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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2011
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Artist's conception of a Jupiter-like planet alone in the dark of space, floating freely without a parent star. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Rogue planets may be more common than previously thought
(May 19, 2011)


Results from a Japan-New Zealand survey suggest that rogue planets – worlds that have been torn from their parent stars and are floating on their own – may be more numerous than in early estimates. Specifically, the data suggests the existence of a new class of solitary Jupiter-sized planets consisting of objects that may have been thrown out of developing planetary systems. The new data indicate that free-floating Jupiter-mass planets may outnumber stars by a factor of 2 to 1.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Artist's impression of Gliese 581g
Nearby exoplanet might support life
(May 17, 2011)


The atmosphere of a planet just 20 light-years away, circling the red dwarf Gliese 581, might be able to maintain liquid water on the surface, a new study suggests. If so exoplanet Gliese 581g would be a strong candidate for detecting the first signs of life outside the solar system.

Read more. Source: BBC

The full sky is seen in the map from the Fermi telescope; gamma-ray sources abound along the galactic plane (central bar) but are scattered throughout the cosmos. Image credit: NASA/DOE/International Fermi LAT ollaboration
Clearest map yet of the gamma-ray sky
(May 15, 2011)


Astronomers have just released the clearest ever, all-sky view of the sky in gamma rays, using data collected by the Fermi Space Telescope. A complete catalog of gamma-ray sources discovered so far will be released soon, including dozens of new millisecond pulsars and the possibility of some objects which make require breakthroughs in physics to explain.

Read more. Source: BBC

Internal structure of Io as revealed by data from the Galileo spacecraft. The low-density crust about 30 to 50 kilometers (20 to 30 miles) thick is shown in gray in the cross-section. Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Michigan/UCLA
A magma ocean for Io
(May 13, 2011)


A new analysis of data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft points to the existence of a subsurface ocean of molten or partially molten magma beneath the surface of Jupiter's moon Io. This vast reservoir of magma would explain why Io is the most volcanically active object in the solar system.

Read more. Source: NASA/JPL

Crab Nebula
Crab Nebula unleashes giant gamma flare
(May 12, 2011)


The Crab Nebula – most famous of supernova remnants – has surprised astronomers by giving off a gamma-ray superflare up to 30 times more powerful than anything seen from the object before. The outburst happen in April, peaking on the 16th, and lasting several days. One possible explanation is a sudden rearrangement of the magnetic field surrounding the central pulsar.

Read more. Source: NASA

Large Hadron Collider
Collisions and leaks at the LHC
(May 11, 2011)


A couple of weeks ago, preliminary – very preliminary – results were leaked from one of the groups working on the Large Hadron Collider, suggesting that signs had been found of the long-sought-after Higgs boson. A subsequent analysis seems to have put a kibosh on the claim, but researchers at the giant accelerator are bracing themselves for the release of other premature claims and scoops on blogs over the coming months.

Read more. Source: Nature

Titan
Was Titan's atmosphere made by comets?
(May 9, 2011)


One of the mysteries of the solar system is how Saturn's giant moon Titan ended up with a massive nitrogen-rich atmosphere. Several ideas have been put forward but they all require that Titan was much warmer long ago, while observations by the Cassini probe suggest that it's always been cold. A new, cold-origin theory by a University of Tokyo researcher suggests that impacting comets released gases from the moon's crust during the late heavy bombardment period about 3.9 billion years ago.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 in shuttle cargo bay
Searching for the antiuniverse
(May 6, 2011)


If our universe contains significant chunks of antimatter then a new instrument about to be taken up to the International Space Station should be able to detect them. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 will also tell us a great deal more about the properties of cosmic rays arriving at Earth from deep space.

Read more. Source: Nature

Gravity Probe B
Gravity probe results support general relativity
(May 5, 2011)


Analysis of data collected by NASA's Gravity Probe B has give powerful new support for some key predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity, including frame-dragging and the geodetic effect. The spaceraft observed both these effects by measuring tiny drifts in the spin axes of four precision gyroscopes relative to the position of the star IM Pegasi.

Read more. Source: BBC

IceCube
Mysterious cosmic ray hotspots
(May 4, 2011)


Cosmic rays arriving at the Earth over the South Pole seem to emanate from specific points in the sky, rather than being distributed uniformly. Similar cosmic ray "hotspots" have been found in the northern skies too, yet we know of no source close enough to produce this pattern.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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