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December 2004

December 7

NASA Launches Swift, To Track Gamma Rays Washington (AFP) Nov 20, 2004
NASA launched Saturday its Swift satellite, which will track huge explosions of gamma rays, the US space agency said. The Delta rocket launcher lifted of from Cape Canaveral at 12:16 pm, according to NASA, which televised the launch live.

Precocious Supermassive Black Holes Challenge Theories
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has obtained definitive evidence that a distant quasar formed less than a billion years after the big bang contains a fully-grown supermassive black hole generating energy at the rate of twenty trillion suns. The existence of such massive black holes at this early epoch of the Universe challenges theories of the formation of galaxies and supermassive black holes.

Hovering Over Titan Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 24, 2004
A mosaic of nine processed images recently acquired during Cassini's first very close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on Oct. 26, 2004, constitutes the most detailed full-disc view of the mysterious moon.

The Martian Methane Surprise Moffett Field CA (SPX) Dec 07, 2004
At the recent Division of Planetary Sciences conference in Louisville, Kentucky, Michael Mumma, Director of the Center for Astrobiology at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, announced that relatively high levels of methane had been detected on Mars.

Proof Positive: Mars Once Had Water, Researchers Conclude
There is undeniable proof that water once existed on the planet Mars, a team of researchers has concluded in a series of 11 articles this week in a special issue of the journal Science.

In the Stars: Searching For Armageddons Washington DC (UPI) Nov 23, 2004
The universe was regarded even until the early 20th century as a stable and eternal place, but evidence collected in the intervening years has shown the cosmos is anything but placid. It is seething with activity, some of it entirely hostile to life.

Young Stars Poised for Production of Rocky Planets Garching, Germany (SPX) Nov 25, 2004
One of the currently hottest astrophysical topics - the hunt for Earth-like planets around other stars - has just received an important impetus from new spectral observations with the MIDI instrument at the ESO VLT Interferometer (VLTI).

Study Paints Our Sun as a Planet Thief 
A close encounter between our sun and a passing star some four billion years ago may have played a role in shaping our solar system. New computer simulations describe how a rendezvous between two young solar systems could have occurred. And one potential scenario shows our sun kidnapping a planet or smaller object from the other star's solar system. 

Hubble watches baby galaxy in bloom
The galactic newcomer formed incredibly recently from a pristine gas cloud in a quiet part of the universe - the space telescope is watching it grow

Russia May Have Moon Base By 2025. Moscow (UPI) Nov 22, 2004
Russia may have a base on the moon by 2025, according to a Russian space official, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.

The Geminid Meteor Shower Huntsvile AL (SPX) Dec 07, 2004
The best meteor shower of 2004 is about to peak on a long cold December night. It's the Geminids. The best time to look is Monday night, Dec. 13th. Sky watchers who stay outside for a few hours around midnight can expect to see dozens to hundreds of "shooting stars."

November 2004

November 21

Cassini Spots Possible Ice Volcano On Titan. Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 10, 2004
A strikingly bright feature that is consistent with an active geology has been seen in one of Cassini's first radar images of Saturn's moon Titan. There are many possibilities for what it is but one of the leading candidates is that it may be a 'cryovolcanic' flow or 'ice volcano'.

Titan has no breaking waves
The Cassini space probe discovers that the surface of Saturn's moon is not awash with liquid after all - ice or volcanism may prevail.

NASA Scramjet Sets a New Air-Speed Record. November 17, 2004
A NASA research jet sets a new air-speed record for air-breathing engines by traveling nearly 7,000 mph, or 10 times the speed of sound. After its release from beneath the larger craft's wing, a booster rocket ignited, sending the X-43A on its way.

New NASA-Japanese Telescope Images Uncharted Wavelengths. Greenbelt MD (SPX) Nov 10, 2004
Scientists using an experimental X-ray telescope suspended from a balloon have captured a unique picture of a pulsar shining in a form of light never before imaged in detail - that is, in high-energy "hard" X-rays. The observation marks a milestone in astronomical imaging.

Keck Zooms In On The Weird Weather Of Uranus. Louisville KY (SPX) Nov 11, 2004
Capitalizing on the incomparable optical capabilities of the Keck Telescope, scientists have gained an unprecedented look at the atmosphere of Uranus, providing new insight into some of the most enigmatic weather in the solar system.

Spitzer Sees Ice And Warm Glows In Dark And Dusty Places. Pasadena CA (SPX) Nov 10, 2004
Two new results from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope released Tuesday are helping astronomers better understand how stars form out of thick clouds of gas and dust, and how the molecules in those clouds ultimately become planets.

Journey Toward 'Burns Cliff Continues. Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 10, 2004
Opportunity's trek towards "Burns Cliff" continues. The journey has been much more difficult than anticipated. The rover has experienced drive slippage of up to 100 percent. The plan is to attempt a couple of sols of up-slope, switchback driving and then review options to get to Burns Cliff.

Theorists Tackle Mysterious Wake Of Baby Plane. Rochester NY (SPX) Nov 12, 2004
In June, researchers from the University of Rochester announced they had located a potential planet around another star so young that it defied theorists' explanations.

Taking A Cat Scan Of The Early Universe. Cambridge MA (SPX) Nov 09, 2004
A new technique that resembles CAT scans, known as tomography, is poised to revolutionize the study of the young universe and the end of the cosmic "dark ages."

November 8

Radar Image Shows Titan's Surface Live And In "Color" Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 08, 2004
Saturn's moon Titan shows a sharp contrast between its smooth and rough edges in this new false-color radar image. Titan's surface lies beneath a thick coat of hazy clouds, but Cassini's radar instrument can peer through to show finer surface features. Scientists have added color to emphasize finer details on Titan, as shown in the image.

Over The Martian Wall Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 08, 2004
All the scientific tools on NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers are still working well, a full 10 months after Spirit's dramatic landing. The ones on Spirit are adding fresh evidence about the history of layered bedrock in a hill the rover is climbing.

Mars Express pictures action of glaciers.
The Mars Express spacecraft has returned stunning images of mountains and valleys that show signs of past volcanic activity, and suggest that glaciers once shaped the red planet's surface.

Possible Origin Of Cosmic Rays Revealed With Gamma Rays Wiltshire, UK (SPX) Nov 04, 2004
An international team of astronomers has produced the first ever image of an astronomical object using high energy gamma rays, helping to solve a 100 year old mystery - the origin of cosmic rays.

VLA Finds Black Hole Preceded Galaxy Bulge Socorro NM (SPX) Nov 09, 2004
Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope to study the most distant known quasar, have found a tantalizing clue that may answer a longstanding cosmic chicken-and-egg question: which came first, supermassive black holes or giant galaxies?

Cambridge Astronomers Take Hubble-Quality Images from the Ground Cambridge UK (SPX) Nov 02, 2004
University of Cambridge Astronomers have developed a new method for taking images of the universe from the ground that are almost free of atmospheric distortions.

Cassini Observations Show Dynamic Dance At Saturn Boulder CO (SPX) Nov 09, 2004
A University of Colorado at Boulder professor involved with the Cassini-Huygens mission is reporting an ever-changing vista at the frontiers of Saturn, featuring wayward moons, colliding meteoroids, rippling rings and flickering auroras.

Cosmic doomsday delayed
Universe won't end for 24 billion years... probably. 5 November 2004.

Chandra's Find Of Lonely Halo Raises Questions About Dark Matter Huntsville AL (SPX) Oct 28, 2004
- Dark matter continues to confound astronomers, as NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory demonstrated with the detection of an extensive envelope of dark matter around an isolated elliptical galaxy NGC 4555.

Stellar Survivor From 1572 A.D. Explosion Supports Supernova Theory
Paris (ESA) Oct 28, 2004 - An international team of astronomers is announcing today that they have identified the probable surviving companion star to a titanic supernova explosion witnessed in the year 1572 by the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and other astronomers of that era.

Sunspots more active than for 8000 years
The Sun has been more energetic in the last 70 years than it has for the previous 8000 - but it is not to blame for recent global warming.

Tree Rings Reveal Sunspot Record.
Until now, scientists could only study sunspot records back to 1610, when astronomers started keeping track of sunspots by direct observation. Now, thanks to a clever new method, the 400-year sunspot record can be extended back to the Ice Age.

October 2004

October 24

Spitzer Telescope Finds Planet Forming Messy By Discovery News. Oct. 19, 2004
The business of building planets is messier and more chaotic than scientists realized, according to new observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Rocky bodies as big as mountain ranges colliding again and again build planets, a process that probably formed Earth's moon, the telescope revealed as it focused in on large dust clouds around several stars. The clouds most likely billowed out when nascent, rocky planets crashed together.

Magnetic Star Mystery Solved Garching, Germany (SPX) Oct 19, 2004
Just how does one explain the enormous magnetic field strengths of the so-called 'magnetic stars'? This question concerning magnetic fields in the cosmos, first posed half a century ago, has now been answered by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching.

Cosmic Murder Mystery Unfolds By Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News. Oct. 15, 2004
The unidentified corpse of what might have been a brown dwarf star has been found orbiting its suspected murderer: a white dwarf star. Dwarfs killing dwarfs — what's the galaxy coming to? It appears that a dim and dying white dwarf star three-fifths the mass of our sun has been sucking the life out of its unseen smaller companion for eons.

ESA's Hipparcos Finds Rebels With A Cause Paris, France (ESA) Oct 22, 2004
A team of European astronomers has discovered that many stars in the vicinity of the Sun have unusual motions caused by the spiral arms of our galaxy, the Milky Way. According to this research, based on data from ESA's Hipparcos observatory, our stellar neighbourhood is the crossroads of streams of stars coming from several directions.

Moon Shifts Shape of Saturn Rings By Irene Mona Klotz, Discovery News.Oct. 13, 2004
An image released this week shows a 2,980-mile-wide gap in Saturn's rings caused by the gravitational tug of its small moon, Mimas. Mimas is puny compared to its sister moons in orbit around Saturn. But the satellite has shown the Cassini science team an impressive demonstration of its power.

Newfound Star Cluster May Be Final Milky Way Fossil Washington DC (SPX) Oct 13, 2004
Just when astronomers thought they might have dug up the last of our galaxy's "fossils," they've discovered a new one in the galactic equivalent of our own backyard. Called globular clusters, these ancient bundles of stars date back to the birth of our Milky Way galaxy, 13 or so billion years ago.

Extrasolar Planets: A Matter of Metallicity Moffett Field (SPX) Oct 12, 2004
Astronomers have discovered more than 130 planets orbiting nearby stars in our galaxy. Although the solar systems they have found are very different from ours, by studying the planets that have been found - their masses, their orbits and their stars - they are uncovering intriguing hints that our galaxy may be brimming with solar systems like our own.

Planetesimal Belts Are Discovered Around Beta Pictoris Sagamihara City, Japan (SPX) Oct 25, 2004
Beta Pic is a young main-sequence star with an edge-on circumstellar disk supposed to embody an aspect of the early solar system. Its dust is considered not to be remains from the protoplanetary disk but must be replenished by planetesimal collisions and/or evaporation from comets, though the detailed mechanism is still controversial.

Solar Cycle Update Huntsville AL (SPX) Oct 19, 2004
Solar physicist David Hathaway has been checking the sun every day since 1998, and every day for six years there have been sunspots.

Opportunity Ready To Make "Climb" To Burns Cliff Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 22, 2004
NASA's Opportunity rover continues to operate without any major issues after spending 130 sols inside "Endurance Crater". To date, the rover has ground 21 targets with the rock abrasion tool, performing 62 integrations with the Moessbauer spectrometer and 33 with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, and taking 115 observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

New Propulsion Concept Could Make 90-Day Mars Round Trip Possible Seattle WA (SPX) Oct 15, 2004
A new means of propelling spacecraft being developed at the University of Washington could dramatically cut the time needed for astronauts to travel to and from Mars, and could make humans a permanent fixture in space.

October 10

SpaceShipOne Wins Big Prize, Opens New Frontier Of Private Space Travel. Mojave CA (AFP) Oct 04, 2004
The world's first private rocketship blasted into space for the second time in five days Monday, snatching a 10-million-dollar prize and ushering in a new era of space tourism. It's stubby, made out of fabric and glue and is powered by laughing gas and tyre rubber, but SpaceShipOne on Monday streaked into history as the herald of a brave new space age.

Motion Of Primordial Universe Unveiled. Chicago IL (SPX) Oct 08, 2004
New results from an instrument located high in the Chilean Andes are giving Canadian, American and Chilean researchers a clearer view of what the universe looked like in the first moments following the Big Bang.

Sopping Salts Could Reveal History Of Water On Mars Bloomington IN (SPX) Oct 07, 2004
Epsom-like salts believed to be common on Mars may be a major source of water there, say geologists at Indiana University Bloomington and Los Alamos National Laboratory. In their report in this week's Nature, the scientists also speculate that the salts will provide a chemical record of water on the Red Planet.

The Forensics of Genesis Houston TX (SPX) Oct 07, 2004
Eileen Stansbery, assistant director of astromaterials research and exploration science at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, has been working on the Genesis collector materials since September 8, when the space capsule crash-landed to Earth.

Massive Merger Of Galaxies Is Most Powerful On Record. Baltimore MD (SPX) Sep 24, 2004
Scientists have now officially witnessed the perfect cosmic storm. Thanks to the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory, they watched a nearby head-on collision between two galaxy clusters. The clusters smashed together thousands of galaxies and trillions of stars in one of the most powerful events ever witnessed.

Hubble Approaches The Final Frontier: The Dawn Of Galaxies. Baltimore MD (SPX) Sep 24, 2004
Detailed analyses of mankind's deepest optical view of the universe, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), by several expert teams, have at last identified what may turn out to be some of the earliest star-forming galaxies.

New Star-Type Stillborn. Tucson AZ (SPX) Oct 05, 2004
Astronomers using the Gemini North and Keck II telescopes have peered inside a violent binary star system to find that one of the interacting stars has lost so much mass to its partner that it has regressed to a strange, inert body resembling no known star type.

Reconstruction of the red planet's past reveals acid rain and briny seas.

Saturn's Moon And Its Flock. Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 01, 2004
In its own way, the shepherd moon Prometheus (102 kilometers, 63 miles across) is one of the lords of Saturn's rings. The little moon maintains the inner edge of Saturn's thin, knotted F ring, while its slightly smaller cohort, Pandora, (84 kilometers, or 52 miles across) guards the ring's outer edge.

Great Observatories May Unravel 400-Year-Old Supernova Mystery Baltimore MD (SPX) Oct 07, 2004
Four hundred years ago, sky watchers, including the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler, best known as the discoverer of the laws of planetary motion, were startled by the sudden appearance of a "new star" in the western sky, rivaling the brilliance of the nearby planets.

Radio Astronomers Remove The Blindfold Manchester, UK (SPX) Oct 08, 2004
UK radio astronomers at the Jodrell Bank Observatory, working with colleagues from Europe and the USA, have demonstrated a new technique that will revolutionise the way they observe. To create the very best quality images of the sky, they routinely combine data from multiple telescopes from around the world – a technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI).

Colorado Proposal For Imaging Distant Planets Funded Further. Boulder CO (SPX) Oct 01, 2004
A NASA institute has selected a new University of Colorado at Boulder proposal for further study that describes how existing technologies can be used to study planets around distant stars with the help of an orbiting "starshade."

New Horizons For Planetary Exploration. Boulder CO (SPX) Oct 05, 2004
In late September, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee added funding to study a new Kuiper Belt mission to its NASA 2005 budget—New Horizons II. The Senate's move, and the strong support it implies for the kind of frontier planetary exploration that only the United States can perform, is welcome news.

September 2004

September 13

Sun Sample Probe Crashes in Desert. Sept. 8, 2004
A capsule containing particles from the sun crashed into the Utah desert on Wednesday after its parachute failed to deploy.

Genesis Scientists Bouncing Back From Hard Landing. Washington DC (SPX) Sep 13, 2004
Scientists who conducted the preliminary assessment of the Genesis canister are encouraged by what they see. They believe it may be possible to achieve the most important portions of their science objectives.

Scientists Discover First Of A New Class Of Extrasolar Planets. Berkeley CA (SPX) Sep 01, 2004
Astronomers announced today the first discovery of a new class of planets beyond our solar system about 10 to 20 times the size of Earth - far smaller than any previously detected. The planets make up a new class of Neptune-sized extrasolar planets.

Cassini Discovers Ring And One, Possibly Two, Objects At Saturn. Pasadena CA (JPL) Sep 10, 2004
Scientists examining Saturn's contorted F ring, which has baffled them since its discovery, have found one small body, possibly two, orbiting in the F ring region, and a ring of material associated with Saturn's moon Atlas.

Scientists Glimpse Exotic Matter In A Neutron Star. New Orleans (SPX) Sep 09, 2004
Scientists have obtained their best measurement yet of the size and contents of a neutron star, an ultra-dense object containing the strangest and rarest matter in the universe.

Motions In Nearby Galaxy Cluster Reveal Presence Of Hidden Superstructure.

Scientists Follow Doomed Matter On A Ride Around A Black Hole.

Is This Speck Of Light An Exoplanet? Paranal Observatory, Chile (ESO) Sep 13, 2004
Since 1998, a team of European and American astronomers have been studying the environment of young, nearby "stellar associations", i.e., large conglomerates of mostly young stars and the dust and gas clouds from which they were recently formed.

Giving Up The Galactic Ghost. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Sep 08, 2004
A stunning image released by the Gemini Observatory captures the graceful interactions of a galactic ballet, on a stage some 300 million light years away, that might better be described as a contortionist's dance.

NASA's Grace Gravity Mission Weighs In On Earth's Changing Climate. Austin TX (SPX) Sep 13, 2004
For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that precise measurements of Earth's changing gravity field can effectively monitor changes in the planet's climate and weather.

August 2004

August 31

Life On Mars: A Definite Possibility Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 31, 2004
Was Mars once a living world? Does life continue, even today, in a holding pattern, waiting until the next global warming event comes along? Many people would like to believe so. Scientists are no exception. But so far no evidence has been found that convinces even a sizable minority of the scientific community that the red planet was ever home to life.

Fourteen Times The Earth Garching, Germany (SPX) Aug 31, 2004
A European team of astronomers has discovered the lightest known planet orbiting a star other than the sun (an "exoplanet"). The new exoplanet orbits the bright star mu Arae located in the southern constellation of the Altar. It is the second planet discovered around this star and completes a full revolution in 9.5 days. 

How Did The Planet In The Gamma-Cephei Binary System Form? Paris  (SPX) Aug 26, 2004
The formation of a planet in a binary star system poses serious problems, in particular when the two stars are very close, like in the system of Gamma-Cephei. A giant planet was discovered there, close to the primary star, but the perturbations from the secondary star should have prevented the accretion of planetesimals.

Footprints On The Moon Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 30, 2004
The Moon preserves unique information about changes in the habitability of the Earth-Moon system. This record has been obscured on the Earth by billions of years of rain, wind, erosion, volcanic eruptions, mountain building, and plate tectonics.

South Polar Storms Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 30, 2004
This Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera view of Saturn's southern polar region features a bright white spot, or storm, surrounded by faint, darker swirls of clouds.

Odyssey's New Odometer Moffet Field CA (SPX) Aug 30, 2004
NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter begins working overtime today after completing a prime mission that discovered vast supplies of frozen water, ran a safety check for future astronauts, and mapped surface textures and minerals all over Mars, among other feats.

Deepest Image Of Exploded Star Uncovers Bipolar Jets Huntsville AL (SPX) Aug 24, 2004
A spectacular new image of Cassiopeia A released today from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has nearly 200 times more data than the "First Light" Chandra image of this object made five years ago. The new image reveals clues that the initial explosion, caused by the collapse of a massive star, was far more complicated than suspected.

Backyard Telescopes For New Planets. Is It Possible? Boston MA (SPX) Aug 25, 2004
Fifteen years ago, the largest telescopes in the world had yet to locate a planet orbiting another star. Today telescopes no larger than those available in department stores are proving capable of spotting previously unknown worlds.

August 23

How Old Is The Milky Way? Paranal Observatory, Chile (SPX) Aug 18, 2004
Observations by an international team of astronomers with the UVES spectrometer on ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory (Chile) have thrown new light on the earliest epoch of the Milky Way galaxy.

Sweeping For Unseen Worlds. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 19, 2004
The sharpest image ever taken of a dust disk around another star has revealed structures in the disk which are signs of unseen planets.

Bedrock In Mars' Gusev Crater Hints At Watery Past. Tucson AZ (SPX) Aug 19, 2004
Now that NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is finally examining bedrock in the "Columbia Hills," it is finding evidence that water thoroughly altered some rocks in Mars' Gusev Crater.

Underneath Ganymede's Ice? Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 19, 2004
Scientists have discovered irregular lumps beneath the icy surface of Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede. These irregular masses may be rock formations, supported by Ganymede's icy shell for billions of years.

A Temperate Venus Revealed. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 19, 2004
In part 1 of this interview with Astrobiology Magazine editor Henry Bortman, planetary scientist David Grinspoon explained how Venus evolved from a wet planet similar to Earth to the scorching hot, dried-out furnace of today. In part 2, Grinspoon discusses the possibility of life on Venus.

Discovery of five irregular moons of Neptune

NASA Mission Returns With A Piece Of The Sun. Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 20, 2004
In a dramatic ending that marks a beginning in scientific research, NASA's Genesis spacecraft is set to swing by Earth and jettison a sample return capsule filled with particles of the Sun that may ultimately tell us more about the genesis of our solar system.

Cooking On A Comet..? Paris (ESA) Aug 20, 2004
One of the ingenious instruments on board Rosetta is designed to 'smell' the comet for different substances, analysing samples that have been 'cooked' in a set of miniature ovens. ESA's Rosetta will be the first space mission ever to land on a comet.

August 17

Old Galaxies In The Young Universe. Firenze, Italy (SPX) Aug 06, 2004
Current theories of the formation of galaxies are based on the hierarchical merging of smaller entities into larger and larger structures, starting from about the size of a stellar globular cluster and ending with clusters of galaxies.

Chandra Catches Early Phase Of Cosmic Assembly. Huntsville AL (SPX) Aug 16, 2004
A NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory image has revealed a complex of several intergalactic hot gas clouds in the process of merging. The superb Chandra spatial resolution made it possible to distinguish individual galaxies from the massive clouds of hot gas.

Space agency plans studies on human hibernation.

Out From the Shadows: Two New Saturnian Moons. Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 17, 2004
With eyes sharper than any that have peered at Saturn before, the Cassini spacecraft has uncovered two moons, which may be the smallest bodies so far seen around the ringed planet.

Saturn's Moon Titan: Prebiotic Laboratory. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 12, 2004
Jonathan Lunine, professor of planetary science and physics at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona, has a longtime fascination with Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Astrobiology Magazine's Managing Editor Henry Bortman spoke recently with Lunine about the Huygens mission slated to descend into Titan's thick atmosphere in early 2005.

Cosmic Cowboy. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 06, 2004
A brand of researcher can now breathe life into the aura of a patient nomad who searches the horizon for signs of a new world. McDonald Observatory astronomer Bill Cochran discusses how a West Texas telescope has begun chalking up discoveries of extrasolar planets.

What Is A Comet Made Of? Davis CA (SPX) Aug 10, 2004
A new method for looking at the composition of comets using ground-based telescopes has been developed by chemists at UC Davis. Remnants from the formation of our solar system, the makeup of comets gives clues about how the Earth and other planets formed.

Spirit's Sojourn Leaves Ancient Lake Hypothesis High and Dry
The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit covered 637 meters in its first 90 Martian days, or sols (a sol is 40 minutes longer than an Earth day). Its trek through the Gusev crater has not revealed any evidence for the ancient lakebed that geologists thought might be there, but water may have played some part in the formation of certain observed rock features.

Spirit continues its heroic climb up the Columbia Hills.

Scientists Discover Ganymede Has A Lumpy Interior. Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 16, 2004
Scientists have discovered irregular lumps beneath the icy surface of Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede. These irregular masses may be rock formations, supported by Ganymede's icy shell for billions of years.

Hubble Peers Inside A Celestial Geode. Paris (ESA) Aug 13, 2004
Real geodes are handball-sized, hollow rocks that start out as bubbles in volcanic or sedimentary rock. Only when these inconspicuous round rocks are split in half by a geologist, do we get a chance to appreciate the inside of the rock cavity that is lined with crystals.

August 8

New Theory Links Neutrino's Slight Mass To Accelerating Universe Expansion. Seattle WA (SPX) Jul 28, 2004
Two of the biggest physics breakthroughs during the last decade are the discovery that wispy subatomic particles called neutrinos actually have a small amount of mass and the detection that the expansion of the universe is actually picking up speed.

Fiery blastoff sets US probe toward first rock from the Sun. Washington (AFP) Aug 03, 2004 - US spacecraft Messenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Tuesday on a six-year exploratory journey toward Mercury, the closet planet to the Sun.  With Messenger safely nestled in its payload bay, a massive Delta II rocket roared off from its launching pad at about 2:16 am (0616 GMT), turning in a matter of seconds from a fire-breathing giant into a tiny speck of light in the sky.

Briefing: As Mars Express sends back the best ever data about the chemicals present in the martian atmosphere, rumours abound that scientists are beginning to detect signs of life on the red planet. weighs up the evidence so far.

Virtual Mars. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 03, 2004
NASA scientists have modified a scientific Web site so the general public can inspect big regions and smaller details of Mars' surface, a planet whose alien terrain is about the same area as Earth's continents.

Scientists Explain Mysterious Plasma Jets On The Sun. Palo Alto CA (SPX) Jul 29, 2004
Solar physicists from Lockheed Martin and the Solar Physics and upper-Atmosphere Research Group at the Department of Applied Mathematics of the University of Sheffield, UK have used computer modeling and some of the highest resolution images ever taken of the solar atmosphere to explain the cause of supersonic jets that continuously shoot through the low atmosphere of the Sun.

Titan's Purple Haze Points To A Fuzzy Past. Pasadena CA (JPL) Jul 30, 2004
Encircled in purple stratospheric haze, Saturn's largest moon, Titan, appears as a softly glowing sphere in this colorized image taken on July 3, 2004, one day after Cassini's first flyby of that moon.

Catching A Falling Star. Cerro Paranal, Chile (SPX) Aug 02, 2004
While observing a supernova in a distant galaxy with the FORS instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory (Chile), astronomers were incredibly lucky to obtain serendipitously a high quality spectrum of a very large meteor in the terrestrial atmosphere.

Moon Written In Stone Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 02, 2004
Scientists have pinpointed the source of a meteorite from the moon for the first time. Their unique meteorite records four separate lunar impacts. See also Odyssey of a Moon rock and Lunar Meteorite's Life Story Revealed.

In cosmic terms, our solar system could be special after all.

July 2004

July 25

First Contact Within 20 Years: Shostak. Mountain View CA (SPX) Jul 22, 2004
If Intelligent life exists elsewhere in our galaxy, advances in computer processing power and radio telescope technology will ensure we detect their transmissions within two decades. That's the bold prediction from a leading light at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in Mountain View, California.

Mars Rover Spirit Finds Bedrock. July 16, 2004
Six months after arriving at Mars for detailed geologic studies, the Spirit rover finally has reached what scientists came for: bedrock.

New Martian Meteorite Found In Antarctica. Moffett Field CA (SPX) Jul 21, 2004
While rovers and orbiting spacecraft scour Mars searching for clues to its past, researchers have uncovered another piece of the red planet in the most inhospitable place on Earth - Antarctica.

Allan Hills Meteorite Abiogenic? Moffett Field CA (SPX) Jul 22, 2004
The scientific debate over whether a meteorite contains evidence of past life on Mars continues to intensify, with colleagues of the team that announced the possibility in 1996 revealing new findings that may cast doubt on some of that earlier work.

A Day In The Lives Of Galaxies. Baltimore MD (SPX) Jul 23, 2004
Like a photographer clicking random snapshots of a crowd of people, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken a view of an eclectic mix of galaxies.

Space Scopes Image Massive Black Hole Surrounded By Doughnut-Shaped Cloud. Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jul 21, 2004
Using ESA's Integral and XMM-Newton observatories, an international team of astronomers has found more evidence that massive black holes are surrounded by a doughnut-shaped gas cloud, called a torus.

Astronomers Measure Mass Of A Single Star - First Since The Sun.

SDSS: Dark Energy, Inflation, & Neutrino Mass News. Princeton NJ (SPX) Jul 21, 2004
Using observations of 3,000 quasars discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), scientists have made the most precise measurement to date of the cosmic clustering of diffuse hydrogen gas.

Newborn Star Observations Provide Details On Sol's Origin. Rochester NY (SPX) Jul 22, 2004
A new study has caught a newborn star similar to the sun in a fiery outburst. X-ray observations of the flare-up, which are the first of their kind, are providing important new information about the early evolution of the sun and the process of planet formation.

Apollo 11 Experiment Still Going Strong After 35 Years.
Scientists from various institutions who analyze the data from the lunar laser ranging experiment have observed, among other things, that the Moon is moving away from the Earth (3.8 cm. a year) and has a fluid core, and that Einstein's Theory of Relativity is accurate. See also What Neil & Buzz Left On The Moon.

Analysis: NASA Vote Opens New Space Debate. Washington (UPI) Jul 21 , 2004
The first substantive indication of congressional reaction to President Bush's proposed space exploration plan appeared Tuesday when the House subcommittee that oversees NASA's budget made deep cuts to the proposal, writes Frank Sietzen.

July 18

Mature Galaxies in Young Universe At Odds with Theory
The discovery of massive galaxies in the infant universe has astrophysicists puzzling over how such objects could have formed so early on. The leading model of galaxy evolution assumes that the first galaxies were relatively tiny--only through the merging of these smaller entities did larger galaxies slowly develop. The new find may force scientists to reexamine how stars arise.

How To Fail At Being A Star Hamburg (SPX) July 08, 2004
At the 13th Cambridge Workshop on "Cool Stars, Stellar Systems, and the Sun," Dr. Kevin L. Luhman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) announced the discovery of a unique pair of newborn brown dwarfs in orbit around each other.

Cassini lifts Titan's hazy veil 
Moon gives hints of hydrocarbons in hot spots.

Cassini Exposes Saturn's Two-Face Moon Pasadena CA (JPL) Jul 16, 2004
The moon with the split personality, Iapetus, presents a perplexing appearance in the latest images snapped by the Cassini spacecraft.

Freeze-Dried Water, Magnetic Dust Moffet Field CA (SPX) Jul 12, 2004
Mars is a dusty place and some of that dust is highly magnetic. Magnetic minerals carried in dust grains may be freeze-dried remnants of the planet´s watery past.

Los Alamos Computers Probe How Giant Planets Formed Los Alamos NM (SPX) Jul 14, 2004 - Nearly five billion years ago, the giant gaseous planets Jupiter and Saturn formed, apparently in radically different ways. So says a scientist at the Laboratory who created exhaustive computer models based on experiments in which the element hydrogen was shocked to pressures nearly as great as those found inside the two planets.

Texas Giant Scope Finds First Planet. Austin TX (SPX) July 12, 2004
McDonald Observatory astronomers Bill Cochran, Michael Endl, and Barbara McArthur have exploited the Hobby-Eberly Telescope's (HET's) capabilities to rapidly find and confirm, with great precision, the giant telescope's first planet outside our solar system.

Starburst Eye Of A Galaxy Produces A Cosmic Shower Madison (SPX) Jul 12, 2004
Combining images from orbiting and ground-based telescopes, an international team of astronomers has located the eye of a cosmic hurricane: the source of the 1 million mile-per-hour winds that shower intergalactic space from the galaxy M82.

July 10

Mars Rain Carved Valleys. July 2, 2004 — Mars was not only awash with water, it also once had rainfall, according to a French study published on Friday. The evidence comes from infrared imaging, which probed under dust deposited over the millions of years and found dense networks of dry valleys, whose branching bear the hallmarks of having been carved out by rain.

Northern Rim Of Hellas Basin. Paris (ESA) Jul 09, 2004
These images of the rim of the Hellas basin on Mars were obtained by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft.

Saturn's Rings In Ultraviolet. Moffet Field CA (SPX) Jul 09, 2004
The best view ever of Saturn's rings in the ultraviolet indicates there is more ice toward the outer part of the rings, hinting at ring origin and evolution, say two University of Colorado at Boulder researchers involved in the Cassini mission.

Titan's Strange Surface Pasadena - Jul 05, 2004
Cassini spacecraft instruments have peered through the orange smog of Titan and glimpsed the surface below. Images sent back to Earth reveal dark areas and lighter, fuzzy areas. Data from the Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) indicate that the dark areas are pure water ice. The bright fuzzy regions have several different types of non-ice materials, and may include organic materials such as hydrocarbons.

Spacecraft Fleet Tracks Blast Wave Through Solar System Huntsville AL (SPX) Jul 09, 2004
A fleet of spacecraft dispersed throughout the solar system gave the most comprehensive picture to date of how blast waves from solar storms propagate through the solar system and the radiation generated in their wake.

Glimpse At Early Universe Reveals Surprisingly Mature Galaxies. Mauna Kea HI (SPX) Jul 08, 2004
A rare glimpse back in time into the universe's early evolution has revealed something startling: mature, fully formed galaxies where scientists expected to discover little more than infants.

Tau Ceti System, Asteroid Alley - An Inhospitable Neighbour United Kingdom (SPX) Jul 06, 2004
UK astronomers studying the Tau Ceti system have discovered that it contains ten times as much material in the form of asteroids and comets as our own solar system. Their discovery, suggests that even though Tau Ceti is the nearest Sun-like star, any planets that may orbit it would not support life as we know it due to the inevitable large number of devastating collisions.

Hubble Studies Star Formation In Nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. Chicago IL (SPX) Jul 02, 2004
Our neighbourhood galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) lies in the Constellation of Dorado and is sprinkled with a number of regions harbouring recent and ongoing star formation. One of these star-forming regions, N11B, is shown in this Hubble image.

Astronomers Reveal Extinct Extra-Terrestrial Fusion Reactor. Cambridge MA (SPX) Jun 29, 2004
An international team of astronomers, studying the left-over remnants of stars like our own Sun, have found a remarkable object where the nuclear reactor that once powered it has only just shut down.

Astronomers Use Novel Camera To Hunt For Extrasolar Planets. Tucson (SPX) Jun 23, 2004
Their camera has already made stunning images of Saturn's moon, Titan, and discovered an object just 27 times the mass of Jupiter. They hope the camer will be the first to directly photograph faint gas-giants similar to Jupiter in solar systems beyond our own.

June 2004

June 20

Cassini Shows Off Its Stuff With Phoebe Extravaganza. Pasadena (JPL) Jun 15, 2004
Images collected during Cassini's close flyby of Saturn's moon, Phoebe, have yielded strong evidence that the tiny object may contain ice-rich material, overlain with a thin layer of darker material perhaps 300 to 500 meters (980 to 1,600 feet) thick.

On Earth, as it is on Mars?
The small spheres of haematite, nicknamed blueberries, that litter the Mars landing site of NASAs rover Opportunity might have an analogue on Earth, formed from groundwater in southern Utah.

Spirit Finds Its Pot Of Gold. Moffet Field CA (SPX) Jun 17, 2004
Some of the first things the scientists noticed about the Columbia geology were small round nodules that looked very similar to the hematite "blueberries" previously found on Mars. Many of the blueberries on Columbia Hills are more football-shaped than spherical, however, so these nodules might not be hematite concretions.

Researchers Show Io Vaporizing Rock Gases Into Atmosphere. St. Louis MO (SPX) Jun 16, 2004
The hottest spot in the solar system is neither Mercury, Venus, nor St. Louis in the summer. Io, one of the four satellites that the Italian astronomer Galileo discovered orbiting Jupiter almost 400 years ago, takes that prize.

Weighing Ultra-Cool Stars. Garching (SPX) Jun 16, 2004
Using ESO's Very Large Telescope at Paranal and a suite of ground- and space-based telescopes in a four-year long study, an international team of astronomers has measured for the first time the mass of an ultra-cool star and its companion brown dwarf. The two stars form a binary system and orbit each other in about 10 years.

NASA Spacecraft Reveals Surprising Anatomy Of A Comet
Findings from a historic encounter between NASA's Stardust spacecraft and a comet have revealed a much stranger world than previously believed. The comet's rigid surface, dotted with towering pinnacles, plunging craters, steep cliffs, and dozens of jets spewing violently, has surprised scientists.

Did Comets Flood Earth's Oceans? Paris (ESA) Jun 17, 2004
Did the Earth form with water locked into its rocks, which then gradually leaked out over millions of years? Or did the occasional impacting comet provide the Earth's oceans? The Ptolemy experiment on Rosetta may just find out…

June 13

Key Theory Of Galaxy Formation No Longer Conflicts With Observations. Chicago IL (SPX) Jun 09, 2004
Astrophysicists led by the University of Chicago's Andrey Kravtsov have resolved an embarrassing contradiction between a favored theory of how galaxies form and what astronomers see in their telescopes.

Newly Discovered Baby Planet Confounds Expectations
Raw Materials For Habitable Planets Around Surprisingly Young Stars.

Universe started with hiss, not bang
In the beginning, a low moan built to a roar that then gave way to a deafening hiss - and those sounds gave birth to the first stars.

The Geology Of Mars Mid-'04. Sacramento (SPX) Jun 08, 2004
But while the ability of Spirit to locate water-deposited and -modified material on Mars' surface is still in doubt, its twin Opportunity has rather stolen its thunder by finding solid proof of such material almost as soon as it landed on the strange, flat, hematite-covered Meridiani Plain.

Chasing Martian Dust Devils. Moffet Field (SPX) Jun 07, 2004
Mars has only a faint atmosphere [less than one percent of terrestrial pressures], yet offers up its history of dust devils as swirling tracks in a remarkable landscape of wind-swept and carved terrain.  These tiny twisters tend to appear in the middle afternoon on Mars, when solar heating is maximum and when warm air rises and collides with other pressure fronts to cause circulation.

Key To Predicting Martian Volcanos May Be Locked In Tiny Bubbles. Blacksburg VA (SPX) Jun 09, 2004
By summer 2005, researchers in the Fluids Research Laboratory at Virginia Tech will be able to look for evidence of water on Mars by examining submicroscopic bubbles in martian meteorites, determine whether fluids and silicate melts trapped in volcanic rock can help predict future eruptions, and locate buried mineral deposits using data from surface rocks.

Evidence Of "Flooding" At Mangala Valles Imaged By Mars Express. Paris (ESA) Jun 10, 2004
This images of fluvial surface features at Mangala Valles on Mars were obtained by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board the ESA Mars Express spacecraft.

Charting Giant Galaxy Clusters. Garching (SPX) Jun 04, 2004
Clusters of galaxies are very large building blocks of the Universe. These gigantic structures contain hundreds to thousands of galaxies and, less visible but equally interesting, an additional amount of "dark matter" whose origin still defies the astronomers, with a total mass of thousands of millions of millions times the mass of our Sun.

Cassini flies past Saturn moon
The Cassini spacecraft, which is en route to Saturn, has made a close pass of the planet's mysterious moon Phoebe.

Astronomers Detect Molecular Nitrogen Outside Solar System. Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jun 10, 2004
NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite, has for the first time detected molecular nitrogen in interstellar space, giving researchers their first detailed look into how the universe's fifth most-abundant element behaves in an environment outside the Solar System.

May 2004

May 30

Raw Ingredients For Life Detected In Planetary Construction Zones. Washington (SPX) May 27, 2004
NASA has announced new findings from the Spitzer Space Telescope, including the discovery of significant amounts of icy organic materials sprinkled throughout several "planetary construction zones," or dusty planet-forming discs, which circle infant stars.

Milky Way Churning Out New Stars At A Furious Pace. Madison WI (SPX) May 27, 2004
Some of the first data from a new orbiting infrared telescope are revealing that the Milky Way - and by analogy galaxies in general - is making new stars at a much more prolific pace than astronomers imagined.

Loneos Discovers Asteroid With The Smallest Orbit. Flagstaff AZ (SPX) May 24, 2004
The ongoing search for near-Earth asteroids at Lowell Observatory has yielded another interesting object. Designated 2004 JG6, this asteroid was found in the course of LONEOS (the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search) on the evening of May 10 by observer Brian Skiff.

Seven Years To Saturn. Pasadena - May 24, 2004
As Cassini nears its rendezvous with Saturn, new detail in the banded clouds of the planet's atmosphere are becoming visible.

From Under Gran Sasso Mountain, Universe Seems Older. Rome (SPX) May 24, 2004
Some nuclear fusion reactions inside stars occur more slowly than we thought and, as a consequence, stars themselves, as well as galaxies and the entire universe are a bit older than expected.

Chandra Observations Confirm Existence of Dark Energy
NASA recently announced results from the Chandra telescope that offer independent confirmation that three quarters of the universe is made up of dark energy. "Dark energy is perhaps the biggest mystery in physics," says team leader Steve Allen of the University of Cambridge in England. "As such, it is extremely important to make an independent test of its existence and properties."

Titan's Big Future In Plastics. Tucson AZ - May 25, 2004
While the Cassini spacecraft has been flying toward Saturn, chemists on Earth have been making plastic pollution like that raining through the atmosphere of Saturn's moon, Titan.

Dust rocks martian river theory
Signs of water may really be slumping sand. Gullies on Mars that appear to have been carved by flowing water could instead have been created by landslides of dry powdery material, scientists have found.

May 23

Hubble snaps new world
Is this the first photo of a planet beyond our solar system? 14 May 2004.

Sizing up the Universe
Microwave mismatch proves our cosmos is a whopper. 18 May 2004.

Researchers confirm theory that universe in rapid expansion.

Cosmic dark age found in shadows
The earliest structures in the universe may be visible by the shadows they cast in the afterglow of the big bang.

Galaxy cluster X-rays confirm dark energy
Space telescope observations show that 75 per cent of the Universe's energy is in a repulsive form, driving accelerating expansion.

Venus Transit Of Sun Live From The Backyard Or Online. Washington (SPX) May 17, 2004
"There will be no other till the twenty-first century of our era has dawned upon the Earth and the June flowers are blooming in 2004. What will be the state of science ? God only knows." - William Harkness, U.S. Naval Observatory 1882.

Evidence That Asteroids Change Color As They Age. Honolulu (SPX) May 19, 2004
In an article published this week in the journal Nature, a team led by Robert Jedicke of the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy provides convincing evidence that asteroids change color as they age.

Mars Rover Inspects Stone Ejected From Crater. Pasadena (JPL) May 18, 2004
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has begun sampling rocks blasted out from a stadium-sized impact crater the rover is circling, and the very first one may extend our understanding about the region's wet past.

New Mars rock hints at short-lived lakes
The dark rock may be a basaltic sandstone - if confirmed, it would mean that any watery periods in Mars' past were cold and brief.

May 16

How Mars got its rust
The intense heat inside the early Earth was enough to convert a lot of iron oxide into molten metallic iron, which seeped down into the planet to form a huge liquid core. Mars never achieved the temperatures needed for this process simply because it is smaller, they say. This left more iron oxide in the upper layers of the planet, which led to its distinctive russet hue and relatively puny iron core.

Mars’ Deep Faults And Disrupted Crater At Acheron Fossae. Paris (ESA) May 11, 2004
These images were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express of the Acheron Fossae region, an area of intensive tectonic (continental 'plate') activity in the past.

The Universe, Seen Under The Gran Sasso Mountain, Seems To Be Older Than Expected
Some nuclear fusion reactions inside stars occur more slowly than we thought and, as a consequence, stars themselves, as well as galaxies and the entire universe are a bit older than expected.

Shuttle Or Not, Hubble Will Be Saved. Washington (UPI) May 10, 2004
Indications are growing that the aging Hubble Space Telescope will not be allowed to die -- even if the U.S. space shuttle fleet will not be used to save it. More and more, it appears that NASA -- or even an international consortium of some kind -- will deploy a robotic space mission sometime in the next few years to service or repair the telescope.

Two Architectures Chosen for Terrestrial Planet Finder. Pasadena - May 10, 2004
Included in the nation's new vision for space is a plan for NASA to "conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars." To meet this challenge, NASA has chosen to fly two separate missions with distinct and complementary architectures to achieve the goal of the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

XMM-Newton Detects X-Ray 'Solar Cycle' In Distant Star. Paris (ESA) May 10, 2004
For years, astronomers have wondered whether stars similar to the Sun go through periodic cycles of enhanced X-ray activity, like those often causing troubles to telephone and power lines here on Earth.

May 9

Big discovery redraws map of the Milky Way. Paris (AFP) May 05, 2004
A 50-year-old map of the Milky Way will have to be redrawn after Australian astronomers made the astonishing discovery that our spiral galaxy has a huge, outflung arm, New Scientist reports in next Saturday's issue.

First Data From Deep Underground Experiment Narrow Search for Dark Matter. Batavia (SPX) May 04, 2004
With the first data from their underground observatory in Northern Minnesota, scientists of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search have peered with greater sensitivity than ever before into the suspected realm of the WIMPS.

Mars Rover Arrival At Deeper Crater Provides A Tempting Eyeful
Scientists and engineers celebrated when they saw the first pictures NASA's Opportunity sent from the rim of a stadium- sized crater that the rover reached after a six-week trek across martian flatlands. Multiple layers of exposed bedrock line much of the inner slope of the impact crater informally called "Endurance."

Cassini's First Glimpses Of Titan. Boulder (SPX) May 07, 2004
The veils of Saturn's most mysterious moon have begun to lift in Cassini's eagerly awaited, first glimpse of the surface of Titan, a world where scientists believe organic matter rains from hazy skies and seas of liquid hydrocarbons dot a frigid surface.

NASA Genesis Spacecraft On Final Lap Toward Home Pasadena CA (SPX) May 06, 2004
NASA's Genesis spacecraft flew past Earth on Saturday in a loop that puts it on track for home ­ and a dramatic mid-air recovery Sept. 8. The Genesis mission was launched in August of 2001 to capture samples from the storehouse of 99-percent of all the material in our solar system ­ the Sun.

Study May Cast Doubt On Some 1996 Evidence Of Past Life On Mars. Houston TX (SPX) May 06, 2004
The scientific debate over whether a meteorite contains evidence of past life on Mars continues to intensify, with colleagues of the team that announced the possibility in 1996 revealing new findings that may cast doubt on some of that earlier work.

Hubble Captures Bug Nebula. May 3, 2004
The Hubble Space Telescope image of the "Bug Nebula" reveals never-before-seen details of one of the brightest known plantary nebulae.

NASA Technology Enhanced For Use In Private Sector. Moffett Field (SPX) Apr 29, 2004
NASA software created to help scientists search and organize their research documents is now available to the general public to help organize complex computer data.

May 2

NASA Considering Various Hubble Service Options. Washington (UPI) April 26,2004
A review of more than two dozen ideas for robotic servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope has identified several promising concepts that may be pursued by NASA before the end of the year, the space agency's space chief scientist told United Press International.

Scientists Announce Cosmic Ray Theory Breakthrough Los Alamos (SPX) Apr 30, 2004
University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory have proposed a new theory to explain the movement of vast energy fields in giant radio galaxies (GRGs). The theory could be the basis for a whole new understanding of the ways in which cosmic rays - and their signature radio waves - propagate and travel through intergalactic space.

Martian Water Science Early 2004 Mountain View CA - Apr 27, 2004
In part two of our report on NASA's Third Astrobiology Science Conference, we detour to a press conference held separately the last day of the conference that revealed the Gusev landing site of the first MER rover, "Spirit" was at last starting to show evidence of an aqueous past after all. Relating this announcement to specific papers presented at the conference, Bruce Moomaw explains how the story of Mars is getting more complicated with each new mission to Mars.

Expert Predicts Global Climate Change On Jupiter As It's Spots Disappear. San Francisco - Apr 26, 2004
If a University of California, Berkeley, physicist's vision of Jupiter is correct, the giant planet will be in for a major global temperature shift over the next decade as most of its large vortices disappear.

Two Comets Glow In Morning Sky. Los Angeles - Apr 28, 2004
Seven years have passed since Comet Hale-Bopp graced the evening sky in the spring of 1997. Now not just one but two new comets are heading into springtime view -- though they won't come near Hale-Bopp for brightness and grandeur.

Molecular rings could shelter Venus bugs
The idea that microbes live in the planet's clouds is controversial, but scientists can now explain how they might avoid the Sun's damaging UV light.

The Physics Of Extra-Terrestrial Civilizations Moffett Field - Apr 27, 2004
To consider habitable worlds, advanced civilizations, and how to find and classify them, Astrobiology Magazine had the chance to discover from Dr. Michio Kaku that the laws of physics has much to say about such possibilities--at least much more than where you might expect speculation to lead you from our tiny corner of the universe.

An Immersive Planetarium. Houston - Apr 27, 2004
Researchers from the Rice Space Institute, in partnership the Houston Museum of Natural Science, are leading a NASA-funded project to develop portable technology that will allow exciting new "fully immersive" planetarium programs to be shown across the country inside inflatable, classroom-sized domes.

April 2004

April 25

Finding God in the Heavens
Recent discoveries in space can be cause for praise. By Rob Moll

DELTA Mission Heading To ISS With Dutch ESA Astronaut. Paris (ESA) Apr 19, 2004
The DELTA mission, with European Space Agency astronaut André Kuipers, and the ISS Expedition 9 crew lifted off today in the Soyuz TMA-4 spacecraft on flight 8S to the International Space Station. The launch took place from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 09.19 local time (05.19 Central European Time).

Analysis: 'Bounce' rock's cosmic portent.
The main ingredient in Bounce is a volcanic mineral called pyroxene.

'Weird' meteorite may be from Mars moon
The Kaidun meteorite is like no other, including minerals never seen before, but the Red Planet's moon Phobos could provide an explanation.

Researcher Predicts Global Climate Change On Jupiter As Planet's Spots Disappear.

Cometlike Body Vaporized By A Very Young Hot Star. University Park - Apr 21, 2004
Evidence that a cometlike object with a diameter of at least 100 kilometers fell into a massive, very young star has been obtained by a team of astronomers at Penn State using the 9.2-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory in Texas.

Colliding Stars May Form Intermediate Black Holes 
Astronomers have positively identified two types of black holes: the very big, with a mass of millions to billions times that of the sun, and--at least in astronomical terms--the very little, with a mass of about two to 10 suns. But some recent findings point to the existence of intermediate-size black holes equivalent to 100 to 10,000 stellar masses. New research provides insight into how such holes might form.

April 11

New 3-D Map Offer Animated View Of Local Cosmo Stockholm - Apr 07, 2004
For the first time, we now have a three-dimensional map of our closest cosmic neighbourhood which shows not only how our nearest neighbour stars are distributed today - it also shows precisely how fast each of them moves, and in which direction.

Two Storms Caught In The Act On Saturn
Three months before arrival at Saturn , the Cassini spacecraft caught two storms in the act of merging into one larger storm. This is only the second time this phenomenon has been observed on the ringed planet.

Titan Casts Revealing Shadow. Cambridge MA - Apr 06, 2004
A rare celestial event was captured by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory as Titan -- Saturn's largest moon and the only moon in the Solar System with a thick atmosphere -- crossed in front of the X-ray bright Crab Nebula. The X-ray shadow cast by Titan allowed astronomers to make the first X-ray measurement of the extent of its atmosphere.

The star-formation history of the Universe from the stellar populations of nearby galaxies 

April 4

Quasar Studies Keep Fundamental Physical Constant -  Constant. Paris - Apr 01, 2004
New studies, conducted using the UVES spectrograph on Kueyen, one of the 8.2-m telescopes of ESO's Very Large Telescope array at Paranal (Chile), secured new data with unprecedented quality. These data, combined with a very careful analysis, have provided the strongest astronomical constraints to date on the possible variation of the fine structure constant. They show that, contrary to previous claims, no evidence exist for assuming a time variation of this fundamental constant.

NASA Goes Hypersonic In X-43a Test. Dulles - Mar 29, 2004
Orbital Sciences Corporation announced today that its Hyper-X Launch Vehicle was successfully launched on Saturday, March 27 in a flight test that originated from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center located at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The Hyper-X launch vehicle uses a modified first stage rocket motor, originally designed and flight-proven aboard Orbital's Pegasus space launch vehicle, to accelerate NASA's X-43A air-breathing scramjet to seven times the speed of sound.

Methane on Mars. Moffett Field  - Mar 31, 2004
Considered suggestive of life, an atmosphere of methane on another planet is considered one of the four best candidates for detecting habitable conditions using remote sensing and telescope spectrographs.

Spirit Finds Multi-Layer Hints Of Past Water At Mars' Gusev Site. Pasadena - Apr 02, 2004
Clues from a wind-scalloped volcanic rock on Mars investigated by NASA's Spirit rover suggest repeated possible exposures to water inside Gusev Crater, scientists said Thursday.

Hubble's Successor - UK Takes A Leading Role. London - Mar 29, 2004
The Hubble Space Telescope has brought the wonder and spectacle of the Universe into every home. Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) due to be launched in 2011, will have a 6.5 metre diameter mirror - 2.5 times larger than Hubble's - enabling it to produce even sharper and more spectacular images from the farthest depths of the cosmos.

Titanic waves break on Saturn's sludgy moon.

A New Moon for Earth? March 26, 2004
Earth has acquired a "quasi-moon" — an asteroid that will encircle our planet for the next couple of years while it orbits the sun on a horseshoe-shaped path, according to a report to be published on Saturday in New Scientist. The asteroid, 2003 YN17, "is probably a chunk of debris" from an impact between a larger space rock and the surface of the moon, the British weekly said.

Radio Astronomers Lift 'Fog' On Milky Way's Dark Heart; Black Hole Fits Inside Earth's Orbit
Thirty years after astronomers discovered the mysterious object at the exact center of our Milky Way Galaxy, an international team of scientists has finally succeeded in directly measuring the size of that object, which surrounds a black hole nearly four million times more massive than the Sun.

March 2004

March 28

Opportunity Finds Evidence Of Ocean Shoreline. Pasadena - Mar 23, 2004
NASA today released details on news findings on Mars that point to the first strong evidence that a sea once covered part of Mars in the Meridiani Planum area where Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is currently exploring. See also March 23 news conference, Major Mars Finding Via Real Player at  - (60 mins)

Martian Spiral Mystery At Poles Explained. Tucson AZ - Mar 26, 2004
The spiral troughs of Mars' polar ice caps have been called the most enigmatic landforms in the solar system. The deep canyons spiraling out from the Red Planet's North and South poles cover hundreds of miles. No other planet has such structures.

A Star Is Born: Celestial Beacon Sheds New Light On Stellar Nursery. Mauna Kea HI - Mar 25, 2004
A timely discovery by American amateur astronomer Jay McNeil, followed immediately by observations at the Gemini Observatory, has provided a rare glimpse into the slow, yet violent birth of a star about 1,500 light-years away. The resulting findings reveal some of the strongest stellar winds ever detected around an embryonic Sun-like star.

Io's Lava Lakes Like Early Earth? Buffalo - Mar 22, 2004
Investigations into lava lakes on the surface of Io, the intensely volcanic moon that orbits Jupiter, may provide clues to what Earth looked like in its earliest phases, according to researchers at the University at Buffalo and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Spaceguard Redux, Put to Test. Moffett Field - Mar 22, 2004
A small near-Earth asteroid (NEA), discovered Monday night by the NASA-funded LINEAR asteroid survey, made the closest approach to Earth ever recorded. There was no danger of a collision with the Earth during this encounter. Largely as a result of a Congressional mandate, NASA established a "Spaceguard" program with a goal of finding 90 percent of all the near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) larger than 1 kilometer in diameter by the end of 2008.

Galactic Highway Of WIMPs May Solve Cosmic Mystery Yet. Salt Lake City - Mar 23, 2004
Debris from a gobbled-up galaxy could be 'smoking gun' for dark matter WIMPs speeding at 670,000 mph on a "highway" in space may be raining onto Earth – a phenomenon that might prove the existence of "dark matter" that makes up most our galaxy and one-fourth of the universe, says a study co-authored by a University of Utah physicist. See  also Dark matter could be light.

Lunar Mountain With Permanent Sun Good Site For Base. Houston (UPI) March 19, 2004
Scientists have discovered a mountain on the moon where the sun never sets, which might become the site of a U.S. moonbase.

Living Off The "Land" Critical To Long Term Moon, Mars Habitation. Huntsville AL - Mar 24, 2004
Sludge. That's what most people think of when they envision the gray, powdery soil — called regolith — covering the airless surface of the Moon. Not Dr. Mike Duke. He sees gold.

Moon And Planets Gather Round. Huntsville - Mar 22, 2004
Every few years or so, something wonderful happens: all five naked-eye planets appear in the evening sky at the same time. You can walk outside after dinner, and without any kind of telescope, see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter.

March 21

Mystery of far-out planetoid deepens
Full details of the discovery suggest it may be the first ever sighting of an object orbiting in the remote Oort Cloud.  Nicknamed Sedna, for an Inuit goddess of the sea, the object lies three times as far from the Sun as Pluto and appears to be about three-quarters Pluto's size.

Blueberries' secret solves Mars mystery.
The Mars rover Opportunity has now solved the key puzzle it was sent to the Meridiani Planum to figure out: where is the hematite that was spotted in the area by the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter? The answer is in the "blueberries", the tiny mineral spheres that litter the rover's landing site. The question was a key one, because hematite almost always forms in water, and water is thought to be a pre-requisite for life.

Martian Moons Block Sun In Unique Eclipse Images From Another Planet. Pasadena - Mar 17, 2004
This image shows the transit of Mars' moon Phobos across the Sun. The images were taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on the morning of the 45th martian day, or sol, of its mission. This observation will help refine our knowledge of the orbit and position of Phobos.

"Vast" Reserves Of Frozen Water On Mars Pole: Study. Paris (AFP) Mar 17, 2004
Mars holds huge reserves of frozen water in its southern pole, according to the first detailed assessment of the data sent back by Europe's Mars Express spacecraft earlier this year.

Hubble image kicks off astronomy race
Researchers rush to translate image of early Universe. 10 March 2004.

Probing Europa Ice Will Take A New Class Of Plantary Exploration Tools Bremerhaven (UPI) March 15, 2004
Researchers in Germany are testing a probe that could melt through Europa's ice sheet to analyze the water below for microbial life.

March 14

Volcanic Rock In Mars' Gusev Crater Hints At Past Water. Pasadena - Mar 05, 2004
NASA's Spirit has found hints of a water history in a rock at Mars' Gusev Crater, but it is a very different type of rock than those in which NASA's Opportunity found clues to a wet past on the opposite side of the planet.

A NASA snow job, or just a lot of flakes?
Mars images reveal oddities - on Earth.  Forget about ancient traces of water on Mars. There's a little white bunny up there. And stone tools. And dinosaur fossils. Plants, art, even letters of the alphabet.

The Art Of Deep Space. Baltimore - Mar 08, 2004
"Starry Night", Vincent van Gogh's famous painting, is renowned for its bold whorls of light sweeping across a raging night sky. Although this image of the heavens came only from the artist's restless imagination, a new picture from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope bears remarkable similarities to the van Gogh work, complete with never-before-seen spirals of dust swirling across trillions of kilometres of interstellar space.

VLT Smashes the Record of the Farthest Known Galaxy. Paris - Mar 08, 2004
Using the ISAAC near-infrared instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope, and the magnification effect of a gravitational lens, a team of French and Swiss astronomers has found several faint galaxies believed to be the most remote known.

Hubble Looks Ultra Deep And Finds 10,000 Galaxies! Baltimore - Mar 09, 2004
Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute today unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), the million-second-long exposure reveals the first galaxies to emerge from the so-called "dark ages," the time shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dark universe. The new image should offer new insights into what types of objects reheated the universe long ago.

Enigmatic X-Ray Sources May Point To New Class Of Black Holes. Boston - Mar 08, 2004
Mysterious, powerful X-ray sources found in nearby galaxies may represent a new class of objects, according to data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. These sources, which are not as hot as typical neutron-star or black-hole X-ray sources, could be a large new population of black holes with masses several hundred times that of the sun.

X-Rays From Saturn Pose Puzzles Huntsville - Mar 09, 2004
The first clear detection of X-rays from the giant, gaseous planet Saturn has been made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra's image shows that the X-rays are concentrated near Saturn's equator, a surprising result since Jupiter's X-ray emission is mainly concentrated near the poles. Existing theories cannot easily explain the intensity or distribution of Saturn's X-rays.

Silicate Stardust Found In A Meteorite St. Louis  - Mar 08, 2004
Ann Nguyen chose a risky project for her graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis. A university team had already sifted through 100,000 grains from a meteorite to look for a particular type of stardust -- without success.

Messenger Ships To The Cape Laurel - Mar 10, 2004
NASA's Messenger spacecraft left home in Maryland today for Cape Canaveral, Fla., site of its scheduled May 11 launch toward Mercury and the first study of that planet from orbit.

German Real Estate Investors Tell Bush To Keep Off Our Moon Rock Berlin (AFP) Mar 11, 2004
More than 60 worried owners of lunar real estate have written to the White House warning Bush not to let astronauts soil their property. The "land parcels" were bought from Dennis Hope, a US entrepreneur who claims he secured legal ownership of the moon and most other bodies in the solar system 20 years ago by exploiting a loophole in the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty.

Did Comet Trigger Great Chicago Fire?  March 5, 2004
Perhaps it was not Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern that sparked the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed the downtown area and claimed 300 lives. New research lends credence to an alternative explanation: The fire, along with less-publicized and even more deadly blazes the same night in upstate Wisconsin and Michigan, was the result of a comet fragment crashing into Earth's atmosphere.

NASA Creates Portrait Of Life And Death In The Universe.
In a small galaxy lies a luminous cloud of gas and dust, called a nebula, which houses a family of newborn stars. If not for the death of a massive star millions of years ago, this stellar nursery never would have formed.

Enigma Of Uranus Solved At Last Paris (AFP) - Mar 10, 2004
Uranus has puzzled scientists ever since the probe Voyager 2 did a flyby in 1986 and found that its magnetic field appeared to break the planetary rulebook. The evidence from Earth, Jupiter and Saturn determined that a planet's magnetic field should be like that of a bar magnet, with a north and south pole that runs roughly along the sphere's rotational axis.

March 7

Opportunity Rover Finds Strong Evidence Meridiani Planum Was Wet. Washington - Mar 02, 2004
Scientists have concluded the part of Mars that NASA's Opportunity rover is exploring was soaking wet in the past. Evidence the rover found in a rock outcrop led scientists to the conclusion. Clues from the rocks' composition, such as the presence of sulfates, and the rocks' physical appearance, such as niches where crystals grew, helped make the case for a watery history. For NASA press conference see

Astrophysicists Use Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics. Livermore - Feb 27, 2004
For the first time, scientists from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore, in conjunction with astrophysicists from the California Institute of Technology, UC Santa Cruz, the National Science Foundation's Center for Adaptive Optics and UC's Lick Observatory, have observed that distant larger stars formed in flattened accretion disks just like the sun.

Baby Star With Dust Disk Found 33 Light Years Away. Berkeley - Mar 01, 2004
Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered the nearest and youngest star with a visible disk of dust that may be a nursery for planets. See also Nearby Star Is Surrounded by Stuff of Planets.

Lunar Convoys As An Option For A Return To The Moon. Madison - Feb 24, 2004
The scientific community now believes there is water on the Moon. To some, this suggests a grand opportunity, and so it can be. However, the Moon's water, if there, is thought to be located near the poles, in deep, permanently-shadowed craters, as ice that is possibly buried, or at least mixed with lunar regolith writes William H. Knuth.

Ariane 5 Launches Rosetta On 10 Year Journey To Comet Landing. Paris (AFP) Mar 02, 2004
A European rocket lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, Friday at the start of a 10-year mission to explore a comet, one of the most ambitious and costliest projects in the history of space exploration, a live television feed from the launch base showed.

Saturn Ring Spokes Appear To Be Gone Since Voyager Flyby. Moffett Field - Mar 01, 2004
Cassini's approach to Saturn has begun. The Cassini image team has noted that new details in the atmosphere and rings are becoming visible, and scientists are already puzzling over the noticeable absence of the ghostly spoke-like dark markings in the rings first discovered during Voyager's approach to the planet 23 years ago.

February 2004

February 29

Astronomers Find Nearest, Youngest Star With Dusty Debris Disk. But Are There Planets?
Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered the nearest and youngest star with a visible disk of dust that may be a nursery for planets.

Earth sows its seeds in space
Life could be leaking out all over the cosmos. 23 February 2004.

Latest Kuiper Belt Object Could Be Biggest Yet. Pasadena - Feb 24, 2004
Planetary scientists at the California Institute of Technology and Yale University on Tuesday night discovered a new planetoid in the outer fringes of the solar system. The planetoid, currently known only as 2004 DW, could be even larger than Quaoar--the current record holder in the area known as the Kuiper Belt--and is some 4.4 billion miles from Earth.

Was Einstein Right After All. Baltimore - Feb 24, 2004
The good news from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is that Einstein was right--maybe. A strange form of energy called "dark energy" is looking a little more like the repulsive force that Einstein theorized in an attempt to balance the universe against its own gravity. Even if Einstein turns out to be wrong, the universe's dark energy probably won't destroy the universe any sooner than about 30 billion years from now, say Hubble researchers.

Spirit Rover On Its Way To Mars Crater. Washington (AFP) Feb 26, 2004
The Mars rover Spirit will go on a two-week trip through rocky terrain to reach the border of a crater named Bonneville, NASA announced Thursday. The crater is 150 meters (492 feet) long and about 15 meters (49 feet) deep and offers a window into Mars' geology, said Ray Arvidson, assistant chief of scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Interplanetary Dust Anomalies Help Explain History of Organic Matter. Livermore - Feb 27, 2004
Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Washington University have seen carbon and nitrogen anomalies on a particle of interplanetary dust that provides a clue as to how interstellar organic matter was incorporated into the solar system.

Carbon Found To Be Older Than The Solar System

Scientists Watch 'Movie' Of Neutron Star Explosion In Real-time.
Scientists at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) and NASA have captured unprecedented details of the swirling flow of gas hovering just a few miles from the surface of a neutron star, itself a sphere only about ten miles across.

February 22

Keck And Hubble Team Up To Find Farthest Known Galaxy In The Universe. Kamuela - Feb 16, 2004
A team of astronomers may have discovered the most distant galaxy in the universe. Located an estimated 13 billion light-years away, the object is being viewed at a time only 750 million years after the big bang, when the universe was barely 5 percent of its current age.

Most Distant Quasars Probe End Of Cosmic Dark Ages. Tucson - Feb 16, 2004
The most distant known quasars show that some supermassive black holes formed when the universe was merely 6 percent of its current age, or about 700 million years after the big bang. How black holes of several billion solar masses formed so rapidly in the very early universe is one mystery raised by astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). They have discovered 13 of the oldest, most distant quasars yet found.

Titan Is Ideal Lab For Oceanography, Meteorology. Tucson - Feb 16, 2004
After a 7-year interplanetary voyage, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will reach Saturn this July and begin what promises to be one of the most exciting missions in planetary exploration history. After years of work, scientists have just completed plans for Cassini's observations of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

Ulysses Catches Another Comet. Paris (ESA) Feb 13, 2004
Ulysses is not normally associated with the study of comets. Nonetheless, the European-built space probe demonstrated its ability as a "comet catcher" when it crossed the distant tail of comet Hyakutake (C/1996 B2) in 1996.

Moon-sized crystal revealed in star's heart
Although made partly of carbon, the crystal is unlike any known on Earth - but it may help improve estimates of the age of our galaxy.

Hubble Supernova 1987A Has Another Burst. Baltimore - Feb 20, 2004
Since its launch in 1990, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has watched a celestial drama unfold at a stellar demolition site. A shock wave unleashed during a stellar explosion, called Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A), has been racing toward a ring of matter encircling the blast site. Astronomers used Hubble to monitor the ring for signs of the impending bombardment.

Martian 'pebbles' don't prove watery past
NASA probe could be walking on broken glass. 10 February 2004

Opportunity Examines Trench As Spirit Prepares To Dig One. Pasadena - Feb 20, 2004
By inspecting the sides and floor of a hole it dug on Mars, NASA's Opportunity rover is finding some things it did not see beforehand, including round pebbles that are shiny and soil so fine-grained that the rover's microscope can't make out individual particles.

February 15

Healthy Spirit Cleans A Mars Rock; Opportunity Rolls. Pasadena (JPL) Feb 06, 2004
NASA's Spirit has returned to full health and resumed doing things never attempted on Mars before. "Our patient is healed, and we're very excited about that," said Jennifer Trosper of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., mission manager for Spirit.

Gravitational Lens Reveals Heart Of A Distant Galaxy. Boston - Feb 11, 2004
Many examples are known where a galaxy acts as a gravitational lens, producing multiple images on the sky of a more distant object like a bright quasar hidden behind it. But there has been a persistent mystery for over 20 years: Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts there should be an odd number of images, yet almost all observed lenses have only 2 or 4 known images.

Counting Atoms That Aren't There, In Stars That No Longer Exist. Argonne - Feb 06, 2004
Argonne scientists, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Chicago, Washington University and the Universita di Torino in Italy, examined stardust from a meteorite and found remnants of now-extinct technetium atoms made in stars long ago.

Supernova Blast Brings Forth Star Birth In Nearby Galaxy. Baltimore - Feb 09, 2004
The nearby dwarf galaxy NGC 1569 is a hotbed of vigorous star birth activity which blows huge bubbles that riddle the main body of the galaxy. The galaxy's "star factories" are also manufacturing brilliant blue star clusters. This galaxy had a sudden and relatively recent onset of star birth about 25 million years ago, which subsided about the time the very earliest human ancestors appeared on Earth.

Galactic Building Blocks Seen Swarming Around Andromeda.

An Abrasive Collision Gives One Galaxy A "Black Eye" Baltimore - Feb 09, 2004
A collision of two galaxies has left a merged star system with an unusual appearance as well as bizarre internal motions. Messier 64 (M64) has a spectacular dark band of absorbing dust in front of the galaxy's bright nucleus, giving rise to its nicknames of the "Black Eye" or "Evil Eye" galaxy.

The universe is riddled with inexplicable forces. Something strange is tearing space apart. Something unknown holds spinning galaxies together. And at the beginning of time something made the whole cosmos go bang. Cosmologists call these three somethings dark energy, dark matter and inflation, and to a large extent they are all abiding mysteries. But recently, while exploring Einstein’s equations of relativity, a group of physicists noticed something peculiar: all three forces could be one and the same. Their theory claims they all stem from one omnipresent fluid called the ghost condensate. See latest issue of the New Scientist.

"Heavy Metal" Snow On Blazing Venus Is Lead Sulfide. St. Louis - Feb 11, 2004
Lead sulfide — also known by its mineral name, galena — is a naturally occurring mineral found in Missouri, other parts of the world, and now. . .other parts of the solar system. That's because recent thermodynamic calculations by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis provide plausible evidence that "heavy metal snow," which blankets the surface of upper altitude Venusian rocks, is composed of both lead and bismuth sulfides.

Comets Spread Earth-Life Around Galaxy, Say Scientists. Cardiff - Feb 11, 2004
If comets hitting the Earth could cause ecological disasters, including extinctions of species and climate change, they could also disperse Earth-life to the most distant parts of the Galaxy.

Life could be tough on acid Europa
Far from being a haven of ice and water and an ideal spot for the search for alien life, Jupiter's moon may be a corrosive hotbed of acid and peroxide.

February 8

Hubble Finds Oxygen, Carbon In Faraway Planet's Atmosphere. Washington (AFP) Feb 03, 2004
The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the first planet outside the solar system known to have oxygen and carbon in its atmosphere, scientists said Monday. The findings showed that scientists can identify gases in the atmosphere of planets lightyears away from Earth, which could eventually allow researchers to find a planet with an atmosphere that could sustain life.

NASA Gets New Funds For Space Shuttles And Moon Mission. Washington (AFP) Feb 03, 2004
The new US public budget unveiled Monday gives a big boost to spending on efforts to get the US shuttle back in space and to start moves to get manned missions to the moon and Mars. Funding for NASA in fiscal 2005 will rise by 5.6 percent to $16.2 billion. The $866 million increase for the year starting October 1 comes after a decade of stagnation for the space program. Most other government departments saw funding fall.

Planet gets solar hammering
Astronomers propose new planet category for dying gas giants. 4 February 2004

Mars Rover Opportunity Sees Tiny Spheres In Martian Soil.
NASA's Opportunity has examined its first patch of soil in the small crater where the rover landed on Mars and found strikingly spherical pebbles among the mix of particles there.

February 1

NASA scientists awed by new Mars images. Pasadena (AFP) Jan 26, 2004
NASA scientists said they hit a "scientific jackpot" Sunday as Opportunity, the second of two roving US Mars probes, transmitted astonishing images from the planet's surface. The 820-million-dollar mission's scientific director, Steve Squyres, was left gasping for words as Opportunity sent back to Earth pictures of what he described as an "alien landscape."

Layered rocks tantalize Mars scientists
New images suggest rocks dead ahead of the rover Opportunity are sedimentary - that could prove the planet once had lakes or oceans.

SwRI Goes Suborbital In Search Of Mercury And The "Vulcanoids" Boulder - Jan 27, 2004
A new major scientific payload flew in space last week after launching aboard a NASA suborbital Black Brant rocket. The payload, consisting of a telescope/spectrometer combination and an image-intensified imaging system, successfully explored the ultraviolet spectrum of the planet Mercury and also searched for the long-sought belt of small bodies called Vulcanoids that may lie even closer to the Sun than Mercury. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) provided the payload and is responsible for data analysis.

A Colorful Life In The Outer Planets. Baltimore - Jan 27, 2004
Atmospheric features on Uranus and Neptune are revealed in images taken with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. A wider view of Uranus reveals the planet's faint rings and several of its satellites. The observations were taken in August 2003.

Rosetta A New Target To Solve Planetary Mysteries. Paris - Jan 27, 2004
Rosetta is scheduled to be launched on board an Ariane-5 rocket on 26 February from Kourou, French Guiana. Originally timed to begin about a year ago, Rosetta's journey had to be postponed, as a precaution, following the failure of a different version of Ariane-5 in December 2002.

Four Keys to Cosmology
In what is widely regarded as the most important scientific discovery of 1998, researchers turned their telescopes to measure the rate at which cosmic expansion was decelerating and instead saw that it was accelerating. They have been gripping the steering wheel very tightly ever since. As deeply mysterious as acceleration is, if you just accept it without trying to fathom its cause, it solves all kinds of problems. Before 1998, cosmologists had been troubled by discrepancies in the age, density and clumpiness of the universe. Acceleration made everything click together. It is one of the conceptual keys, along with other high-precision observations and innovative theories, that have unlocked the next level of the big bang theory.

January 2004

January 25

Opportunity Bounces Down On Mars. Pasadena - Jan 25, 2004
Opportunity, the second of two US robotics rovers sent to explore the surface of Mars, was working normally early Sunday after a successful landing Saturday night at 9:05pm PST (0505 GMT) in an area known as Meridiani Planum.

Spirit Beeps It's Alive And "Commandable": NASA Official. Pasadena - Jan 22, 2004
NASA officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have confirmed that the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has responded to an emergency command this morning by sending back a radio beep -- an event which had been stated as a possibility, but not a certainty, at the end of this morning's JPL press conference. "This means it's commandable," a JPL spokeswoman told SpaceDaily. The command was tailored to the assumption that the rover's onboard computer is currently in a "fault mode", and the beep confirms that it has detected a serious fault, either in the hardware or the software. The fact that the rover responded at all, however, is encouraging. (this file will be updated until the rover is fully recovered).

Stormy Cloud Of Star Birth Glows In New Spitzer Image.
A dusty stellar nursery shines brightly in a new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility. Spitzer's heat-sensing "infrared eyes" have pierced the veiled core of the Tarantula Nebula to provide an unprecedented peek at massive newborn stars.

Stardust Pelted In Surprise Burst Of Bigger Dust. Huntsville - Jan 19, 2004
On Jan. 2nd, 2004, NASA's Stardust spacecraft approached Comet Wild 2 and flew into a storm. Flurries of comet dust pelted the craft. At least half a dozen grains moving faster than bullets penetrated Stardust's outermost defenses. The craft's 16 rocket engines struggled to maintain course while a collector, about the size of a tennis racquet, caught some of the dust for return to Earth two years hence.

Squirty Star Imitates Black Hole. Canberra - Jan 19, 2004
Scientists using CSIRO's Australia Telescope Compact Array, a radio synthesis telescope in New South Wales, Australia, have seen a neutron star spitting out a jet of matter at very close to the speed of light. This is the first time such a fast jet has been seen from anything other than a black hole.

Cassini/Huygens Closing In On The Lord Of The Rings. Paris - Jan 21, 2004
This time next year, ESA's Huygens spaceprobe will be descending through the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, becoming the first spacecraft to land on a body in the outer Solar System.

A distance of 133–137 parsecs to the Pleiades star cluster Nature Januaruy 22, 2004 p.326 XIAOPEI PAN, M. SHAO & S. R. KULKARNI.

January 18

See the latest from mars highlights on video.

Star twins
The first double-team of pulsars may reveal secrets of gravity. Astronomers have realized that a rare set of double stars is made up of two pulsars1. This unique discovery will allow them to test Einstein's theory of relativity in novel ways, and to better understand the energy beams that pulsars generate. Nature, 9 January 2004.

Is Gusev Crater The Site Of An Ancient Martian Lake? Pasadena - Jan 09, 2004
Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Spirit rover to determine water levels at the landing site may not have a final answer for several more weeks, but today they announced that they had uncovered one tantalizing clue. "We came [to Gusev] looking for carbonates," said Phil Christensen, payload instrument lead for Spirit's mini-thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-TES). "And we have found carbonates." They are present, however, in only trace amounts - 1 to 2 percent of the surface soil.

APS X-rays Reveal Secrets Of The Martian Core. Argonne - Jan 12, 2004
While astronomers peer at the surface of Mars, now making its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, scientists are learning the secrets of its deep interior using the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne.

Stellar Storm Points To First Exo-Planet Magnetic Field. Vancouver - Jan 12, 2004
Canadian astronomers announced today the first evidence of a magnetic field on a planet outside of our solar system which is also the first observation of a planet heating its star.

Astrobiologist Helps NASA Search For Life On Other Planets. Tucson - Jan 12, 2004
One of the tough parts about finding life on other planets is knowing where to look. A University of Arizona researcher has made a list of 17,000 stars that might be orbited by habitable planets. Starting in 2015, NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) will look at the top 30 stars from her list.

January 11

Mars Horizon - NASA

Mars Rover Spirit. See the latest photos at

NASA Spacecraft Makes Great Catch..Heads for Touchdown. Pasadena - Jan 05, 2004
Team Stardust, NASA's first dedicated sample return mission to a comet, passed a huge milestone Friday by successfully navigating through the particle and gas-laden coma around comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt-2").

Movie Offers Insights In To Workings of Mysterious Microquasars. Socorro - Jan 07, 2004
Astronomers have made a 42-day movie showing unprecedented detail of the inner workings of a strange star system that has puzzled scientists for more than two decades. Their work is providing new insights that are changing scientists' understanding of the enigmatic stellar pairs known as microquasars.

Suns Of All Ages Possess Comets, Maybe Planets. Atlanta - Jan 07, 2004
In early 2003, Comet Kudo-Fujikawa (C/2002 X5) zipped past the Sun at a distance half that of Mercury's orbit. Astronomers Matthew Povich and John Raymond (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and colleagues studied Kudo-Fujikawa during its close passage. Today at the 203rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Atlanta, they announced that they observed the comet puffing out huge amounts of carbon, one of the key elements for life. The comet also emitted large amounts of water vapor as the Sun's heat baked its outer surface.

Magnetars, The Most Magnetic Stars Known, More Common Than Previously Thought.
Observations of explosions from an ultra-powerful magnetic neutron star playing hide-and-seek with astronomers suggest that these exotic objects called magnetars -- capable of stripping a credit card clean 100,000 miles away -- are far more common than previously thought.

Astronomers See Era Of Rapid Galaxy Formation; New Findings Pose A Challenge For Cold Dark Matter Theory.
"The universe is always more complicated than our cosmological theories would have it," says Nigel Sharp, program officer for extra-galactic astronomy and cosmology at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Witness a collection of new and recently announced discoveries that, taken together, suggest a considerably more active and fastmoving epoch of galaxy formation in the early universe than prevailing theories had called for.

Chandra Locates Mother Lode Of Planetary Ore In Colliding Galaxies.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered rich deposits of neon, magnesium, and silicon in a pair of colliding galaxies known as The Antennae. When the clouds in which these elements are present cool, an exceptionally high number of stars with planets should form. These results may foreshadow the fate of the Milky Way and its future collision with the Andromeda Galaxy.

Old Equation May Shed New Light On Planet Formation.
New work with an old equation may help scientists calculate the thickness of ice covering the oceans on Jupiter's moon Europa and ultimately provide insight into planet formation. Planetary bodies, such as the Earth and its moon, exert such gravitational force on one another that tides occur, not just in the oceans, but also in bodies of the planets themselves. The surfaces of planets actually rise and fall slightly as they orbit one another.

Bush Could Announce New Manned Space Missions To Moon And Mars. Washington (AFP) Jan 09, 2004
President George W. Bush is ready to announce new goals for the US space program next week, that could include manned missions to the Moon and beyond, US government officials said late Thursday.

January 4

NASA rover lands safely on red planet.
See Spirit's first images | Panorama

An Odyssey of Mars Science: Part 2. Sacramento - Dec 30, 2003
The discovery by Mars Odyssey which has most captured the public's imagination by far is the finding by its "GRS" experiment -- which includes both gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers -- that Mars does indeed have a massive reservoir of water ice near its surface in the polar regions writes Bruce Moomaw.

Visual "Mirages" Probe Distribution Of Dark Matter. Princeton - Dec 22, 2003
Sloan Digital Sky Survey scientists have discovered a gravitationally lensed quasar with the largest separation ever recorded, and, contrary to expectations, found that four of the most distant, most luminous quasars known are not gravitationally lensed.

The Milky Way's New Nearest Neighbor
The Milky Way is colliding with and swallowing up a newly identified galaxy — which is now our galaxy's new nearest neighbor.

Ancient Astronomy
Science radio programs.