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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2009
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Wind-blown trail over the Sudan caused by the break-up of 2008 TC3 on 7 October. Image: Mohamed Elhassan Abdelatif Mahir/Noub NGO/Muawia H Shaddad/U Khartoum/Peter Jenniskens/SETI Institute/NASA Ames
Found: Pieces of space rock once seen heading for Earth
(Feb 20, 2009)


The discovery of meteorites from an asteroid that exploded over Sudan in October completes an astronomical trifecta. For the first time, scientists have detected a space rock ahead of a collision with Earth, watched it streak through the atmosphere, and then recovered pieces of it. Analysis of the meteorites could shed light on conditions in the early solar system more than 4 billion years ago.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

GRB 080916C
Fermi Telescope sees most extreme gamma-ray blast yet
(Feb 20, 2009)


The first gamma-ray burst to be seen in high-resolution from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is one for the record books. The blast had the greatest total energy, the fastest motions and the highest-energy initial emissions ever seen.

Read more. Source: NASA

Mars
Natural antifreeze may keep Mars running with water
(Feb 19, 2009)


There's nothing like a little antifreeze to thaw out a frozen planet. Thanks to chemicals called perchlorates, liquid water may play a bigger role on Mars than expected, which is good news for the search for life.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

NASA and ESA plan to send two orbiters to study Jupiter in 2020. The probes will eventually settle into orbit around the moons Ganymede (bottom left) and Europa (top right). Illustration: NASA/JPL
Europa trumps Titan in bid for outer planet mission
(Feb 19, 2009)


NASA has decided to pursue a plan to send two probes to study Jupiter and its four largest moons in the next big mission to the outer planets, the agency announced today. The mission beat out a competing plan to send an orbiter, balloon and lander to Saturn's moon Titan. The multi-billion dollar mission, a joint endeavour of NASA and the European Space Agency, would launch two probes in 2020. The pair would reach Jupiter in 2026 and spend at least three years studying the system.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Skylon. Illustration: REL
Skylon spaceplane gets cash boost
(Feb 19, 2009)


An innovative UK launcher concept is to get 1m euros (900,000) of investment from the European Space Agency. The Skylon spaceplane would take off from a conventional aircraft runway, carry over 12 tonnes to orbit and then return to land on the same runway. The money will help prove the vehicle's core technologies, including its Sabre air-breathing rocket engine.

Read more. Source: BBC

Clumps on one of Phoenix's legs were observed to grow over time. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute
First liquid water may have been spotted on Mars
(Feb 18, 2009)


NASA's Phoenix lander may have captured the first images of liquid water on Mars – droplets that apparently splashed onto the spacecraft's leg during landing, according to some members of the Phoenix team. The controversial observation could be explained by the mission's previous discovery of perchlorate salts in the soil, since the salts can keep water liquid at sub-zero temperatures.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Hubble Space Telescope
Kaputnik chaos could kill Hubble
(Feb 18, 2009)


A cloud of debris spreading through low Earth orbit following the collision of two satellites poses a new risk to many scientific missions and may signal the demise of the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA is monitoring the increased threat carefully, and if it is as bad as some fear, the agency may have to cancel the proposed shuttle-servicing mission slated for later this year.

Read more. Source: Nature

ATLAS particle detector at CERN
Race for 'God particle' heats up
(Feb 17, 2009)


CERN is losing ground rapidly in the race to discover the elusive Higgs boson, its American rival claims. Fermilab say the odds of their Tevatron accelerator finding it first are now 50-50 at worst, and up to 96% at best. CERN's Lyn Evans admitted the accident which will halt the $7bn Large Hadron Collider until September may cost them one of the biggest prizes in physics.

Read more. Source: BBC

Hydrothermal vent. Image: NOAA
Alien life 'may exist among us'
(Feb 16, 2009)


Never mind Mars, alien life may be thriving right here on Earth, a major science conference has heard. Our planet may harbour forms of "weird life" unrelated to life as we know it, according to Professor Paul Davies, a physicist at Arizona State University. This "shadow life" may be hidden in toxic arsenic lakes or in boiling deep sea hydrothermal vents, he says.

Read more. Source: BBC

Fireball over Austin, Texas
Mystery fireball captured on film
(Feb 16, 2009)


Mysterious debris said to look like a meteor or fireball in the sky has been captured on film over Austin, Texas. The footage coincides with numerous sightings of falling debris in the area. The American Strategic Command has said there is no connection with the debris from a recent collision of satellites.

Read more. Sources: CNN, BBC

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