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Submission + - Jack Horkheimer, "Star Hustler," Dead at 72 (

jamie writes: "You may know him as the "Star Gazer." Either way, we've lost a proud and passionate advocate for naked-eye astronomy, someone who loved the mysteries of the ever-changing night sky and wanted to share them with as many people as possible. Keep looking up..."

Voyager 2 Set to Reach Termination Shock 308

Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "A computer model simulation developed at UC Riverside has predicted that in late 2007 to early 2008, the interplanetary spacecraft Voyager 2 will cross the termination shock, the spherical shell around the solar system that marks where the solar wind slows down to subsonic speed. At the termination shock, located at 7-8.5 billion miles from the sun, the solar wind is decelerated to less than the speed of sound. The boundary of the termination shock is not fixed, however, but wobbly, fluctuating in both time and distance from the sun, depending on solar activity. Because of this fluctuation, the spacecraft is also predicted to cross the boundary again in middle 2008. The article abstract is available from The Astrophysical Journal."

Earth's Moon is a Rarity 202

Smivs writes "Scientists have concluded that moons like the Earth's are actually quite rare. Only 5-10% of planetary systems are likely to contain moons formed by planetary collisions. 'By the time the Earth's moon formed, when the Sun was 30 million years old, the planet formation process in our Solar System should have been approaching its end. In the latest study, Dr Gorlova's team looked at the heat signature of stars using the infrared. This allows astronomers to predict how much of that heat comes from the star itself and how much is re-emitted by dusty material encircling it.'"

Crater From 1908 Tunguska Blast Found 192

MaineCoasts writes "A team of scientists from the Marine Science Institute in Bologna claims to have found the crater left by the aerial blast of a comet or asteroid in 1908 in the Tunguska region of Siberia. The blast flattened 770 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of forest, but to date no remains or crater have been found. This has left open the question of what kind of object made the impact. The team believes that, contrary to previous studies, nearby Lake Cheko is only one century old and 'If the body was an asteroid, a surviving fragment may be buried beneath the lake. If it was a comet, its chemical signature should be found in the deepest layers of sediments.' The team's findings are based on a 1999 expedition to Tunguska and appeared in the August issue of the journal Terra Nova."

Astronomers Announce 5-Planet System 145

An anonymous reader writes "Astronomers have detected a record-breaking 5th planet orbiting the star 55 Cancri, 41 light years distant. This planet orbits within the 'habitable zone,' where water could presumably exist, but it's probably another gas giant like Saturn, so any liquid water would have to be on a moon. There's still a big gap between this planet and the outermost planet where no planets have been detected yet, so there could yet be a rocky planet in the system. The lead researcher said he's optimistic that 'continued observations will reveal a rocky planet within five years.'"
The Almighty Buck

Space Money Invented For Space Tourists 296

An anonymous reader writes "The foreign exchange company Travelex has invented a unit of currency designed to be used in space commerce, the Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination (QUID). The QUID is made of a space-qualified plastic, with round edges to prevent injuries in zero gravity. One QUID is equivalent to about 6.25 pounds, 12.50 dollars or 8.68 Euros. Of course, space currencies are already a staple of science fiction, with 'credits' being the most popular."

New Sensor Finds Leaks in Spacecraft 115

Roland Piquepaille writes "With financial support from NASA, Iowa State University (ISU) engineers have developed a sensor to quickly find leaks in a spacecraft. This sensor locates an air leak by listening to the noise generated by the air rushing out of the leak and includes an array of 64 elements that detects vibrations as they radiate along the spacecraft. Because astronauts cannot hear the noise caused by escaping air, NASA needed to design a system to help them. As one ISU researcher said, 'NASA wants to be able to find these leaks. Fixing them is easy. But the question is, "Where is the leak?"' Now that this sensor has successfully been tested on the ground, NASA is evaluating a proposal to build a prototype of the leak detection system for future missions.

Northrop Grumman to own Scaled Composites 108

Dolphinzilla writes "According to, Northrop Grumman Corporation agreed on July 5 to increase its stake in Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites (designers of Space Ship One, Proteus) from 40 percent to 100 percent. They have purchased the company outright, marking a new future for the space pioneering firm. 'Scaled Composites currently is working with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic venture on a vehicle designated for now as SpaceShipTwo, which would carry two pilots and six paying passengers into suborbital space for a few minutes of weightlessness. The company also is building a new carrier aircraft, dubbed WhiteKnight2, that will carry SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 15 kilometers before releasing it to soar to suborbital space. The two companies last year formed a joint venture called the Spaceship Company to build the new vehicles.'"

Cassini Probes the Hexagon On Saturn 280

Riding with Robots sends us to a NASA page with photos of a little-understood hexagonal shape surrounding Saturn's north pole. "This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet." This structure was discovered by the Voyager probes over 20 years ago (here's an 18-year-old note on the mystery). The fact that it's still in place means it is stable and long-lived. Scientists have no idea what causes the hexagon. It's nearly big enough to fit four earths inside — comfortably larger than Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The article has an animation of clouds moving within the hexagon captured in infrared light.

SpaceX's Falcon Launches... Sort Of 164

JHarrison writes "Spaceflight Now is running a story on the SpaceX Falcon 1 launch yesterday. Those of you watching the stream will have no doubt noticed the telemetry failure at 04:50, and turns out that was more than them turning the webcast off.. "A year after its maiden flight met a disastrous end, the SpaceX booster lifted off at 9:10 p.m. EDT (0110 GMT Wednesday) from a remote launch pad on Omelek Island, part of a U.S. Army base at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Controllers lost contact with the Falcon during the burn of the second stage that would have placed the rocket into orbit around Earth. "We did encounter, late in the second stage burn, a roll-control anomaly," Elon Musk, founder and chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said in a post-launch call with reporters. Live video from cameras mounted aboard the rocket's second stage showed increasing oscillations about five minutes after liftoff, just before the public webcast was cut off. The rolling prevented the necessary speed to achieve a safe orbit, instead sending the stage on a suborbital trajectory back into the atmosphere.""

Space Elevators Could Be Lethal 428

Maggie McKee writes, "A new study reports that passengers on space elevators of current design could be killed by radiation. Even traveling at 200 kilometers per hour, passengers would spend several days in the Van Allen radiation belts, long enough to kill them." Looks like the elevator scientists will get this one solved before liftoff.

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982