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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: June 2010
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Ikaros solar sail
Japan unfurls Ikaros solar sail in space
(Jun 11, 2010)


Japanese scientists are celebrating the successful deployment of their solar sail, Ikaros. The 200-sq-m (2,100-sq-ft) membrane is attached to a small disk-shaped spacecraft that was put in orbit last month by an H-IIA rocket. Ikaros will demonstrate the principle of using sunlight as a simple and efficient means of propulsion.

Read more. Source: BBC

galaxy cluster >
Did a 'sleeper' field awake to expand the universe?
(Jun 11, 2010)


It's the ultimate sleeper agent. An energy field lurking inactive since the big bang might now be causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. According to this idea a form of quintessence could be linked to a phase in the universe's history called inflation.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Titan
Life on Titan? Maybe – but only a lander will tell us
(Jun 11, 2010)


Hints of unexpected chemical activity on Saturn's moon Titan have sparked speculation that there may be alien life there. The new measurements, reported earlier this week, are intriguing. Taken alone, however, they don't constitute evidence of extraterrestrials. New Scientist examines what it will take to settle the question of life on Titan.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Tarantula Nebula
New robotic telescope in Chile set for planet hunt
(Jun 9, 2010)


The absence of dust from the Tarantula Nebula makes it a good observing target A new robotic telescope designed to study planets around other stars has taken its first image. Although based in Chile, the Trappist telescope will be operated from a control room in Belgium, 12,000 km away. As well as detecting and characterising so-called exoplanets, Trappist will also study comets orbiting our Sun.

Read more. Source: BBC

Hellas basin
Huge seas 'once existed on Mars'
(Jun 8, 2010)


US scientists have found further evidence that huge seas existed long ago on Mars. A geological mapping project found sedimentary deposits in a region called Hellas Planitia which suggest a large sea once stood there. The 2,000 km-wide, 8 km-deep Hellas basin is a giant impact crater – the largest such structure on Mars.

Read more. Source: BBC

Dawn spacecraft
Dawn spacecraft fires past record for speed change
(Jun 8, 2010)


Deep in the heart of the asteroid belt, on its way to the first of the belt's two most massive inhabitants, NASA's ion-propelled Dawn spacecraft has eclipsed the record for velocity change produced by a spacecraft's engines. The previous record, held by Deep Space 1, June 5, when Dawn's accumulated acceleration over the mission exceeded 4.3 km per second (9,600 mph).

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Hayabusa heading for Earth
Asteroid probe aimed toward Earth
(Jun 7, 2010)


The Japanese space probe Hayabusa, which was designed to return samples from an asteroid, has been placed on course for a landing in Australia. The spacecraft is returning home from its 2005 visit to the asteroid Itokawa. Hayabusa has achieved a crucial engine firing to aim the probe at Woomera Protected Area in southern Australia.

Read more. Source: BBC

Cassini and Titan
Cassini's latest flyby of Titan
(Jun 7, 2010)


NASA's Cassini spacecraft eyed the north polar region of Saturn's moon Titan this past weekend, scanning the moon's land o' lakes. At closest approach on early morning Saturday, June 5 UTC, Cassini glided to within about 2,000 km (1,300 miles) of Titan's surface. It made infrared scans of the north polar region, which was in darkness for the first several years of Cassini's tour around the Saturn system.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

In the Rydberg molecule, a roaming electron spends most of its time far from its nucleus (red) and interacts with a small molecule (negative end is blue and positive end is green)
A giant proposal for a new type of molecule
(Jun 7, 2010)


Researchers have predicted the existence of a new kind of gargantuan molecule, large enough to dwarf a virus, that looks weird and acts even weirder. Such a molecule, described in a paper to appear in Physical Review Letters, would have the potential to be in two configurations simultaneously, a feat that might prove useful in storing and transmitting quantum information.

Read more. Source: Science News

Falcon 9 launch
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket enjoys successful maiden flight
(Jun 5, 2010)


SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket has enjoyed a successful maiden test flight after the first launch attempted was aborted. The rocket, which could one day carry astronauts, blasted-off from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 1845 GMT. The California-based firm developed the vehicle with a large subsidy from NASA.

Read more. Source: BBC

gas_clouds_in_space
Distant gas blob threatens to shake nature's constants
(Jun 4, 2010)


The basic constants of nature aren't called constants for nothing. Physics is supposed to work the same way across the universe and over all of time. Now measurements of the radio spectra of a distant gas cloud hint that some fundamental quantities might not be fixed after all, raising the possibility that a radical rethink of the standard model of particle physics may one day be needed.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

2010 KQ
Are alien artifacts in our solar system?
(Jun 4, 2010)


The unknown visitor came from deep space. It passed nearly as close to the Earth as the Moon on May 21. Its spectrum didn't match any known asteroid. At a feeble absolute magnitude of +28.9, the traveler must have only been about the size of a truck. Object 2010 KQ, what are you? Is this a scouting ship for Stephen Hawking's hypothesized evil aliens planning a mass invasion of Earth? No, more likely it is a discarded interplanetary rocket booster abandoned in solar orbit.

Read more. Source: Discovery

Artist concept of surface of Titan
Hints of life found on Saturn moon
(Jun 4, 2010)


Two potential signatures of life on Saturn's moon Titan have been found by the Cassini spacecraft. In 2005, Chris McKay of NASA's Ames Research Center and Heather Smith of the International Space University in Strasbourg, calculated that microbes could eke out an existence by breathing in hydrogen and eating acetylene, creating methane in the process. This would result in a lack of acetylene on Titan and a depletion of hydrogen close to the moon's surface. Now, measurements from Cassini have borne out these predictions, hinting that life may be present.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Rocky terrain on Mars
Mars minerals point to warmer and wetter past
(Jun 4, 2010)


The Red Planet harbors rocks rich in carbonate minerals, suggesting there was more water there in the past than previously thought, say scientists. NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit detected the carbonate-rich rocks in the Columbia Hills of Gusev Crater. This was in 2005, but Martian dust had partially blinded one of the rover's instruments, clouding the data.

Read more. Source: BBC

Marks left by the 2009 impact on Jupiter
Hubble identifies Jupiter's attacker
(Jun 4, 2010)


The object that smacked into Jupiter in 2009, leaving a dark bruise, was probably an asteroid, according to a new study based on ultraviolet Hubble Space Telescope images. The aftermath of the 2009 impact was strikingly different from a collision in 1994 by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. The comet fragments left behind much larger dark patches when the planet was viewed at ultraviolet wavelengths.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Milky Way Galaxy
Giant glowing bubbles found around Milky Way
(Jun 3, 2010)


A pair of gamma ray bubbles, shaped like an hourglass, seem to be spewing from the black hole we think lies at the center of our galaxy. That is according to the latest maps from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Its large area telescope has been scanning the whole sky every three hours since June 2008.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

NGC 3603
Hubble captures odd star motion
(Jun 3, 2010)


Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have managed to measure the motion of stars in a stellar cluster. Most stars are formed in these clusters, and this particular one, in the nebula NGC 3603, is one of the largest and most dense in the Milky Way. The scientists discovered that stars in the cluster were not moving in the way they anticipated.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's impression of a galaxy and its central supermassive black hole
Backwards black holes might make bigger jets
(Jun 2, 2010)


Going against the grain may turn out to be a powerful move for black holes. New research suggests supermassive black holes that spin backwards might produce more ferocious jets of gas. The results have broad implications for how galaxies change over time.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

asteroid collision
Asteroid strike may have frozen Antarctica
(Jun 1, 2010)


A massive asteroid hit the Timor Sea around 35 million years ago – and the impact apparently contributed to the formation of the Antarctic ice sheets. So says Andrew Glikson, a specialist in the study of extraterrestrial impacts, from the Planetary Science Institute at the Australian National University in Canberra, who analysed a dome found 2.5 m below the Timor Sea, about 300 km off Australia's north west coast.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Tevatron main injector
Matter: The next generation
(Jun 1, 2010)


Two teams working at the Tevatron particle smasher in Batavia, Illinois, have found hints of a new generation of fundamental particles – to add to the three generations we already know about. What's so special about these new particles?

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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