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November 2005

November 9

Next Stop Venus: Europe's Express Probe Launches Toward Earth's 'Twin'
A European probe is bound for the planet Venus on a mission to peel back the shroud of the planet’s thick atmosphere after successfully launching into space atop a Russian rocket.

Two New Moons Discovered Orbiting Pluto
Scientists have discovered two new moons circling Pluto, an ice-shrouded chunk of rock that will soon lose its status as the only unexplored planet in the solar system. A NASA spacecraft called New Horizons is being prepared for launch to Pluto in January.

Infrared Glow of First Stars Found
When NASA's infrared Spitzer Space Telescope snapped pictures of a distant quasar in the Draco constellation in October 2003, the photo shoot was only intended to calibrate the instrument. Those images, however, just may have provided a glimpse of the very first stars in the universe.

Lichen Survives In Space
Leopoldo Sancho from the Complutense University of Madrid, indicate that lichens have the capacity to resist full exposure to the harsh space conditions, especially high levels of UV radiation. Analysis post flight showed a full rate of survival and an unchanged ability for photosynthesis.

Ripples in a Galactic Pond
The beautiful shapes of galaxies are essential consequences of their growth and development. By Françoise Combes.

How Do Massive Stars Form?

Chinese Company Closed For Selling Land On The Moon Beijing (AFP) Nov 07, 2005
A Chinese company has had its license suspended after it tried to make money by selling land on the moon, state media reported Monday.

Take a Virtual Trip to the Moon.

September 2005

September 20

Dark matter highlights extra dimensions
Three new 'directions' could explain astronomical puzzle.

Comet Impact Unearths More Questions
Among the surprising results, which are detailed in this week's issue of the journal Science, is the first evidence that comets may hold more than remnants of the solar system's formation. Tempel 1, at least, shows a geologic history, with what looks like impact craters on its surface, as well as layers of rock, origin unknown.

Space 2005
More than a thousand of the biggest movers and shakers in spaceflight have gathered in Long Beach, California, to discuss how to get back to the Moon, defend space and replace NASA's shuttle.

Dragon Storms And Tiger Stripes: Scientists Stunned By New Saturn Data Cambridge, England (AFP) Sep 05 2005
New data sent back by the Cassini space probe has left scientists beguiled by Saturn's seething clouds of gas, the beauty and unexpected turbulence of its rings and the diversity of its moons, a conference heard on Monday.

Asteroids Caused The Early Inner Solar System Cataclysm
"When we derived the projectile sizes from the cratering record using scaling laws, the ancient and more recent projectile sizes matched the ancient and younger asteroid populations smack on," Strom said. "It's an astonishing fit."

NASA Research Finds Green Sand Crystals (Olivine) Are In Comet Tempel 1 

New Mexico's Governor To Announce Launch Of New Commercial Spaceport Hartford CT (SPX) Sep 07, 2005
New Mexico's Governor, Bill Richardson, will announce Wednesday in Santa Fe the inaugural launch in a series of space launches to occur at the State's new Southwest Regional Spaceport.

Aerobot aims for Titan
Robotic plane could survey alien moons or Amazon rain forest.

Cosmic 'cigar' spins at astonishing pace
Pluto's neighbour has a very unexpected shape.

Astronomers spot most distant explosion ever
Ancient burst shines light on junior Universe.

Space cycle makes artificial gravity
Astronauts set to benefit from exercise revolution.

The question of the universe's origins has fascinated people for millennia, and ours is the first generation of humans to have a scientific answer, explains Martin Rees.

August 2005

August 2

Scientists Discover Solar System's Tenth Planet -- Bigger Than Pluto
A planet larger than Pluto has been discovered in the outlying regions of the solar system. The planet was discovered using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif. The planet is a typical member of the Kuiper belt, but its sheer size in relation to the nine known planets means that it can only be classified as a planet. 

Cassini Finds Recent And Unusual Geology On Enceladus
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained new, detailed images of the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The data reveal distinctive geological features and the most youthful terrain seen on the moon. These findings point to a very complex evolutionary history for Saturn's brightest, whitest satellite.

NASA Develops A 'Nugget' To Search For Life In Space
Conceived by scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the Neutron/Gamma ray Geologic Tomography (NUGGET) would be able to generate three-dimensional images of fossils embedded in an outcrop of rock or beneath the soil of Mars or another planet. Tomography uses radiation or sound waves to look inside objects. NUGGET could help determine if primitive forms of life took root on Mars when the planet was awash in water eons ago. 

July 2005

July 20

The triple sunset that should not exist 
Astronomer spies improbable world with three suns.

Deep Impact: sifting through the debris
When Deep Impact's washing-machine-sized probe slammed into comet Tempel 1 on 4 July, teams of astronomers watched using telescopes in space and around the world. Nature investigates what the images tell us so far about the comet's composition and history.

Cassini Zeros In on Saturn's Strange Satellite
Since entering Saturn's orbit on June 30 last year, the Cassini spacecraft has sent back intriguing images of some of the planet's 34 known moons. Newly released pictures from Cassini's first encounter with one such moon, Hyperion, indicate that the irregularly shaped satellite resembles a heap of rubble.

Bizarre boulders litter Saturn moon's icy surface
The Cassini probe has made its closest flyby yet, revealing giant boulders on the snow-white moon Enceladus - but how they got there is a mystery.

Interplanetary Whodunit: Methane On Mars Moffett Field CA (SPX) Jul 21, 2005
Mars is the planet that refuses to say "die." In 1996, after centuries of speculation about canals, icecaps and vegetation, NASA's David McKay reported seeing traces of ancient bacteria in a meteorite from Mars.

Dustiest Star Could Harbor A Young Earth Hilo HI (SPX) Jul 20, 2005
A relatively young star located about 300 light-years away is greatly improving our understanding of the formation of Earth-like planets.

July 6

Deep Impact Collision Provides Comet Clues
In the early hours of July 4, Deep Impact's 820-pound probe collided with the Comet Tempel 1, providing scientists with a celestial show that should garner new insight into the evolution of comets. See also Comet's crater hidden, but plume tells story.

Carina Nebula Dust Pillars Harbor Embedded Stars Boulder CO (SPX) May 31, 2005
Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have imaged a giant molecular cloud being shredded by howling stellar winds and searing radiation, exposing a group of towering dust pillars harboring infant stars, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher.

Ancient Floods On Mars: Where Iani Chaos Opens Into Ares Vallis Paris, France (SPX) Jun 02, 2005
These images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) aboard ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, show a large depression called Iani Chaos and the upper reaches of a large outflow channel called Ares Vallis.

The Many Faces of Mars
One rover found an ancient desert; the other, a once watery world. Mars's diversity rivaled Earth's.

Black holes cannot escape the phantom menace
The big rip - the potential violent death of the universe in which all matter is torn apart - could dissolve black holes like aspirins in a glass of water.

May 2005

May 30

Planetary billiards answer Solar System riddle
Scattering rocks moved planets and battered the Moon.

Monster Super Star Cluster Discovered In Milky Way
European astronomers, including a scientist from Cardiff University, have discovered the largest known star cluster in the Milky Way. The super star cluster known as 'Westerlund 1' is made up of around 200,000 stars - some up to a million times brighter than the sun - and is a thousand times closer than any other, so far discovered.

Solar Wind Originates In Coronal Funnels
The ESA/NASA SOHO spacecraft determines the origin of the fast solar wind flowing from funnel-shaped magnetic fields which are anchored in the lanes of the magnetic network near the surface of the Sun.

First full mosaics of Titan’s surface.

Evidence For Extensive, Olivine-Rich Bedrock On Mars Honolulu HI (SPX) May 30, 2005
By using new, high spatial resolution infrared data from NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft, Victoria Hamilton from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Philip Christensen from Arizona State University have concluded that a region on the surface of Mars known to contain olivine-rich rocks is actually 4 times larger than previously estimated.

Cassini Gradually Revealing Phoebe's Origin Pasadena CA (JPL) May 30, 2005
Data from the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission are providing convincing evidence that Saturn's moon Phoebe was formed elsewhere in the Solar System, and was only later caught by the planet's gravitational pull.

Core Collapse In Carbon/Oxygen Stars May Be Source Of GRBs Berkeley CA (SPX) May 26, 2005
Observations by two of the world's largest telescopes provide strong evidence that a peculiar type of exploding star may be the origin of elusive gamma-ray bursts that have puzzled scientists for more than 30 years.

Preparing For Impact Garching, Germany (SPX) May 31, 2005
On July 4, 2005, the NASA Deep Impact spacecraft will visit Comet 9P/Tempel 1. It will launch a 360 kg impactor that should produce a crater on the surface of the comet and a plume of gas and dust.

May 16

First Extrasolar Planet Photo Claimed May 2, 2005
Astronomers believe they have for the first time taken a picture of a planet in another solar system, European scientists said on Saturday. The planet, known as an exoplanet, is five times bigger and 10 times hotter than the biggest planet in our solar system, Jupiter.

Saturn Moon Phoebe Adopted.
The scientists believe that Phoebe, an odd, small moon of Saturn, was captured by the planet's gravity from the Kuiper Belt, a region beyond Neptune where frozen rubble left over from the formation of the solar system resides. The Kuiper Belt is the birthplace of comets and other icy objects. 

Have we cracked Saturn's walnut?
Its moon Iapetus is darker on one hemisphere and boasts a huge ridge at the equator on that side - the two phenomena may have a single cause.

Cassini Finds New Saturn Moon That Makes Waves Pasadena (JPL) May 11, 2005
In a spectacular kick-off to its first season of prime ring viewing, which began last month, the Cassini spacecraft has confirmed earlier suspicions of an unseen moon hidden in a gap in Saturn's outer A ring.

Swift satellite spies cosmic crash
Massive energy burst supports theory of neutron star collisons.

Stars spotted on the edge of a massive black hole
A group of young stars has been sighted dangerously close to the giant black hole at the centre of our galaxy - the second such group known.

First-Ever Infrared Flash Challenges Notion Of Nature's Biggest Bang Mauna Kea HI (SPX) May 12, 2005
The W. M. Keck Observatory has helped confirm a big discovery by an unassumingly small robotic telescope in Arizona.

Young Sun's X-ray flares may have saved Earth
Titanic flares may create turbulence in the swirling dust discs around young stars, preventing nascent planets from spiralling in to their destruction.

April 2005

April 11

Astronomers Obtain First Image Of Extra-Solar Planet Jena, Germany (SPX) Apr 06, 2005
German astronomers have obtained the first photograph of a planet beyond our solar system.

Era Of Galaxy And Black Hole Growth Spurt Discovered Cambridge, UK (SPX) Apr 07, 2005
Distant galaxies undergoing intense bursts of star formation have been shown by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to be fertile growing grounds for the largest black holes in the Universe.

When The Lights Came On In The Universe

Galaxy Clusters, Near And Far, Have A Lot In Common

From Galaxy Collisions To Star Birth: ISO Finds The Missing Link Paris (ESA) Mar 30, 2005
Data from ISO, the infrared observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA), have provided the first direct evidence that shock waves generated by galaxy collisions excite the gas from which new stars will form.

Old Star's "Rebirth" Gives Astronomers Surprises

Swift Mission Nabs Its First Distance Measurement To Star Explosion University Park PA (SPX) Apr 06, 2005
The NASA-led Swift mission has measured the distance to two gamma-ray bursts - back to back, from opposite parts of the sky - and both were from over nine billion light years away, unleashed billions of years before the Sun and Earth formed.

Clues To Supernova Origin Found In Dusty Stellar Wind London, UK (SPX) Apr 05, 2005
Scientists from Imperial College London have detected a dusty wind emitted by a star that, at the end of its life, turned into a white dwarf and then exploded as a supernova.

Concentrated Dark Matter At The Cores Of Fossil Galaxies Birmingham, UK (SPX) Apr 06, 2005
Researchers at the University of Birmingham have used the new generation of X-ray space observatories to study "fossil galaxies" - ancient galaxy groups in which all of the large galaxies have gradually merged to form one central giant galaxy.

Solving The Mystery Of Solar Flares London, UK (SPX) Apr 06, 2005
An international group of scientists led by the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), University College London, has discovered important new evidence that points to the cataclysmic events that trigger a solar flare and the mechanisms that drive its subsequent evolution.

Case Of Sedna's Missing Moon Solved Cambridge MA (SPX) Apr 06, 2005
When the distant planetoid Sedna was discovered on the outer edges of our solar system, it posed a puzzle to scientists.  Sedna appeared to be spinning very slowly compared to most solar system objects, completing one rotation every 20 days.

Moon Fountains Huntsville AL (SPX) Mar 31, 2005
It's astonishing how prophetic some science fiction has been. Back in 1956, two years before NASA was even created, Hal Clement published a short Sci-Fi story called "Dust Rag", about two astronauts descending into a crater on the Moon to investigate a mysterious haze dimming stars near the lunar horizon.

First "Private" Lunar Mission Succeeded Despite NASA Roadblocks
Tucson AZ (SPX) Apr 04, 2005 - "Lunar Prospector Against All Odds," by Alan Binder, Ph.D., is the highly personal and engaging story of how the Lunar Prospector orbital mapping mission was developed and carried out by the author between late 1989 and 2001.

Ground-Based Telescopes Have An Extremely Large Future London, UK (SPX) Apr 11, 2005
The largest ground-based optical telescopes in use today use mirrors that are 10 m (33 ft) across. But the prospects for future Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs) are looking up.

Lego Biology Moffett Field CA (SPX) Apr 07, 2005
Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at the Ames Research Center, has long been investigating the coldest and driest places on Earth. These harsh environments - and the ability of life to adapt there - could point the way to finding life on Mars.

March 2005

March 29

First Direct Detection Of Light From Extrasolar Planets: NASA's Spitzer Marks Beginning of New Age of Planetary Science Cambridge MA (SPX) Mar 23, 2005
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has for the first time captured the light from two known planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. The findings mark the beginning of a new age of planetary science, in which "extrasolar" planets can be directly measured and compared. See also Light from Extrasolar Planets Detected.

Italian, US Cosmologists Present Explanation For Accelerating Expansion Of The Universe
Why is the universe expanding at an accelerating rate, spreading its contents over ever greater dimensions of space? An original solution to this puzzle, certainly the most fascinating question in modern cosmology.

Astronomers Map Chaotic Galaxy's Magnetic Field
Considering its tumultuous nature, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) exhibits a surprisingly ordered magnetic field, astronomers have discovered. The observations have resulted in the most detailed map yet of another galaxy's magnetism and provide a starting point for determining the magnetism of most of the local universe.

Atmosphere found on Enceladus
Saturn's shiny moon is shown to have a watery shroud.

Stars can only grow so big
Observations of giant star cluster suggest upper limit

ESO Telescopes Uncover Super Star Cluster In The Milky Way La Silla, Chile (SPX) Mar 28, 2005
Super star clusters are groups of hundreds of thousands of very young stars packed into an unbelievably small volume. They represent the most extreme environments in which stars and planets can form.

In The Stars: Omega Centauri Blues Washington (UPI) Mar 28, 2005
The late astronomer Carl Sagan was fond of saying "we are starstuff," referring to the fact that the atoms in our bodies were once cooked up inside an ancient giant star that exploded.

X-Rays Signal Presence Of Elusive Intermediate-Mass Black Hole Ann Arbor MI (SPX) Mar 28, 2005
Peculiar outbursts of X-rays coming from a black hole have provided evidence that it has a mass of about 10,000 Suns, which would place it in a possible new class of black holes.

Born Again Sols Could Bring Life Again To Dying Stellar Systems Washington DC (SPX) Mar 29, 2005
Dying stars may warm previously frozen worlds around them to the point where liquid water temperature exists long enough for life to form, according to a new analysis of the evolution of habitable zones around stars by an international team of astronomers.

Warming Up To A Martian Carcass Moffett Field CA (SPX) Mar 23, 2005
The detection of methane on Mars has generated a lot of speculation about what could possibly be producing it. Is it coming out of active volcanoes?

Hourglass Shaped Craters Filled With Traces Of Glaciers Paris, France (SPX) Mar 20, 2005
This image, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, shows flow features most likely formed by glaciers or "block" glaciers. See also 'Kissing craters' on Mars reveal glacial activity.

Black Holes Could Be 'Perfect,' Low-Viscosity Fluid Seattle WA (SPX) Mar 22, 2005
In three spatial dimensions, it is a close relative of the quark-gluon plasma, the super-hot state of matter that hasn't existed since the tiniest fraction of a second after the big bang that started the universe.

March 8

Seeing The Invisible - First Dark Galaxy Discovered? Manchester, UK (SPX) Feb 24, 2005
A British-led team of astronomers have discovered an object that appears to be an invisible galaxy made almost entirely of dark matter - the first ever detected.

Black Holes In A Radar Trap Garching, Germany (SPX) Feb 25, 2005
European astronomers succeeded for the first time to confirm the signatures predicted near Black Holes by Albert Einstein's theory of Relativity in the light of the cosmic X-ray background.

Black holes bend light the 'wrong' way
Refraction effect may be distorting astronomers' results.

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Continues Making New Discoveries Pasadena CA (JPL) Feb 25, 2005
NASA's Cassini spacecraft continues making new and exciting discoveries. New findings include wandering and rubble-pile moons; new and clumpy Saturn rings; splintering storms and a dynamic magnetosphere.

New images reveal volcanic hotspot on Mars
Pictures from the Mars Express spacecraft suggest recent volcanic activity may have spewed out water and ash - it may be happening still.

In The Stars: Starmaking's Helping Hand Washington (UPI) Mar 03, 2005
Science has come a long way since the days of the clockwork universe, when the stars of the night sky remained fixed in their positions and the objects the Greeks called planets, or "wanderers," followed precise and simple paths across the heavens.

Launch site secured for space tourists.
The race to launch the first commercial passenger spacecraft is gaining pace as one of the Ansari X Prize competitors, AERA Corporation, signed an agreement with the US Air Force on Monday to use the launch services at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is the first space tourism company to do so and claims it may be ready to offer tourist flights as early as 2006.

Genesis capsule reveals solar wind secrets
Particles of solar wind have been successfully extracted from NASA's Genesis space capsule, despite its spectacular crash landing in 2004.

February 2005

February 21

'Pack ice' suggests frozen sea on Mars
An 800-kilometre-wide sea, surviving as broken plates, appears to lie just beneath the surface in observations from the Mars Express spacecraft. The sea is just 5 degrees north of the Martian equator and would be the first discovery of a large body of water outside the planet's polar ice caps.

Misconceptions about the Big Bang
Was it a colossal explosion? Can galaxies recede faster than light? How large is the observable universe? Even astronomers frequently get the answers wrong.

Brightest Explosion Ever Observed Overwhelms Telescopes Southampton, UK (SPX) Feb 18, 2005
Scientists have detected a flash of light from across the Galaxy so powerful that it bounced off the Moon and lit up the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Shuttle Discovery To Launch May 15: NASA Washington (AFP) Feb 19, 2005
NASA will launch space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station in May, and Atlantis will make the flight in July, the US space agency said, firming up plans for the resumption of space shuttle flights more than two years after the Columbia disaster. fullstory at

Saturn's Moons Titan And Enceladus Seen By Cassini Pasadena (JPL) Feb 18, 2005
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has had a busy week, snapping stunning new images of two of Saturn's moons -- smoggy Titan on Feb. 15 and wrinkled Enceladus on Feb. 16.

Planets Galore: 12 New Discoveries Announced Pasadena CA (JPL) Feb 17, 2005
The past four weeks have been heady ones in the planet-finding world: Three teams of astronomers announced the discovery of 12 previously unknown worlds, bringing the total count of planets outside our solar system to 145.

First Critical Parts Of Giant Neutrino Telescope In Place Madison WI (SPX) Feb 16, 2005
Working under harsh Antarctic conditions, an international team of scientists, engineers and technicians has set in place the first critical elements of a massive neutrino telescope at the South Pole.

January 2005

January 23

Lakefront Landing In Creme Brule, Titan Darmstadt, Germany (SPX) Jan 17, 2005
For the first time, humans have gotten a close-up look at Titan, the planet-sized moon. Huygens, scientists say, has landed in soil with the consistency of wet sand or clay.

Mars Rover Finds Metal Meteorite By Irene Mona Klotz, Discovery News. Jan. 20, 2005
Fresh from an inspection of its discarded heat shield, the Mars rover Opportunity scrutinized an odd-looking nearby rock and discovered a meteorite, a finding that is reshaping its science agenda at Meridiani Planum, the lead scientist for the rover mission said Wednesday.

Astronomers Take Revealing Peek At Star Factory Baltimore MD (SPX) Jan 17, 2005
Using NASA's orbiting Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, a team of astronomers from The Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere has taken an unprecedented peek beneath the tunic-clad Orion the Hunter and come away with observations that may lead to enhanced knowledge of how interstellar dust absorbs and scatters ultraviolet starlight.

Organic Molecules Transport Strongest Spectral Signature Of Interplanetary Dust Livermore CA (SPX) Jan 17, 2005
Carbon and silicate grains in interplanetary dust particles are helping scientists solve a 40-year-old astronomical mystery.

Spying On Black-Hole Eating Habits With LISA University Park PA (SPX) Jan 17, 2005
As big fish eat little fish in the Earth's vast oceans, so too do supermassive black holes gorge on smaller black holes and neutron stars, making themselves more massive in the process.

Hungry For More Cambridge MA (SPX) Jan 19, 2005
When a star or another stellar object brilliantly explodes in space, it usually signals the destruction of something. In the case of a blast spotted by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have recorded the most powerful explosion ever seen and they are amazed by what it's created.

First Evidence That Young Low-Mass Objects Are Twice As Heavy As Predicted Tucson AZ (SPX) Jan 20, 2005
Although mass is the most important property of stars, it has proved very hard to measure for the lowest mass objects in the universe. Thanks to a powerful new camera, a very rare, low-mass companion has finally been photographed.

Lunar Colony To Run On Moon Dust London, UK (SPX) Jan 20, 2005
Simulated moon dust has been used to make a key component of a working solar cell, giving an unexpected boost to President George W. Bush's project of setting up a colony on the moon, reports New Scientist.