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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2008
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table of black hole orbits
'Periodic table' organises zoo of black hole orbits
(Feb 14, 2008)

Physicists have found a hidden order to the zoo of strange paths that objects can trace in the curved space around black holes, allowing them to create a "periodic table" of black hole orbits. The insights gained could help scientists focus their search for gravitational waves, ripples in space triggered by the motions of massive objects, such as a pair of orbiting black holes.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Abell 1689
Astronomers eye ultra-young, bright galaxy in early universe
(Feb 13, 2008)

NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, with a boost from a natural "zoom lens," have uncovered what may be one of the youngest and brightest galaxies ever seen in the middle of the cosmic "dark ages," just 700 million years after the beginning of our universe. The detailed images from Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer reveal an infant galaxy, dubbed A1689-zD1, undergoing a firestorm of star birth during a time shortly after the Big Bang.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

deployment of Columbus
Columbus docks with space station
(Feb 12, 2008)

Europe's space laboratory, Columbus, has been unloaded from the space shuttle Atlantis and docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The attachment of Columbus to the ISS was carried out by astronauts working outside and inside. A spacewalk to help install the orbiting laboratory lasted nearly eight hours – longer than expected.

Read more. Source: BBC

HD 189733b
Organic molecules found on alien world for first time
(Feb 11, 2008)

Organic molecules – in the form of methane – have been detected on a planet outside our solar system for the first time. The giant planet lies too close to its parent star for the methane to signal life, but the detection offers hope that astronomers will one day be able to analyse the atmospheres of Earth-like worlds.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

BP Piscium
Star eats star and builds planets from the crumbs
(Feb 10, 2008)

An unusual star may have swallowed its stellar companion and burped out a planet-forming cloud as a result, a new study reports. The star, called BP Piscium, is surrounded by a thick disc of gas and dust from which it appears to be sucking up new material at a prodigious rate.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Deep Impact
NASA's Deep Impact begins hunt for alien worlds
(Feb 9, 2008)

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft is aiming its largest telescope at five stars in a search for alien (exosolar) planets as it enters its extended mission, called Epoxi. Deep Impact made history when the mission team directed an impactor from the spacecraft into comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005. NASA recently extended the mission, redirecting the spacecraft for a flyby of comet Hartley 2 on Oct. 11, 2010.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Is time travel possible, and will it ever take place?
(Feb 8, 2008)

Two Russian mathematicians have suggested that the giant atom-smasher being built at the European center for nuclear research, CERN, near Geneva, could create the conditions where it might be possible to travel backwards or forwards in time. Irina Aref'eva and Igor Volovich believe that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which is due to be switched on this year for the first time, might create tiny wormholes.

Read more. Source: The Independent

launch of Atlantis
Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off
(Feb 7, 2008)

The space shuttle Atlantis has been successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The orbiter is taking Europe's Columbus science laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS). Despite concern throughout the day that cloud, showers and winds might scrub the launch, the weather cleared at the right moment to allow a smooth liftoff.

Read more. Source: BBC

false-color image of jets in the southern hemisphere of Enceladus
Saturn has a 'giant sponge'
(Feb 7, 2008)

One of Saturn's rings does housecleaning, soaking up material gushing from the fountains on Saturn's tiny ice moon Enceladus, according to new observations from the Cassini spacecraft. "Saturn's A-ring and Enceladus are separated by 100,000 km (62,000 miles), yet there’s a physical connection between the two," says William Farrell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

NGC 4736
Galaxy without dark matter puzzles astronomers
(Feb 6, 2008)

What do you call an absence of darkness? Dark matter is supposed to be spread throughout the universe, but a new study reports a spiral galaxy that seems to be empty of the stuff, and astrophysicists cannot easily explain why.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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