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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2012
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What was your biggest science story of 2012 Dec 29, 2012
Once in a lifetime comet? Dec 26, 2012
Seasons greetings from space Dec 24, 2012
A Christmas conundrum Dec 23, 2012
California meorite is a cosmic oddball Dec 21, 2012
Five planets found in orbit around Tau Ceti Dec 19, 2012
Have two different Higgs bosons been found at the LHC? Dec 17, 2012
Towards the light-barrier – and perhaps beyond Dec 16, 2012
Another world with rivers Dec 15, 2012
Is practical interstellar travel possible? Dec 15, 2012
Reaching for the stars Dec 14, 2012
Toward the first Mars base Dec 13, 2012
Hubble glimpses furthest known galaxies Dec 13, 2012
Third outing for secretive US spaceplane Dec 12, 2012
The Menace of the Asteroids, Part 2! Dec 12, 2012
Einstein missed dark energy 80 years ago Dec 11, 2012
The menace of the asteroids, part 1 Dec 10, 2012
Gravity map shows early Moon battering Dec 9, 2012
Signs or running water on asteroid Vesta? Dec 7, 2012
A young planetary system in the making Dec 6, 2012
Zeroing in on a rare kind of galaxy Dec 5, 2012
Quasar found with record-breaking outflow Dec 4, 2012
Elon Musk of SpaceX talks about Mars bases and warp drive Dec 3, 2012
Even brown dwarfs may grow rocky planets Dec 2, 2012

Higgs decay event
What was your biggest science story of 2012
(Dec 29, 2012)

A lot of breakthroughs happened in science this year, and some great people passed away, including the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong. But for me, the headline of the past 12 months was the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider. In 2013, physics will be looking for some clues as to what comes next: what lies beyond the Standard Model of particle physics?

Read more (The Guardian)

bright comet
Once in a lifetime comet?
(Dec 26, 2012)

At the moment it is a faint object, visible only in sophisticated telescopes as a point of light moving slowly against the background stars. It doesn't seem much – a frozen chunk of rock and ice – one of many moving in the depths of space. But this one is being tracked with eager anticipation by astronomers from around the world, and in a year everyone could know its name.

Read more (The Independent)

Christmas Tree Cluster
Seasons greetings from space
(Dec 24, 2012)

Here's the Christmas Tree Cluster (aka NGC 2264) – an open cluster of about 40 stars, embedded in nebulosity, in the constellation Monoceros. At the top of the tree in this picture is the famous Cone Nebula, which is part of the same nebulosity and shares the same NGC designation. The brightest "bulb" on the Tree is the showy star you can see at the base – an O-type giant about 8,500 times as luminous as the Sun.

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Gabriel Horn
A Christmas conundrum
(Dec 23, 2012)

Meet Gabriel's Horn. You can only see a bit of it here. In fact, it stretches away to the right forever, getting narrower and narrower. Now, here's what's strange about Gabriel's Horn: it has a finite volume but an infinite surface area. That means if it were filled with paint it would be impossible to cover the outside of the horn with this paint, to an an even thickness, no matter how thin the coat.

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A fragment of the California meteorite
California meteorite is a cosmic oddball
(Dec 21, 2012)

In April a van-sized meteor was seen streaking over northern California and Nevada in broad daylight. The shattered remains of this high-profile space rock have turned out to be oddly low in organic materials, the raw ingredients for life. The discovery adds a slight wrinkle to the theory that early Earth was seeded with organics by meteorite impacts.

Read more (New Scientist)

Artist's impression of Tau Ceti and its five known planets
Five planets found in orbit around Tau Ceti
(Dec 19, 2012)

A Christmas bonus for exoplanet hunters – not to mention astrobiologists: a planetary quintet has been found in orbit around the nearby Sun-like star Tau Ceti. It includes worlds between two and six times the mass of the Earth, with periods ranging from 14 to 640 days. One of the planets, known as HD 10700e, lies about half as far from Tau Ceti as the Earth is from the Sun – and because Tau Ceti is slightly smaller and dimmer than the Sun, this places the planet in the so-called habitable zone.

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Image of the new Higgs data courtesy of Atlas/CERN. Image of Higgs to two-photon event courtesy of CMS/CERN
Have two different Higgs bosons been found at the LHC?
(Dec 17, 2012)

Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider are puzzling over the latest observations of the Higgs boson which seem to show two energy peaks – at 123.5 GeV and 126.6 GeV – corresponding to two different masses for the Higgs. The discrepancy could be due to a problem with the apparatus, such as a poorly-calibrated detector, or it could point the way to new physics. The next big update from CERN will be in March.

Read more (Scientific American)

Artist concept of warp drive
Towards the light-barrier – and perhaps beyond
(Dec 16, 2012)

It might be acceptable to send a robot probe on a 50-year journey to a nearby star, but human interstellar travel is going to demand much shorter travel times and therefore much higher speeds. The fact is that crewed starships, to be practical, will need to move at a significant fraction of the speed of light – 300,000 kilometers per second.

Read more (

A methane river on Titan
Another world with rivers
(Dec 15, 2012)

It's a river unlike any you'll find on Earth, but a river nonetheless. Saturn's giant moon Titan is the only other place in the Solar System that has stable liquid on its surface. But it's shallow seas and rivers are filled not with water but with methane. Whereas the Earth has a hydrological cycle, the equivalent cycle on Titan involves the hydrocarbons methane and ethane. The extraterrestrial river shown here runs for about 400 km from his headwaters to a sea bigger in area than the Caspian – Kraken Mare.

Read more (NASA/JPL)

Artist impression of the launch of a Project Orion spacecraft
Is practical interstellar travel possible?
(Dec 15, 2012)

Practical interstellar travel will demand that vehicles reach far higher speeds than any that have been achieved in spaceflight to date. This in turn will mean that new forms of propulsion have to be developed that go beyond the capabilities of chemical rockets or even ion engines. One of the first practical designs for a robotic interstellar probe was that of the British Interplanetary Society in the mid-1970s.

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