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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2008
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artist's impression of Phoenix entering the Martian atmosphere
Phoenix mission ready for Mars landing
(May 14, 2008)


NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is preparing to end its long journey and begin a three-month mission to taste and sniff fistsful of Martian soil and buried ice. The lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet May 25. Phoenix will enter the top of the Martian atmosphere at almost 13,000 mph. In seven minutes, the spacecraft must complete a challenging sequence of events to slow to about 5 mph before its three legs reach the ground.

Read more. Source: NASA

Jet emerging from core of Centaurus A. Credit: NASA/CXC/Bristol U/M Hardcastle et al/NRAO/AUI/NSF
Doubt cast on source of universe's mightiest particles
(May 14, 2008)


The most energetic particles in the universe (so-called ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, or UHECRs) have regained some of their former mystery. Last year, it seemed that the origin of these particles had finally been tracked down to a set of giant black holes in nearby galaxies, but a new study casts doubt on that conclusion.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

WorldWide Telescope
WorldWide Telescope brings space exploration to Earth
(May 13, 2008)


The final frontier got a bit closer today as Microsoft Corp. officially launched the public beta of its WorldWide Telescope. WorldWide Telescope is a rich Web application that brings together imagery from the best ground- and space-based observatories across the world to allow people to easily explore the night sky through their computers.

Read more. Source: Microsoft

Mars Polar Lander
Volunteers asked to help find dead spacecraft on Mars
(May 13, 2008)


Scientists have invited the public to trawl high-resolution images for signs of NASA's Mars Polar Lander, which went silent on arrival at Mars in 1999. Finding the wreckage might explain why the mission failed.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Abell 222 and 223
XMM-Newton discovers part of missing matter in the universe
(May 13, 2008)


ESA's orbiting X-ray observatory XMM-Newton has been used by a team of international astronomers to uncover part of the missing matter in the universe. Astronomers using XMM-Newton were observing a pair of galaxy clusters, Abell 222 and Abell 223, situated at a distance of 2300 million light-years from Earth, when the images and spectra of the system revealed a bridge of hot gas connecting the clusters.

Read more. Source: ESA

Mercury
Iron 'snow' may explain Mercury's magnetic field
(May 12, 2008)


Flakes of iron snow could be falling inside the planet Mercury, according to a new experiment. This hot metal snowfall might help generate Mercury's puzzling magnetic field. Researchers in the US have attempted to recreate the likely conditions within Mercury's liquid outer core, which is thought to be a mixture of iron and sulfur.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

black hole formation accompanied by explosion. Credit: NASA
Astronomers begin search for 'vanishing' stars
(May 10, 2008)


Astronomers have started monitoring about a million massive stars to see if any suddenly vanish, seemingly without a trace. Such a disappearing act would support a theory that some massive stars simply implode when they die, rather than exploding in brilliant supernovae or gamma-ray bursts.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

magnetotactic bacterium
Magnetic rocks may reveal Martian life
(May 9, 2008)


A miniature detector could pick out magnetic rocks on Mars that might harbour telltale signs of ancient life. The instrument could select rocks that contain a magnetic compound – magnetite – that is also produced by bacteria (such as the one shown here) on Earth. The rocks could then be brought back to Earth for closer examination.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

wave pattern in Saturn's atmosphere
Saturn does the wave in upper atmosphere
(May 8, 2008)


Two decades of scrutinizing Saturn are finally paying off, as scientists have discovered a wave pattern, or oscillation, in Saturn's atmosphere only visible from Earth every 15 years. The discovery of the wave pattern is the result of a 22-year campaign observing Saturn from Earth (the longest study of temperature outside Earth ever recorded), and the Cassini spacecraft's observations of temperature changes in the giant planet's atmosphere over time.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Kepler
NASA Kepler mission offers opportunity to send names into space
(May 7, 2008)


How cool would it be to have your name on board the spacecraft that discovers the first known Earth-like planet beyond our solar system? Well, here's your chance. NASA today announced an opportunity for anyone to submit their name to be included on a DVD and rocketed into space as part of NASA's Kepler Mission, scheduled to launch in February 2009 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Plasma-powered flying saucer
Plasma-powered flying saucer
(May 7, 2008)


Pass a current or magnetic field through a conducting fluid and it will generate a force. Numerous aerospace engineers have tried and failed to exploit this phenomenon, known as magnetohydrodynamics, as an exotic form of propulsion for aircraft. But perhaps attempts so far have all been too big. A very small design could have a better chance of taking off, says Subrata Roy, an aerospace engineer at the University of Florida.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Phoenix landing area
Phoenix landing area viewed by MRO
(May 7, 2008)


NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is scheduled to land on the Martian northern plains near 68° north latitude, 127° west longitude on May 25, 2008. In preparation for the landing, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been monitoring weather in the region around the landing site. On April 20, 2008, the orbiter's Mars Color Imager camera captured this view of a large region of northern Mars that includes the landing target area in the lower right quadrant.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Moon
Did Earth once have multiple moons?
(May 6, 2008)


The ancient catastrophe that gave birth to the Moon may have produced additional satellites that lingered in Earth's skies for tens of millions of years. A new model suggests moonlets may have once occupied the two Earth-Moon Lagrangian points, regions in space where the gravitational tug of the Earth and the Moon exactly cancel each other out.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

artist's conception of sand dunes on Titan
Titan's smoggy sand grains
(May 5, 2008)


Titan and Earth have much in common, but not when it comes to sand. On Earth, sand grains form by breaking things down, but on Titan, the opposite may be true – with much of the sand a product of building things up. That's one theory Cassini scientists are considering after studying Titan's massive sand dunes with the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer on the Cassini Saturn orbiter.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Arecibo radio telescope
Earth 'noise' could attract alien invaders
(May 3, 2008)


No matter how quiet we try to be now it's too late to prevent alien invaders. So says Alexander Zaitsev of the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics in Moscow, Russia, who points the finger at astronomers.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble flight slips by 4-5 weeks
(May 2, 2008)


The date of the shuttle mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope should be confirmed in the next few weeks, NASA says. The flight is currently set for 28 August but the US space agency admits this will slip by four to five weeks. Getting a new class of external fuel tank ready for the Atlantis orbiter's launch has taken longer than expected, NASA explained.

Read more. Source: BBC

Jupiter and its rings
Jupiter's shadow sculpts its rings
(May 1, 2008)


Using data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft, scientists have shown that Jupiter's shadow is shaping the planet's rings and the orbits of particles within the rings. The findings appear in the May 1 issue of Nature.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

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