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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2009
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launch of Discovery
Shuttle launched after delay
(Mar 16, 2009)


NASA's space shuttle Discovery has blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center on a 14-day mission to the International Space Station. Its crew will deliver and install the space station's fourth and final set of solar arrays, which will provide the power for it to expand. The seven astronauts include Koichi Wakata, who will be Japan's first long-term resident on the space station.

Read more. Source: BBC

Valles Marineris
Antique maps, latest streaming satellite images now viewable with Mars in Google Earth
(Mar 15, 2009)


NASA and Google have announced an update to Mars in Google Earth, a 3D mapping tool for the Red Planet. Originally released with Google Earth 5.0, Mars in Google Earth now contains even more features that give users a sense of how our knowledge of Mars, and our study of astronomy, has evolved over time.

Read more. Source: NASA

Moon
Moon hides scars of a violent past
(Mar 14, 2009)


The Moon has been hiding the scars of its violent, asteroid-filled past. Most surveys of lunar impact craters have used photos, but Herbert Frey of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center wanted to know if there were any old craters buried beneath younger ones. So he studied elevation mapping data from the Clementine mission in the 1990s.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

The Cat's Eye Nebula, NGC 6543
Galactic dust bunnies found to contain carbon after all
(Mar 13, 2009)


Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, researchers have found evidence suggesting that stars rich in carbon complex molecules may form at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This discovery is significant because it adds to our knowledge of how stars form heavy elements – like oxygen, carbon, and iron – and then blow them out across the universe, making it possible for life to develop.

Read more. Source: NASA/Caltech

ISS
Junk alert for space station crew
(Mar 12, 2009)


The crew of the International Space Station has been forced to shelter in the Russian Soyuz capsule after a close call with a piece of space debris. The three crew members are now out of danger and have returned to the ISS, Russian mission control officials told Reuters news agency. NASA said news of the debris threat had come too late for flight controllers to move the space station out of the way.

Read more. Source: BBC

Deimos images by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Martian moon Deimos in high resolution
(Mar 11, 2009)


These color-enhanced views of Deimos, the smaller of the two moons of Mars, result from imaging on Feb. 21, 2009, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Deimos has a smooth surface due to a blanket of fragmental rock or regolith, except for the most recent impact craters. It is a dark, reddish object, very similar to Mars' other moon, Phobos.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Doomsday asteroid
Life could have survived Earth's early pounding
(Mar 10, 2009)


Microbes living deep underground could have survived the massive barrage of impacts that blasted the Earth 3.9 billion years ago, according to a new analysis. That means that today's life might be descended from microbes that arose as far back as 4.4 billion years ago, when the oceans formed.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

ISS
Space station to be fitted with final set of solar arrays
(Mar 10, 2009)


The space shuttle Discovery is set to blast off from Florida on Wednesday night on a mission to install the last set of solar arrays on the International Space Station. Launch is planned for 2120 EDT (0120 GMT on Thursday) from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Phoenix lander
Did Phoenix find liquid water on Mars?
(Mar 9, 2009)


Post-mission analysis of Phoenix Mars lander data is turning up strong new "smoking gun evidence" that the spacecraft discovered liquid water on the Red Planet. The data that Phoenix imaged and touched liquid water is a stunning discovery that directly relates to the potential for current or past life on Mars.

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now

Jupiter
Cannibalistic Jupiter ate its early moons
(Mar 8, 2009)


The four giant Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter are the last survivors of at least five generations of moons that once circled the gas giant. "All the other moons – and there could have been 20 or more – were devoured by the planet in the early days of the solar system," says Robin Canup of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

launch of Kepler
Kepler mission rockets to space in search of other Earths
(Mar 7, 2009)


NASA's Kepler mission successfully launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II at 10:49 p.m. EST (7:49 p.m. PST), Friday, March 6. Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars at distances where water could pool on the planet's surface. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Planck telescope
Telescope 'cousins' meet at last
(Mar 6, 2009)


Europe's Herschel and Planck space telescopes have finally come together. The satellites now share a common cleanroom at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, from where they will be despatched into orbit on 16 April. The observatories have been produced as part of a joint programme that has taken more than 10 years to develop and which is worth some 1.9bn euros.

Read more. Source: BBC

NGC 7173 (middle left), NCG 7174 (middle right) and NGC 7176 (lower right) are part of the Hickson Compact Group 90
Stars forced to relocate near the Southern Fish
(Mar 5, 2009)


A new Hubble image shows three galaxies locked in a gravitational tug-of-war that may result in the eventual demise of one of them. About 100 million light-years away, in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish), three galaxies are playing a game of gravitational give-and-take that might ultimately lead to their merger into one enormous entity.

Read more. Source: ESA

artist's impression of twin black holes
Dancing black hole twins spotted
(Mar 4, 2009)


Reseachers have seen the best evidence yet for a pair of black holes orbiting each other within the same galaxy. While such "binary systems" have been postulated before, none has ever been conclusively spotted. The new black hole pair is dancing significantly closer than the prior best binary system candidate.

Read more. Source: BBC

newfound Saturn moonlet
Newfound moon may be source of outer Saturn ring
(Mar 4, 2009)


NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found within Saturn's G ring an embedded moonlet that appears as a faint, moving pinprick of light. Scientists believe it is a main source of the G ring and its single ring arc. Cassini imaging scientists analyzing images acquired over the course of about 600 days found the tiny moonlet, half a kilometer across, embedded within a ring arc, previously found by Cassini in Saturn's tenuous G ring.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

asteroid approaching Earth
Tunguska-sized space rock buzzes Earth
(Mar 3, 2009)


An asteroid about the size of the one that levelled the forest in Tunguska, Siberia, a century ago flew past Earth on Monday – well within the Moon's orbit. The risk of a future impact with the object is not yet known. The asteroid, dubbed 2008 DD45, whizzed just 72,000 kilometers above the Earth's surface.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mars gulley
Mars had 'recent' running water
(Mar 2, 2009)


Mars appears to have had running water on its surface about one million years ago, according to new evidence. Images from a NASA spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet show fan-shaped gullies on the surface which seem to be about 1.25 million years old, the study says. They believe the channels were sculpted by surface water from melting ice.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's impression of Dawn
Dawn finishes Mars phase
(Mar 2, 2009)


With Mars disappearing in its metaphorical rearview mirror, NASA's Dawn spacecraft's next stop is the asteroid belt and the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn got as close as 549 km (341 miles) to the Red Planet during its Tuesday, Feb. 17, flyby. Dawn's navigators placed the spacecraft on a close approach trajectory with Mars so the planet's gravitational influence would provide a kick to the spacecraft's velocity.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

exoplanet
Mega-laser to probe secrets of exoplanets
(Mar 1, 2009)


An awesome laser facility, built to provide fusion data for nuclear weapons simulations, will soon be used to probe the secrets of extrasolar planets. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California was declared ready for action earlier this month.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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