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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2011
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solar flare
Sun unleashes huge solar flare towards Earth
(Feb 17, 2011)

The Sun has unleashed its strongest flare in four years, observers say. The eruption is a so-called X-flare, the strongest type; such flares can affect communications on Earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft recorded an intense flash of extreme ultraviolet radiation emanating from a sunspot.

Read more. Source: BBC

A region of the sky called the Lockman Hole, located in the constellation Ursa Major, is one of the areas surveyed in infrared light by the Herschel Space Observatory. All of the little dots in this picture are distant galaxies
Herschel measures dark matter for star-forming galaxies
(Feb 17, 2011)

The Herschel Space Observatory has revealed how much dark matter it takes to form a new galaxy bursting with stars. The findings are a key step in understanding how dark matter, an invisible substance permeating our universe, contributed to the birth of massive galaxies in the early universe.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

artist's impression of Tyche
Is there an unknown giant planet in the solar system?
(Feb 16, 2011)

The hunt is on for a gas giant up to four times the mass of Jupiter thought to be lurking in the outer Oort Cloud, the most remote region of the solar system. The orbit of Tyche, would be 15,000 times farther from the Sun than Earth's, and 375 times farther than Pluto's, which is why it hasn't been seen so far. But two scientists at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette believe the proof of its existence has been gathered by a NASA space telescope, WISE, and is just waiting to be analysed.

Read more. Source: The Independent

images of Tempel 1 returned by Stardust
Stardust spacecraft makes comet flyby
(Feb 16, 2011)

Images returned by Stardust as it flew within 178 km of comet Tempel 1 on Tuesday revealed a 150-meter-wide crater at the Deep Impact collision point that was not present in 2005. The crater's features are subdued rather than sharply defined, like those of craters made in hard rock. The crater also has a small mound in its middle, indicating that some of the material thrown up by the impact was drawn by the comet's gravity back down into the crater.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Tempel 1 impact
Stardust spacecraft makes comet flyby
(Feb 15, 2011)

NASA's Stardust spacecraft has swept past comet Tempel 1. The encounter early on Tuesday (GMT) will give scientists unique information on how these great balls of ice and dust change over time. Tempel 1 was visited by another probe back in 2005. It fired a projectile at the body to disturb the surface (see accompanying photo).

Read more. Source: BBC

representation of a spinning black hole
Spinning black holes 'twist light'
(Feb 14, 2011)

Researchers have proposed a means to spot rotating black holes. The idea may provide the first unique signature of black holes, which – true to their name – have never been seen. The approach, reported in Nature Physics, relies on a property of light called its orbital angular momentum.

Read more. Source: BBC

Comet Tempel 1
Stardust closes in for a Valentine's Day rendezvous with Comet Tempel 1
(Feb 13, 2011)

Some 340 million kilometers away, out beyond the orbit of Mars, the Stardust spacecraft is getting ready for a big Valentine's Day date. On February 14 the NASA craft will fly past comet Tempel 1 at a planned distance of only 200 kilometers, getting a good look at the second comet it has investigated at close range since the probe's 1999 launch.

Read more. Source: Scientific American

NGC 3603
Who ate all the planets? Blame the 'bloatars'
(Feb 11, 2011)

A group of oddly bloated stars may have grown fat by eating their own planets in a feeding frenzy. No one has ever seen anything quite like the nine stars spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope in a young cluster called NGC 3603 (shown here). They are too cool to be ordinary stars, with analysis of their infrared light emissions indicating surface temperatures between 1700 and 2200 kelvin.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

path of 2011 CQ1
Asteroid makes sharpest turn yet seen in solar system
(Feb 10, 2011)

On Friday, a meter-sized asteroid called 2011 CQ1 was spotted zipping only 5,480 kilometers above the Earth's surface. That is the closest near miss on record, beating the previous record holder, a rock that buzzed Earth in 2004 called 2004 FU162, by a few hundred kilometers.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Liberty rocket
New rocket could lift astronauts
(Feb 9, 2011)

Two of the world's leading rocket companies are joining forces to develop a new vehicle to launch astronauts into orbit. The bottom part of the proposed Liberty rocket would be based on the solid-fueled boosters that help get the shuttle off the ground. The top half would use the liquid-fuelled core-stage technology and engine that powers the Ariane 5.

Read more. Source: BBC

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