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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: June 2008
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Installation of the Kibo laboratory. Image credit: NASA
Japan robot arm unfolded on ISS
(Jun 10, 2008)


A Japanese-built robotic arm has been unfolded on the International Space Station (ISS). The 10m-long (33ft) crane is part of the Kibo laboratory, which was built in Japan and installed aboard the ISS during the latest shuttle mission. Next year, NASA plans to launch an outdoor platform with telescopes and experiments that will extend Kibo.

Read more. Source: BBC

Van Allen radiation belts. Image credit: NASA
Radio waves from Earth clear out space radiation belt
(Jun 9, 2008)


Radio transmitters on Earth cause charged particles to leak out of the inner Van Allen radiation belt in space, new observations confirm. Future satellite transmitters may take advantage of the effect, which had been predicted theoretically, to help clear the belt of charged particles from intense solar outbursts or nuclear explosions in space that could threaten satellites.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Soil sample covering the entrance to the oven. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Martian soil frustrates Phoenix
(Jun 8, 2008)


Scientists working on NASA's Phoenix lander are trying to work out why a soil sample dropped on to an instrument bay was not registered. Images sent back from Mars clearly show the sample lying across a screen protecting the opening to a tiny oven. But it seems the soil may have been too lumpy to pass through into the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer.

Read more. Source: BBC

Phoenix Robot Arm with scoop sample. Image was taken by Phoenix Surface Stereo Imager on Sol 11 (June 5, 2008). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University
Mars Lander scoops first soil sample for lab analysis
(Jun 7, 2008)


The Phoenix Mars Lander made its first dig into Martian soil for science studies and is poised to deliver the scoopful to a laboratory instrument on the lander deck. The instrument will bake and sniff the soil to assess its volatile ingredients, such as water.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Map of cosmic microwave background. Image credit: NASA
Hints of 'time before Big Bang'
(Jun 6, 2008)


A team of physicists has claimed that our view of the early Universe may contain the signature of a time before the Big Bang. The discovery comes from studying the cosmic microwave background (CMB), light emitted when the Universe was just 400,000 years old. Their model may help explain why we experience time moving in a straight line from yesterday into tomorrow.

Read more. Source: BBC

Microscopic view of sand and dust on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Highest resolution view ever from Mars comes from Phoenix Lander
(Jun 6, 2008)


A microscope on NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander has taken images of dust and sand particles with the greatest resolution ever returned from another planet. The mission's Optical Microscope observed particles that had fallen onto an exposed surface, revealing grains as small as one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

SETI
Narrowing the search for ET
(Jun 6, 2008)


If another advanced civilisation in the Milky Way is the proverbial needle, a group of researchers has suggested how we should narrow our search for it in the galactic haystack. At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in St Louis, Missouri, Richard Conn Henry of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues proposed limiting the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) to the ecliptic – the plane in which our solar system's planets orbit.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Willman I
Nearby galaxies are chock-full of dark matter
(Jun 5, 2008)


The universe's darkest secret may be hiding not far from us. Three dwarf galaxies near the Milky Way – Ursa Major II, Willman I [shown here] and Coma Berenices Dwarf – appear to contain a higher proportion of invisible dark matter than any stellar system so far studied. If so, they are the ideal place to look to figure out what the stuff consists of.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Saturn's F ring
Cassini sees collisions of moonlets on Saturn's ring
(Jun 5, 2008)


A team of scientists led from the UK has discovered that the rapid changes in Saturn's F ring can be attributed to small moonlets causing perturbations. Their results are reported in Nature (5th June 2008). Saturn's F ring has long been of interest to scientists as its features change on timescales from hours to years and it is probably the only location in the solar system where large scale collisions happen on a daily basis.

Read more. Source: Research Councils, UK

The Milky Way's spiral structure is dominated by just two arms wrapping off the ends of a central bar of stars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Two of the Milky Way's spiral arms go missing
(Jun 4, 2008)


For decades, astronomers have been blind to what our galaxy, the Milky Way, really looks like. After all, we sit in the midst of it and can't step outside for a bird's eye view. Now, new images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope are shedding light on the true structure of the Milky Way, revealing that it has just two major arms of stars instead of the four it was previously thought to possess.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Discovery approaches the International Space Station carrying the Kibo lab. Image credit: NASA
Space shuttle carries lab to ISS
(Jun 3, 2008)


The space shuttle Discovery has docked at the International Space Station after a two-day voyage, carrying a $1bn (500m) Japanese laboratory. The 16-tonne Kibo lab will be the station's biggest room, for the study of biomedicine and material sciences. The seven astronauts and three station residents will start installing the laboratory on Tuesday.

Read more. Source: BBC

The so-called Knave of Hearts first-dig test area to the north of the Phoenix Lander. Image credit: NASA
Phoenix scoops up Martian soil
(Jun 3, 2008)


One week after landing on far-northern Mars, the Phoenix spacecraft lifted its first scoop of Martian soil as a test of the lander's Robotic Arm. A glint of bright material appeared in the scooped up soil and in the hole from which it came. "That bright material might be ice or salt. We're eager to do testing of the next three surface samples collected nearby to learn more about it," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, Phoenix co-investigator for the Robotic Arm.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Martian soil from the Phoenix Lander's first test dig. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute
Martian soil inside Phoenix's Robotic Arm scoop
(Jun 3, 2008)


This image from the Phoenix Lander's Robotic Arm Camera shows material from the Martian surface captured by the Robotic Arm scoop during its first test dig and dump on the seventh Martian day of the mission. The test sample shown was taken from the digging area informally known as Knave of Hearts. Scientists speculate that the white patches on the right side of the image could possibly be ice or salts that precipitated into the soil. Scientists also speculate that this white material is probably the same material seen in previous images from under the lander in which an upper surface of an ice table was observed.

Read more. Source: NASA

Planet orbiting brown dwarf. Image credit: NASA
Tiniest extrasolar planet found
(Jun 2, 2008)


Astronomers have sighted the smallest extrasolar planet yet orbiting a normal star – a distant world just three times the size of our own. Discovering a planet with a similar mass to that of Earth is considered the "holy grail" of research into planets that lie outside our Solar System. It is vital because researchers want to find other worlds that could host life.

Read more. Source: BBC

This view from the Surface Stereo Imager on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander shows the first impression made on the Martian soil by the robotic arm scoop on Sol 6, the sixth Martian day of the mission. Image credit: NASA
Phoenix Lander makes an impression on Mars
(Jun 2, 2008)


NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander reached out and touched the Martian soil for the first time on Saturday, May 31, the first step in a series of actions expected to bring soil and ice to the lander's experiments. The lander's Robotic Arm scoop left an impression that resembles a footprint at a place provisionally named Yeti in the King of Hearts target zone, away from the area that eventually will be sampled for evaluation.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

A view of the ground underneath NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander adds to evidence that descent thrusters dispersed overlying soil and exposed a harder substrate that may be ice. Image credit: NASA
Possible ice table exposed under Phoenix
(Jun 2, 2008)


A view of the ground underneath the Phoenix Mars Lander adds to evidence that descent thrusters dispersed overlying soil and exposed a harder substrate that may be ice. The image received Friday night from the spacecraft's Robotic Arm Camera shows patches of smooth and level surfaces beneath the thrusters.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Discovery launches carrying the Kibo laboratory. Image credit: NASA
Discovery lifts off
(Jun 1, 2008)


Space shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 5:02 p.m. EDT Saturday to deliver and install a Japanese laboratory on the International Space StationInternational Space Station. The mission, designated STS-124, is the second of three flights to launch components to complete the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory. Discovery is carrying Kibo's tour bus-sized Japanese Pressurized Module, or JPM, which will be the station's largest module.

Read more. Source: NASA

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