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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2013
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Solar activity
Study looks at the threat of solar superstorms
(Feb 7, 2013)

The latest assessment, by the UK's Royal Academy of Engineering, of the threat posed by a solar superstorm concludes that the effects could be serious but not devastating. One in 10 satellites might be knocked out of action and there could be temporary blackouts, as happened when a solar storm in 1989 hit Canada's Hydro-Quebec power grid. GPS systems and mobile phone networks might also see some major outages for a time. "Stay calm but be prepared" seems to be the bottom line.

Read more (The Guardian)

Artist's impression of an Earth-like planet around a red dwarf
Billions of Earth-like planets around red dwarfs
(Feb 6, 2013)

The latest analysis of data collected by the planet-hunting spacecraft Kepler suggests that 6% of all red dwarfs – the commonest kind of star in the Galaxy – have Earth-sized planets in their habitable zones (the region around a star where water could permanently exist on a rocky world similar in size to Earth). That implies a galactic population of planets roughly the same size and temperature as Earth of 4.5 billion. The research also suggests that nearest one may be no more than 13 light-years away.

Read more (BBC)

Baumgartner's jump
Record-breaking skydive was faster than thought
(Feb 5, 2013)

Austrian Felix Baumgartner fell even faster during his historic skydive last October than was originally thought. Subsequent analysis has revealed that the daredevil attained a speed of 1,357.6km/h (843.6mph) when he leapt from his stratospheric balloon. It is about 15km/h (10mph) above what was initially reported.

Read more (BBC)

Before and after: Curiosity uses its drill system for the first time
Curiosity rover hammers into rock
(Feb 3, 2013)

The Mars rover Curiosity has used its drill system for the first time. The robot's tool bit hammered briefly, without rotation, into a flat slab of rock on the floor of Gale Crater, the huge bowl where it landed last August. Pictures taken before and after the operation reveal the indentation left by the tool's action.

Read more (BBC)

Binary asteroid
Did a binary asteroid put paid to the dinosaurs?
(Feb 2, 2013)

It could be that the big asteroid that slammed into us 65 million years ago was, in fact, two closely separated asteroids – the members of a binary pair – that struck almost simultaneously. The argument for this is two-fold. First, binary asteroids are common (15% of near-Earth asteroids are of this type), and there are other instances of craters on Earth caused by such pairings – for example, the Clearwater Lajes in Canada. Second, the Chicxulub Crater in the Yucatan where the end-of-Cretaceous impact occurred is asymmetric, as expected if it was caused by two impacts.

Read more (New Scientist)

Artist's impression of a young star and its proto-planetary system
Past-prime star may still be making planets
(Feb 1, 2013)

A star thought to have passed the age at which it can form planets may, in fact, be creating new worlds, according to data gathered by the Herschel Space Telescope. The disk of material surrounding the surprising star called TW Hydrae, which is about 10 million years old and lies 176 light-years away, may be massive enough to make even more planets than we have in our own solar system.

Read more (NASA/JPL)

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