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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2007
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Sound waves ripple through a galaxy cluster in this image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory
Booming sound waves heat up galaxy cluster
(May 26, 2007)


Enormous sound waves seen rippling through a galaxy cluster are heating up its gas, new observations suggest. This may solve a longstanding puzzle about why such clusters refuse to cool down.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

James Webb Space Telescope
Hubble's successor could be fixed in space after all
(May 25, 2007)


Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), may be serviceable in space after all. Although the mission was originally expected to be beyond any possible help after it launches in 2013, NASA officials say they are now looking into minor modifications to the design to allow a servicing spacecraft to dock with it.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

artist's impression of solar system formation
Our solar system started with a nudge, not a bang
(May 25, 2007)


Our solar system came into existence with a nudge, rather than a bang, according to a meteorite analysis that rules out a popular theory for the formation of our planetary system. Most astrophysicists believe that the solar system formed from a cloud of gas and dust when a nearby supernova exploded, compressing the dust and triggering the birth of the Sun and planets.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

silica-rich soil on Mars
Mars rover's disability leads to major water discovery
(May 24, 2007)


Ironically, the most severe mechanical failure ever experienced by either of NASA's two Mars rovers has led to one of their most important discoveries: the first silica found on the planet, a telltale sign that ancient water was involved in its formation. The rover Spirit, roaming inside a large crater called Gusev, suffered a failure in 2006 that froze one of its six wheels. Ever since then, the rover has had to drag the immobilised wheel along as it moves, significantly slowing down its progress and scraping away a layer of soil as it rolls.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

black hole
How to spot the speediest black holes
(May 24, 2007)


Astronomers are hunting an elusive target: rogue black holes that have been ejected from the centers of their home galaxies. Some doubted that the quarry could be spotted, since a black hole must be gobbling matter from an accretion disk in order for that matter to shine. And if a black hole is ripped from the core of its home galaxy and sent hurling into the outskirts, the thinking goes, then its accretion disk might be left behind. New calculations by theorist Avi Loeb (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) give black hole hunters a reason to hope.

Read more. Source: Harvard-Smithsonian

intermediate flare-up in M85
Merging stars may explain mysterious observations
(May 23, 2007)


Astronomers believe they have found a new class of so-called variable stars, which change in brightness. Brighter than some stellar outbursts called novae but dimmer than the cataclysmic explosions known as supernovae, the brightening events may be caused by the merger of two stars – or by a star swallowing a giant planet.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Saturn's B ring begins at the inner blue band and stretches to the right into the yellow area in this false-color Cassini image. The formation of clumps is strongest in the blue region (Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)
Saturn's rings may be twice as massive as thought
(May 23, 2007)


The rings around Saturn may be two or three times as massive as previously thought, according to new observations by the Cassini spacecraft. Previous estimates of the rings' mass were based on observations by the Voyager spacecraft in 1981. Now, those estimates have been revised upwards with new Cassini measurements of the B ring, one of the planet's two brightest rings.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

artist's impression of a comet collision
Ice Age blast 'ravaged America'
(May 22, 2007)


A controversial new idea suggests that a large space rock exploded over North America 13,000 years ago. The blast may have wiped out one of America's first Stone Age cultures as well as the continent's big mammals such as the mammoth and the mastodon. The blast, from a comet or asteroid, caused a major bout of climatic cooling which may also have affected human cultures emerging in Europe and Asia.

Read more. Source: BBC

asteroid near collision
NASA analysis of asteroid risk deeply flawed, critics say
(May 21, 2007)


A NASA working document on ways to find and deflect celestial objects that might threaten Earth is deeply flawed in ways that exaggerate the cost and difficulty of the programme, critics say. In December 2005, the US Congress gave NASA one year to submit plans for a survey that would catalog 90% of all potentially hazardous near-Earth objects – spanning at least 140 metres across by the end of 2020.

Read more. Source: Nature

black hole
How to survive in a black hole
(May 20, 2007)


So there you are: you discover that your spaceship has inadvertently slipped across the event horizon of a black hole – the boundary beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape the hole's fearsome gravity. The only question is how you can maximize the time you have left. What do you do?

Read more. Source: Nature

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