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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2009
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Ligeia Mare on Titan
'Boat' could explore Saturn moon
(Dec 20, 2009)

A daring proposal to try to put a "boat" down on a sea of Saturn's moon Titan is about to be submitted to NASA. The scientific team behind the idea is targeting Ligeia Mare, a vast body of liquid methane sited in the high north of Saturn's largest moon. The concept will be suggested to the US space agency for one of its future mission opportunities that will test a novel power system.

Read more. Source: BBC

The Egg obtained by multibeam echosounder bathymetry
'Fried Egg' may be impact crater
(Dec 19, 2009)

Portuguese scientists have found a depression on the Atlantic Ocean floor they think may be an impact crater. The roughly circular, 6km-wide hollow has a broad central dome and has been dubbed the "Fried Egg" because of its distinctive shape. It was detected to the south of the Azores Islands during a survey to map the continental shelf.

Read more. Source: BBC

A computer simulation shows how invisible dark matter coalesces in halos (shown in yellow)
Has dark matter finally been detected?
(Dec 18, 2009)

For 80 years, it has eluded the finest minds in science. But now it appears that the hunt may be over for dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance that accounts for three-quarters of the mass of the universe. In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine half a mile underground.

Read more. Source: The Guardian

Hermite crater
'Coldest place' found on the Moon
(Dec 17, 2009)

The Moon has the coldest place in the Solar System measured by a spacecraft. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has used its Diviner instrument to probe the insides of permanently shadowed craters on Earth's satellite. It found mid-winter, night-time surface temperatures inside the coldest craters in the northern polar region can dip as low as minus 249°C (26 K).

Read more. Source: BBC

ALmost complete map of the surface of Mercury
Best ever atlas of 'iron planet'
(Dec 17, 2009)

The most complete and most detailed atlas of Mercury has been assembled. It is only now thanks to the MESSENGER spacecraft that researchers have the imagery necessary to construct a truly global map of the innermost planet. The probe's latest pictures added to those of the earlier Mariner 10 mission give near-total coverage.

Read more. Source: BBC

artwork of black holes merging
Baby black holes implicated in universe's mightiest rays
(Dec 16, 2009)

Baby black holes are puny compared with their humongous cousins at the centers of galaxies, but their birth may spew out the universe's mightiest particles. Todd Thompson at Ohio State University in Columbus and his colleagues argue that ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (UHECRs) may originate in the merger of two types of dead star, which gives birth to a black hole.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

'Super-Earths' orbit nearby stars
(Dec 16, 2009)

Planet-hunters have discovered two "super-Earths" orbiting two nearby Sun-like stars. These rocky planets are larger than the Earth but much smaller than ice giants such as Uranus and Neptune. Scientists say the discoveries are a step towards finding potentially habitable planets – smaller planets that are comparable to the Earth.

Read more. Source: BBC

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
Higgs in space: Orbiting telescope could beat the LHC
(Dec 14, 2009)

Evidence for the Higgs boson could be pouring down upon us from deep space. If so, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope could upstage the Large Hadron Collider in the search for the elusive particle.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

NASA sky survey probe blasts off
(Dec 14, 2009)

A NASA satellite designed to uncover hidden cosmic objects has blasted off from California. The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Delta II rocket just after 1409 GMT. It will pick up the glow of hundreds of millions of astronomical bodies.

Read more. Source: BBC

Flame Nebula
UK's VISTA telescope takes stunning images of space
(Dec 12, 2009)

The first images have been revealed from a telescope that can map the sky much faster and deeper than any other. The VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) is dedicated to mapping the sky in infrared light. Spectacular images, including some of the center of our Milky Way, show, astronomers say, that the UK-designed telescope is working "extremely well".

Read more. Source: BBC

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