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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: August 2012
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Artist's impression of a planet falling into its central star
A star caught in the act of swallowing a planet
(Aug 22, 2012)


Based on observations with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas, astronomers have published evidence that a red giant called BD+48 740 has recently gulped down one of its planets. The tell-tale signs are an over-abundance of lithium in the star's atmosphere, and another planet which moves in an abnormally elliptical orbit.

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Artist's impression of InSight on Mars
And after Curiosity will come ... InSight
(Aug 21, 2012)


Mars scientists in the US will be delighted that NASA has selected another lander mission to reach the Red Planet in 2016. InSight will carry out a detailed investigation of the planet's interior using a set of instruments placed on and below the surface. The new static lander borrows heavily on the design of the successful Phoenix mission.

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Pipe Nebula
When is a pipe not a pipe?
(Aug 21, 2012)


The answer: when it's a nebula. The European Southern Observatory's 2.2-meter telescope has just captured the best ever image of this amazing complex of dark, dusty clouds in Ophiuchus lying at a distance of 600+ light-years.

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N165
Curiosity takes aim at a rock
(Aug 18, 2012)


This weekend, the Curiosity rover's rock-zapping infrared laser will be tested briefly for the first time by aiming it at a 7cm-wide stone, dubbed N165, lying alongside the spacecraft. The object of the exercise isn't to do any serious science but just to make sure the laser works as intended.

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artist's concept of a planet orbiting a white dwarf
Is life possible around a white dwarf?
(Aug 17, 2012)


Most stars, including the Sun, will end up as hot, burned-out stellar corpses called white dwarfs. Such relics don't seem promising from an astrobiological perspective. But a new study suggests they could well support thriving habitable zones, bathing planets with just the right amount and wavelengths of light to support photosynthesis.

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Phoenix Cluster
Record-breaking cluster may help solve an old problem in astrophysics
(Aug 16, 2012)


The newly-discovered Phoenix Cluster, around 6 b illion light-years away, has shattered a number of records for galaxy clusters, including the rate of star formation in its central galaxy. The frenetic starburst activity in the Phoenix is shedding light on a long-standing puzzle known as the cooling flow problem.

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WaveRider
Hypersonic plane shoots for Mach 6
(Aug 15, 2012)


The X-51 WaveRider, a joint project of NASA and the Pentagon, was launched today in an attempt to break the Mach 6 barrier. A B-52 bomber carried the unmanned plane from Edwards Air Force Base in California to a height of 50,000 feet (15,250m). Unfortunately, 15 seconds after the X-51A's rocket booster fell away, and before the scramjet had chance to ignite, the vehicle broke up and fell into the Pacific.

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R136
Mystery of the mega stars solved?
(Aug 13, 2012)


Four stars in the brightest known star cluster in the entire Local Group of galaxies are more massive than theorists thought possible. One of them, known as R136a1, has about 300 times the mass of the Sun – a figure so large that it's had theorists scratching their heads. But a recent computer simulation has come up with a possible answer: these stellar behemoths may have come about when already-giant stars merged.

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galaxy cluster
Major announcement coming on galaxy cluster find
(Aug 11, 2012)


NASA to is to hold a media teleconference about a record-breaking galaxy cluster 1 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Aug. 15. Apparently, an extraordinary galaxy cluster has been found that is smashing several important cosmic records.

Read more (NASA)

Viking model
Curiosity may reopen the Viking controversy
(Aug 9, 2012)


Did the Viking landers find evidence for life on Mars? One of the Principal Investigators on the mission, Gil Levin, thinks so. And if Curiosity turns up any carbon-based molecules, he wants an official review of the Viking evidence.

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