Science items: Tidy Swiss want to clean up space

  • Updated: February 18, 2012 - 5:57 PM
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In this illustration provided by the Swiss Space Center of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) on Wednesday, February 15, 2012, the CleanSpace One is chasing its target, one of the CubeSats launched by Switzerland in 2009. The EPFL on Wednesday launched the "CleanSpace One", a project to develop and build the first installment of a family of satellites specially designed to clean up space debris.

Photo: Swiss Space Center, Associated Press

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TIDY SWISS WANT TO CLEAN UP SPACE Ø

Swiss scientists said they plan to launch a "janitor satellite" designed to get rid of space junk, the orbiting debris that can do serious and costly damage to satellites or space ships. The launch of the $11-million satellite called CleanSpace One -- the prototype for a family of such satellites seen in an illustration -- would come within three to five years. NASA says more than 500,000 pieces of spent rocket stages, broken satellites and other debris are orbiting Earth.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

TINY TARSIERS HAVE ULTRA-SONIC SKILLS Ø

One of the world's smallest primates turns out to be the only one that is ultrasonic, making calls outside the range of human hearing. The animal is the tarsier, a 5-inch-tall endangered creature found only on a Southeast Asian island. Dartmouth scientists reported in the journal Biology Letters that tarsiers seemed to make high-frequency calls when in the vicinity of humans and predators, possibly to raise an alarm, or when near prey that also use ultrasonic sound (as though listening for them.)

NEW YORK TIMES

FOR ZEBRAS, STRIPES DETER PESTS Ø

A zebra's stripes act as a camouflage from hungry lions and cheetahs. But the stripes also fend off a much smaller pest, researchers say. Bloodsucking horseflies are less attracted to the black and white stripes of a zebra than they are to the solid white or black coats of horses. "It's a very powerful reduction in attractiveness," said Susanne Akesson, an evolutionary ecologist at Lund University in Sweden and a co-author of the report in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

NEW YORK TIMES

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