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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2009
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SDSS image of Messier 51, the Whirlpool Galaxy
The world's top ten telescopes revealed
(Feb 7, 2009)

It doesn't take a big mirror to have a big impact. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a project conducted with a modest 2.5-metre-wide telescope in New Mexico, performed the most highly cited science in 2006, according to a new analysis of the top ten 'high impact' astronomical observatories.

Read more. Source: Nature

Phoenix Lander
Should Mars be treated like a wildlife preserve?
(Feb 6, 2009)

Life has not yet been found on Mars, and no one is sure whether it will be. But some researchers say it is not too early to consider the possibility that humans could do irreversible damage to indigenous Martian life. A group of international experts will meet as early as this September to discuss whether it is time to revise policies that protect Mars from contamination.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Milky Way Galaxy
Number of alien worlds quantified
(Feb 5, 2009)

Intelligent civilisations are out there and there could be thousands of them, according to an Edinburgh scientist. The discovery of more than 330 planets outside our solar system in recent years has helped refine the number of life forms that are likely to exist. The current research estimates that there are at least 361 intelligent civilisations in our Galaxy and possibly as many as 38,000.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's impression of the binary asteroid Barbara. Image: Credit: ESO/L. Calçada
Powerful new technique to measure asteroids' sizes and shapes
(Feb 5, 2009)

A team of French and Italian astronomers have devised a new method for measuring the size and shape of asteroids that are too small or too far away for traditional techniques, increasing the number of asteroids that can be measured by a factor of several hundred. This method takes advantage of the unique capabilities of ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer.

Read more. Source: European Southern Observatory

Giant stellar nursery in Arp 220. Image: NASA/ESA/C Wilson/McMaster University
Giant star factory found in early galaxy
(Feb 5, 2009)

A stellar factory millions of times larger than anything comparable in the Milky Way has been identified in a galaxy in the very early universe. The work bolsters the case that massive galaxies formed very quickly – in spectacular bursts of star formation – soon after the big bang.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Telescope sees smallest exoplanet
(Feb 4, 2009)

The smallest planet yet found outside the Solar System has been detected by a French space telescope. The rocky world is less than twice the size of Earth. The discovery was made by Corot, an orbiting observatory with a 27cm-diameter telescope to search for planets orbiting other stars.

Read more. Source: BBC

Image of Mars from Google Earth. Image: Google
Google Earth provides dizzying 3D views of Mars
(Feb 3, 2009)

Mars enthusiasts can fly from the towering peak of Olympus Mons to Mars Pathfinder's peaceful resting place in an add-on to the latest version of the desktop application Google Earth, which was released on Monday. The new Mars map amasses some 1000 gigabytes of data from a range of Mars probes, including NASA's Viking orbiters, Europe's Mars Express orbiter, and six landers, to create a three-dimensional view of the planet at a wide range of scales.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Centaurus A. Image credit: Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.; Submillimeter: MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al.; Optical: ESO/WFI
Black hole outflows from Centaurus A
(Feb 3, 2009)

This image of Centaurus A shows a spectacular new view of a supermassive black hole's power. Jets and lobes powered by the central black hole in this nearby galaxy are shown by submillimeter data (orange) from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile and X-ray data (blue) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Read more. Source: NASA/Harvard/Chandra

Ariane-5 ECA
Major contract for Ariane rockets
(Feb 3, 2009)

Arianespace, the Paris-based company which operates Europe's rocket service, has placed an order for 35 new Ariane 5 ECA launchers. The contract signed with EADS Astrium is worth 4bn euros (£3.6bn). The Ariane 5 ECA is one of the world's biggest rockets, and lofts scientific and commercial payloads from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

Read more. Source: BBC

Europa. Image: NASA
The next mission to the outer solar system
(Feb 2, 2009)

In February, NASA and European Space Agency officials will meet in Washington, DC to decide between two missions to the outer solar system. One mission would aim for Saturn's moon Titan, while the other would send a pair of orbiters to explore Jupiter and some of its satellites – particularly Europa, whose ice-encrusted surface is thought to hide a vast, watery ocean.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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