|Is Einstein's blunder right?|
In 1917, Albert Einstein added a fudge-factor to his theory of general relativity in order to balance the attractive force of gravity. After Edwin Hubble showed the universe is actually expanding, Einstein retracted his cosmological constant, which he called his greatest blunder. Now, a survey of distant supernovae reveals that
dark energy — the mysterious force accelerating cosmic expansion — behaves like Einstein's constant to a precision of 10 percent.
|Venus Express is up and away|
A 15-year hiatus in Venus exploration ended Tuesday night with the European Space Agency's (ESA) launch of Venus Express. At 10:33 p.m. EST, the Soyuz-Fregat rocket carrying the spacecraft lifted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome. Eighty-two minutes later, the Fregat upper stage burned a second time and sent Venus Express
into an escape trajectory that will deliver it to Venus in April 2006.
|Remember the Titans|
On October 19, the United States launched a Titan rocket into space for the 368th — and final — time. The Titan IV launch ends a family of rockets that began with the Titan I intercontinental ballistic missile developed in 1959.
|The whale shark's starry skin|
Zaven Arzoumanian, an astrophysicist at the Universities Space Research Association and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, thinks a whale shark's spots can help save its skin. Along with Jason Holmberg, a U.S. software specialist, and Brad Norman, a marine biologist at Australia's Centre for Fish and Fisheries
Research, Arzoumanian applied an astronomical technique for "fingerprinting" whale sharks based on their skin's spot patterns..
|The "tenth planet" gets a sidekick|
On September 30, a team led by Caltech's Michael Brown announced discovery of a moon orbiting the distant body 2003 UB313. The object, discovered in January 2005, appears to be 20-percent larger than Pluto, leading Brown to dub it the tenth planet. The team has given it the unofficial nickname
after the lead character in the TV series Xena: Warrior Princess.
|MGS sees changing face of Mars|
New images from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since 1997, show how gullies, impact craters, rock falls, and eroding polar icescapes rework Mars' surface today. The long-lived mission has revealed a dynamic Mars changing on human timescales of years to decades, says Michael Meyer,
lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program.
|Spirit summits the Columbia Hills|
Mars rover Spirit has ended its year-long ascent up Husband Hill, and, like any tourist, is pausing to take in the view. Mission scientists are acquiring images for a full 360° panorama that, for the first time, will include terrain on the far side of the Columbia Hills.
|Hubble spins down a gyro|
In a move expected to give the Hubble Space Telescope at least 8 additional months of science observations, scientists have idled one of its three operating gyroscopes. While three gyros are needed to point the telescope and hold it on target, engineers and astronomers worked out a scheme in which Hubble can perform its scientific tasks
almost as well with just two functioning gyros.
|New Mexico steps into space|
Late next March, a 21-foot-tall SpaceLoft XL rocket will blast off from New Mexico's Southwest Regional Spaceport in Upham carrying seven experimental and commercial payloads on a suborbital flight. Plans call for two additional launches in 2006, a dozen in 2007, and as many as 30 in 2008.
|Young HUDF galaxy is super size|
Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes have found a massive galaxy seen when the universe was only 800 million years old. They found the object in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), a patch of sky in the constellation Fornax where Hubble has acquired the deepest-ever portrait of the cosmos in visible
and near-infrared wavelengths.