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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2012
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Felix Baumgartner
Skydiver Felix planning 36 km record bid
(Feb 7, 2012)


Sky diving specialist Felix Baumgartner has announced that he plans to try to break the record for the highest sky dive in history later this year. If all goes well, he'll leap from a balloon at an altitude of 36.5 km (120,000ft) and fall so quickly that he'll become the first person to go faster than the speed of sound unaided by a machine. A member of Baumgartner's team is Joe Kittinger who holds the current free-fall record having, in 1960, jumped out of a balloon at 31 km (102,800ft).

Read more. BBC

Cygnus X
Spitzer peers through the dust into star nursery
(Feb 6, 2012)


This churning cloud of dust and gas, imaged recently by the Spitzer Space Telescope, marks one of the richest regions of star formation in the Milky Way. The region, dubbed Cygnus X for its location in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), is the birthplace of the largest population of massive stars in a 6500-light-year radius. It's also a graveyard for newborn stars whose formation was prematurely halted by their hostile environment.

Read more. New Scientist

Artist's concept of GJ 667Cc
Newfound alien planet is best candidate yet to support life, scientists say
(Feb 4, 2012)


A potentially habitable alien planet – one that scientists say is the best candidate yet to harbor water, and possibly even life, on its surface – has been found around a nearby star. The planet, GJ 667Cc, is located in the habitable zone of its host star, which is a narrow circumstellar region where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface.

Read more. Scientific American

Paranal Observatory
Four telescope link-up creates world's largest mirror
(Feb 4, 2012)


Astronomers have created the world's largest virtual optical telescope linking four telescopes in Chile, so that they operate as a single device. The telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal observatory form a virtual mirror of 130 metres in diameter. A previous attempt to link the telescopes last March failed.

Read more. BBC

moss
Humble moss helped to cool Earth and spurred on life
(Feb 3, 2012)


Primitive moss-like plants could have triggered the cooling of the Earth some 470 million years ago, say researchers. A study published in Nature Geoscience may help explain why temperatures gradually began to fall, culminating in a series of "mini ice ages". Until now it had been thought that the process of global cooling began 100 million years later, when larger plants and trees emerged.

Read more. BBC

lunar farside
NASA mission returns first video from Moon's far side
(Feb 2, 2012)


A camera aboard one of NASA's twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has returned its first unique view of the far side of the Moon. MoonKAM, or Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students, will be used by students nationwide to select lunar images for study.

Read more. NASA/JPL

volcanic eruption
Volcanic origin for Little Ice Age
(Feb 1, 2012)


The Little Ice Age was caused by the cooling effect of massive volcanic eruptions, and sustained by changes in Arctic ice cover, scientists conclude. An international research team studied ancient plants from Iceland and Canada, and sediments carried by glaciers. They say a series of eruptions just before 1300 lowered Arctic temperatures enough for ice sheets to expand.

Read more. BBC

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