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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2008
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black hole
Middleweight black holes roam the galaxy undetected
(Jan 11, 2008)

Hundreds of middleweight black holes may rove unseen through the galaxy after being evicted from their homes in star clusters, according to calculations. The black holes would be almost impossible to spot, explaining why they have proven so elusive to find.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Hubble Space Telescope
Fix will give Hubble major boost
(Jan 11, 2008)

NASA has announced details of a challenging mission to "rescue" the Hubble Space Telescope. Without the mission, the multi-billion dollar orbiting observatory is likely to fail in 2010 or 2011. The upgrade will provide a massive boost to Hubble's capabilities, giving it greater sensitivity and a larger field of view.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mars impact crater
Risk of Mars impact drops to 1 in 10,000
(Jan 10, 2008)

The risk that an asteroid will hit Mars on 30 January has dropped to 1 in 10,000, essentially ruling out an impact, NASA researchers say. The asteroid, called 2007 WD5, was discovered on 20 November 2007 and initial calculations suggested the 50-metre space rock had a 1 in 75 chance of striking Mars on 30 January.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Biggest black hole in the cosmos discovered
(Jan 10, 2008)

The most massive known black hole in the universe has been discovered, weighing in with the mass of 18 billion Suns. Observing the orbit of a smaller black hole around this monster has allowed astronomers to test Einstein's theory of general relativity with stronger gravitational fields than ever before.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

BP Piscium
Planets form twice for old stars
(Jan 10, 2008)

Two old stars may be undergoing a second episode of planet formation, long after their initial window of opportunity. Astronomers believe the stars once had orbiting companions, but that these were engulfed when the stars expanded. This caused matter to be ejected from the stars, forming a disc of gas and dust from which planets can form. [Image: BP Piscium]

Read more. Source: BBC

2M1207B collision event
Planet collision could explain alien world's heat
(Jan 10, 2008)

A colossal clash of planets may explain why an alien planet 170 light years from Earth is piping hot. Called 2M1207B, the planet was photographed in 2004 orbiting a brown dwarf, an object that is not quite heavy enough to be a normal star, but too heavy to be considered a planet.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Lyman-alpha emitting galaxy
Milky Way 'ancestors' discovered
(Jan 9, 2008)

Astronomers probing the distant Universe have found the building blocks of spiral galaxies like our Milky Way. They discovered ancient galaxies, about one-tenth the size of the Milky Way, which were among the first to form in the Universe. Over billions of years, galaxies like these merged to form much bigger spiral galaxies such as our own.

Read more. Source: BBC

NGC 4622
Galaxy's spiral arms point in opposite directions
(Jan 9, 2008)

Astronomers are puzzling over a spiral galaxy whose spiral arms are wrapped in opposing directions. The unusual structure may be a lingering scar from a tussle with a smaller galaxy that was ultimately swallowed. Before astronomers had studied this unusual spiral galaxy, called NGC 4622, they thought the spiral arms of galaxies were always oriented the same way relative to the galaxy's direction of rotation.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

first sunspot of a new cycle in 2008
'Maverick' sunspot heralds new solar cycle
(Jan 8, 2008)

A new 11-year solar cycle has officially begun, now that a sunspot has been found with a magnetic field pointing in the opposite direction from those in the previous cycle. But researchers are still divided over how active – and potentially damaging to Earth's satellites and power grids – the new cycle will be.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

dust disk around HR 4796A
Red dust in planet-forming disk may harbor precursors to life
(Jan 7, 2008)

Astronomers at the Carnegie Institution have found the first indications of highly complex organic molecules in the disk of red dust surrounding a distant star. The eight-million-year-old star, known as HR 4796A, is inferred to be in the late stages of planet formation, suggesting that the basic building blocks of life may be common in planetary systems.

Read more. Source: Carnegie Institution

hot spot at Saturn's south pole
Hot cyclones churn at both ends of Saturn
(Jan 5, 2008)

Despite more than a decade of winter darkness, Saturn's north pole is home to an unexpected hot spot remarkably similar to one at the planet's sunny south pole. The source of its heat is a mystery. Now, the first detailed views of the gas giant's high latitudes from the Cassini spacecraft reveal a matched set of hot cyclonic vortices, one at each pole.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Cassiopeia A
10,000 Earths' worth of fresh dust found near star explosion
(Jan 5, 2008)

Astronomers have at last found definitive evidence that the universe's first dust – the celestial stuff that seeded future generations of stars and planets – was forged in the explosions of massive stars. The findings, made with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, are the most significant clue yet in the longstanding mystery of where the dust in our very young universe came from.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

asteroid approaching Earth
Possible Mars impact highlights risk to Earth
(Jan 4, 2008)

An asteroid hurtling towards Mars has a 1 in 28 chance of walloping the Red Planet on 30 January, according to the latest calculations. The rock's discovery just a couple of months before a possible impact begs the question of what would happen if it were instead headed for Earth. With so little warning, the only option would be to evacuate any inhabited areas it might hit, astronomers say.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Airborne astronomers to track intense meteor shower
(Jan 3, 2008)

The most intense meteor shower of the year hits Earth tonight. If the skies are clear and you live at high northern latitudes, then you could see dozens of Quadrantid meteors streaking over the pole. Or you might spot a plane full of astronomers racing northward, trying to find out how this unusual meteor shower was created, and whether it is the shrapnel of a celestial explosion witnessed in the 15th century.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

TW Hydrae
First planet discovered around a youthful star
(Jan 2, 2008)

A planet has been found within a disc of dust and gas around a young star for the first time, a new study reports. The research confirms predictions that planets can coalesce within 10 million years, but it does not settle the debate over just how that formation proceeds.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Second thoughts on life, the universe and everything by world's best brains
(Jan 1, 2008)

They are the intellectual elite, the brains the rest of us rely on to make sense of the universe and answer the big questions. But in a refreshing show of new year humility, the world's best thinkers have admitted that from time to time even they are forced to change their minds.

Read more. Source: Guardian

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