Last Updated:
23, February 2014


lunar phases


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China space: 'Jade Rabbit' lunar mission blasts off
{Dec. 01, 2013}
China has launched its first lunar rover mission, the next key step in the Asian superpower's ambitious space programme. The Chang'e-3 mission blasted off from Xichang in the south at 01:30 Monday local time (17:30 GMT Sunday). The Long March rocket's payload includes a landing module and a six-wheeled robotic rover called Yutu (or Jade Rabbit). The mission should land in the Moon's northern hemisphere in mid-December. Chinese state TV carried live pictures of the launch of the Chinese-developed Long March 3B rocket carrying the lunar probe. This will be the third robotic rover mission to land on the lunar surface, but the Chinese vehicle carries a more sophisticated payload, including ground-penetrating radar which will gather measurements of the lunar soil and crust.

Indian probe begins journey to Mars
{Nov. 30, 2013}
India's mission to Mars has embarked on its 300-day journey to the Red Planet. Early on Sunday the spacecraft fired its main engine for more than 20 minutes, giving it the correct velocity to leave Earth's orbit. It will now cruise for 680m km (422m miles), setting up an encounter with its target on 24 September 2014. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, is designed to demonstrate the technological capability to reach Mars orbit. But the $72m (£45m) probe will also carry out experiments, including a search for methane gas in the planet's atmosphere.

Mercury: A beautiful but poisonous metal
{Nov. 29, 2013}
Mercury is the quixotic bad boy of the periodic table - exquisitely beautiful, but deadly. The ancients believed it was the "first matter" from which all other metals were formed. Yet it is now in such disfavour that an international treaty exists to curb its use. It is easy to see why mercury holds such fascination. It is the only metal to be liquid at room temperature. It is also one of the few things that reacts with that most alluring of all the elements: gold. The process is extraordinary to see. In his laboratory at University College London, chemistry professor Andrea Sella peels off a fragile leaf of gold and places it on a shimmering ball of mercury. Before my eyes the gold gradually vanishes, folding itself around the silver blob like bed sheets, before dissolving away.

Protective measures are a 'death sentence' for rare dolphin say campaigners
{Nov. 29, 2013}
Measures to protect one of the world's rarest dolphins have been denounced as a "death sentence" by campaigners. Only 55 adult Maui's dolphins are known to survive off the coast of New Zealand but their numbers are being threatened by fishing and disease. The NZ government has proposed extending a protection zone to save the tiny, black and white cetaceans. But researchers say the actions don't go far enough and argue the Maui's could be extinct within 20 years. The Maui's are the world's smallest and rarest dolphins and only found on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island.

Adorable Mammal Is The First New Carnivore Species Discovered In 35 Years
{Aug. 21, 2013}
With its large brown eyes, fluffy red-orange hair and bushy tail, the Olinguito could easily be mistaken for a stuffed teddy bear. But this cute as a button mammal that belongs to the raccoon family is very much alive and extremely precious - That's because it is the first new carnivore to be 'discovered' in the western hemisphere in over three decades. According to Kristofer Helgen, the curator of mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, finding a new mammal species is rare to begin with, but finding a carnivore is extremely so, thanks to the fact that Carnivora is the most well-researched order in the animal kingdom.

Amputated ‘finger’ tips grow back
{June 27, 2013}
Cut your fingernails and they will grow back. For some people — especially children — that’s also true of fingertips: Cut them off and they may well come back. Scientists have now investigated why, thankfully using mice. Both nails and toe tips regrow thanks to special cells found under the base of each nail, they find. The same may also hold true for people, says Mayumi Ito, who led the new study. She researches these special cells at New York University Langone Medical Center. Her team’s findings suggest that in the future, doctors might use those special cells to treat people with amputated limbs or misshapen nails. The idea that animals can regrow, or regenerate, fingertips and nails is hardly new. But regeneration occurs only when some part of the nail remains on the finger. To probe why, Ito and her coworkers looked for the cells responsible.

Biologically inspired robots travel — naturally
{June 19, 2013}
When Dan Goldman was 12, lizards were pretty much the center of his universe. He was fascinated by how they looked, how they behaved — and especially how they moved. Now a physicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Goldman still loves lizards, which explains his latest work. He is studying the locomotion, or movement, of the sandfish. Despite its name, this animal is a lizard. It lives in the deserts of North Africa.

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