is blowing in the wind: the planet's famous reddish dust. Using global circulation models similar to those used to analyse Earth's changing climate, a team led by Lori Fenton of NASA's Ames Research Center found that Mars seems to have warmed by about 0.65° C in the three decades since the Viking mission first provided detailed mapping of the whole planet.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

base on Mars
Earthbound experiment to recreate stress of Mars mission
(Apr 4, 2007)


Scientists are being asked to submit research proposals for a 500-day-long study simulating a human mission to Mars. The program, a joint project between Russia and the European Space Agency, would be the longest simulation of its kind. The 1.5-year Mars-500 simulation is designed to recreate some of the isolation and stresses that crew members might feel on an actual roundtrip to Mars, which would take about twice as long.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Chinese lunar rover prototype
Engineers unveil China moon rover
(Apr 3, 2007)


Chinese scientists are developing a nuclear-powered lunar rover for the country's first unmanned mission to the Moon, due to be launched in 2012. The 1.5m (5-ft) high, 200kg (440lbs) rover should transmit video in real time, dig into and analyse soil, and produce 3D images of the lunar surface. Engineers have unveiled a prototype at the Shanghai institute where work on the six-wheeled vehicle is underway.

Read more. Source: BBC

GD 362
Dead star snacks on shredded asteroid
(Apr 3, 2007)
For the last two years, astronomers have suspected that a nearby white dwarf star called GD 362 was "snacking" on a shredded asteroid. Now, an analysis of chemical "crumbs" in the star's atmosphere conducted by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has confirmed this suspicion. "This is a really fascinating system, that could offer clues to what our solar system may look like in approximately five billion years when our Sun becomes a white dwarf," said Dr. Michael Jura, of the University of California at Los Angeles.

Read more. Source: Spitzer Space Telescope

Silverpit Structure
UK impact crater debate heats up
(Apr 1, 2007)


A deep scar under the North Sea thought to be the UK's only impact crater is no such thing, claims a leading geologist. Professor John Underhill, from the University of Edinburgh, says the Silverpit structure, as it is known, has a far more mundane explanation. Detailed surveys reveal nine similar vast chasms in the area, he says. This suggests it was part of a more widespread process, probably the movement of salt rocks at depth, not a one-off meteorite impact, he believes.

Read more. Source: BBC

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