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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2013
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Black hole's spin rate measured for first time Feb 28, 2013
Looking for life around dead stars Feb 26, 2013
What's going to happen to the ISS? Feb 24, 2013
Deepest vents discovered, teeming with life Feb 22, 2013
There could soon be a real world called Vulcan Feb 21, 2013
Next generation telescopes could detect alien oxygen Feb 20, 2013
Surface organics on Mars may have been bleached away Feb 19, 2013
Pieces of Friday's historic Russia meteor found Feb 18, 2013
New light to be shed on dark matter Feb 18, 2013
Double space rock whammy Feb 17, 2013
Youngest known black hole in the galaxy found? Feb 16, 2013
Mercury as you've never seen it before Feb 16, 2013
Large meteorite impacts reported in Russie Feb 15, 2013
Large Hadron Collider shut down for two years Feb 14, 2013
Heart of the cosmos Feb 14, 2013
Mars rocks exposed after billions of years Feb 14, 2013
Help name Pluto's moons Feb 12, 2013
Hardy alien life may be the first to be found Feb 10, 2013
The day the dinosaurs died Feb 9, 2013
Where we all came from Feb 8, 2013
Study looks at the threat of solar superstorms Feb 7, 2013
Billions of Earth-like planets around red dwarfs Feb 6, 2013
Record-breaking skydive was faster than thought Feb 5, 2013
Curiosity rover hammers into rock Feb 3, 2013
Did a binary asteroid put paid to the dinosaurs? Feb 2, 2013
Past-prime star may still be making planets Feb 1, 2013


NGC 1365
Black hole's spin rate measured for first time
(Feb 28, 2013)


How fast a supermassive black hole is spinning has been measured for the first time. Combining observations by NASA's recently-launched NuSTAR telescope and Europe's XMM-Newton telescope, astronomers have found that the outer edge of the 3-million-km-wide black hole at the heart of the galaxy NGC 1365 is hurtling around at nearly the speed of light. This extremely high rate suggests that the black hole grew in one or a series of large absorptions of matter, taking on its momentum in one or a few events.

Read more (BBC)

Artist's impression of an Earth-like planet in orbit around a white dwarf
Looking for life around dead stars
(Feb 26, 2013)


New research suggests that one of the best places to look for signs of extraterrestrial life may be on rocky planets in orbit around white dwarfs – the hot but inert remains of stars similar in mass to the Sun. The study points out that we could detect oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf's planet much more easily than in the case of an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star.

Read more (Phys.org)

ISS
What's going to happen to the ISS?
(Feb 24, 2013)


The International Space Station is the ninth crewed space station to be built, and with a mass of approximately 450 tons, a width of 108 meters, and a pressurized volume of 837 cubic meters, it is by far the biggest. Construction on the orbiting laboratory started in 1998 and is still ongoing (Russian elements are still being readied for launch). But what will be its eventual fate?

Read more (Americaspace.com)

Hydrothermal vents in the Cayman Trough
Deepest vents discovered, teeming with life
(Feb 22, 2013)


UK scientists exploring the ocean floor in the Caribbean have discovered a remarkable set of hydrothermal vents, the deepest anywhere in the world. Deploying a remotely-operated vehicle in the Cayman Trough, they stumbled across a previously-unknown site nearly 5,000 meters below the surface. Video pictures relayed live back to the research ship mounting the operation show spindly chimneys up to 10m high.

Read more (BBC)

Artist's impression of Pluto and its moons
There could soon be a real world called Vulcan
(Feb 21, 2013)


One of Pluto's new-found moons could soon be given a name that will please Star Trek fans – Vulcan. William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise, had previously called on the vote organizers to add Vulcan and Romulus to the list of names in contention. The organizers accepted Vulcan, but rejected Romulus. Both Romulus and Remus are already in use as names for the moons of the asteroid 87 Silvia. But having already won more than 100,000 of some 325,000 votes cast in the online poll to name one of the moons P4 or P5, Vulcan looks like it will soon belong to a real object.

Read more (BBC)

European Extremely Large Telescope
Next generation telescopes could detect alien oxygen
(Feb 20, 2013)


In searching for signs of life on exoplanets, a key discovery would be that of oxygen in a planet's atmosphere. Scientists can already get an idea of the atmospheric composition of large, Jupiter-size-or-bigger exoplanets, but rocky planets, similar in size to the Earth, are too small to have their atmospheres measured by current instruments. That may change in the next decade, though, when new instruments become available, including the European Extremely Large Telescope with its 39-meter-wide mirror. Given enough observation time and that the planet's orbit carries it in front of its central star, it should be possible to pick up the spectral lines of molecular oxygen – a signature (though not proof) of life as we know it.

Read more (New Scientist)

EETA79001
Surface organics on Mars may have been bleached away
(Feb 19, 2013)


Scientists have been looking inside a meteorite, known as EETA79001, that came from Mars. And what they've found doesn't bode well for the chances of finding organic chemicals, let alone life, on the surface of the planet today. EETA79001 fell to Earth about 12,000 years and then sat on the ice in Antarctica until it was discovered in 1979. Researchers have now drilled into the rock and examined the pristine chemicals inside. Their analysis points to the conclusion that the surface of Mars today is rich in compounds related to those in household bleach and thus completely destructive to organics. The only hope of finding organic materials might be the use of Curiosity's drill to get several centimeters inside rocks.

Read more (New Scientist)

Russian meteorite fragment
Pieces of Friday's historic Russia meteor found
(Feb 18, 2013)


Bits of the spectacular Russia meteor have apparently been found. "We confirm that the particles of a substance found by our expedition near Lake Chebarkul really do have the composition of a meteorite," RIA Novsosti quoted Russian Academy of Sciences member Viktor Grokhovsky as saying late Sunday. Grokhovsky's Urals Federal University separately posted a statement on its website on Monday that featured a photograph of a person holding a tiny piece of porous black rock between his index finger and thumb. "This meteorite belongs to the class of regular chondrites," the university statement said.

Read more (Reuters)

Installation of the AMS
New light to be shed on dark matter
(Feb 18, 2013)


The scientist leading one of the most expensive experiments ever put into space says the project is ready to come forward with its first results. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) was put on the International Space Station to survey the skies for high-energy particles, or cosmic rays. Nobel Laureate Sam Ting said the scholarly paper to be published in a few weeks would concern dark matter.

Read more (BBC)

Russian meteorite
Double space rock whammy
(Feb 17, 2013)


The universe fired two warning shots across the Earth's bow within the same 24-hour period this past week. The first was a large meteor that exploded over central Russia, which was followed by the closest predicted pass of an asteroid. These two events took place only half a day apart. Remarkably, (scarily so) these major events were not even related.

Read more (AmericaSpace)

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