mknewman writes: Scientists say a $2 billion antimatter-hunting experiment on the International Space Station has detected its first hints of dark matter, the mysterious stuff that makes up almost a quarter of the universe.
The evidence from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, revealed Wednesday at Europe's CERN particle physics lab, is based on an excess in the cosmic production of anti-electrons, also known as positrons. The AMS research team can't yet completely rule out other explanations for the bump, but the fresh findings provide the best clues yet as to the nature of dark matter.
mknewman writes: "The U.S. government's secret space program has decided to give NASA two telescopes as big as, and even more powerful than, the Hubble Space Telescope. Designed for surveillance, the telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office were no longer needed for spy missions and can now be used to study the heavens. They have 2.4-meter (7.9 feet) mirrors, just like the Hubble. They also have an additional feature that the civilian space telescopes lack: A maneuverable secondary mirror that makes it possible to obtain more focused images. These telescopes will have 100 times the resolving power of the Hubble, according to David Spergel, a Princeton astrophysicist and co-chair of the National Academies advisory panel on astronomy and astrophysics."
mknewman writes: The European Space Agency reported Wednesday that a ground station in Australia has re-established contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe, two weeks after a mysterious post-launch glitch.
On Tuesday, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia's deputy space chief, Vitaly Davydov, as saying that "chances to accomplish the mission are very slim." Then ESA said its tracking station in Perth, Australia, made contact with the probe late Tuesday (20:25 GMT, or 3:25 p.m. ET).
"ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia to determine how best to maintain communication with the spacecraft," the agency reported on its website Wednesday.
mknewman writes: A distant galaxy with stars that began forming just 200 million years after the big bang has been discovered. The finding addresses questions about when the first galaxies arose and how early the universe evolved, scientists report.
The galaxy was spotted with the Hubble Space Telescope. It is visible through a cluster of galaxies called Abell 383, whose powerful gravity bends the rays of light like a magnifying glass. The so-called gravitational lens amplifies light from the distant galaxy, making it appear 11 times brighter and allowing detailed observations.
Infrared data from Hubble and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope show the galaxy's stars formed when the universe was 200 million years old. Observations with the W.M. Keck Observatory on Muna Kea in Hawaii revealed the observed light from the galaxy dates to when the universe was 950 million years old. The universe formed about 13.7 billion years ago.
mknewman writes: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane took to the air for the first time this morning from California's Mojave Air and Space Port.
The craft, which has been christened the VSS Enterprise, remained firmly attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane throughout the nearly three-hour test flight. It will take many months of further tests before SpaceShipTwo actually goes into outer space. Nevertheless, today's outing marks an important milestone along a path that could take paying passengers to the final frontier as early as 2011 or 2012.