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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2012
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Artist's impression of a hot Jupiter
First four exoplanets of 2012 discovered
(Jan 7, 2012)

Barely has the New Year got started and the first four exoplanets of 2012 have been spotted orbiting distant stars. All four alien worlds are"hot Jupiters" – large gas giant planets orbiting very close to their stars. Their orbits are aligned just right with the Earth so that when they pass in front of their parent stars, they slightly dim the starlight from view.

Read more.

Artist's impression of asteroids near the Earth
Hundreds of tiny moons may be orbiting Earth
(Jan 6, 2012)

The Moon may look lonely, but it is far from alone. Small asteroids too dim to detect seem to stray into Earth's orbit quite frequently and stay for short periods of time. We may even be able to bring one of these moonlets back to Earth for study.

Read more. New Scientist

X-37B in ornit
X-37B spaceplane 'spying on China'
(Jan 5, 2012)

America's classified X-37B spaceplane is probably spying on China, according to a report in Spaceflight magazine. The unpiloted vehicle was launched into orbit by the US Air Force in March last year and has yet to return to Earth. The Pentagon has steadfastly refused to discuss its mission but amateur space trackers have noted how its path around the globe is nearly identical to China's spacelab, Tiangong-1.

Read more. BBC

Kepler spacecraft
Keplerís surprise: The sounds of the stars
(Jan 4, 2012)

After years of being hampered by Earth's turbulent atmosphere, which limited astroseismology to about 20 of the brightest nearby stars, researchers have been astonished by the trove of information coming from a new generation of space observatories. Thanks to the French-led COROT space telescope, launched in 2006, and NASA's Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009, they can now listen in on hundreds of stars at a time.

Read more. Nature

Mineral containing quasicrystals
Impossible crystals are 'from space'
(Jan 3, 2012)

Examples of a crystal previously thought to be impossible in nature may have come from space, a study shows. Quasicrystals have an unusual structure – in between those of crystals and glasses. Until two years ago, quasicrystals had only been created in the lab – then geologists found them in rocks from Russia's Koryak mountains.

Read more. BBC

Artist concept of GRAIL satellite in lunar orbit
First GRAIL spacecraft enters lunar orbit
(Jan 1, 2012)

The first of two NASA spacecraft to study the Moon in unprecedented detail has entered lunar orbit. NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A spacecraft successfully completed its planned main engine burn at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) today. As of 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST), GRAIL-A is in an orbit of 56 miles by 5,197 miles (90 km by 8,363 km) around the Moon that takes approximately 11.5 hours to complete.

Read more. NASA/JPL

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