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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2007
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Baby galaxies (pink blobs) grow from gas (blue) spewed in a collision of larger galaxies (white). mage: P-A Duc/CEA-CNRS/NRAO/AUI/NSF/NASA
Galaxy collision reveals missing matter
(May 11, 2007)


Baby galaxies growing from the debris of a galactic traffic accident have been hiding a lot of extra matter, new observations suggest. If so, galaxies like our own could contain vast quantities of invisible gas that outweigh their stars and other visible material – and these gas stores could represent some of the "missing" normal matter astronomers have been puzzling over.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

HD 189733b, artist's impression
First map of an extrasolar planet
(May 10, 2007)


For the first time, astronomers have created a rough map of a planet orbiting a distant sun-like star, employing a technique that may one day enable mapping of Earth-like worlds. Since the planet just charted is a gas giant and lacks a solid surface, the map shows cloud-top features. Using the Spitzer infrared space telescope, astronomers detected a bright hot spot that is offset from "high noon," where heating is greatest.

Read more. Source: Harvard-Smithsonian

Phoenix spacecraft on Mars
Phoenix Mars probe prepares for launch
(May 9, 2007)


A robotic probe designed to touch and analyse Martian water for the first time is being prepared for launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, officials said on Tuesday. The craft, known as Phoenix, is expected to land in the northern polar region of Mars and dig beneath the soil. Launch is scheduled for 3 August from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

SN 2006gy
Star dies in monstrous explosion
(May 8, 2007)


A massive star about 150 times the size of the Sun exploded in what could be a long-sought new type of supernova, NASA scientists have said. Supernovae occur when huge, mature stars effectively run out of fuel and collapse in on themselves. But scientists believe this one was obliterated in an explosion which blasted all its material into space.

Read more. Source: BBC

Spirit's view of Home Plate
NASA's Mars rover finds evidence of ancient volcanic explosion
(May 6, 2007)


NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has discovered evidence of an ancient volcanic explosion at "Home Plate," a plateau of layered bedrock approximately 2 meters (6 feet) high within the "Inner Basin" of Columbia Hills, at the rover's landing site in Gusev Crater. This is the first explosive volcanic deposit identified with a high degree of confidence by Spirit or its twin, Opportunity.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Ariane 5
European rocket powers to record
(May 5, 2007)


Europe's Ariane 5 rocket has set a new benchmark for a commercial launch – lifting into orbit a two-satellite payload weighing 9.4 tonnes. The immense, 50m-long vehicle powered away from Kourou in French Guiana at 1929 local time (2229 GMT), May 4. The Astra 1L and Galaxy 17 platforms it put in space will deliver TV and other services to Europe and North America.

Read more. Source: BBC

extrasolar planet
Astronomers find super-massive planet
(May 4, 2007)


Today, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) announced that they have found the most massive known transiting extrasolar planet. The gas giant planet, called HAT-P-2b, contains more than eight times the mass of Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. Its powerful gravity squashes it into a ball only slightly larger than Jupiter.

Read more. Source: Harvard-Smithsonian

Wally Schirra
Veteran astronaut Walter Schirra dies
(May 3, 2007)


Pioneering astronaut Walter "Wally" Schirra, the only man who flew in all three of America's first human space projects – Mercury, Gemini and Apollo – died Wednesday. He was 84. Schirra's family reported he died of natural causes. Schirra was one of America's original seven astronauts, selected in 1959, and was commander of the first crew to fly into space aboard an Apollo capsule.

Read more. Source: NASA

Mercury from Mariner 10
Molten core may explain Mercury's magnetic field
(May 3, 2007)


Mercury likely has a partly molten core, a new study indicates. This molten material may be generating the planet's weak magnetic field, whose existence has been a puzzle since its discovery more than 30 years ago.

Read more. Source: BBC

COROT
European planet hunters on brink of Earth-sized prize
(May 3, 2007)


European planet hunters are stealing a march on their American rivals. After last week's discovery of a "habitable" extrasolar planet the size of five Earths – the smallest yet found – European astronomers have had more good news. Their new space telescope, called COROT, is proving 10 times as sensitive as expected.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

NGC 2808
Star cluster's triple baby boom puzzles astronomers
(May 2, 2007)


Astronomers are puzzling over a strange, ancient star cluster that hosts three generations of stars instead of the normal one. Some researchers say it might be the remains of a small galaxy that was dismembered by the Milky Way; if so, it could help clarify the murky picture of our galaxy's beginnings billions of years ago.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Tvashtar plume
Spacecraft returns Jupiter images
(May 2, 2007)


NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has returned stunning views of the Jupiter system captured during a recent flyby. They include huge volcanic eruptions on the surface of the Io moon, as well as the first close-up look at a burgeoning red storm in Jupiter's atmosphere.

Read more. Source: BBC

black hole
Black holes may fill the universe with seeds of life
(May 1, 2007)


New research shows that black holes are not the ultimate destroyers that are often portrayed in popular culture. Instead, warm gas escaping from the clutches of enormous black holes could be one source of the chemical elements that make life possible. Immediately after the Big Bang, the universe contained only hydrogen and helium. Heavier chemical elements had to be cooked up inside the first stars, then scattered throughout space to be incorporated in next-generation stars and their planets. Black holes may have helped to distribute those elements across the cosmos.

Read more. Source: Harvard-Smithsonian

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