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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2007
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Milky Way
Aliens need a lot more time to find us
(Jan 21, 2007)


"So, where is everybody?" Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi reportedly quipped to fellow physicists in 1950, when discussing why we haven't seen any signs of alien civilisations if, as many believe, our galaxy is teeming with life. Now, a maths model may have an answer to Fermi's paradox. Rasmus Bjork of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen has calculated that eight probes – travelling at a tenth of the speed of light and each capable of launching up to eight sub-probes – would take about 100,000 years to explore a region of space containing 40,000 stars.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Jupiter imaged by New Horizons
New Horizons targets Jupiter kick
(Jan 20, 2007)


The New Horizons probe is bearing down on Jupiter and a flyby that will swing the spacecraft out to Pluto. The US mission was already the fastest ever launched, but the extra kick from the gas-giant's gravity will ensure it arrives at the dwarf planet by 2015.

Read more. Source: BBC

VY Canis Majoris
Astronomers map a hypergiant star's massive outbursts
(Jan 19, 2007)


Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, Kameula, Hawaii, astronomers have learned that the gaseous outflow from one of the brightest super-sized stars in the sky is more complex than originally thought. The outbursts are from VY Canis Majoris, a red supergiant star that is also classified as a hypergiant because of its very high luminosity.

Read more. Source: Space Telescope Science Institute

COROT
Planet-seeking satellite takes first images
(Jan 18, 2007)


A planet-hunting satellite that launched in December has opened its eye to the stars. Its first images suggest the satellite's instruments are in good working order, paving the way for planet searching to begin in February. The mission, called Convection Rotation and planetary Transits (COROT) and led by France's Centre Nationale d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), launched on 27 December from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

2003 EL61, artist's impression
Dwarf planet 'becoming a comet'
(Jan 17, 2007)


An unusual dwarf planet discovered in the outer Solar System could be en route to becoming the brightest comet ever known. 2003 EL61 is a large, dense, rugby-ball-shaped hunk of rock with a fast rotation rate. Professor Mike Brown has calculated that the object could be due a close encounter with the planet Neptune. If so, Neptune's gravity could catapult it into the inner Solar System as a short-period comet.

Read more. Source: BBC

Genesis 1 inflatable module
Launch of second inflatable spacecraft delayed
(Jan 17, 2007)


The launch of the second prototype for a future inflatable space hotel has been postponed by two months until April. The delay will allow engineers to test and evaluate its launch rocket, which failed during an unrelated lift-off last year. Bigelow Aerospace, founded by US hotelier Robert Bigelow, plans to launch a series of test craft to prove the feasibility of inflatable space stations, which could be used as space hotels.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Black diamond, found in Brazil. Image: Steve Haggerty
Rare black diamonds may have come from space
(Jan 15, 2007)


Black diamonds found in only a few places on Earth may have crashed down from space in a kilometre-sized rock, according to new research. The diamonds, also called carbonado, are only found in Brazil and the Central African Republic. Unlike other diamonds, they are made of millions of diamond crystals that are stuck together.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

New-born gas giants. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, SSC
Gas giants jump into planet formation early
(Jan 15, 2007)


Gas-giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn form soon after their stars do, according to new research. Observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope show that gas giants either form within the first 10 million years of a sun-like star's life, or not at all. The study offers new evidence that gas-giant planets must form early in a star's history.

Read more. Source: University of Arizona

Sagittarius A-star, Chandra
Chandra discovers light echo from the Milky Way's black hole
(Jan 14, 2007)


Like cold case investigators, astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to uncover evidence of a powerful outburst from the giant black hole at the Milky Way's center. A light echo was produced when X-ray light generated by gas falling into the Milky Way's supermassive black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, was reflected off gas clouds near the black hole.

Read more. Source: Harvard/NASA

Objects just 30 cm across can be seen in this MRO image of Pathfinder's landing site (Image: NASA/JPL/U Arizona)
Mars probe may have spotted lost rover
(Jan 13, 2007)


The most powerful camera ever sent into orbit around Mars has spotted yet another lander lying lifeless on its surface: Mars Pathfinder, which operated for three months in 1997. It may also have found the mission's tiny rover, Sojourner, which appears to have crawled towards Pathfinder after the lander had already died.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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