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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: August 2009
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This view of the volcanic plains of was made from topographic mapping of images obtained by Voyager 2 during its August 1989 flyby. Image: NASA/JPL/Universities Space Research Association/Lunar & Planetary Institute
Flashback to Triton
(Aug 26, 2009)


Newly released images commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Voyager flyby of Neptune's moon Triton on Aug. 24, 2009. Triton was the last solid object visited by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft as it headed toward the edges of our solar system.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Space Shuttle Discovery on the launchpad
Shuttle to deliver 'hot and cold'
(Aug 25, 2009)


The US shuttle Discovery is all set for its latest mission to the International Space Station. The 13-day flight will deliver science equipment to the platform, including a new freezer to store biological samples and a furnace for baking materials. The lab equipment was made in Europe, which is represented in Discovery's crew by Swede Christer Fuglesang.

Read more. Source: BBC

Closeup of Europa's surface
Landing sites on Europa identified
(Aug 25, 2009)


A rigorous analysis of the jagged terrain of Jupiter's moon Europa is helping to identify safe landing strips for future missions. Europa is thought to have an ocean of water beneath its icy shell. The latest study is the first to use images from the Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, to generate measurements of Europa's slopes.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

electron microscope image of a chonrule
Stopwatch found for Solar System
(Aug 24, 2009)


Scientists have found a new way to time events in the early Solar System. Writing in the journal Science, they describe how aluminium radioisotopes in chondrules can now offer precise timing of events 4.5 billion years ago. The study shows that the rate of decay of isotopes can now be relied upon to give accurate measures of time for that period.

Read more. Source: BBC

upwards lightning
Upwards lightning caught on film
(Aug 24, 2009)


Scientists have photographed "upwards lightning", a rarely-seen phenomenon where electricity from storms flows into the upper atmosphere. During last year's Tropical Storm Cristobal, lightning reached more than 60km (40 miles) up. Also known as "gigantic jets", these events are just as powerful as cloud-to-ground lightning bolts.

Read more. Source: BBC

M87
Mega black hole twice as big as we thought
(Aug 23, 2009)


The supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy may be twice as big as originally thought – possibly large enough to measure directly. M87 is 55 million light years away. Its central black hole devours vast amounts of gas and spews out a huge jet of particles that extends far into intergalactic space.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

The kidney-shaped feature in this image of Titan's south polar region is Ontario Lacus, which is thought to be filled with liquid hydrocarbons. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Saturn moon's mirror-smooth lake 'good for skipping rocks'
(Aug 21, 2009)


The largest lake on Saturn's moon Titan is as smooth as a mirror, varying in height by less than 3 millimetres, a new study shows. The find, based on new radar observations, adds to a deluge of evidence that the moon's lakes are indeed filled with liquid, rather than dried mud.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mycoplasma mycoides
A step closer to 'synthetic life'
(Aug 21, 2009)


In what has been described as a step towards the creation of a synthetic cell, scientists have created a new "engineered" strain of bacteria. A team successfully transferred the genome of one type of bacteria into a yeast cell, modified it, and then transplanted into another bacterium. This paves the way to the creation of a synthetic organism – inserting a human-made genome into a bacterial cell.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's conception of gravitational waves
Gravity wave detectors home in on their quarry
(Aug 20, 2009)


For the first time, detectors on Earth have put a meaningful limit on the strength of gravitational waves created during the first instants of the universe's existence. The latest measurement, made jointly by the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and VIRGO, its European counterpart, was sensitive to gravitational waves at frequencies around 100 hertz. But they found nothing.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

The spiral galaxy NGC imaged in ultraviolet by GALEX
Galaxies demand a stellar recount
(Aug 20, 2009)


For decades, astronomers have thought that the proportion of small to big stars was fixed. For every star 20 or more times as massive as the sun, for example, there should be 500 stars with the sun's mass or less. But now NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer has found proof that small stars come in bigger bundles than previously believed; for example, in some places in the cosmos, about 2,000 low-mass stars may form for each massive star. The little stars were there all along but masked by massive, brighter stars.

Read more. Source: GALEX/Caltech

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