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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2008
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Pluto
Early images reveal frosts on Pluto
(May 27, 2008)


Frost has been seen vaporising on Pluto for the first time, though the pictures of it were taken in the 1930s, soon after the dwarf planet was discovered. A team led by Bradley Schaefer from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge measured Pluto's brightness on 32 photographic plates taken at US observatories in 1933 and 1934.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mars Phoenix photographed while parachuting down. Credit: NASA
Camera on Mars orbiter snaps Phoenix during landing
(May 27, 2008)


A telescopic camera in orbit around Mars caught a view of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander suspended from its parachute during the lander's successful arrival at Mars Sunday evening, May 25. The image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter marks the first time ever one spacecraft has photographed another one in the act of landing on Mars.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Mars landscape from Mars Phoenix Phoenix Lander. Credit: NASA
Phoenix spacecraft reports good health after Mars landing
(May 26, 2008)


A NASA spacecraft today sent pictures showing itself in good condition after making the first successful landing in a polar region of Mars. The images from NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander also provided a glimpse of the flat valley floor expected to have water-rich permafrost within reach of the lander's robotic arm. The landing ends a 422-million-mile journey from Earth and begins a three-month mission that will use instruments to taste and sniff the northern polar site's soil and ice. More photos here.

Read more. Source: NASA

Phoenix lander. Credit: NASA
Mars probe set for risky landing
(May 25, 2008)


An American spacecraft is about to attempt a perilous landing on the surface of Mars. NASA's Phoenix lander is due to touch down on Sunday in the far north of the Red Planet, after a 422-million-mile journey from Earth. The probe is equipped with a robotic arm to dig for water ice thought to be buried beneath the surface.

Read more. Source: BBC

Other Earthlike planets. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Do other star systems need protection from Earth life?
(May 24, 2008)


The technology needed to send a robotic probe to another solar system is far in the future at best. But one scientist says it's not too soon to start thinking about how to avoid contaminating extrasolar planets with hitchhiking microbes from Earth.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Supervoids of empty space (blue) and superclusters of galaxies (red) were slightly cooler or warmer, respectively, than expected in maps of the cosmic microwave background because of dark energy. Credit: Granett/Neyrinck/Szapudi/NASA/SDSS
Dark energy 'imaged' in best detail yet
(May 24, 2008)


Some had hoped it might be just an illusion. But it looks like dark energy is real and here to stay, as astronomers "image" the mysterious entity in action. To find an independent check on the existence of dark energy, István Szapudi at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, and colleagues turned to the cosmic microwave background.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Trench left by Spirit rover at a site was later named Gertrude Weise. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University
Mars rover finds Yellowstone-like hot spring deposits
(May 24, 2008)


Deposits of nearly pure silica discovered by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit in Gusev Crater formed when volcanic steam or hot water (or maybe both) percolated through the ground. Such deposits are found around hydrothermal vents like those in Yellowstone National Park. That's the conclusion of planetary scientists working with data collected by the rover's mineral-scouting instrument, which was developed at Arizona State University.

Read more. Source: Arizona State University

three red spots on Jupiter
Third red spot erupts on Jupiter
(May 23, 2008)


A third giant red storm has flared up on Jupiter, joining the Great Red Spot and the recently developed Red Spot Junior. The spot, along with new measurements of record-high wind speeds on Red Spot Junior, come at a time when the solar system's largest planet is experiencing a time of global upheaval.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Sun
Sun's properties not 'fine-tuned' for life
(May 23, 2008)


There's nothing special about the Sun that makes it more likely than other stars to host life, a new study shows. The finding adds weight to the idea that alien life should be common throughout the universe. "The Sun's properties are consistent with it being pulled out at random from the bag of all stars," says Charles Lineweaver from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Moon's shadow passing across the Earth during an eclipse. Credit: NASA
Sound 'cause of shadow spectacle'
(May 23, 2008)


Mysterious bands of shadow which sometimes pass across the ground during an eclipse might be produced by sound pulses, according to a new theory. "Shadow bands" have been observed travelling across the ground before and after totality – when the Moon completely covers the Sun.

Read more. Source: BBC

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