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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: October 2008
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young planet
Young planets stay hotter longer
(Oct 19, 2008)

Young planets around other stars may be easier to spot because they stay hotter way longer than astronomers have thought, according to new work by MIT planetary scientist Linda Elkins-Tanton. For a few million years after their initial formation, planets like Earth may maintain a hot surface of molten rock that would glow brightly enough to make them stand out as they orbit neighboring stars.

Read more. Source: MIT

IBEX and the heliosphere
Satellite to study solar system's outer limits
(Oct 18, 2008)

The outermost reaches of our solar system are set to be studied in unprecedented detail by a NASA spacecraft scheduled for launch on Sunday. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, satellite is scheduled to be launched from a site at the Kwajalein Atoll in the south Pacific on Sunday. It will operate for two years in high-Earth orbit.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Artist's impression of a lunar base
Astronauts could mix DIY concrete for cheap moon base
(Oct 18, 2008)

A lunar base could be built from waterless concrete composed entirely of moon dust, according to US researchers. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will next year scout out a good landing site ahead of the 2020 mission that will put US astronauts back on the moon.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

First gamma-only pulsar likes within CTA 1, a supernova remnant imaged here at radio wavelengths. Image credit: NASA/S Pineault, DRAO
Fermi Telescope discovers first gamma-ray-only pulsar
(Oct 17, 2008)

About three times a second, a 10,000-year-old stellar corpse sweeps a beam of gamma-rays toward Earth. Discovered by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the pulsar, which lies within a supernova remnant called CTA 1 (shown here at radio wavelengths), is the first one known that only "blinks" in gamma rays.

Read more. Source: NASA

2001 QW322. Credit: Image: CFHT/VLT/Gemini/CFEPS Team
Kuiper belt pair sets record for long-distance relationship
(Oct 17, 2008)

A distant pair of objects may be carrying on the most fragile long-distance relationship in the solar system. Remarkably, the two may have stayed together for billions of years, weathering a rough patch when the giant planets scattered away most of the pair's neighbours. The two objects, collectively named 2001 QW322, sit beyond the orbit of Neptune in the Kuiper belt.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Miller's experimental apparatus. Image credit: N. Shaw
New spark in classic experiments
(Oct 17, 2008)

There's a new spark of life in iconic experiments first done in the 1950s, on the kind of primordial "soup" that may have predated life itself on Earth. Ageing vials of chemicals have been discovered in a Californian lab, surviving samples from the legendary experiments performed by chemist Stanley Miller. They hold evidence that life may have born violently, in erupting volcanoes in the midst of a thunderstorm.

Read more. Source: BBC

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured this picture of comet Holmes in February 2008, four months after the comet suddenly erupted and brightened a millionfold overnight. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Spitzer gets sneak peak inside comet Holmes
(Oct 17, 2008)

When comet Holmes unexpectedly erupted in 2007, professional and amateur astronomers around the world turned their telescopes toward the spectacular event. Their quest was to find out why the comet had suddenly exploded. Observations taken of the comet after the explosion by the Spitzer Space Telescope deepen the mystery, showing oddly behaving streamers in the shell of dust surrounding the nucleus of the comet.

Read more. Source: NASA

artist's impression of WASP-12b
Star-hugging planet is hottest and fastest found
(Oct 16, 2008)

The hottest planet ever found is a sizzling 2250°C – as hot as some stars. The find could challenge models of how close planets can sidle up to their host stars. The new planet, known as WASP-12b, is 1.5 times as massive as Jupiter. Incredibly, it takes just over a day to circle its host star, orbiting at 1/40th the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

tidal heating on terrestrial worlds
Tides have major impact on planet habitability
(Oct 16, 2008)

Astronomers searching for rocky planets that could support life in other solar systems should look outside, as well as within, the so-called habitable zone, University of Arizona planetary scientists say. New research by Brian Jackson, Rory Barnes and Richard Greenberg of UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory shows that tides can play a major role in heating terrestrial planets, creating hellish conditions on rocky alien worlds that otherwise might be livable.

Read more. Source: University of Arizona

Hubble Space Telescope
NASA engineers try to reboot Hubble telescope
(Oct 15, 2008)

NASA engineers will try today to reboot the $2bn Hubble Space Telescope, which has been out of commission for a fortnight after a computer failure. The monitoring staff will attempt to send commands to the craft, orbiting 300 miles above the Earth, to switch on a back-up computer which has not been activated since the telescope was launched more than 18 years ago.

Read more. Source: Guardian

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