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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2011
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NASA's GRAIL gravity twins set to orbit Moon Dec 31, 2011
How the world might end in 2012 Dec 29, 2011
Deep-sea creatures at volcanic vent Dec 28, 2011
We should scour the Moon for ancient traces of aliens, say scientists Dec 25, 2011
Another Soyuz rocket launch fails Dec 24, 2011
NASA telescopes help find rare galaxy at dawn of time Dec 22, 2011
Dawn obtains first low altitude images of Vesta Dec 22, 2011
LHC reports discovery of its first new particle Dec 22, 2011
Newly found planets are 'roasted remains' Dec 21, 2011
First Earth-sized planets spotted Dec 20, 2011
Light continues to echo three years after stellar outburst Dec 19, 2011
Catastrophe looms as toxic 13-ton Mars probe falls to Earth Dec 17, 2011
Early observations identify star at heart of nearby supernova Dec 16, 2011
NASA develops space harpoon to take samples from comets Dec 16, 2011
Our neighborhood supermassive black hole gets ready to dine Dec 15, 2011
Microsoft founder Paul Allen unveils space-rocket plan Dec 15, 2011
Why one Higgs boson may not be enough Dec 14, 2011
Closest-ever flyby of Dione by Cassini Dec 13, 2011
Dawn spacecraft spirals down to lowest orbit Dec 13, 2011
Have scientists at the LHC found the Higgs or not? Dec 12, 2011
NASA stole my planet! Newly-discovered Kepler 22b has a lot in common with the imaginary world of Heliconia Dec 10, 2011
Has the Higgs been discovered? Physicists gear up for watershed announcement Dec 9, 2011
Opportunity rover finds mineral vein deposited by water Dec 8, 2011
Our obsession with a 'twin Earth' Dec 7, 2011
Voyager 1 hits new region at Solar System's edge Dec 6, 2011
SETI to hunt for aliens on Kepler's worlds Dec 6, 2011
Record broken for fastest spinning star Dec 6, 2011
Kepler 22-b: Earth-like planet confirmed Dec 5, 2011
Team sees biggest black holes yet Dec 5, 2011
'Moment of truth' approaching in Higgs boson hunt Dec 5, 2011
China's launch rate set to surpass United States Dec 5, 2011
Mars Science Lab right on course Dec 4, 2011
Has a Higgs signal been found? Dec 3, 2011
Europe ends calls to stranded Mars probe Dec 3, 2011
Kepler spots scorching hot super-Earth Dec 3, 2011
Voyagers detect birth pains of stars Dec 2, 2011
Excitement as Higgs boson seminar set to announce latest LHC findings Dec 1, 2011


GRAIL satellites in lunar orbit
NASA's GRAIL gravity twins set to orbit Moon
(Dec 31, 2011)


Twin satellites are due to go into orbit around the Moon this weekend with the intention of mapping its gravity. NASA's GRAIL spacecraft are expected to give scientists remarkable new insights into the internal structure of the lunar body. This new data should clarify ideas about the Moon's formation and resolve many mysteries, such as why its near and far sides look so different.

Read more. BBC

asteroid on collision course with Earth
How the world might end in 2012
(Dec 29, 2011)


It's a way off, I know, but don't bother to order a diary for 2013 – you won't be needing one. On 21 December 2012, the world as we know it will come to an end. It's all been revealed in an old calendar of the Mayans, if you believe how it's interpreted by various self-appointed experts on their slightly whacky websites. (My op piece in New Scientist.)

Read more. New Scientist

scaly-foot snail
Deep-sea creatures at volcanic vent
(Dec 28, 2011)


Remarkable images of life from one of the most inhospitable spots in the ocean have been captured by scientists. Researchers have been surveying volcanic underwater vents – sometimes called black smokers – in the South West Indian Ridge in the Indian Ocean. The UK team found an array of creatures living in the super-heated waters, including yeti crabs, scaly-foot snails and sea cucumbers.

Read more. BBC

a pit in Mare Ingenii
We should scour the Moon for ancient traces of aliens, say scientists
(Dec 25, 2011)


Hundreds of thousands of pictures of the Moon will be examined for telltale signs that aliens once visited our cosmic neighbourhood if plans put forward by scientists go ahead. Passing extraterrestrials might have left messages, scientific instruments, heaps of rubbish or evidence of mining on the dusty lunar surface that could be spotted by human telescopes and orbiting spacecraft.

Read more. The Guardian

Soyuz launch
Another Soyuz rocket launch fails
(Dec 24, 2011)


Russia's recent poor launch record has continued with yet another Soyuz rocket failure. This time, a Soyuz-2 vehicle failed to put a communications satellite into orbit after lifting away from the country's Plesetsk spaceport. Debris is said to have re-entered the Earth's atmosphere near the western Siberian town of Tobolsk.

Read more. BBC

GN-108036
NASA telescopes help find rare galaxy at dawn of time
(Dec 22, 2011)


Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes have discovered that one of the most distant galaxies known is churning out stars at a shockingly high rate. The blob-shaped galaxy, called GN-108036, is the brightest galaxy found to date at such great distances. The galaxy, which was discovered and confirmed using ground-based telescopes, is 12.9 billion light-years away.

Read more. NASA/Spitzer

One of the first images obtained by Dawn in its low altitude mapping orbit, shows an area within the Rheasilvia basin in the south polar area of Vesta
Dawn obtains first low altitude images of Vesta
(Dec 22, 2011)


NASA's Dawn spacecraft has sent back the first images of the giant asteroid Vesta from its low-altitude mapping orbit. The images, obtained by the framing camera, show the stippled and lumpy surface in detail never seen before, piquing the curiosity of scientists who are studying Vesta for clues about the solar system's early history.

Read more. NASA/JPL

Large Hadron Collider
LHC reports discovery of its first new particle
(Dec 22, 2011)


The Large Hadron Collider on the Franco-Swiss border has made its first clear observation of a new particle since opening in 2009. It is called Chi-b (3P) and will help scientists understand better the forces that hold matter together. The new particle is made up of a beauty quark and a beauty anti-quark, bound together, and is a more excited state of Chi particles already seen in previous collision experiments.

Read more. BBC

planets around a blue subgiant
Newly found planets are 'roasted remains'
(Dec 21, 2011)


Just a day after announcing the discovery of the first Earth-size planets ever detected outside our Solar System, scientists have confirmed the existence of two even smaller worlds. There is something very unusual about these objects, however. It appears they are the roasted remains of planets that spent a period of time inside the outer layers of their star.

Read more. BBC

Size comparison of Kepler=20e, -20f, Venus, and Earth
First Earth-sized planets spotted
(Dec 20, 2011)


Astronomers have detected the first Earth-sized planets, which are orbiting a star similar to our own Sun. In the distant past they may have been able to support life and one of them may have had conditions similar to our own planet – a so-called Earth-twin – according to the research team. They have described their findings as the most important planets ever discovered outside our Solar System.

Read more. BBC

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