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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: October 2009
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The ITER site
Fusion delays sow concern
(Oct 14, 2009)

Construction at the site of ITER – the multibillion-euro project to prove controlled nuclear fusion – has been at a standstill since April, Nature has learned. The stoppage comes as European contributors negotiate how to pay for their share of ITER, a collaboration between Europe, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United States, China and India.

Read more. Source: Nature

Large Hadron Collider superconducting magmet
The collider, the particle and a theory about fate
(Oct 13, 2009)

More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the Large Hadron Collider is poised to start up again. Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science – the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future.

Read more. Source: New York Times

NASA Infrared Telescope Facility
Asteroid isn't just a dry heap of rubble
(Oct 13, 2009)

Two independent teams, from Johns Hopkins University and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (shown here), have found what may be the first direct evidence of water ice on the surface of an asteroid. The discovery of water on 24 Themis lends support to the idea that asteroids could have helped deliver water to the early Earth.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Casimir effect
DARPA tries to tap elusive Casmir effect for breakthrough technology
(Oct 12, 2009)

The Casimir effect governs interactions of matter with the energy that is present in a vacuum. By harnessing this force researchers might someday develop low-friction ballistics and even levitating objects that defy gravity. For now, the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a two-year, $10-million project encouraging scientists to work on ways to manipulate this quirk of quantum electrodynamics.

Read more. Source: Scientific American

Pallas is 'Peter Pan' space rock
(Oct 11, 2009)

The Hubble telescope has provided new insight on 2 Pallas, one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System. The nearly 600km-wide rock is an example of an object that started out on the process of becoming a planet but never grew up into the real thing. Researchers have published a 3D model of the grapefruit-shaped mini-world in Science magazine.

Read more. Source: BBC

The LCROSS impacts took place to the left of the large crater shown in this image
NASA puzzles over 'invisible' moon impact
(Oct 10, 2009)

In the final minutes of its plunge toward the moon, NASA's LCROSS spacecraft spotted the brief infrared flash of a rocket booster hitting the lunar surface just ahead of it – and it even saw heat from the crater formed by the impact. But scientists remain puzzled about why the event did not seem to generate a visible plume of debris as expected.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

US spacecraft crash into the Moon
(Oct 9, 2009)

NASA has crashed two unmanned spacecraft into the Moon in a bid to detect the presence of water-ice. But no light flash was apparent in images broadcast on NASA TV as an empty 2,200kg rocket stage slammed into Cabeus Crater at the Moon's south pole. Another spacecraft carrying science instruments was set to analyze the huge debris cloud anticipated on impact.

Read more. Source: BBC

NASA refines asteroid Apophis' path toward Earth
(Oct 8, 2009)

Using updated information, NASA scientists have recalculated the path of the asteroid Apophis. The refined path indicates a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with Earth in 2036. The chances of a collision with Apophis, which is approximately the size of two-and-a-half football fields, has dropped from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a million.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Venera D
Russia plots return to Venus
(Oct 8, 2009)

Densely clouded in acid-laden mist, Venus used to be the Soviet Union's favorite target for planetary exploration. Now, after a lull of almost three decades, Russia is making plans for a new mission to the "morning star" and has invited Western scientists to participate. Last week, Moscow-based space research institute IKI hosted an international conference aimed at luring scientists from Europe and possibly other countries such as the US into the ambitious project, officially scheduled for launch in 2016.

Read more. Source: BBC

Saturn and its super-sized ring
Largest ring in solar system found around Saturn
(Oct 7, 2009)

A colossal ring of debris found around Saturn is the largest in the solar system. The new ring could be the 'smoking gun' that explains the curious two-faced appearance of Saturn's moon Iapetus, whose leading hemisphere is much darker than its trailing side. Until now, the biggest known rings in the solar system were Saturn's E ring and faint, gossamer sheets of dust orbiting Jupiter.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

VASIMR-powered spacecraft. Image: Ad Astra Rocket Company
Rocket company tests world's most powerful ion engine
(Oct 6, 2009)

Rockets that would use charged particles to propel super-fast missions to Mars are one step closer, now that a small-scale prototype of a system called VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket) has been demonstrated at full power. The ion engine may be used to maintain the orbit of the International Space Station within the next five years, and could lay the groundwork for rockets that could one day travel to Mars in about a month.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

galaxy cluster
Life span of the universe downgraded
(Oct 5, 2009)

For all its tumult the cosmos is surprisingly orderly. Theoretical calculations have long shown that the entropy (degree of disorder) of the universe is only a tiny fraction of the maximum allowable amount. A new calculation upholds that general result but suggests that the universe is messier than had been thought, and a bit further along on its gradual journey to death.

Read more. Source: Science News

Herschel Space Telescope view of the center of our galaxy. Image: ESA/Herschel/Spire
Herschel scans hidden Milky Way
(Oct 3, 2009)

A remarkable view of our Galaxy has been obtained by Europe's billion-euro Herschel Space Observatory. The telescope was put in a special scanning mode to map a patch of sky. The images reveal in exquisite detail the dense, contorted clouds of cold gas that are collapsing in on themselves to form new stars.

Read more. Source: BBC

image of Mercury from MESSENGER's third flyby
Mercury flyby successful
(Oct 2, 2009)

On September 29, 2009, the MESSENGER spacecraft passed by Mercury for the third time, flying 141.7 miles above the planet's surface for a final gravity assist that will enable it to enter orbit about Mercury in 2011. During the encounter, MESSENGER's cameras imaged a portion of Mercury's never-before-seen surface and the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer observed Mercury's exospheric "tail" during approach.

Read more. Source: NASA / Johns Hopkins

spiral galaxy
Galaxy study hints at cracks in dark matter theories
(Oct 1, 2009)

Dark matter is either weirder than we thought or does not exist at all, a new study suggests. A galaxy is supposed to sit at the heart of a giant cloud of dark matter and interact with it through gravity alone. The dark matter originally provided enough attraction for the galaxy to form and now keeps it rotating. But observations are not bearing out this simple picture.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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