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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2013
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Radar images of asteroid 2013 ET
Goldstone radar snags images of asteroid 2013 ET
(Mar 19, 2013)


A sequence of radar images of asteroid 2013 ET was obtained on March 10, 2013, using the 70-meter Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., when the asteroid was about 1.1 million km from Earth – about 3 times the distance of the Moon. The radar imagery suggests the irregularly shaped object is at least 40 meters wide. The 18 radar images were taken over a span of 1.3 hours. During that interval, the asteroid completed only a fraction of one rotation, suggesting that it rotates once every few hours.

Read more (NASA/JPL)

Zw II 28
Uncovering the secret of an unusual ring galaxy
(Mar 18, 2013)


Galaxies can take many forms – elliptical blobs, swirling spiral arms, bulges, and disks are all known components of the wide range of galaxies we have observed using telescopes such as Hubble. However, some of the more intriguing objects in the sky around us include ring galaxies like the one pictured above Zw II 28.

Read more (Physorg)

Time Tunnel
Is time travel possible?
(Mar 17, 2013)


Can we travel through time? Of course, we do it all the time. But can we do it at a different rate than normal? Again, the answer is "yes" because of the phenomenon known as time dilation in Einstein's relativity theory. However, time dilation enables, even in principle, only a limited kind of leap into the future. By genuine time travel is meant the ability to jump forward or backward through time at a rate other than that of the ordinary progression of events or that enabled by the relativistic time dilation effect. Is that possible?

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Mount Sharp
Curisoity rover eyes Mount Sharp
(Mar 16, 2013)


Rising more than 3 miles (5 km) above the floor of Gale Crater, where the Mars Curiosity rover is located, is Mount Sharp. Curiosity will eventually explore the mountain's lower slopes. But first the rover has plenty more work today around its present location, called "Yellowknife Bay," where it has found evidence of a past watery environment favorable for microbial life.

Read more (NASA/JPL)

Artwork of the white dwarf RX J0648.0-4418
Dizzy the white dwarf in danger of spinning apart
(Mar 15, 2013)


Using the XMM-Newton satellite, astronomers have spotted the fastest spinning white dwarf on record. The star, officially known as RX J0648.0-4418, and mercifully nicknamed Dizzy, takes just 13 seconds to spin around its axis. Only its extremely high density – it may also be the densest white dwarf known – and powerful surface gravity prevents it from spinning itself apart. Even so, Dizzy's days may be numbered ...

Read more (New Scientist)

ALMA
The latest super-observatory opens for business
(Mar 14, 2013)


The world's most powerful array of radio telescopes working in the millimeter and submillimeter region of the spectrum was inaugerated yesterday and has begin operation. The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile is an international project comprised of 66 12-meter and 7-meter dishes. Its observations will help astronomers learn more about the processes of star formation and the early development of planets, among other things.

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Artwork of a hypothetical red dwarf planet
New estimate puts nearest habitable Earth-like planet less than 7 light-years away
(Mar 13, 2013)


Last month astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used data gathered by the Kepler space telescope to estimate that 15% of red dwarfs have planets between 0.5 and 1.4 times the size of Earth orbiting in their habitable zones. Now another astronomer, Ravi Kopparapu, of Penn State University, has realized they were using an old definition of habitable zones which led to an under-estimation in the number of habitable worlds. According to Kopparapu's reckoning, fully half of all red dwarfs have roughly Earth-sized planets in their habitable zones, which means we could expect to find such a planet just 6.5 light-years away.

Read more (New Scientist)

WISE 1049-5319
Brown dwarfs found on our doorstep
(Mar 11, 2013)


Meet the new neighbors: a pair of brown dwarfs – easily the nearest of their kind – just 6.5 light-years away. Called WISE 1049-5319, they're the third-closest star system to the Sun, after the Alpha Centauri trinary (4.3 light-years away), and Barnard’s Star (about six light-years away).

Read more (Slate)

Moon base
When will we go back to the Moon?
(Mar 11, 2013)


When Eugene Cernan, commander of the Apollo 17 mission, headed back up the ladder of the Lunar Module on December 14, 1972, he became the last human to date to walk on the Moon. Almost every U.S. Administration since that time has announced America’s intention to go back to our nearest celestial neighbor and establish a permanent presence there, but more than 40 years have gone by since the last bootprint was made in the lunar dust. What are the prospects for a return any time soon?

Read more (Americaspace.com)

Bubbles of high-energy particles above and below the plane of the Milky Way
Particle bubbles blow by black hole merger
(Mar 9, 2013)


Did a merger between black holes at the center of our galaxy gives rise to two giant bubbles of high-energy particles that now tower above the Milky Way's plane? A new theory explains the bubbles, discovered by the Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope in 2010, in terms of a collision between the central supermassive black hole and a smaller black hole at the heart of a dwarf galaxy that entered the Milky Way's core about 10 million years ago.

Read more (New Scientist)

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