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NASA Discovers 7th Closest Star 137 says "Scientists using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have discovered the coldest class of star-like bodies, with temperatures as cool as the human body. Astronomers hunted these dark orbs, termed Y dwarfs, for more than a decade without success. When viewed with a visible-light telescope, they are nearly impossible to see. WISE's infrared vision allowed the telescope to finally spot the faint glow of six Y dwarfs relatively close to our sun, within a distance of about 40 light-years. 'WISE scanned the entire sky for these and other objects, and was able to spot their feeble light with its highly sensitive infrared vision,' said Jon Morse, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. 'They are 5,000 times brighter at the longer infrared wavelengths WISE observed from space than those observable from the ground.'"

NASA Shoots Down Comet Elenin Doomsday Predictions 144

coondoggie writes "The comet Elenin, which will pass by Earth October 16, has generated such an inordinate amount of doomsday reports from a number of different sources that NASA today issued a release meant to address a variety of them. To address the myriad concerns, NASA said its scientists compiled a list of the most popular questions it has received about Elenin."

Building Blocks of DNA Confirmed In Meteorites 145

MistrX writes "Researchers announced that the components of DNA have now been confirmed to exist in extraterrestrial meteorites. A different team of scientists also discovered a number of molecules linked with a vital ancient biological process, adding weight to the idea that the earliest forms of life on Earth may have been made up in part from materials delivered to Earth from space. Past research had revealed a range of building blocks of life in meteorites, such as the amino acids that make up proteins. Space rocks just like these may have been a vital source of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth."

Space Station To Be Deorbited After 2020 572

astroengine writes "Russia and its partners plan to plunge the International Space Station (ISS) into the ocean at the end of its life cycle after 2020 so as not to leave space junk, the space agency said on Wednesday. 'After it completes its existence, we will be forced to sink the ISS. It cannot be left in orbit, it's too complex, too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish,' said deputy head of Roskosmos space agency Vitaly Davydov."

NASA's Hubble Discovers Another Moon Around Pluto 208

thebchuckster writes "Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a fourth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The tiny, new satellite – temporarily designated P4 — was uncovered in a Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet. The new moon is the smallest discovered around Pluto. It has an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 km). By comparison, Charon, Pluto's largest moon, is 648 miles (1,043 km) across, and the other moons, Nix and Hydra, are in the range of 20 to 70 miles in diameter (32 to 113 km)."

Do 'Ultracool' Brown Dwarfs Surround Us? 224

astroengine writes "The recent discovery of two very cool 'T-class' brown dwarfs in our cosmic neighborhood has prompted speculation that there may be many more ultracool 'failed stars' nearby (abstract). Not only are these objects themselves very interesting to study, should there be many such brown dwarfs spanning interstellar space. Perhaps they could be used as 'stepping stones' to the stars."

James Webb Space Telescope Closer To the Axe 226

astroengine writes "This could be considered 'strike two' for the deeply troubled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Last week, the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee made the recommendation that the advanced infrared space telescope be cancelled. On Wednesday, the full House Science, Space and Technology Committee has approved the subcommittee's plan. The project may not be dead yet — the 2012 budget still has to be voted on my the House and Senate — but it sure is looking grim for 'Hubble's replacement.'"

SpaceX Sues Valador For Defamation 111

An anonymous reader writes "Looks like aerospace consulting firm Valador tried to bite off more than it can chew. After already having bagged lucrative 'safety review' contracts with SpaceX' competitors, it tried to sell its services to SpaceX as well. However, according to SpaceX' claims in a recent court filing, Valador tried to juice up their sales pitch by first spreading rumors at key NASA offices that SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is 'unsafe', and then generously offering its services to SpaceX to aid them with addressing any undeserved bias against them among NASA officials. In true California fashion (being the most litigious state of the nation), SpaceX is having none of that and is taking Valador to court for defamation, seeking damages identical to the value of the consulting contract Valador tried to sell to them." CT: It appears that the link in this story has disappeared. If you can find something better, post it.

Big Drop In Solar Activity Could Cool Earth 569

coondoggie writes "Scientists say the Sun, which roils with flares and electromagnetic energy every 11 years or so, could go into virtual hibernation after the current cycle of high activity, reducing temperatures on Earth. As the current sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, begins to ramp up toward maximum, scientists from the National Solar Observatory and the Air Force Research Laboratory independently found that the Sun's interior, visible surface, and corona indicate the next 11-year solar sunspot cycle, Cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all."

'Homeless' Planets May Be Common In Our Galaxy 181

sciencehabit writes "Our galaxy could be teeming with 'homeless' planets, wandering the cosmos far from the solar systems of their birth, astronomers have found. In a paper published online today in Nature, the researchers list 10 objects in our galaxy that are very likely to be free-floating planets. What's more, they claim that in our galaxy, free-floaters are probably so populous that they outnumber stars."

Hack Targets NASA's Earth Observation System 45

Gunkerty Jeb writes "A hacker is claiming that a security hole in a server at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has exposed data related to a satellite-based Earth observation system used to aid in disaster relief. The hacker, who uses the handle 'Tinkode,' has published a screen capture from what he claims is an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server at NASA's Goddard Center. The hack comes exactly a month after the same hacker exposed a similar hole in a server operated by the European Space Agency."

Gliese 581d Confirmed as 'Habitable' Exoplanet 451

An anonymous reader writes "A rocky world orbiting a nearby star was confirmed (PDF) as the first planet outside our Solar System to meet key requirements for sustaining life." The "key requirement" was actually a Starbucks — astronomers were pretty surprised to find out that they like their coffee burnt on Gliese 581d too.

Newly-Discovered Arm of Milky Way Gives Warped Structure 81

eldavojohn writes "Researchers are now suggesting that a newly-discovered arm of the Milky Way Galaxy gives it a warped structure. Accumulated evidence leads them to claim that an 18-kpc-long arm exists on the other side of the galaxy and this arm traverses some 50 degrees across our sky as an extension of the Scutum-Centaurus Arm (which is one of the two major arms of our galaxy, the other being the Perseus Arm that we can see much more clearly). The researchers conclude that this extension of the Scutum-Centaurus Arm is partially obscured behind the middle of our galaxy because our galaxy is warped 'like the cap from a freshly-opened beer bottle.'"

Space Shuttle Endeavour Blasts Off On Final Flight 125

Velcroman1 writes "Space shuttle Endeavour rocketed into space Monday morning from Kennedy Space Center, led by mission commander Mark Kelly on the final mission for the youngest vehicle in the space fleet. Over 6 million pounds of thrust from the shuttle's rocket booster carried Endeavour into orbit, at speeds of up to 19,000 miles per hour, for an expected meeting with the International Space Station on Wednesday. 'It's incredible how you can see this machine hurled into space like the fastest fastball ever thrown, going to Mach 25 — 25 times the speed of sound — and it's an incredible race to orbit,' former NASA astronaut Tom Jones said. 'It's one of the greatest physical sensations an human can experience,' he added."

NASA Satellite Snaps First Image of Target Asteroid 57

coondoggie writes "NASA today said that its Dawn spacecraft snapped the first image of the giant asteroid Vesta it hopes to rendezvous with in July. The asteroid is 530 kilometers in diameter, and appears as a small, bright pearl against a background of stars. Vesta is known as a protoplanet, because it is a large body that almost formed into a planet. It's the second most massive object in the asteroid belt, NASA says."

Stellar rays prove fibbing never pays. Embezzlement is another matter.