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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2010
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Voyager near Solar System's edge
(Dec 14, 2010)

Voyager 1, the most distant spacecraft from Earth, has reached a new milestone in its quest to leave the Solar System. Now 17.4bn km (10.8bn miles) from home, the veteran probe has detected a distinct change in the flow of particles that surround it. These particles, which emanate from the Sun, are no longer traveling outwards but are moving sideways.

Read more. Source: BBC

Double Quasar
'Superscope' yields first glimpse of Double Quasar
(Dec 12, 2010)

The E-Merlin telescope has proven its capabilities with a striking image of a quasar nine billion light-years away. E-Merlin is an array of seven linked UK radio telescopes, updated last year with fibre optic technology that has vastly increased its power. Light from the Double Quasar has been bent by a massive object between it and the Earth, resulting in a double image.

Read more. Source: BBC

3D representation of the HR 8799 planetary system and the solar system in the Milky Way. Image: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF/NRC-HIA & C. Marois
Quartet of giant planets puzzles astronomers
(Dec 10, 2010)

The discovery of a fourth giant world around the star HR 8799 is straining the two leading theories of how planets form. HR 8799's four planets, each five to 13 times Jupiter's mass, are too far apart to be explained easily by either model, say Christian Marois of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, British Columbia, and colleagues.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Return to Earth of the Dragon spacecraft after its maiden flight
Private space capsule's maiden voyage ends with splash
(Dec 9, 2010)

A private US capsule that could soon be hauling cargo and even astronauts to the space station has splashed down after its maiden flight. The Dragon ship launched from Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket at 1543GMT (1043 EST) on Wednesday. The capsule separated about 10 minutes after launch, reaching its 300km-high orbit shortly after.

Read more. Source: BBC

artist impression of Wasp 12b
'Diamond exoplanet' idea boosted by telescope find
(Dec 8, 2010)

A US-British team of astronomers has discovered the first planet with ultra-high concentrations of carbon. The researchers say their discovery supports the idea there may be carbon-rich, rocky planets whose terrains are made up of diamonds or graphite. "You might see land masses and mountains made up of diamonds," the lead researcher Dr Nikku Madhusudhan told BBC News.

Read more. Source: BBC

artist impression of Akatsuki in Venus orbit
Japan's Akatsuki probe fails to enter Venus orbit
(Dec 8, 2010)

Japan's first space probe bound for Venus has failed to enter the planet's orbit, the country's space agency says. The spacecraft, Akatsuki, is believed to have passed Venus after it failed to slow down sufficiently. Akatsuki, launched about 200 days ago, fired its main engine just before 0000 GMT on Monday to allow the planet's gravity to capture the probe.

Read more. Source: BBC

Halomonas titanicae
New species of bacteria found in Titanic 'rusticles'
(Dec 7, 2010)

A never-before-seen microbe has been found in the wreck of RMS Titanic. The Halomonas titanicae bacterium was found in "rusticles", the porous and delicate icicle-like structures that form on rusting iron. Various bacteria and fungi live within the delicate structures – first identified on the Titanic – actually feeding off the rusting metal.

Read more. Source: BBC

Time-lapse photo of a microscopic rod lit by a laser from below shows transverse movement, demonstrating lift
Optical wing generates lift from light
(Dec 6, 2010)

US physicists have demonstrated the optical analog of an aerofoil – a 'lightfoil' that generates lift when passing through laser light. The demonstration, which comes more than a century after the development of the first airplanes, suggests that lightfoils could one day be used to maneuver objects in the vacuum of outer space using only the Sun's rays.

Read more. Source: Nature

X-37B US miltary spaceplane returns to Earth
(Dec 4, 2010)

A prototype spaceplane built for the US military has returned to Earth after seven months in orbit. The unpiloted X-37B touched down at Vandenberg Air Force base in California at 0116 PST (0916 GMT). The project has been shrouded in secrecy, prompting widespread speculation about the craft's purpose.

Read more. Source: BBC

arsenic-using bacterium
Arsenic-loving bacteria may help in hunt for alien life
(Dec 2, 2010)

The first organism able to substitute one of the six chemical elements crucial to life has been found. The bacterium, found in a California lake, uses the usually poisonous element arsenic in place of phosphorus. The find, described in Science, gives weight to the long-standing idea that life on other planets may have a radically different chemical makeup.

Read more. Source: BBC

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