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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2012
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Titan
Thousand-year wait for Titan's methane rain
(Mar 23, 2012)


Titan is the only other world in the Solar System, aside from Earth, where rain falls onto a solid surface – but the rain is methane, it comes in torrential downpours, and droughts can be centuries long. A possible future NASA mission, the Titan Mare Explorer, would splash down in one of Titan's largest lakes – Ligeia Mare – to spend 96 days analyzing its depth and chemistry.

Read more. BBC

radar-bright patches (in yellow) at Mercury's pole
Mercury poles give up hints of water ice
(Mar 22, 2012)


The Messenger spacecraft has found further tantalizing evidence for the existence of water ice at Mercury's poles. Though surface temperatures can soar above 400°C, some craters at Mercury's poles are permanently in shadow, turning them into so-called cold traps. Previous work has revealed patches near Mercury's poles that strongly reflect radar – a characteristic of ice.

Read more. BBC

Artist's impression of Gliese 581d
Super-Earth unlikely able to transfer life to other planets
(Mar 21, 2012)


In our own solar system, it's possible that life was transferred between worlds by a process called ballistic panspermia. For example, it may be that meteorites carried microbes from Earth to Mars or back. But in a system like Gliese 581, a new study has shown, although it has potentially habitable planets, the dynamics of transfer don't work out.

Read more. Space Daily

Dione
Icy Saturn moon 'may be active'
(Mar 20, 2012)


NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spied possible signs of geological activity on Saturn's icy moon Dione. It sees features that resemble hot fissures and indications of a possible ice volcano on the satellite. The fissures look remarkably similar to the "tiger stripes" found on Saturn's moon Enceladus, which spew powerful jets of water into space.

Read more. BBC

dark flows in Newton Crater
Mystery of slick Martian slopes gets less slippery
(Mar 20, 2012)


Dark streaks on Mars are probably due to sub-surface water, the team pointing the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter believes. Similar markings in Antarctica have proved to be oases of microbial life. So, are these prime spots to look for Martians? Maybe. But there's no way that cash-strapped NASA is going to be doing that anytime soon.

Read more. Nature

42
42 and Douglas Adams
(Mar 19, 2012)


Are you a numberphile who also loves Douglas Adams? If so, then you probably already know where this is going... In this amusing video (go to link below), we learn about all the quirky traits of the number 42. It was writer Douglas Adams who made this number famous in his book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as being the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything," according to one of the book's characters, the supercomputer, Deep Thought.

Read more. The Guardian

Artist's impression of a black hole swallowing the Earth
The end is nine: feature story in today's Sun on Megacatastrophes
(Mar 16, 2012)


Take a quick tour of the potential disasters that could overwhelm the human race, as described in my new book, including asteroid collisions, stellar explosions, nanotech and computer armageddon, deadly pathogens, supervolcanoes, and alien invasions. Sleep tight!

Read more. The Sun

galaxy
‘Mass Effect’ Solves The Fermi Paradox?
(Mar 16, 2012)


The video game Mass Effect has now reached its third and final installment; a huge planet-destroying, species-wrecking, epic finale to a story that takes humanity from its tentative steps into interstellar space to a critical role in a galactic, and even intergalactic saga. One of the biggest ideas in the game directly addresses one of the great questions of astrobiology – is there intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy, and if so, why haven't we intersected with it yet?

Read more. Scientific American

M67
Where did the Sun come from? The search continues
(Mar 15, 2012)


Sometime about 4.5 billion years ago, the Sun was born, and a disk of debris swirling around it soon coalesced into Earth and the rest of the planets. But where did that happen? Where was the sun born? One of the leading candidates for the sun’s birthplace has probably been ruled out, according to a study in the March issue of The Astronomical Journal.

Read more. Scientific American

ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider
Not just the Higgs boson
(Mar 13, 2012)


Physicists at CERN are powering up the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) again, ready for a final push to confirm the discovery of the Higgs boson. What then? Such a fuss has been made about finally nailing down the Higgs you could be forgiven for thinking that we could all pack up and go home. Not a bit of it. Only two of the four main experimental detectors straddling the 27km ring of the LHC are even looking for the Higgs and both are interested in much, much more.

Read more. BBC

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