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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2010
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Spaceport America concept
Space tourism: We have lift-off
(Mar 26, 2010)


Predictions are that space tourism could be a $700m industry by 2020, flying thousands of passengers a year as far as zero gravity and back, for the thrill ride of their lives. Tickets are on sale now, at $200,000 a pop, from Richard Branson's company Virgin Galactic which passed another milestone in its testing regime this week. Meanwhile, a range of other entrepreneurs are also piling into this new space race, for the first time convinced there might actually be some money to be made.

Read more. Source: The Independent

Arecibo radio telescope
Cuts cast doubt on asteroid plan
(Mar 25, 2010)


Plans to more precisely plot the orbit of an asteroid with a small chance of hitting Earth in 2036 may be badly hit by funding cuts to a US radar facility. Radar measurements set to be made in January 2013 by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, could help rule out an impact by asteroid Apophis. But the cuts mean Arecibo needs an extra $2m–$3m a year to continue.

Read more. Source: BBC

Io
The solar system's 10 strangest moons
(Mar 25, 2010)


Moons may bow to planets in terms of size, but in character they often outshine their stolid parents. The named moons of the solar system outnumber planets by more than 20 to 1, and they display a remarkable diversity.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

A rock called Chocolate Hills with an unusual coating
Mars rover examines odd material at small, young crater
(Mar 25, 2010)


Weird coatings on rocks beside a young Martian crater remain puzzling after a preliminary look at data from examination of the site by NASA's Opportunity rover. The rover spent six weeks investigating the crater called "Concepción" before resuming its long journey this month. The crater is about 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

GOODS-South field
Found: 90% of the universe
(Mar 25, 2010)


Astronomers have long known that in many surveys of the distant Universe, a large fraction of the total intrinsic light was not being observed. Now, thanks to an extremely deep survey using two of the four 8.2-meter telescopes that make up ESO's Very Large Telescope and a custom-built filter, astronomers have determined that a large fraction of galaxies whose light took 10 billion years to reach us have gone undiscovered.

Read more. Source: European Southern Observatory

ESO 306-17
Bully galaxy rules the neighborhood
(Mar 24, 2010)


In general, galaxies can be thought of as "social" – hanging out in groups and often interacting. However, this recent NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image highlights how some galaxies appear to be hungry loners. These cosmic oddities have set astronomers on the "case of the missing neighbor galaxies".

Read more. Source: NASA/ESA

Artist's impression of the distant galaxy SMM J2135-0102 showing large bright clouds a few hundred light-years in size, which are regions of active star formation
First close-up of star factories in distant universe
(Mar 24, 2010)


For the first time, astronomers have made direct measurements of the size and brightness of regions of star-birth in a very distant galaxy, thanks to a chance discovery with the APEX telescopeat the European Southern Observatory. The galaxy is so distant, and its light has taken so long to reach us, that we see it as it was 10 billion years ago.

Read more. Source: ESO

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took this image in preparation for the first autonomous selection of an observation target by a spacecraft on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA Mars rover getting smarter as it gets older
(Mar 24, 2010)


NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, now in its seventh year on Mars, has a new capability to make its own choices about whether to make additional observations of rocks that it spots on arrival at a new location. Software uploaded this winter is the latest example of NASA taking advantage of the twin Mars rovers' unanticipated longevity for real Martian test drives of advances made in robotic autonomy for future missions.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

SpaceShipTwo landing after its maiden flight
SpaceShipTwo makes its first flight
(Mar 23, 2010)


SpaceShipTwo, the craft being developed by Virgin Galactic to ferry paying customers to the edge of space, took to the skies for the first time today. Renamed the VSS Enterprise during its unveiling in December, SpaceShipTwo reached an altitude of 13.7 km slung under its carrier jet, Eve.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Triton (foreground) and Neptune
Neptune may have eaten a planet and stolen its moon
(Mar 22, 2010)


Neptune may have polished off a super-Earth that once roamed the outer solar system and stolen its moon to boot. The brutal deed could explain mysterious heat radiating from the icy planet and the odd orbit of its moon Triton.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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