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December 2011
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"Solar Systems Common Across the Milky Way," NASA Probe Hints --Bodes Well for a Habitable Zone 'Super-Earth' Discovery

 

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NASA's Kepler Mission astronomers are looking for environments that make complex chemistry viable --pathways to life in the Universe. Ideal planets will maintain surface temperatures in which large molecules can survive and can attain chemical concentrates that can be stable over time.

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Russia's Obsession with Mars' Mystery Moon --A New Mission to Phobos?

 

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Russia will send another sample mission to the Martian moon Phobos if the European Space Agency (ESA) decides not to include Russia in its ExoMars program, the head of Russia’s space agency said on Tuesday. The space agency also announced that cosmic radiation was the most likely cause of the failure of the Phobos-Grunt probe that crashed to Earth this month, and suggested that a low-quality imported component may have been vulnerable to the radiation.

Phobos-Grunt, Russia's most ambitious planetary mission in decades, was launched on November 9, but failed due to propulsion failure and crashed back to Earth on January 15.

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Image of the Day: The Milky Way Over Tenerife

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The awesome iamge of the Milky Way arch above is actually a deep digital fusion of nine photos that created a panorama fully 360 across. Taken in Teide National Park in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, the image includes the Teide volcano, visible near the image center, behind a volcanic landscape that includes many large rocks. 

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24 Million Generations! Evolutionary Change in Body Size on Earth --From Mouse to Elephant

 

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Evolutionary changes in body size take a very long time. A mouse-to-elephant size change would take at least 24 million generations based on the maximum speed of evolution in the fossil record,  Becoming smaller can happen much faster than becoming bigger: the evolution of pygmy elephants took 10 times fewer generations than the equivalent sheep-to-elephant size change.

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Earth's Largest Telescope Soon to Scan Cosmos for Extraterrestrial Signals

 

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The image above shows the supermassive black hole in the core of a distant galaxy known as Cygnus A spews jets of gas into space over distances of more than 200,000 light-years. The jets (orange) were imaged by the new International Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) Telescope in Europe. The picture shows how the jets slam into the hot gas surrounding the galaxy (blue, imaged by NASA's Chandra x-ray space telescope). 

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Light from a 25-Million-Year Old Epic Catastrophe in an Odd Galaxy Reached Earth this Month

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The image above shows the aftermath of a stellar explosion of epic proportions that happened 25 million years ago in an odd-shaped galaxy that may have merged with a second galaxy, while saber-toothed cats and mammoths roamed the Earth.

A star tens of times more massive than our sun 25 million light years away blew up in supernova explosion. The burst of light from that explosion raced through the universe to finally reach Earth a few weeks ago, when amateur astronomers, who regularly survey the sky looking for these events, noticed a small blob in the glow of the galaxy that wasn't there in older pictures.

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NASA Smackdown -- 2011 Mono Lake Arsenic-Based Life Claims Refuted

 

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"We have cracked open the door to what is possible for life elsewhere in the universe," Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and U.S. Geological Survey, who led the NASA Mono Lake study.


Rosie Redfield of the University of British Columbia has steadfastly raised doubts about the headline-grabbing news about arsenic-based life discovery at Mono Lake in November 2010. Redfield then she set out to replicate the initial findings, getting the original bacteria and seeing whether they can build DNA from arsenic when deprived of phosphorus. She then started to chronicle her experiences on her blog. 

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Image of the Day: Pandora's Cluster --The Most Colossal Known Galaxy Mashup

 

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This is the most colossal known smash-up observed in the universe. This awesome bundle of galaxies, nicknamed Pandora's cluster, turns out to be the result of a violent mashup between at least four separate galaxy clusters that occured over hundreds of millions of years.

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Strange Red Galaxy --Harbors a Monster Black Hole 100 Million Times Mass of Sun

 

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A monster black hole 100 million times the mass of the Sun is feeding off gas, dust and  a ring of stars at the centre of Galaxy NGC-1097 50 million light-years away. The star-ringed black hole forms the eye of the galaxy which was photographed by the US space agency's Spitzer Space Telescope in California.

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NASA Solves Mystery of Earth's 'Missing Energy'

 

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Two years ago, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., released a study claiming that inconsistencies between satellite observations of Earth's heat and measurements of ocean heating amounted to evidence of "missing energy" in the planet's system. 

Where was it going? Or, they wondered, was something wrong with the way researchers tracked energy as it was absorbed from the sun and emitted back into space? asked an international team of atmospheric scientists and oceanographers, led by Norman Loeb of NASA's Langley Research Center in and including Graeme Stephens of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 

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