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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: October 2012
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artist's impression of Jupiter Trojans
WISE sheds light on Jupiter Trojans
(Oct 16, 2012)

NASA's WISE (Wide-field Infrared Explorer) has found that the majority of the Jupiter Trojans – asteroids that share the same orbit as Jupiter – are D-class asteroids, dark red in color and made of prisitine material from the early days of the Solar System. Probably they formed in the same region as Jupiter itself, rather than originating further afield and then being subsequantly captured by the big planet's gravity.

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Baumgartner at the start of his record-breaking skydive
Baumgartner's skydive goes into the record books
(Oct 15, 2012)

Felix Baumgartner broke three records during his jump yesterday from a capsule suspended beneath a giant helium balloon. His skydive from an altitude of 128,100ft (39,045m) was the highest ever; his freefall distance of 119,846ft (36,529m was the longest ever); and, with a speed of 834mph (1,342.8km/h, or Mach 1.24) he became the first person to break the sound barrier outside a vehicle.

Read more (BBC)

Bell X-1
The day the sound barrier was shattered
(Oct 14, 2012)

On this day in 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in a Bell XS-1 rocket plane over Murac Dry Lake, California. Yeager had cracked a couple of ribs the day before in a riding accident. But rather than tell the flight surgeon and have the mission canceled, he flew strapped up and took along a sawn-off length of broomstick so that he could close the cockpit door without having to strain his injured side.

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55 Cancri Ae may be a diamond planet
The diamond planet of 55 Cancri A
(Oct 12, 2012)

The star 55 Cancri A is a happy hunting ground for anyone interested in exoplanets. So far 5 planets have been found around it, including one of the first planets to be found around a Sun-like star and the first known super-Earth. According to a new hypothesis, this super-Earth, planet e, might consist one-third of carbon mostly in the form of diamond.

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R Sculptoris
The strange spiral of R Sculptoris
(Oct 11, 2012)

The star called R Sculptoris – a red giant, lying about 1,500 light-years away – is unique among all known stars. As well as being surrounded by a shell of dust grains that glows brightly at infrared and millimeter wavelengths, observations by it shows a dusty spiral inside the shell. A second, unseen star is almost certainly to blame.

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black hole artwork
On the verge of a black-hole mimicking laser
(Oct 10, 2012)

Scottish scientists are close to having a laser system ready that will simulate the behavior of a black hole. In particular it will test the idea put forward in the 1970s by Stephen Hawking that black holes are not truly black – they emit, due to a quantum effect, a kind of light called Hawking radiation.

Read more (New Scientist)

USAF design for a flying saucer
US Air Force plans to build high-speed flying saucers
(Oct 9, 2012)

Back in the 1950s, the US military took flying saucers very seriously – not so much the alien-piloted variety that were the favorite of science fiction but real aircraft that might have flown at speeds upto 2,600 mph and altitudes of 100,000ft.

Read more (The Guardian)

Felix Baumgartner about to start his earlier test jump
Leap from the edge of space scheduled for tomorrow
(Oct 8, 2012)

Austrian skydiver Fekix Baumgartner may be on the eve of shattering Joe Kittinger's record for the highest freefall jump in history. If all goes well, Baumgartner will step out of his tiny capsule lofted to a height of 36.5 km (23 miles, or 120,000ft) by a helium balloon and plummet to Earth before opening his parachute just 5,000ft above the ground.

Read more (BBC)

cosmic distance ladder
Best estimate yet for the growth rate of the universe
(Oct 5, 2012)

The universe is expanding – but how fast? The key number is the so-called Hubble constant, which measures the cosmic expansion rate in units of kilometers per second per megaparsec. For many years astronomers only knew the value of the Hubble constant to within a factor of 2, but the latest estimate, coming out of measurements made using the Spitzer Space Telescope, have pinned it down to within just 3 percent.

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Sputnik 1
55 years ago the Space Age – and Space Race – began
(Oct 4, 2012)

On this day, 55 years ago, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite – Sputnik 1. Although it carried only a radio transmitter and weighed just 184lb the little spacecraft sent a shiver down the spine of Western governments because it showed not only that the Soviets were ahead in space technology but also that they had rockets capable of delivering payloads, including nuclear warheads, over intercontinental distances.

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