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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: November 2008
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dust disk around a young star, artwork
Dusty shock waves generate planet ingredients
(Nov 12, 2008)

Shock waves around dusty, young stars might be creating the raw materials for planets, according to new observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The evidence comes in the form of tiny crystals. Spitzer detected crystals similar in make-up to quartz around young stars just beginning to form planets. The crystals, called cristobalite and tridymite, are known to reside in comets, in volcanic lava flows on Earth, and in some meteorites that land on Earth.

Read more. Source: NASA/Spitzer/JPL-Caltech

TV-sized probe to strike Moon's surface
(Nov 12, 2008)

India's Chandrayaan spacecraft is set to eject a television-sized probe that will crash onto the lunar surface on Friday. The probe will make observations as it descends, testing systems needed to land future robotic spacecraft on the Moon.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Phoenix Lander artwork
Mars Phoenix Lander finishes successful work on Red Planet
(Nov 11, 2008)

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has ceased communications after operating for more than five months. As anticipated, seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot's arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to collect the power necessary to charge batteries that operate the lander's instruments.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

artist's impression of Eris
Mysterious changes seen on distant dwarf planet
(Nov 10, 2008)

The surface of the largest known 'plutoid', Eris appears to have changed in recent years, according to new measurements of how elements are layered on its icy surface. But astronomers cannot explain the cause of the apparent change.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Crab pulsar wind nebula
Fingers, loops, and bays in the Crab Nebula
(Nov 10, 2008)

This image, obtained by the Chandra X-ray Observatory gives the first clear view of the faint boundary of the Crab Nebula's X-ray-emitting pulsar wind nebula. The nebula is powered by a rapidly rotating, highly magnetized neutron star, or pulsar (white dot near the center).

Read more. Source: NASA/CXC/Harvard

The Moon
Indian satellite orbiting Moon
(Nov 9, 2008)

India is celebrating the arrival of its Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft at the Moon. An 817-second burn from the probe's engine on Saturday slowed Chandrayaan sufficiently for it to be captured by the lunar body's gravity. The craft is now in an 11-hour polar ellipse that goes out to 7,502km from the Moon and comes as close as 504km.

Read more. Source: BBC

View from Opportunity having cimbed out of Victoria Crater in August. Credit: NASA/JPL
Plucky Mars rovers on the move again
(Nov 8, 2008)

The arrival of spring in southern Mars is reviving NASA's two venerable Mars rovers as deepening autumn in the arctic north slowly freezes the Phoenix lander. After hibernating for the winter on the northern edge of a plateau called Home Plate, the Spirit rover moved uphill in October to collect more sunlight.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Bullet Cluster. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/M.Markevitch et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI; Magellan/U.Arizona/D.Clowe et al.
The Bullet Cluster: Searching for primordial antimatter
(Nov 7, 2008)

Scientists are on the hunt for evidence of antimatter leftover from the very early Universe. New results using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory suggest the search may have just become even more difficult.

Read more. Source: NASA/Chandra/Harvard

Simulation of dark matter in a Milky Way-like galaxy. Credit: Virgo Consortium
Fermi's search for dark matter
(Nov 6, 2008)

Where will NASA's new Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope detect its first hint of dark matter? Some believe the best chance of a detection lies in nearby dwarf galaxies, since they should contain dense nuggets of dark matter that could be relatively easy to pinpoint. But a new study argues that a diffuse dark matter 'halo' surrounding the Milky Way offers an even better shot at glimpsing the mysterious stuff.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Chandrayaan 1
Moon probe set for lunar arrival
(Nov 5, 2008)

India's Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft has moved itself into a position ready to enter into orbit around the Moon. Since its launch on 22 October, the satellite has been gradually extending its distance from Earth. The latest engine firing put the probe on a looping trajectory that sweeps out to some 380,000km from home.

Read more. Source: BBC

Collider Detector at Fermilab
Has new physics been found at the ageing Tevatron?
(Nov 4, 2008)

While engineers at the Large Hadron Collider race to fix its teething problems and start looking for new particles, its ageing predecessor is refusing to go silently into the night. Last week, physicists announced that the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, has produced particles that they are unable to explain. Could it be a sign of new physics?

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Cassini might hold secrets to life on Saturn moon
(Nov 4, 2008)

The Cassini probe may have already collected data that could reveal the presence of life on Saturn's moon Enceladus, a new study argues. But mission scientists say teasing out the subtle signature of life may prove difficult.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

lab demonstration of magnetic shield
Magnetic shield for spacefarers
(Nov 4, 2008)

Future astronauts could benefit from a magnetic "umbrella" that deflects harmful space radiation around their crew capsule, scientists say. The super-fast charged particles that stream away from the Sun pose a significant threat to any long-duration mission, such as to the Moon or Mars. But the research team says a spaceship equipped with a magnetic field generator could protect its occupants. [See deflector shield.]

Read more. Source: BBC

a bright Kappa Cygnid meteor
Taurid meteors may produce dazzling 'fireballs'
(Nov 4, 2008)

Sky watchers could catch a dazzling treat this week, with the peak of what is expected to be an unusually good Taurid meteor shower. The Taurids originate in a stream of debris that was probably shed by a large, ancient comet that disintegrated, as well as an existing comet called 2P/Encke. The best view of them is expected to fall on the night of 5 November.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Enceladus south polar region close-up
Cassini swings past Enceladus
(Nov 3, 2008)

On Oct. 31, the Cassini Saturn orbiter made another bold dip over the south pole of Enceladus, taking fresh close-up images of regions from which the jets of this surprisingly active moon emerge. The spacecraft flies past Titan today.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Habitable worlds may hide in gas giants' wake
(Nov 2, 2008)

Habitable planets may be lurking in the wake of Jupiter-like planets as they orbit distant stars. When a gas giant coalesces from the swirling nebula of gas and dust surrounding a young star, the planet's gravity forms a wake ahead and behind it, concentrating enough matter there for it to clump together and form smaller, rocky planets like Earth.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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