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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: November 2011
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V838 Monocerotis
Light continues to echo three years after stellar outburst
(Dec 19, 2011)

The Hubble Space Telescope's latest image of the star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) reveals dramatic changes in the illumination of surrounding dusty cloud structures. The effect, called a light echo, has been unveiling never-before-seen dust patterns ever since the star suddenly brightened for several weeks in early 2002.

Read more. NASA/Hubble

Catastrophe looms as toxic 13-ton Mars probe falls to Earth
(Dec 17, 2011)

The heaviest interplanetary spacecraft ever launched is about to become one of the most dangerous man-made objects to fall from space when it crashes to the ground early in the new year. The Russian Phobos-Ground probe was destined to land on a moon of Mars but problems soon after launch in November meant that it was stuck in an unstable, low-Earth orbit.

Read more. The Independent

SN 2011fe
Early observations identify star at heart of nearby supernova
(Dec 16, 2011)

A stellar explosion has helped astronomers to confirm the leading theory as to what causes Type Ia supernovae. The explosion is the closest to the Solar System in the past 25 years, and was spotted a mere 11 hours after light from its eruption first reached Earth.

Read more. Nature

artwork of NASA's space harpoon
NASA develops space harpoon to take samples from comets
(Dec 16, 2011)

NASA is developing a harpoon capable of taking samples from comets. The space agency has already built a prototype capable of launching test harpoon tips across a distance of a mile (1.6km). The engineers believe it would be safer to collect comet material using the equipment rather than trying to land on the celestial bodies.

Read more. NASA/JPL

artwork of a gas cloud falling into a black hole
Our neighborhood supermassive black hole gets ready to dine
(Dec 15, 2011)

Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope have discovered a gas cloud with several times the mass of the Earth accelerating fast towards the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This is the first time ever that the approach of such a doomed cloud to a supermassive black hole has been observed.

Read more. ESO

Microsoft founder Paul Allen unveils space-rocket plan
(Dec 15, 2011)

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has announced plans to launch unmanned rockets and carry cargo into space. The 58-year-old plans to develop a giant aircraft that would put spaceships into orbit, rather than lifting them off from a launch pad. Other moguls are in the private space race, too, after Nasa this year ended its 30-year space shuttle program.

Read more. BBC

Particle collion
Why one Higgs boson may not be enough
(Dec 14, 2011)

If a single Higgs boson and nothing else is discovered at the LHC it will be a mixed blessing. Indeed, perhaps the worst empirical possibility we theorists can imagine. We will have discovered the origin of mass, as advertized, but there will be no new experimental guidance on how to take the next step, or where to search for empirical answers to the outstanding puzzles in particle physics, from the origin of the electroweak scale, or ultimately to a possible unification of all four known forces in the cosmos.

Read more. The Guardian

Dione imaged by Cassini from a distance of 69,989 miles (112,636 km)
Closest-ever flyby of Dione by Cassini
(Dec 13, 2011)

Cassini successfully completed its closest-ever pass over Saturn's moon Dione on Dec. 12, slaloming its way through the Saturn system on its way to today's close flyby of Titan. Cassini is expected to glide about 2,200 miles (3,600 km) over the Titan surface on Dec. 13. In the selection of the raw images obtained during the Cassini Dione flyby, Dione is sometimes joined by other moons. Mimas appears just beyond the dark side of Dione in one view. In another view, Epimetheus and Pandora appear together, along with Saturn's rings.

Read more. NASA/JPL

Image of Vesta obtained by Dawn on Nov. 27 PST, as it was spiraling down from its high altitude mapping orbit to low altitude mapping orbit
Dawn spacecraft spirals down to lowest orbit
(Dec 13, 2011)

NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully maneuvered into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta today, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta at an altitude averaging about 130 miles (210 km) in the phase of the mission known as low altitude mapping orbit.

Read more. NASA/JPL

subatomic particles artwork
Have scientists at the LHC found the Higgs or not?
(Dec 12, 2011)

The discovery of the Higgs boson would undoubtedly be the biggest scientific breakthrough of the century so far. Arguably, it would be the most important discovery since Crick and Watson worked out the structure of DNA nearly 60 years ago. On Tuesday, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider will say how close they are when they present the results from two of the experiments searching for the Higgs.

Read more. BBC

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