HIDDEN, HUNGRY BLACK HOLES

Most of the biggest black holes in the universe have been eating cosmic meals behind closed doors – until now.

With its sharp infrared eyes, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) peered through walls of galactic dust to uncover what may be the long-sought missing population of hungry black holes known as quasars.

“From past studies using X-rays, we expected there were a lot of hidden quasars, but we couldn’t find them,” said Alejo Martínez-Sansigre of the University of Oxford, England. He is lead author of a paper about the research in this week’s Nature. “We had to wait for Spitzer to find an entire population of these dust-obscured objects,” he said.
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AERONAUTICAL CENTENNIAL CHALLENGE

NASA and the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation announced their intention to pursue the first aeronautical competition in the Centennial Challenges program.

The announcement was made today at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture 2005 air show in Oshkosh, Wis. The Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) Challenge will award annual prizes totaling $250,000 to the teams that can best design, develop, and demonstrate technology improvements in various general aviation aircraft capabilities.

NASA’s Centennial Challenges promote technical innovation through a novel program of prize competitions. It is designed to tap the nation’s ingenuity to make revolutionary advances to support NASA goals and the Vision for Space Exploration. PAV is the fifth NASA Centennial Challenge.
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Launch of OICETS and INDEX

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reported to the Space Activities Commission (SAC) about the launch of the Optical Inter-orbit Communication Engineering Test Satellite (OICETS) and the piggyback satellite INDEX. SAC consequently accepted the planned itinerary.

Scheduled Launch Date: August 24 (Wednesday), 2005 Dates and times are all Japan Standard Time

Launch Window:
Between August 25 (Thursday) and November 1 (Tuesday), 2005
Scheduled Launch Time: 6:10 a.m.
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome (Republic of Kazakhstan)
Launch Vehicle: Dnepr Launch Vehicle

More Information;

http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2005/07/20050727_oicets_index_e.html

MESSENGER EARTH SWINGBY

NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, headed toward the first study of Mercury from orbit, swung by Earth on August 2, for a gravity assist that propelled it deeper into the inner solar system.

Mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md, said MESSENGER’s systems performed flawlessly. The spacecraft swooped around Earth, coming to a closest approach point of approximately 1,458 miles (2,347 kilometers) over central Mongolia at 3:13 p.m. EDT.

The spacecraft used the tug of Earth’s gravity to significantly change its trajectory. Its average orbit distance is nearly 18 million miles closer to the sun. The maneuver sent it toward Venus for another gravity-assist flyby next year.
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CHANDRA SOLVES SOLAR PARADOX

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory survey of nearby sun-like stars suggests there is nearly three times more neon in the sun and local universe than previously believed. If true, this would solve a critical problem with understanding how the sun works.

“We use the sun to test how well we understand stars and, to some extent, the rest of the universe,” said Jeremy Drake of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. “But in order to understand the sun, we need to know exactly what it is made of,” he added.

It is not well known how much neon the sun contains. This is critical information for creating theoretical models of the sun. Neon atoms, along with carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, play an important role in how quickly energy flows from nuclear reactions in the sun’s core to its edge, where it then radiates into space.
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