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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: April 2009
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Ares I launch. Image: NASA
NASA may need extra $30b to stay on schedule to moon
(Apr 20, 2009)


Without an influx of cash, cost overruns could delay NASA's return to the moon or prompt cuts to the agency's science missions to try to keep its moon plans on track, according to a government report issued last Thursday. The agency is currently pursuing a programme called Constellation, which aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 using two new rockets.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Voyager. Image: NASA
Why we shouldn't hide our problems from ET
(Apr 18, 2009)


When NASA launched its Voyager missions in 1977, for example, both spacecraft carried audio recordings depicting the diversity of life and culture on Earth. But never have those messages truly represented all of humanity. On 15 May that will change as the SETI Institute launches a project to collect messages from people around the world.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

A sail that increases atmospheric drag could force rocket stages out of orbit more quickly, reducing the problem of space debris. Image: ESA
Space sail could bring used rockets back to Earth
(Apr 18, 2009)


The risk to spacecraft from a collision with space debris could be reduced by equipping launchers with a gossamer-thin "sail". The idea is to deploy the sail after the rocket has released its payload to amplify the drag of the last vestiges of the atmosphere, and so force the rocket out of orbit.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

This image from NASA's Kepler mission shows a portion of the telescope's full field of view - an expansive star-rich patch of sky in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra stretching across 100 square degrees, or the equivalent of two side-by-side dips of the Big Dipper. Image NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Kepler captures first views of planet-hunting territory
(Apr 17, 2009)


NASA's Kepler mission has taken its first images of the star-rich sky where it will soon begin hunting for planets like Earth. The new "first light" images show the mission's target patch of sky, a vast starry field in the Cygnus-Lyra region of our Milky Way galaxy.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Microbes have been trapped in an icy capsule cut off from the world beneath this glacier for more than 1.5 million years. In the summer a gush of water dyed red from the iron compounds trapped with them manages to escape. Tmage: Benjamin Urmston/Science
Polar 'bugs' may explain how life survived snowball Earth
(Apr 17, 2009)


A bacterial lost world trapped beneath Antarctic ice may help explain how life persisted during the "snowball Earth" period when almost all of the globe's surface was frozen over. Isolated for at least 1.5 million years from close relatives that live in the ocean, the Antarctic microbes live in a super-salty lake sealed with a 400-meter slab of ice, called Taylor Glacier.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

approaching asteroid
Asteroids won't raise killer waves – but mind the splash
(Apr 17, 2009)


The odds of encountering a tsunami kicked up by an asteroid strike have just plummeted. Best to hope, though, that you're not underneath the almighty splash such an impact could create. Galen Gisler of the University of Oslo, Norway, and colleagues used software originally written to simulate nuclear explosions to hurl a virtual 200-meter asteroid into an ocean 5 kilometres deep.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

earthshine
Shedding light on exoplanet hunt
(Apr 16, 2009)


Studies of earthshine – light reflected by the Earth on to the Moon – have revealed a means for searching out planets with liquid oceans and land. In the first experiment of its kind, differences in earthshine from water and land were demonstrated. Simply watching the dimming of the light skimming off exoplanets could give clues as to the amount of ocean they have or to their orbital period.

Read more. Source: BBC

The bright core of the galaxy M87 is located in the lower left of each of these Hubble Space Telescope images taken from 1999 to 2006, while the knot called HST-1 is the bright blob at centre. The glowing material at far right is part of a stream of particles in the jet that speed up and glow in the ultraviolet (Image: NASA/ESA/J Madrid/McMaster University)
Black hole jet brightens mysteriously
(Apr 16, 2009)


A knot in a jet of matter streaming out of the nearby galaxy M87 has brightened mysteriously over a period of several years, newly released Hubble Space Telescope images reveal. The bizarre behaviour may overturn theories of what causes other galaxies – which are too far away to study in such detail – to fluctuate in brightness.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Artwork of a neutron star. Illustration: Casey Reed/Penn State University
Star crust is 10 billion times stronger than steel
(Apr 15, 2009)


The crust of neutron stars is 10 billion times stronger than steel, according to new simulations. That makes the surface of these ultra-dense stars tough enough to support long-lived bulges that could produce gravitational waves detectable by experiments on Earth.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

SN1604
Thieving dwarves cause supernovae
(Apr 14, 2009)


Researchers have come up with a theory for how stars can end in a spectacular so-called Type Ia supernova in less than 100 million years. While such early-stage supernovae are well-known, theory has been unable to explain them. The secret, the researchers say, is that white dwarf stars steal mass from nearby "helium stars" until they have enough mass to initiate a supernova.

Read more. Source: BBC

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