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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2009
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Iapetus
Reddish dust and ice migration darken Iapetus
(Dec 11, 2009)


New views of Saturn's moon Iapetus accompany papers that detail how reddish dust swept up on the moon's orbit around Saturn and migrating ice can explain the bizarre, yin-yang-patterned surface. The papers, led by Cassini scientists Tilmann Denk and John Spencer, appeared online in the journal Science on Dec. 10, 2009.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Hexagonal structure at Saturn's north pol. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
More details of Saturn's strange polar hexagon
(Dec 10, 2009)


Previously unseen walls and curlicues in a mysterious hexagon-shaped feature on Saturn's north pole are revealed in this new image by the Cassini spacecraft. The strange hexagonal structure, which spans a distance wider than two Earths, has remained largely unchanged since it was first discovered by NASA's Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mars
Methane findings boost for life on Mars hopes
(Dec 9, 2009)


Hopes of finding life on Mars have been boosted by British scientists studying sources of methane on the planet. They have ruled out any possibility of meteorites delivering the high levels of the gas detected in the Martian atmosphere. That leaves only two alternatives. Either the methane is created by chemical reactions between volcanic rock and water, or it is being generated by living organisms.

Read more. Source: The Independent

asteroid impact
Dinosaur-killing impact set Earth to broil, not burn
(Dec 8, 2009)


The asteroid impact that ended the age of dinosaurs 65 million years ago didn't incinerate life on our planet's surface – it just broiled it, a new study suggests. The work resolves nagging questions about a theory that the impact triggered deadly wildfires around the world, but it also raises new questions about just what led to the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Richard Branson and SpaceShipTwo
Roll-out for Richard Branson's spaceliner
(Dec 7, 2009)


Richard Branson is unveiling the rocket plane he will use to take fare-paying passengers into space. SpaceShipTwo is being presented to the world in Mojave, California. The vehicle will undergo testing over the next 18 months before being allowed to take ticketed individuals on short-hop trips just above the atmosphere.

Read more. Source: BBC

Map showing the thickness of layered ice deposits at the south polar region on Mars. Image: NASA/ESA/ASI/Univ. of Rome
Watery niche may foster life on Mars
(Dec 7, 2009)


Could snow on Mars harbor life? Perhaps, thanks to a form of greenhouse effect that creates liquid water beneath an icy crust. Calculations by Diedrich Möhlmann of the German Aerospace Center in Berlin suggest that these frozen deposits near the poles could contain liquid water, at least during the day.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Large Hadron Collider
Physicists race to publish first results from LHC
(Dec 6, 2009)


Good things come to those who wait. But now that the Large Hadron Collider has restarted after undergoing more than a year of repairs, physicists are racing to analyse the data. Just days after the first protons were smashed together at the LHC, the first paper on the results has been accepted to a journal.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Uranus
Large moon of Uranus may explain odd tilt
(Dec 5, 2009)


Uranus spins on an axis almost parallel with the plane of the solar system, rather than perpendicular to it – though why it does this nobody knows. Now Gwenaël Boué and Jacques Laskar at the Paris Observatory in France have come up with another explanation: Uranus may once have had an unusually massive extra moon.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

GJ1758
Cool find in hunt for exoplanets
(Dec 4, 2009)


Astronomers have published an image of the coolest planet outside our solar system that has been pictured directly. The new find is more similar to our own Solar System than prior pictured exoplanets, in terms of the parent star's type and the planet's size. However, the surface temperature is a scorching 280-370C, and could still prove to be a brown dwarf star.

Read more. Source: BBC

supernova
Death of rare giant star sheds light on cosmic past
(Dec 3, 2009)


An enormous explosion observed in 2007 was the death of one of the most massive stars known in the universe, new calculations suggest. Similar blasts may have polluted the early universe with heavy elements, altering its evolution. A team of astronomers led by Avishay Gal-Yam of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, detected the explosion in a dwarf galaxy on 6 April 2007.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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