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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2011
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Kepler 22b detector
NASA stole my planet! Newly-discovered Kepler 22b has a lot in common with the imaginary world of Heliconia
(Dec 10, 2011)

Science fiction writer Brian Aldiss is well-known for his vivid imaginings of alien lanscapes. His Heliconia has similarities with the most Earthlike planet found to date. But does the real exoplanet harbor the same lush flora and fauna as its fanciful counterpart?

Read more. The Guardian

ATLAS detector
Has the Higgs been discovered? Physicists gear up for watershed announcement
(Dec 9, 2011)

The physics buzz reached a frenzy in the past few days over the announcement that the teams at the Large Hadron Collider are planning to release what is widely expected to be tantalizing – although not conclusive – evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson, the elementary particle hypothesized to be the origin of the mass of all matter. Many physicists have already swung into action, swapping rumors about the contents of the announcement and proposing grand ideas about what those rumors would mean, if true.

Read more. Scientific American

Vein of gypsum on Mars
Opportunity rover finds mineral vein deposited by water
(Dec 8, 2011)

This color view of a mineral vein called "Homestake" comes from the panoramic camera (on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The vein is about the width of a thumb and about 18 inches (45 cm) long. Opportunity examined it in November 2011 and found it to be rich in calcium and sulfur, possibly the calcium-sulfate mineral gypsum.

Read more. NASA/JPL

Earthlike planet
Our obsession with a 'twin Earth'
(Dec 7, 2011)

Discovery of an "Earth-like" planet has generated a wave of excitement, but our fascination with finding other habitable worlds goes back a long way, argues science fiction writer Robert J Sawyer. The most famous words in all of science fiction are Captain Kirk's opening narration from Star Trek, in which he explains that the Enterprise's mission is "to explore strange new worlds". But what we really want is familiar new worlds – worlds like good old mother Earth, worlds where we might find "new life and new civilizations."

Read more. BBC

Voyager 1 in the stagnation region
Voyager 1 hits new region at Solar System's edge
(Dec 6, 2011)

Voyager 1 has entered a new region between our solar system and interstellar space. Data obtained from Voyager over the last year reveal this new region to be a kind of cosmic purgatory. In it, the wind of charged particles streaming out from our sun has calmed, our solar system's magnetic field is piled up, and higher-energy particles from inside our solar system appear to be leaking out into interstellar space.

Read more. NASA/JPL

Allen Telescope Array
SETI to hunt for aliens on Kepler's worlds
(Dec 6, 2011)

When searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, it's a tricky job to know where to look. Space is big, and the odds of detecting a transmission from an alien are vanishingly small. But with the help of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, some of the guesswork is about to be cut out of the SETI equation.

Read more. Discovery News

VFTS 102
Record broken for fastest spinning star
(Dec 6, 2011)

In a week a space superlatives, ESO's Very Large Telescope has picked up the fastest rotating star found so far. This massive bright young star lies in our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 160,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers think that it may have had a violent past and has been ejected from a double star system by its exploding companion.

Read more. ESO

Kepler 22-b: Earth-like planet confirmed
(Dec 5, 2011)

Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earthlike planet in the habitable zone around a star not unlike our own. The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light-years away and is about 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C. It is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like ours – an "Earth 2.0".

Read more. BBC

black hole artwork
Team sees biggest black holes yet
(Dec 5, 2011)

A US team has found the two biggest supermassive black holes known to science, Nature journal reports. Sitting at the centres of two nearby galaxies, the two objects have masses close to 10 billion times greater than our Sun. Such large black holes had been suspected to exist, but, until now, the biggest known was some 6.3 billion times the mass of the Sun.

Read more. BBC

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider
'Moment of truth' approaching in Higgs boson hunt
(Dec 5, 2011)

In recent months, news headlines have been dominated by one story from the world of particle physics – those befuddling faster-than-light neutrinos. Such is the interest in those speedy subatomic particles that developments in the search for the elusive Higgs boson have been all-but eclipsed. But next Tuesday, at a seminar in Geneva, scientsists will announce the results of their latest analysis of data from the two big experiments being used to hunt for the Higgs.

Read more. BBC

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