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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: April 2008
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artist impression of the Phoenix lander on Mars at twilight. Image credit: NASA
NASA spacecraft fine tunes course for Mars landing
(Apr 12, 2008)


NASA engineers have adjusted the flight path of the Phoenix Mars Lander, setting the spacecraft on course for its May 25 landing on the Red Planet. NASA has conditionally approved a landing site in a broad, flat valley informally called "Green Valley." A final decision will be made after NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes additional images of the area this month.

Read more. Source: NASA/LPL

small extrasolar planet
Smallest exoplanet may have been found
(Apr 11, 2008)


The smallest extrasolar planet around a normal star – weighing just 5 times that of Earth – may have been found, using a new technique that analyses changes in a known planet's orbit. Though some scientists are sceptical of the claim, the research team says the new planet's existence could be confirmed with further observations later this year.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

field of galaxies
Did pre-big bang universe leave its mark on the sky?
(Apr 10, 2008)


What happened before our universe began? According to two theoretical physicists, if there was a universe before ours then it should have been remarkably similar to this one, with the same basic ingredients and properties. It may even be possible to see a faint picture of our parent universe imprinted on the sky.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Andromeda Galaxy
Galaxies' spiral arms may betray black holes' weight
(Apr 9, 2008)


How does one weigh a supermassive black hole that is anywhere between a million and a billion times the mass of the Sun? The answer could be as easy as taking a snapshot of its surrounding galaxy. A team of astronomers has concluded that the larger the black hole at the center of a spiral galaxy, the tighter the galaxy's arms wrap around itself.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

ATLAS particle dector, attached to Large Hadron Collider
Genesis machine poised to end quest for 'God particle'
(Apr 8, 2008)


It is one of the most puzzling missing pieces in physicists' understanding of the universe. But the British scientist behind the so-called "God particle" believes the hunt for his elusive prediction may soon be over. Peter Higgs, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Edinburgh, said yesterday he was 90% confident that a $4.7bn (2.4bn) atom-smashing machine nearing completion in Switzerland would prove him right by showing that the particle exists.

Read more. Source: Guardian

exoplanet with rings
Solar System's 'look-alike' found
(Apr 7, 2008)


Astronomers have discovered a planetary system orbiting a distant star which looks much like our own. They found two planets that were close matches for Jupiter and Saturn orbiting a star about half the size of our Sun. The newfound planetary system, which orbits the star OGLE-2006-BLG-109L, is more compact than our own and is about five thousand light-years away.

Read more. Source: BBC

dwarf galaxies. Credit: NASA
Divisive idea 'explains galaxies'
(Apr 6, 2008)


A controversial theory of physics may explain some aspects of galaxy behavior better than rival, but more widely accepted, ideas. That is the claim of an astronomer who studied eight so-called dwarf galaxies. Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) is proposed as an alternative to the widely accepted theory of dark matter to explain the dynamics of galaxies.

Read more. Source: BBC

ACS image of Omega Centauri
Black hole found in Omega Centauri
(Apr 5, 2008)


Omega Centauri has been known as an unusual globular cluster for a long time. A new result obtained by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Observatory reveals that the explanation behind Omega Centauri's peculiarities may be a black hole hidden in its centre. One implication of the discovery is that it is very likely that Omega Centauri is not a globular cluster at all, but a dwarf galaxy stripped of its outer stars.

Read more. Source: ESA Hubble team

ATV docks with ISS
Robot space truck docks with ISS
(Apr 4, 2008)


Europe's sophisticated new space truck, the ATV, has docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The unmanned vessel carries just under five tonnes of food, water, air, fuel and equipment for the orbiting platform's three astronauts. The Automated Transfer Vehicle used its own computerised systems to make the attachment at 1445 GMT.

Read more. Source: BBC

Sun
'No Sun link' to climate change
(Apr 3, 2008)


Scientists have produced further compelling evidence showing that modern-day climate change is not caused by changes in the Sun's activity. The research contradicts a favoured theory of climate "sceptics", that changes in cosmic rays coming to Earth determine cloudiness and temperature. The idea is that variations in solar activity affect cosmic ray intensity.

Read more. Source: BBC

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