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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: April 2012
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electron quasiparticles
Electron 'split-personality' seen in new quasi-particle
(Apr 19, 2012)


Researchers have discovered another way that electrons – one of the Universe's few fundamental particles – can undergo an "identity crisis". Electrons can divide into "quasi-particles", in which their fundamental properties can split up and move around like independent particles. Two such quasi-particles had been seen before, but a team reporting in Nature has now confirmed a third: the orbiton.

Read more. BBC

Dragon ship at ISS
SpaceX's Dragon ship set for station visit
(Apr 17, 2012)


The first cargo resupply mission to the space station to be carried out by a commercial operator is likely to be on 30 April, the US space agency says. The flight of the unmanned Dragon freighter is supposed to be just a demonstration, but its success would mark a new era in spaceflight. NASA is keen to hand off routine space transportation to the private sector – for both cargo and crew.

Read more. BBC

The microbes were discovered by scientists at a US site where an asteroid crashed 35 million years ago
Asteroid craters could provide clue to life on Mars
(Apr 16, 2012)


The chances of finding life on Mars could be improved by looking in craters made by asteroids, according to a study. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh said organisms had been discovered thriving deep underneath a site in the US where an asteroid crashed 35 million years ago. They believe such craters provide refuge for microbes.

Read more. BBC

Asteroid collision
How Earthly life could populate space by panspermia
(Apr 16, 2012)


For years, scientists have imagined that microbial life may have ridden to Earth on the back of a comet or meteorite, planting the seed for the diversity of life we know today. But could so-called panspermia have gone the other way? Could Earth have given other worlds life? It's an old idea, but Tetsuya Hara of Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan and colleagues now have new calculations suggesting it's possible.

Read more. New Scientist

A nanowire created a place where the Majorana particles could be sequestered
Majorana particle glimpsed in lab
(Apr 14, 2012)


Scientists think they may finally have seen evidence for a famously elusive quarry in particle physics. The Majorana fermion was first predicted 75 years ago – a particle that could be its own antiparticle. Now Dutch researchers, who have devised some exotic and minute circuitry to test for the Majorana's existence, believe their results show the fermion to be real.

Read more. BBC

Infrared view of the Fomalhaut dust disk taken by the Herschel Space Observatory
Herschel spots comet massacre around nearby star
(Apr 12, 2012)


The Herschel Space Observatory has studied the dusty belt around the nearby star Fomalhaut. Scientists say the dust appears to be coming from collisions that destroy up to thousands of icy comets every day. Fomalhaut is a young star, just a few hundred million years old, and twice as massive as the sun. Its dust belt was discovered in the 1980s by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite. Herschel's new images of the belt show it in much more detail at longer infrared wavelengths than ever before.

Read more. NASA/JPL

Polarzsed images of the red giant W Hydrae show the central star and a sphere of dust surrounding it
Stardust recycling mystery solved
(Apr 12, 2012)


A long-standing mystery about how dying stars spew out the material of future planets is now solved, scientists say. While stars like our Sun are known to eject much of their mass in their final years, it has remained unclear just how the dust is blown away. Scientists reporting in Nature describe an astronomical study of extraordinary resolution to tackle the mystery.

Read more. BBC

HD 10180
Astronomers spot a solar system more populous than ours
(Apr 10, 2012)


Which star has the most planets surrounding it? It's no longer the Sun, according to an astronomer who says he can identify nine planets orbiting the bright, nearby star HD 10180 (pictured). "Now that Pluto is not a planet, this system is likely more planet-rich than the Solar System," says Mikko Tuomi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Astrophysics Research at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, UK.

Read more. Nature

ocean waves
Tides turn some habitable planets hellish
(Apr 9, 2012)


Tides evoke the sea, but they may dry out what would otherwise be habitable planets around small stars, making them hostile to life. Rory Barnes of the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues calculated what would happen to Earth-like planets orbiting the most common type of star in the galaxy: red dwarfs.

Read more. New Scientist

Combined image of the central part of Cen A imaged at infrared and X-ray wavelengths
Dark heart of a cosmic collision
(Apr 6, 2012)


Infrared and X-ray observations from two space telescopes have been combined to create a unique look at violent events within the giant galaxy Centaurus A. The observations strengthen the view that the galaxy may have been created by the cataclysmic collision of two older galaxies.

Read more. NASA/JPL

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