Science News Roundup: NASA retires planet hunter, Origin of chocolates
Following is a summary of current science news briefs.
Stephen Hawking's thesis, wheelchair heading for auction
From a copy of his PhD thesis to his wheelchair, items belonging to Stephen Hawking are headed for auction, offering fans of the late British physicist famed for his work exploring the origins of the universe a chance to buy some of his possessions. Known for his acclaimed research on black holes, the wheelchair-bound Hawking, who suffered from motor neurone disease and used an electronic voice synthesizer, died in March at the age of 76.
Soviet-era moon fragments could reach $1 million at N.Y. auction
Wealthy space buffs will have the chance to own three small particles of lunar matter when what Sotheby's describes as the only known documented "moon rocks" to be legally available for private ownership hit the auction block in November. Sotheby's said on Tuesday it expects the fragments, retrieved from the moon by a Soviet space mission in 1970, could fetch between $700,000 to $1 million at the Nov. 29 auction in New York.
NASA retires its planet hunter, the Kepler space telescope
The Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and will be retired after a 9-1/2-year mission in which it detected thousands of planets beyond our solar system and boosted the search for worlds that might harbour alien life, NASA said on Tuesday. Currently orbiting the sun 94 million miles (156 million km) from Earth, the spacecraft will drift further from our planet when mission engineers turn off its radio transmitters, the U.S. space agency said.
Ecuadorean discovery pushes back the origins of chocolate
People have been enjoying chocolate far longer than previously known, according to research published on Monday detailing the domestication and use of cacao beginning 5,300 years ago at an ancient settlement in the highlands of southeastern Ecuador. Scientists examined ceramic artefacts at the Santa Ana-La Florida archaeological site, a remarkably preserved village and ceremonial centre that was part of the Mayo-Chinchipe culture of the Andes, and found abundant evidence of the use of cacao, from which chocolate is made.
(With inputs from Reuters)
(With inputs from agencies.)