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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2010
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Phobos-Grunt proposed landing sites
Phobos flyby images
(Mar 16, 2010)


Images from the recent Mars Express flyby of Phobos, on 7 March 2010, were released yesterday. The images show Mars’ rocky moon in exquisite detail, with a resolution of just 4.4 meters per pixel. They show the proposed landing sites (1 and 2 in the image) for the forthcoming Phobos-Grunt mission.

Read more. Source: ESA

Falcon 9 test firing
Falcon 9 rocket engines briefly ignite on launch pad
(Mar 15, 2010)


SpaceX successfully fired the Falcon 9 rocket's nine Merlin engines on a Florida launch pad Saturday, completing a key preflight test before the privately-developed booster is cleared for launch in April. The 15-story rocket's first stage engines ignited at 12:30 p.m. EST, sending a plume of smoke out of the flame trench at Cape Canaveral's Complex 40.

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now

Sun
Magnetic flows cause sunspot lows, study shows
(Mar 14, 2010)


Newly reported observations of gas flows on the solar surface may explain why the Sun recently had such an extended case of the doldrums. From 2008 through the first half of 2009, the sun had a puzzling dearth of sunspots, flares and other storms, extending the usual lull at the end of the 11-year solar cycle for an extra 15 months.

Read more. Source: Science News

lunar exploration
Obama NASA plans 'catastrophic' say Moon astronauts
(Mar 13, 2010)


Former NASA astronauts who went to the Moon have told the BBC of their dismay at President Barack Obama's decision to push back further Moon missions. Jim Lovell, commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, said Mr Obama's decision would have "catastrophic consequences" for US space exploration. The last man on the Moon, Eugene Cernan, said it was "disappointing".

Read more. Source: BBC

interior of Titan
Cassini data show ice and rock mixture inside Titan
(Mar 12, 2010)


By precisely tracking NASA's Cassini spacecraft on its low swoops over Saturn's moon Titan, scientists have determined the distribution of materials in the moon's interior. The subtle gravitational tugs they measured suggest the interior has been too cold and sluggish to split completely into separate layers of ice and rock.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

cluster of galaxies
Einstein passes cosmic test
(Mar 11, 2010)


It's another victory for Einstein – albeit not a resounding one. General relativity has been confirmed at the largest scale yet. But the galactic tests used to put the theory through its paces cannot rule out all rival theories of gravity.

Read more. Source: Nature

possible impact crater in DR Congo
DR Congo ring may be giant 'impact crater'
(Mar 10, 2010)


Deforestation has revealed what could be a giant impact crater in Central Africa, scientists say. The 36–46km-wide feature, identified in DR Congo, may be one of the largest such structures discovered in the last decade. Italian researchers considered other origins for the ring, but say these are unlikely.

Read more. Source: BBC

Large Hadron Collider magnet
LHC to shut down for a year to address safety concerns
(Mar 10, 2010)


A director at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva has told BBC News that some mistakes were made in construction. Dr Steve Myers said these faults will delay the machine reaching its full potential for two years. The atom smasher will reach world record power later this month at 7 trillion electron volts (TeV).

Read more. Source: BBC

early Earth
Did 'midwife molecule' assemble first life on Earth?
(Mar 9, 2010)


The primordial soup that gave birth to life on Earth may have had an extra, previously unrecognised ingredient: a "molecular midwife" that played a crucial role in allowing the first large biomolecules to assemble from their building blocks. This missing link may have been similar to a substance called ethidium which has been shown to help form long double helices from a solution of nucleotides.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

solar storm
How to save the Earth via the World Wide Web
(Mar 9, 2010)


There are not many websites which literally give you the chance to protect the world. Yet, if you are keen on spending a few moments of your day defending the Earth from an imminent solar attack, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London would like to hear from you. Its Solar Stormwatch website highlights the danger of radiation bursts from the Sun – and gives users the chance to help scientists spot Sun storms – known as coronal mass ejections - before they cause damage on Earth.

Read more. Source: BBC

Antimatter created at Brookhaven National Laboratory
Heavy antimatter created in gold collisions
(Mar 8, 2010)


Physicists have rooted through a morass of collisions to find the heaviest antimatter nucleus yet inside one of their particle accelerators. Collisions between gold nuclei at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider on Long Island, New York, have yielded heavy isotopes of antihydrogen that include a subatomic particle known as an antistrange quark.

Read more. Source: Nature

Tiangong space laboratory
China maintains hectic pace for more space program firsts
(Mar 7, 2010)


The leaders of China's human spaceflight endeavors say 2011 is shaping up to be the most ambitious year in the history of the country's space program. China plans to launch the cornerstone of a new orbiting space laboratory some time in 2011. Weighing nearly 19,000 pounds, the Tiangong 1 module will be launched into orbit unmanned aboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan space center.

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now

Near-Earth Object imaged in infrared by WISE. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Dark, dangerous asteroids found lurking near Earth
(Mar 6, 2010)


An infrared space telescope has spotted several very dark asteroids that have been lurking unseen near Earth's orbit. Their obscurity and tilted orbits have kept them hidden from surveys designed to detect things that might hit our planet. Called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the new NASA telescope launched on 14 December on a mission to map the entire sky at infrared wavelengths. It began its survey in mid-January.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Artwork of Stardust approaching comet Wild 2
Probe may have found interstellar dust
(Mar 6, 2010)


Scientists may have identified the first specks of interstellar dust in material collected by the US space agency's Stardust spacecraft. A stream of this dust flows through space; the tiny particles are building blocks that go into making stars and planets. The NASA spacecraft was primarily sent to catch dust streaming from Comet Wild 2 and return it to Earth for analysis.

Read more. Source: BBC

satellite view of aurora. Image credit: NASA
Shields down! Earth's mag field may drop in a flash
(Mar 5, 2010)


Even if we knew precise details of Earth's core, we would not be able to predict a catastrophic flip in the polarity of its magnetic field more than a decade or two ahead. That's the conclusion of Gauthier Hulot of Denis Diderot University in Paris, France, and colleagues who published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Herschel-HIFI spectrum of water and organics in the Orion Nebula. Image credit: ESA, HEXOS and the HIFI Consortium
Herschel unveils life-enabling molecules in Orion Nebula
(Mar 5, 2010)


The Herschel Space Observatory has revealed the chemical fingerprints of potential life-enabling organic molecules in the Orion Nebula, a nearby stellar nursery in our Milky Way galaxy. This detailed demonstrates the gold mine of information that Herschel's HIFI (Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared) will provide on how organic molecules form in space.

Read more. Source: Herschel/ESA/NASA/Caltech

Artistic interpretation of the Sikun Labyrinthus area on Titan based on radar and imaging data from Cassini
Is that Saturn's moon Titan or Utah?
(Mar 5, 2010)


Planetary scientists have been puzzling for years over the honeycomb patterns and flat valleys with squiggly edges evident in radar images of Saturn's moon Titan. Now they have found some recognizable analogies to a type of spectacular terrain on Earth known as karst topography. If the karst landscape on Titan is consistent with Earth's, there could very well be caves under the Titan surface.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Phobos close-up by Mars Express
Closest Phobos flyby gathers data
(Mar 5, 2010)


The European Mars Express (Mex) probe has made its closest flyby of the Martian moon Phobos, passing just 67km (42 miles) from its surface. No manmade object has ever been so near to the natural satellite. The approach is one of a series being made by Mex as it seeks to understand the origin of the moon.

Read more. Source: BBC

Map of cosmic gamma-ray sources
Universe's high-energy haze gets murkier
(Mar 5, 2010)


The universe's most powerful particle accelerators are responsible for just a fraction of the fog of gamma-ray light beyond the Milky Way, a new study suggests. The source of the rest remains a mystery, but dark matter could be a contributor.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

red giant
First of missing primitive stars discovered
(Mar 4, 2010)


Astronomers have discovered a relic from the early universe – a star that may have been among the second generation of stars to form after the Big Bang. Located in the dwarf galaxy Sculptor some 290,000 light-years away, the star has a remarkably similar chemical make-up to the Milky Way's oldest stars. Its presence supports the theory that our galaxy underwent a "cannibal" phase, growing to its current size by swallowing dwarf galaxies and other galactic building blocks.

Read more. Source: CfA

The core of the Andromeda galaxy shows an off-center ring of older stars (red) in this artist’s rendition
Lopsided stellar disks help black holes guzzle gas
(Mar 4, 2010)


Astronomers have finally gotten a firmer grip on how supermassive black holes in the centers of most galaxies gobble up gas from their surroundings. In a new study, two astronomers neatly explain how stars drag swirling gases toward a galaxy’s center, bringing them close enough that the black holes can suck them in like water down a bathtub drain.

Read more. Source: Science News

Antarctic meteorite
Clues to Antarctica space blast
(Mar 3, 2010)


A large space rock may have exploded over Antarctica thousands of years ago, showering a large area with debris, according to new research. The evidence comes from accumulations of tiny meteoritic particles and a layer of extraterrestrial dust found in Antarctic ice cores. Details of the work were presented at a major science conference in Texas.

Read more. Source: BBC

WhiteKnightTwo
Virgin Galactic sees space test flights in 2011
(Mar 3, 2010)


Virgin Galactic is aiming to launch test flights into space in 2011, but does not need additional financing after selling a stake to Abu Dhabi's Abaar last year, its chief executive said on Wednesday. The offshoot of billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways in December unveiled the first commercial passenger spaceship, a sleek black-and-white vessel that represents an expensive gamble on creating a commercial space tourism industry.

Read more. Source: Reuters

Phobos
Mars Express heading for closest flyby of Phobos
(Mar 3, 2010)


ESA's Mars Express will skim the surface of Mars' largest moon Phobos on Wednesday evening. Passing by at an altitude of 67 km, precise radio tracking will allow researchers to peer inside the mysterious moon. Mars Express is currently engaged in a series of 12 flybys of Phobos.

Read more. Source: ESA

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter radar map of deposits of glacial ice in the mid-latitudes of Mars
Radar map of buried martian ice adds to climate record
(Mar 3, 2010)


Extensive radar mapping of the middle-latitude region of northern Mars by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows that thick masses of buried ice are quite common beneath protective coverings of rubble. The subsurface ice deposits extend for hundreds of kilometers in the rugged region called Deuteronilus Mensae, about halfway from the equator to the Martian north pole.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Earth
Chilean quake may have shortened Earth days
(Mar 2, 2010)


The Feb. 27 magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile may have shortened the length of each Earth day. JPL research scientist Richard Gross computed how Earth's rotation should have changed as a result of the Feb. 27 quake. Using a complex model, he and fellow scientists came up with a preliminary calculation that the quake should have shortened the length of an Earth day by about 1.26 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second).

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Chandrayaan 1
Ice deposits found at Moon's pole
(Mar 2, 2010)


A radar experiment aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar spacecraft has identified thick deposits of water ice near the Moon's north pole. NASA's Mini-Sar experiment found more than 40 small craters containing water ice. But other compounds – such as hydrocarbons – are mixed up in lunar ice, according to new results from another lunar mission called LCROSS.

Read more. Source: BBC

The ATLAS experiment attached to the Larghe Hadron Collider
CERN nuclear team restarts Large Hadron Collider
(Mar 1, 2010)


Operators of the world's largest atom smasher restarted their massive machine today in a run-up to experiments probing secrets of the universe. After a cautious trial period, CERN plans to ramp up the energy of the proton beams travelling around the 17-mile tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border at Geneva to unprecedented levels – and start record-setting collisions of protons by late March.

Read more. Source: The Guardian

asteroid impact
Ancient impact hammered Northern Hemisphere
(Mar 1, 2010)


The extraterrestrial body that slammed into Earth 65 million years ago is best known for killing off the dinosaurs. But it also snuffed out more than 90% of the tiny plankton species that made up the base of the food web in the oceans. By sifting through geological records of ancient sediments from around the globe, palaeoceanographers have culled clues about how the impact caused so much havoc.

Read more. Source: Nature

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