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Vote Now! Top Space Stories of the Week - Dec.18, 2011

Harpooning Comets, Fiery Plunges into the Sun and Asteroid Crashes

SOHO

From new ways to get to space to fiery death plunges into the sun, it was a busy week in space.

Vote for your favorite space story of the week.

Asteroid Crash May Explain Mercury's Strange Spin

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

A giant impact with an asteroid could have knocked Mercury out of a stable spin, causing it to whirl unusually as it does today, researchers suggest. [Read More]

Mars Life Hunt Could Look for Magnetic Clues

The Viking Project/NASA

Martian life, if it ever existed, may have left a magnetic biosignature that future rover missions to the Red Planet could detect, researchers say. The technique holds promise as a test of life on Mars. [Read More]

Mysterious, Massive Black Holes Grew Fast by Gas-Guzzling

Yu Feng

Early supermassive black holes grew big on a diet of cold fast food, new research suggests. [Read More]

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Unveils Giant Plane for Private Space Launches

Stratolaunch Systems

Investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, joined by space industry leaders, will announce an ambitious new space travel project in a press conference today. The new company, Stratolaunch Systems, will use a giant twin-boom aircraft to launch a rocket and space capsule that could carry people and cargo into orbit. [Read More]

NASA Revises Plan to Buy Private Space Taxis

Boeing

NASA announced today a modified competitive procurement strategy to keep on track the agency's plan to have U.S. companies transport American astronauts into space instead of outsourcing this work to foreign governments. [Read More]

Are There Higgs Bosons In Space?

CERN

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland, report that they're hot on the trail of an elusive elementary particle known as the Higgs boson. [Read More]

Bright Lights in the Evening Sky: Spot Venus & Jupiter Tonight

Starry Night Software

This week, the planets Venus and Jupiter will shine brightly in the night sky. [Read More]

'Dream' Space Telescope for Military Could Spy Anywhere on Earth

DARPA

Ball Aerospace has created a flexible membrane that would serve as part of the lens for a DARPA-funded U.S. military space telescopes capable of imaging or taking video of anywhere on Earth. [Read More]

NASA Scientists Build Harpoon to Shoot Comets

NASA/Rob Andreoli

Captain Ahab may have wanted to harpoon a giant white whale, but NASA has a whole other target in mind. Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center are designing a small harpoon that would fire into and collect samples from nearby comets. [Read More]

Comet Lovejoy Survives Fiery Plunge Through Sun, NASA Says

SOHO

A newfound comet defied long odds today (Dec. 15), surviving a suicidal dive through the sun's hellishly hot atmosphere, according to NASA scientists. Comet Lovejoy was expected to evaporate during the sun encounter, but satellites spotted the comet reemerging from the star's outer atmosphere. [Read More]

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