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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2008
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Thuraya 3 launch
Ocean rocket returns to business
(Jan 16, 2008)

The Sea Launch company has returned to flight with a mission to loft a telecoms satellite to serve the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. The firm's Zenit 3SL rocket lifted off from its converted oil rig platform stationed in the Pacific at 1149 GMT. The Thuraya 3 satellite separated from the vehicle some 98 minutes later.

Read more. Source: BBC

Abell 901/902
Hubble peers into dark matter web
(Jan 15, 2008)

Astronomers have revealed the effects of unseen dark matter as it tugs on galaxies in a crowded supercluster. Dark matter acts as invisible cosmic "scaffolding" upon which visible stars and galaxies are assembled. The dark matter in this instance has pooled into four dense clumps, in which hundreds of old galaxies are embedded.

Read more. Source: BBC

hot spots in a black hole's accretion disk
Photons orbit black hole 'roulette wheel'
(Jan 15, 2008)

A black hole's intense gravitational field can cause individual photons of light to go into orbit around it temporarily, new calculations suggest. That means that photons from a single burst of light that explodes near the black hole could orbit the hole for different amounts of time before escaping into space, making the black hole appear to flash like a strobe light.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

WZ Sagittae disks
Cosmic dust disc to force rethink
(Jan 14, 2008)

The discovery of a large disc of dust around a binary star system could force astronomers to rethink their computer models of the Universe. Previous observations turned up no sign of the disc at WZ Sagittae. But data from NASA's Spitzer infrared telescope confirmed there was much more to this object than previously thought.

Read more. Source: BBC

Hubble finds double Einstein ring
(Jan 14, 2008)

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a never-before-seen optical alignment in space: a pair of glowing rings [called Einstein rings], one nestled inside the other like a bull's-eye pattern. The double-ring pattern is caused by the complex bending of light from two distant galaxies strung directly behind a foreground massive galaxy, like three beads on a string.

Read more. Source: Space Telescope Science Institute

Smith's Cloud
Giant gas cloud to crash into our galaxy
(Jan 12, 2008)

A gas cloud weighing a million times the mass of the Sun is hurtling towards the Milky Way galaxy and is set to trigger stellar fireworks after it collides in 20 to 40 million years. A ring of stars in the Sun's neighbourhood may be the signature of a previous cloud's impact.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

bulgeless with central black hole
Even thin galaxies can grow fat black holes
(Jan 12, 2008)

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected plump black holes where least expected – skinny galaxies. Scientists have long held that all galaxies except the slender, bulgeless spirals harbor supermassive black holes at their cores. Furthermore, bulges were thought to be required for black holes to grow. The new Spitzer observations throw this theory into question.

Read more. Source: NASA/Caltech

hot Jupiter
Where planets can form, they do
(Jan 12, 2008)

New work by a team of US astronomers has shown that wherever there is room for a planet to form around a young star, it does. The researchers predicted the existence of an unknown planet circling a star more than 200 light-years from Earth. This prediction was based on a study of the orbits of two planets already known to orbit the star HD 74156.

Read more. Source: BBC

rapidly spinning black hole, artist's concept
Rapid spin for giant black holes
(Jan 12, 2008)

The supermassive black holes at the centres of most galaxies could be spinning at a dizzying rate, new research shows. These celestial monsters may be rotating so fast, they are close to the maximum rates allowed by Einstein's theory of relativity. The findings are based on observations of nine giant galaxies using NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope.

Read more. Source: BBC

MESSENGER set for historic Mercury flyby
(Jan 11, 2008)

NASA will return to Mercury for the first time in almost 33 years on January 14, 2008, when the MESSENGER spacecraft makes its first flyby of the Sun's closest neighbor, capturing images of large portions of the planet never before seen. The probe will make its closest approach to Mercury at 2:04 p.m. EST that day, skimming 200 km above its surface. This encounter will provide a critical gravity assist needed to keep the spacecraft on track for its 2011 orbit insertion around Mercury.

Read more. Source: Johns Hopkins Univ.

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