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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2007
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jets from a supermassive black hole
Intergalactic particle beam is longest yet found
(Dec 8, 2007)

An intergalactic particle beam stretching for more than a million light years is the longest ever seen. According to the team that discovered this record breaker, it could help reveal how such jets of matter bind themselves together. The latest discovery emerges from a large elliptical galaxy called CGCG 049-033, which is about 600 million light years away.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Pan/Atlas synthetic image
Saturn's 'flying saucer' moons built of ring material
(Dec 7, 2007)

Two of Saturn's small moons look eerily like flying saucers, new observations by the Cassini spacecraft reveal. The moons (Pan and Atlas), which lie within the giant planet's rings, may have come by their strange shape by gradually accumulating ring particles in a ridge around their equators.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Roiling magnetic waves explain solar enigma
(Dec 7, 2007)

Magnetic waves ripple through the Sun's outer atmosphere with enough energy to heat the region to its astonishing temperature of millions of degrees, new views from the Hinode spacecraft suggest. If correct, the waves could solve a decades-long puzzle about the source of this heat.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

lunar meteorite Kalahari 009
Meteorite dates lunar volcanoes
(Dec 6, 2007)

Volcanoes were active on the Moon's surface soon after it was formed, a new study in the journal Nature suggests. Precision dating of a lunar rock that fell to Earth shows our satellite must have had lava erupting across its vast plains 4.35 billion years ago. This is hundreds of millions of years earlier than had been indicated by the rocks collected by Apollo astronauts.

Read more. Source: BBC

hot Jupiter
Planets can survive extreme roasting by their stars
(Dec 6, 2007)

Gas giant planets can get twice as close to their stars as Mercury is to the Sun without evaporating, a new computer simulation suggests. The work suggests the 'hot Jupiters' discovered on tight orbits around their stars are in no immediate danger of boiling away into space.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Embryonic star captured with jets flaring
(Dec 6, 2007)

A developing star wrapped in a black cocoon of dust is seen sprouting giant jets in a new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The stellar portrait, captured in infrared light, offers the first glimpse at a very early stage in the life of an embryonic sun-like star – a time when the star's natal envelope is beginning to flatten and collapse, and streams of gas are escaping.

Read more. Source: NASA/Caltech

Spirit rover's progress from July 2004 to November 2007, a time in which it crossed the floor of Gusev Crater, climbed the Columbia Hills and circled the raised feature called Home Plate. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/UNM/HiRISE)
Mars rover Spirit escapes from sandy 'dungeon'
(Dec 5, 2007)

NASA's Mars rover Spirit has freed itself from the loose soil it had been stuck in for about two weeks, but over the next month it will have to navigate similarly treacherous terrain to reach a safe spot to ride out the coming Martian winter. Spirit got stuck in the sandy soil, nicknamed "Tartarus" after an underworld dungeon in Greek mythology, in mid-November.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

NGC 6397, Hubble closeup
Sun-like stars get a kick out of death
(Dec 5, 2007)

Stars like the Sun may drift into space like ghosts when they die, Hubble Space Telescope observations reveal. But what propels them is still a mystery. Relatively low-mass stars like the Sun do not explode as supernovae when they die. Instead, they bloat up into red giant stars before shedding their outer layers and becoming dense embers called white dwarfs. But surprisingly few white dwarfs have been found in low-mass groupings of stars called open star clusters.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Columbus module
European lab 'is ready for space'
(Dec 5, 2007)

With this week's launch of the Columbus space laboratory, Europe will make the transition from a part-time tenant to full-time owner of an outpost in orbit. To oversee integration of Columbus into the International Space Station, two European Space Agency astronauts will fly aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle is due to lift off with the new module in its cargo hold at 1631 EST on Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center.

Read more. Source: BBC

dark star formation, artists' impression. Credit: University of Utah
Universe's first stars may have been dark
(Dec 4, 2007)

The universe's first stars may have been bloated behemoths powered by dark matter, suggests an intriguing, if speculative, new study. These 'dark stars' might have delayed the creation of heavy elements, which make up everything from planets to people, as well as cosmic reionisation, which made the universe transparent to light billions of years ago.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Is Mercury's magnetic field sapped by solar wind?
(Dec 3, 2007)

Mercury's puny magnetic field may be so weak thanks to constant wrangles with the solar wind. NASA's Mariner 10 mission detected a magnetic field around our solar system's innermost planet in 1974, but its cause remained a mystery – until recent measurements suggested that Mercury's core may be partly molten.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

young planetary system
Probing the nurseries of miniature planetary systems
(Dec 2, 2007)

New research led by a University of St Andrews astronomer has found evidence for what might be the raw material for the beginning of shrunken versions of our solar system – miniature worlds in the making. In their study Alexander Scholz, SUPA Advanced Fellow at the University of St Andrews, and Ray Jayawardhana, from the University of Toronto, challenge the assumption that other planetary systems in the Universe would necessarily look like our own solar system.

Read more. Source: University of St Andrews

IC 10 X-1, artist's impression
Massive black hole smashes record
(Dec 1, 2007)

Using two NASA satellites, astronomers have discovered the heftiest known black hole to orbit a star. The new black hole, with a mass 24 to 33 times that of our Sun, is more massive than scientists expected for a black hole that formed from a dying star.

Read more. Source: NASA Goddard

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