Setting stars reveal planetary secrets

05 November, 2007

Watching the stars set from the surface of the Earth may be a romantic pastime but when a spacecraft does it from orbit, it can reveal hidden details about a planet’s atmosphere.

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Mars Express probes the Red Planet’s most unusual deposits

01 November, 2007

The radar system on ESA’s Mars Express has uncovered new details about some of the most mysterious deposits on Mars: The Medusae Fossae Formation. It has given the first direct measurement of the depth and electrical properties of these materials, providing new clues about their origin.


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The trouble with supernovae

25 October, 2007

New Scientist issue 2627

“IN NOVEMBER 1572, a dazzling new star appeared in the night sky. It became so bright so quickly that it soon outshone everything except the sun and the moon and could even be seen in daylight.


Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe tracked the star for 16 months. As it slowly faded, the star changed colour from white to yellow then orange and finally faint red.


We now know that what Brahe saw was probably a type Ia supernova, a species of exploding star that, over the past 30 years, has become increasingly important in astrophysics. Because they are all thought to explode with the same brightness, type Ia supernovae are used as "standard candles" to gauge distances across the universe.


But type Ia supernovae are beset with problems. It has become clear that they do not all explode with the same brightness. What's more, though astronomers were once sure they knew...”


The complete article is 1415 words long and is available here
(a subscription is required).

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Chang'e-1 - new mission to Moon lifts off

24 October, 2007

The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) launched a bold new mission to the Moon today. Chang’e-1 blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, Sichuan, atop a Long March 3A rocket.  Chang’e-1 represents the first step in the Chinese ambition to land robotic explorers on the Moon before 2020.


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New isotope molecule may add to Venus’ greenhouse effect

10 October, 2007

Planetary scientists on both sides of the Atlantic have tracked down a rare molecule in the atmospheres of both Mars and Venus. The molecule, an exotic form of carbon dioxide, could affect the way the greenhouse mechanism works on Venus.


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Gamma-ray lighthouse at the edge of our universe

03 October, 2007

There is a gamma-ray lighthouse shining from the edge of our universe. Astronomers have discovered it using ESA’s orbiting gamma-ray observatory, Integral. Now, they must work hard to understand it.


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