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Space Shuttle and setting sun
Sun sets on shuttle program – and thousands of jobs
(Jun 22, 2011)

With the final flight of the Space Shuttle program scheduled for July 8, a remarkable chapter in the history of manned space exploration draws to a close, and with it the livelihoods of many highly skilled workers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. After Atlantis returns to Earth, the US will no longer have an independent ability to launch humans into space, and will instead have to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artistic impression of ATV-Johannes Kepler breaking up in the atmosphere
Space freighter breaks up in the atmosphere
(Jun 22, 2011)

Europe's unmanned space freighter, ATV-Johannes Kepler, which carried 1.3 metric tons of waste away from the International Space Station has been intentionally destroyed upon reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. Most of the vessel is expected to have vaporized during the fiery descent with possibly a few chunks of hardware splashing into the ocean. Prior to its refuse-removal service, Kepler delivered to the ISS 7 tons of food, fuel, air, and equipment, and used its big thrusters to boost the station's altitude.

Read more. Source: BBC

Cassini image of Helene in 2011
Ice moon Helene comes into sharp focus
(Jun 21, 2011)

Saturn's moon Helene has been captured in a series of spectacular images by the Cassini probe. Cassini passed from the night side to the sunlit side of the moon, and also imaged the Saturn-facing side of Helene in sunlight, a region that was only illuminated by sunlight reflected off Saturn the last time Cassini was close, in March 2010. This flyby will enable scientists to finish creating a global map of Helene, so they can better understand the history of impacts to the moon and gully-like features seen on previous flybys.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

An enhanced color view shows the smoother northern volcanic plains on Mercury to have a different composition (yellow) to the surrounding material
Treasure trove of data from Mercury orbit
(Jun 20, 2011)

After nearly three months in orbit about Mercury, the MESSENGER probe has sent back a wealth of new information about the innermost planet, including some surprises. Among the features seen during earlier flybys were bright, patchy deposits on some crater floors. New targeted high-res images from orbit reveal these patchy deposits to be clusters of rimless, irregular pits varying in size from hundreds of meters to several kilometers. These pits are often surrounded by diffuse halos of higher-reflectance material, and are found associated with central peaks, peak rings, and rims of craters.

Read more. Source: NASA

Artwork of star being pulled into a black hole
Blast from star's black hole death plunge
(Jun 17, 2011)

An unusual gamma-ray burst detected by the Swift Explorer satellite back in March is not due to the usual candidate – a violently exploding massive star. Instead, researchers have concluded, it came from a star being torn apart as it came too close to the gravitational lair of a black hole.

Read more. Source: BBC

comet Hartley 2
Details emerge of EPOXI flyby of hyperactive comet
(Jun 17, 2011)

After visiting a comet and imaging distant stars for hints of extrasolar planets, the spacecraft used for the EPOXI mission had seen its fair share of celestial wonders. But after about 5.1 billion km of deep space travel, one final wonder awaited the mission's project and science teams. On Nov. 4, 2010, the EPOXI mission spacecraft flew past a weird little comet called Hartley 2. A paper on its findings has just been published.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

black hole artwork
Black holes numerous in the early universe
(Jun 16, 2011)

At least 30 million supermassive black holes were formed in the first billion years of our universe, according to a new study based on observations by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. These observations also suggest that the black holes grew at the same time as the galaxies that surround them.

Read more. Source: CNN

RCW 120
Spitzer captures a green ring nebula
(Jun 16, 2011)

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has taken this stunning image of a green-glowing ring of dust sculpted by a cluster of super-hot, super-bright O stars. Rings like this are so common in Spitzer's observations that astronomers have enlisted the help of the public to help find and catalog them all.

Read more. Source: NASA/Spitzer

Artist's concept showing the two Voyager spacecraft exploring a turbulent region of space known as the heliosheath, the outer shell of the bubble of charged particles around our sun. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Voyager 1 at the threshold of interstellar space
(Jun 16, 2011)

A new analysis of data from the Voyager and Cassini spacecraft indicate that Voyager 1 could cross into the edge of interstellar space at any time and much earlier than previously thought. Measurements from Voyager's low-energy charged particle instrument show that the outward speed of charged particles streaming from the Sun has slowed to zero. The stagnation of this solar wind has continued through at least February 2011, marking a thick, previously unpredicted transition zone at the edge of our solar system.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Neutrinos can flip from any form into any other
(Jun 15, 2011)

Observations made by the T2K experiment in Japan seemed to have filled in a crucial piece in the puzzle of neutrinos – particles that can pass through matter almost as if it weren't there. Neutrinos come in three forms: electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos, and tau neutrinos. Physicists already knew that electron and tau neutrinos, and muon and tau neutrinos could flip from one "flavor" into the other. The new T2K data suggests that electron and muon neutrinos can also flip back and forth in identity.

Read more. Source: BBC

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