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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2009
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A balloon-borne instrument called ARCADE mapped a doughnut-shaped region that covered some 7% of the sky (coloured region), turning up an unexplained radio signal. Image credit: NASA/ARCADE)
Mystery radio signal could be from universe's first stars
(Jan 9, 2009)

A balloon-borne experiment has turned up a mysterious radio signal that seems to be coming from beyond the Milky Way. Astronomers do not yet have a clear explanation for the static, but say it could come from the universe's first generation of stars. The noise was found with a balloon-borne instrument called ARCADE, which flew for four hours at an altitude of 37 kilometres above Texas in July 2006.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

One of 14 runaway stars imaged by the Advanced Camera for Surveys between October 2005 and July 2006. Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL
Hubble finds clutch of new runaway stars
(Jan 8, 2009)

Some stars go ballistic, racing through interstellar space like bullets and tearing through clouds of gas. Images from the Hubble Space Telescope, taken by Raghvendra Sahai of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and colleagues reveal 14 of these young, runaway stars. The stars are plowing through regions of dense interstellar gas, creating brilliant arrowhead structures and trailing tails of glowing gas.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

black hole. Credit: NASA
Black holes 'preceded galaxies'
(Jan 7, 2009)

A cosmic chicken-and-egg question has been solved by astronomers, who now say that black holes came before galaxies. The findings were presented at a major astronomy meeting in California. Most if not all galaxies, including our own Milky Way, are believed to have massive black holes at their cores.

Read more. Source: BBC

Cassiopeia A. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/D. Patnaude et al.
Supernova's ghost caught expanding in new video
(Jan 7, 2009)

A new video suggests that Cassiopeia A, the remnant of a supernova that exploded in the Milky Way some 330 years ago, may be channelling its energy into creating high-speed charged particles called cosmic rays. Daniel Patnaude of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has assembled eight years of observations to create a time-lapse movie showing debris flying outward from the site of the explosion.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

A new class of gamma-ray-only pulsars shows that the gamma rays must form in a broader region than the lighthouse-like radio beam. In this illustration, the pulsar's radio beams (green) never intersect Earth, but its pulsed gamma rays (magenta) do. Credit: NASA/Fermi/Cruz deWilde
Fermi Telescope unveils a dozen new pulsars
(Jan 7, 2009)

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has discovered 12 new gamma-ray-only pulsars and has detected gamma-ray pulses from 18 others. The finds are transforming our understanding of how these stellar cinders work.

Read more. Source: NASA/Fermi

SCP 06F6. Credit: Barbary et al
Space 'firefly' resembles no known object
(Jan 7, 2009)

An object that brightened intensely and then faded back into obscurity over a period of about seven months is unlike anything astronomers have seen before, a new study reports. The object, called SCP 06F6, was first spotted in the constellation Bootes in February 2006 in a search for supernovae by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Binary L dwarf Kelu-1. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Stumpf (MPIA)
Brown dwarfs don't hang out with stars
(Jan 7, 2009)

Brown dwarfs, objects that are less massive than stars but larger than planets, just got more elusive, based on a study of 233 nearby multiple-star systems by the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble found only two brown dwarfs as companions to normal stars. This means the so-called "brown dwarf desert" (the absence of brown dwarfs around solar-type stars) extends to the smallest stars in the universe.

Read more. Source: NASA/Hubble

Yellowstone National Park. Image credit: US National Parks Service
Yellowstone quakes raise explosion fears
(Jan 7, 2009)

Hundreds of earthquakes rippled through Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in late December and early January, prompting fears that the shaking might trigger dangerous steam explosions. The strongest were easily felt by visitors and park staff, including one with a magnitude of 3.9.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

This image merges Swift optical (blue, green) and X-ray views of GRB 080607. The white spot at center is the burst's optical afterglow. Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler
Gamma-ray burst offers first peek at a young galaxy's star factory
(Jan 7, 2009)

Astronomers combining data from NASA's Swift satellite, the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and other facilities have, for the first time, identified gas molecules in the host galaxy of a gamma-ray burst. The explosion, designated GRB 080607, occurred in June.

Read more. Source: NASA/Swift

Artist impression of the Milky Way Galaxy
Galactic collision will happen sooner than scientists thought
(Jan 6, 2009)

According to their most detailed measurements yet, scientists admitted to have grossly underestimated the mass of the Milky Way, and so the gravitational pull it exerts on our cosmic neighbours, including the giant Andromeda Galaxy. The oversight means that the two galaxies, which are on a cataclysmic collision course, will slam into one another earlier than scientists had previously predicted.

Read more. Source: Guardian

Artist's concept of a white dwarf surrounded by pieces of a disintegrating asteroid. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Dead stars tell story of planet birth
(Jan 6, 2009)

Astronomers have turned to an unexpected place to study the evolution of planets – dead stars. Observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope reveal six white dwarf stars littered with the remains of shredded asteroids. This might sound pretty bleak, but it turns out the chewed-up asteroids are teaching astronomers about the building materials of planets around other stars.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

NGC 2362
Baby Jupiters must gain weight fast
(Jan 6, 2009)

The planet Jupiter gained weight in a hurry during its infancy. It had to, since the material from which it formed probably disappeared in just a few million years, according to a new study of planet formation around young stars. Smithsonian astronomers examined the 5 million-year-old star cluster NGC 2362 with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which can detect the signatures of actively forming planets in infrared light.

Read more. Source: Center for Astrophysics

Composite color infrared image of the center of the Galaxy
Hubble views galactic core in unprecedented new detail
(Jan 5, 2009)

This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a new population of massive stars and new details in complex structures in the hot ionized gas swirling around the central 300 light-years. This sweeping panorama is the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the galactic core.

Read more. Source: NASA/STScI

Space elevator
Getting into space by broomstick
(Jan 5, 2009)

The prospects for the space elevator have been shaken up with a simple prototype using a broomstick. Age-Raymond Riise of the European Space Agency demonstrated the device at a space elevator conference in December. The project could see a 100,000km long tether anchored to the Earth as a "lift into space" for cheaper space missions.

Read more. Source: BBC

Super-powerful laser. Credit: LBL
Desktop atom smashers could replace LHC
(Jan 5, 2009)

When the Large Hadron Collider was switched on last September it was the subject of the kind of media frenzy usually reserved for rock stars and celebrity models. These, we were told, were the first moments of the most complex machine ever built. What we were not told was that something similar might never be built again.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Collision between spiral galaxies NGC 6050 and IC 1179. Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and K. Noll (STScI)
Galaxies' collision history revealed
(Jan 5, 2009)

Nearly all massive galaxies have undergone at least one major merger since the Universe was 6 billion years old, according to the largest survey of their shape and structure to date. Reconstructing how galaxies have merged is a vital part of understanding their evolution.

Read more. Source: Nature

nano-diamonds. Credit: Science
Diamond clues to beasts' demise
(Jan 3, 2009)

The controversial idea that space impacts may have wiped out woolly mammoths and early human settlers in North America has received new impetus. Nano-diamonds and other exotic impact materials have been unearthed in thin sediments, Science magazine reports. The age of these materials coincides with the start of a millennium-long climate cooling event known as the Younger Dryas – some 13,000 years ago.

Read more. Source: BBC

Elysium Planitia. Credit: NASA
Mystery stone circles may point to water on Mars
(Jan 3, 2009)

Stone circles on Mars are prompting a rethink about the planet's ancient climate. Using cameras on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Matt Balme of the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK, and his colleagues mapped the Elysium Planitia, a region near the equator. They saw rings up to 23 metres across made up of stones sorted by size into concentric bands.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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