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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: April 2010
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Volcanic peak Idunn Mons. Bright colors indicate recent flow
Volcanic double-whammy says Venus still spews
(Apr 9, 2010)


Two studies reveal that Venus may still be volcanically active. Suzanne Smrekar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and her colleagues have found signs of relatively recent volcanism by measuring the infrared glow of solidified lava. In another study, which will appear in the May edition of Geology, a map based on radar observations by the Magellan spacecraft reveals that a previously known feature could actually be the largest known volcanic structure in the solar system.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Artist's impression of a quasar
Time waits for no quasar – even though it should
(Apr 9, 2010)


Why do distant galaxies seem to age at the same rate as those closer to us when big bang theory predicts that time should appear to slow down at greater distances from Earth? No one can yet answer this new question, but one controversial idea is that the galaxies' light is being bent by intervening black holes that formed shortly after the big bang.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Eclipse of Epsilon Aurigae
'First image' of star's eclipse captured by scientists
(Apr 8, 2010)


The first close-up image of an eclipse beyond the solar system has been captured by scientists. Astronomers at the University of St Andrews worked on an international study of the star Epsilon Aurigae, from the Auriga constellation. Every 27 years it becomes dimmer, a phenomenon which lasts for two years.

Read more. Source: BBC

Launch of Cryosat-2
Launch success for ESA's Cryosat-2 ice mission
(Apr 8, 2010)


Europe's Cryosat-2 spacecraft has launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on a mission to map the Earth's ice cover. The spacecraft's Dnepr rocket climbed away from its silo at 1357 GMT (1557 CEST). The satellite was put in orbit 16.5 minutes later. Cryosat's data should help scientists understand better how melting polar ice could affect ocean circulation patterns, sea level and global climate.

Read more. Source: BBC

Flypath of 2010 GA6
Asteroid to fly by within Moon's orbit Thursday
(Apr 8, 2010)


A newly discovered asteroid, 2010 GA6, will safely fly by Earth this Thursday at 4:06 p.m. Pacific (23:06 U.T.C.). At time of closest approach 2010 GA6 will be about 359,000 km (223,000 miles) away from Earth – about 9/10ths the distance to the moon. The asteroid, approximately 22 meters (71 feet) wide, was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey, Tucson, Az.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

IC 342. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Hiding out behind the Milky Way
(Apr 8, 2010)


A leggy cosmic creature comes out of hiding in this new view from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The spiral beauty, called IC 342 and sometimes the "hidden galaxy," is shrouded behind our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Astronomers have a hard time seeing it through the Milky Way's bright band of stars, dust and gas. WISE's infrared vision cuts through this veil, offering a crisp view.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

ununseptium
Element 'ununseptium' to fill periodic table gap
(Apr 7, 2010)


Welcome, ununseptium. With 117 protons, it is the latest super-heavy element to be created in the laboratory. The discovery fills in a gap in the current periodic table of elements, and bolsters the idea that we may yet find an "island of stability" among heavyweight atoms, with elements long-lived enough to be useful.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Artist conception of Quaoar
Is densest Kuiper belt object a wayward asteroid?
(Apr 7, 2010)


A giant rock is walking among the "dirty iceballs" in the outer solar system, a new study suggests. Researchers say that Quaoar, a 900km-wide Kuiper Belt object, may have journeyed to its present location from the asteroid belt near Mars, or it may have been the victim of a cosmic crash that blasted away its once-icy exterior.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Cryostat
CryoSat-2 installed in launch silo
(Apr 6, 2010)


In readiness for launch on 8 April, ESA's CryoSat-2 ice satellite has now joined the rest of the Dnepr rocket in the launch silo at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. CryoSat-2 will be the third Earth Explorer mission to be placed in orbit within just over 12 months, following the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), launched in March 2009, and the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission, launched last November.

Read more. Source: ESA

Launch of Discovery on April 5, 2010
Space shuttle Discovery blasts off from Florida
(Apr 5, 2010)


The space shuttle Discovery has blasted off on its mission to the International Space Station. The shuttle, on one of the final missions before the program is shut down at the end of 2010, is hauling equipment and supplies to the station. The astronauts are due carry out three spacewalks, to make repairs on the station and retrieve an experiment. The shuttle, launched from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, includes three female astronauts for the first time.

Read more. Source: BBC

Composite of two images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft of Saturn's moons Titan (left) and Dione (right). Image credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Space Science Institute
Cassini doubleheader: Flying by Titan and Dione
(Apr 5, 2010)


In a special double flyby early next week, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will visit Saturn's moons Titan and Dione within a period of about a day and a half, with no maneuvers in between. A fortuitous cosmic alignment allows Cassini to attempt this doubleheader, and the interest in swinging by Dione influenced the design of its extended mission.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Laguna del Diamante. Photo: Maria Eugenia Farias
Hostile volcanic lake teems with life
(Apr 5, 2010)


Argentinian investigators have found flamingos and mysterious microbes living in an alkaline lagoon nestled inside a volcano in the Andes. The organisms, exposed to arsenic and poisonous gases, could shed light on how life began on Earth, and their hardiness to extreme conditions may hold the key to new scientific applications.

Read more. Source: Nature

Discovery on the launch pad
Countdown on for shuttle launch
(Apr 3, 2010)


NASA has started the countdown clock ahead of Monday's launch of the space shuttle Discovery. The shuttle is due to launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at daybreak – around 0621 local time (1121 BST) on a 13-day mission. Discovery will haul equipment and supplies to the International Space Station in a container called a multi-purpose logistics module (MPLM).

Read more. Source: BBC

Tunguska blast scene, 1908
Signs of giant comet impacts found in cores
(Apr 2, 2010)


A new study cites spikes of ammonium in Greenland ice cores as evidence for a giant comet impact at the end of the last ice age, and suggests that the collision may have caused a brief, final cold snap before the climate warmed up for good. In the April Geology, researchers describe finding chemical similarities in the cores between a layer corresponding to 1908, when a 50,000-metric-ton object exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, and a deeper stratum dating to 12,900 years ago.

Read more. Source: Science News

lunar south pole
Fly us to the Moon ... south pole to be precise
(Apr 1, 2010)


The possible deposits of water ice, heavily cratered terrain and long periods of sunlight make the lunar south pole and areas around it extremely interesting for explorers and scientists. It is therefore a prime target for future human missions to the Moon. Europe is now looking at a lander mission to pave the way for astronauts.

Read more. Source: ESA

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