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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: September 2008
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Some of the first protons to be accelerated inside the Large Hadron Collider smashed into an absorbing device called a collimator at near light speed, producing a shower of particle debris recorded in this image. Image credit: CERN
Working LHC produces first images
(Sep 10, 2008)

Protons have made their first complete lap of the world’s most powerful accelerator to cheers and high fives from assembled physicists. At 1025 (local time) scientists sent a single beam of protons in a clockwise direction around the full 27 kilometres of the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Success for 'Big Bang' experiment
(Sep 10, 2008)

Three decades after it was conceived, the world's most powerful physics experiment has sent the first beam around its 27km-long tunnel. Engineers cheered as the proton particles completed their first circuit of the underground ring which houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The £5bn machine on the Swiss-French border is designed to smash particles together with cataclysmic force, revealing signs of new physics including, possibly, the existence of the Higgs boson.

Read more. Source: BBC

Soil Sample from Stone Soup trench
Mars lander abandons underground salt search
(Sep 10, 2008)

The Phoenix lander's search for past evidence of liquid water on Mars may have hit a snag. Soil from the lander's deepest trench has failed to fall into its wet chemistry laboratory, and mission managers are abandoning any further attempts to study the soil – at least for now. The soil comes from a trench called 'Stone Soup', which reaches some 18 centimeters below the surface – much deeper than any other trench the lander has dug.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

'Water bears' are first animal to survive vacuum of space
(Sep 9, 2008)

Tiny invertebrates called 'water bears' can survive in the vacuum of space, a European Space Agency experiment has shown. They are the first animals known to be able to survive the harsh combination of low pressure and intense radiation found in space. Water bears, also known as tardigrades, are known for their virtual indestructibility on Earth.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Large Hadron Collider tunnel
CERN reiterates safety of LHC on eve of first beam
(Sep 9, 2008)

A report published today in the peer reviewed Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics provides comprehensive evidence that safety fears about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are unfounded. The LHC is CERN's new flagship research facility. As the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, it is poised to provide new insights into the mysteries of our universe.

Read more. Source: CERN

Polaris, the closest Cepheid variable
ET could 'tickle' stars to create galactic internet
(Sep 9, 2008)

Advanced extraterrestrial civilisations may be sending signals through space by "tickling" stars, new research suggests. The signalling would be the galactic equivalent of the internet. "If it exists, it might be revealed by an analysis of already-existing stellar data," says John Learned of the University of Hawaii. Learned and his colleagues have focused their attention on Cepheid variables which vary regularly in brightness.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Shenzou VI liftoff
China sets dates for space launch
(Sep 8, 2008)

China will launch its third manned space mission in late September, state-run news agency Xinhua reports. The Shenzhou VII flight will feature China's first ever space walk, which will be broadcast live with cameras inside and outside the spacecraft. Three "yuhangyuan" (astronauts) will blast off on a Long-March II-F rocket sometime between 25 and 30 September.

Read more. Source: BBC

asteroid Stein
Rosetta probe flies by 'diamond in the sky'
(Sep 8, 2008)

The comet-chasing Rosetta spacecraft has taken the first close-up snapshots of the asteroid Steins, revealing it is an ancient, cratered rock shaped like a diamond. Launched by the European Space Agency four years ago, Rosetta came within 800 kilometres of the tiny space rock on Friday.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Saturn ring arcs
Cassini images ring arcs among Saturn's moons
(Sep 6, 2008)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected a faint, partial ring orbiting with one small moon of Saturn, and has confirmed the presence of another partial ring orbiting with a second moon. This is further evidence that most of the planet's small, inner moons orbit within partial or complete rings.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Orbit of 2008 KV42
Distant object found orbiting Sun backwards
(Sep 5, 2008)

An object in the icy Kuiper belt has been found orbiting the Sun backwards, compared to most other objects in the solar system. It may help explain the origin of an enigmatic family of comets typified by Comet Halley. The new object, called 2008 KV42, lies in the Kuiper belt, a ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Phoenix thermal and conductivity probe
Spiky probe on Mars lander raises vapor quandary
(Sep 5, 2008)

A fork-like conductivity probe has sensed humidity rising and falling beside the Phoenix Mars Lander, but when stuck into the ground, its measurements so far indicate soil that is thoroughly dry. "If you have water vapor in the air, every surface exposed to that air will have water molecules adhere to it that are somewhat mobile, even at temperatures well below freezing," said Aaron Zent of NASA Ames Research Center. In below-freezing permafrost terrains on Earth, that thin layer of unfrozen water molecules on soil particles can grow thick enough to support microbial life.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Artist's concept of asteroid Stein
Rosetta flyby of asteroid 2867 Steins
(Sep 5, 2008)

The Rosetta spacecraft control room is buzzing with anticipation as Rosetta closes in on asteroid 2867 Steins [artist's concept shown here]. The fly-by timeline includes a series of critical events, culminating with closest approach – expected at 20:58 CEST, 5 September 2008.

Read more. Source: ESA

Interstellar panspermia
Interstellar 'slowball' could have carried seeds of life
(Sep 5, 2008)

Could a star in a distant solar system have thrown the life's building blocks our way? Previous studies into whether material could travel between solar systems predicted that such an exchange would be unlikely, because the speed matter would need to be travelling at to escape one star would mean it was moving too fast to be caught by another.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

SgrA*. Image:NASA/Penn State/G. Garmire et al
Milky Way's black hole gets extreme close-up
(Sep 4, 2008)

The Milky Way's central black hole may not be able to hide for much longer. Observations have been made three times closer to the centre of our galaxy than ever before, strengthening the case that a supermassive black hole lurks there. The Milky Way's centre hosts a bright object called SgrA*, which may be a disc of swirling gas and dust surrounding a heavyweight black hole.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

No sunspots appeared on the Sun for most of August. Image: SOHO
Sun's face virtually spot-free for months
(Sep 3, 2008)

For the last eight months, the sunspots that usually freckle the Sun have virtually disappeared, and nobody knows when they'll return, or how plentiful they'll be. The speed at which the next breakout of spots occurs should reveal how active – and potentially damaging to Earth's satellites and power grids – the new solar cycle will be.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Stone Soup trench
Analysis begins on deepest Phoenix soil sample
(Sep 2, 2008)

Scientists have begun to analyze a sample of soil delivered to the Phoenix Mars Lander's wet chemistry experiment from the deepest trench dug so far in the Martian arctic plains. The lander's robotic arm on Sunday sprinkled a small fraction of the estimated 50 cubic centimeters of soil that had been scooped up from the informally named "Stone Soup" trench on Saturday, the 95th day of the mission. Stone Soup trench is approximately 18 cm (7 inches) deep.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

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