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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2012
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Planetary scientists battle over NASA's Mars budget Feb 29, 2012
"Time crystals" could be a form of perpetual motion Feb 28, 2012
Asteroid 2011 AG5 could pose threat to Earth in 2040 Feb 27, 2012
Blustery exoplanet charted in 2-D for first time Feb 27, 2012
Researchers say galaxy may swarm with 'nomad planets' Feb 25, 2012
Titan: strange relative of Earth Feb 24, 2012
NASA's Spitzer finds solid buckyballs in space Feb 23, 2012
Superluminal neutrino result caused by faulty connection? Feb 23, 2012
Distant 'waterworld' is confirmed Feb 22, 2012
Astronaut John Glenn marks 50 years since first orbit Feb 21, 2012
Herschel telescope 'in last year' Feb 20, 2012
Fermilab set to reveal "interesting" Higgs boson results Feb 18, 2012
Light echoes cause rethink of supernova imposter Feb 16, 2012
Russian hot springs point to rocky origins for life Feb 15, 2012
Planck all-sky images show cold gas and strange haze Feb 14, 2012
LHC boosts energy to snag Higgs – and superpartners Feb 13, 2012
Vega rocket set for maiden voyage Feb 12, 2012
Discovery of an unusual nearby dwarf galaxy Feb 10, 2012
New views show old NASA Mars landers Feb 9, 2012
Space radiation killed Russian Mars mission Feb 8, 2012
Skydiver Felix planning 36 km record bid Feb 7, 2012
Spitzer peers through the dust into star nursery Feb 6, 2012
Newfound alien planet is best candidate yet to support life, scientists say Feb 4, 2012
Four telescope link-up creates world's largest mirror Feb 4, 2012
Humble moss helped to cool Earth and spurred on life Feb 3, 2012
NASA mission returns first video from Moon's far side Feb 2, 2012
Volcanic origin for Little Ice Age Feb 1, 2012


Mars
Planetary scientists battle over NASA's Mars budget
(Feb 29, 2012)


Mars is living up to its mythological status as the god of war. The Red Planet is the focus of a budgetary battle between NASA and US scientists. On Monday, a group of scientists protested proposed cuts to the agency's Mars program at a meeting with NASA officials. The cuts were revealed two weeks ago, when the White House released its 2013 budget proposal, in which NASA is set to receive about $1 billion less than previous budget projections suggested.

Read more. New Scientist

repeating time graphic
"Time crystals" could be a form of perpetual motion
(Feb 28, 2012)


The phrases "perpetual-motion machine" and "physics Nobel laureate" wouldn't seem to belong in the same sentence. But if Frank Wilczek's latest ideas on symmetry and the nature of time are correct, they suggest the existence of a bona fide perpetual-motion machine. He proposes that matter could form a "time crystal," whose structure would repeat periodically, as with an ordinary crystal, but in time rather than in space. Such a crystal would represent a previously unknown state of matter and might have arisen as the very early universe cooled, losing its primordial symmetries.

Read more. Scientific American

near Earth asteroids
Asteroid 2011 AG5 could pose threat to Earth in 2040
(Feb 27, 2012)


Scientists are keeping a close eye on a big asteroid that may pose an impact threat to Earth in a few decades. The space rock, which is called 2011 AG5, is about 460 feet (140 meters) wide. It may come close enough to Earth in 2040 that some researchers are calling for a discussion about how to deflect it.

Read more. Space.com

thermal map of HD 189733b
Blustery exoplanet charted in 2-D for first time
(Feb 27, 2012)


Astronomers have managed to come up with a crude map of the thermal emission of a planet going around a star 60 light-years away. HD 189733b is a hot Jupiter – a gas giant that orbits very close to its central star. The map confirms climate model predictions that powerful winds whip around the planet, especially at its equator.

Read more. Scientific American

artist's impression of a nomad planet
Researchers say galaxy may swarm with 'nomad planets'
(Feb 25, 2012)


Our galaxy may be awash in homeless planets, wandering through space instead of orbiting a star. In fact, there may be 100,000 times more "nomad planets" in the Milky Way than stars, according to a new study by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), a joint institute of Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Read more. Stanford

Titan, May 12, 2008
Titan: strange relative of Earth
(Feb 24, 2012)


A set of recent papers, many of which draw on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, reveal new details in the emerging picture of how Saturn's moon Titan shifts with the seasons and even throughout the day. The papers, published in the journal Planetary and Space Science in a special issue titled "Titan through Time", show how this largest moon of Saturn is a cousin – though a very peculiar cousin – of Earth.

Read more. NASA/JPL

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected the solid form of buckyballs in space for the first time. To form a solid particle, the buckyballs must stack together, as illustrated in this artist's concept showing the very beginnings of the process. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Spitzer finds solid buckyballs in space
(Feb 23, 2012)


Astronomers using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope have, for the first time, discovered buckyballs in a solid form in space. Prior to this discovery, the microscopic carbon spheres had been found only in gas form in the cosmos. Formally named buckministerfullerene, buckyballs are named after their resemblance to the late architect Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes. They are made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged into a hollow sphere, like a soccer ball.

Read more. NASA/JPL

The detector at the Gran Sasso end of the OPERA experiment. Credit: OPERA
Superluminal neutrino result caused by faulty connection?
(Feb 23, 2012)


Although still awaiting full confirmation, a breaking news report in Science (and Nature, see below) indicates that the measurement of an apparently faster-than-light travel time for muon-neutrinos generated at CERN and detected at the Gran Sasso laboratory – which hit the world headlines back in September 2011 – may have been due to a problematic physical connection between a fiber-optic cable and an electronics card in a computer.

Read more. Scientific American

GJ 1214b
Distant 'waterworld' is confirmed
(Feb 22, 2012)


Astronomers have confirmed the existence of a new class of planet: a waterworld with a thick, steamy atmosphere. The exoplanet GJ 1214b is a so-called "Super Earth" – bigger than our planet, but smaller than gas giants such as Jupiter. Observations using the Hubble telescope now seem to confirm that a large fraction of its mass is water.

Read more. BBC

John Glenn
Astronaut John Glenn marks 50 years since first orbit
(Feb 21, 2012)


Former astronaut and Senator John Glenn celebrated the 50th anniversary of his Earth orbit by chatting with the crew on the International Space Station. Mr Glenn, 90, was the first American to orbit the Earth, and later became the oldest person to travel in space. The conversation was part of a larger forum on NASA's future held at Ohio State University.

Read more. BBC

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