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Chorus of black holes sings in X-rays

31 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Supermassive black holes do not give off any of their own light, hence the word “black” in their name. However, many black holes pull in surrounding material and emit powerful bursts of X-rays. Collectively, these active black holes can be thought of a cosmic choir, singing in the language of X-rays. Their “song” is what astronomers call the cosmic X-ray background.

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Mars gullies likely not formed by liquid water

30 July 2016 Astronomy Now

New findings using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that gullies on modern Mars are likely not being formed by flowing liquid water. This new evidence will allow researchers to further narrow theories about how Martian gullies form, and reveal more details about Mars’ recent geologic processes.

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ExoMars orbiter fine-tunes path toward red planet

29 July 2016 Stephen Clark

A European spacecraft cruising toward Mars fired its main engine, tweaking its trajectory and helping set up for carefully-choreographed simultaneous maneuvers to place part of the tandem mission into orbit around the red planet and deposit a stationary battery-powered lander on the Martian surface.

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Solving the mystery of how comets are born

29 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Detailed analysis of data collected from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft show that comets are the ancient leftovers of early solar system formation, and not younger fragments resulting from subsequent collisions between other, larger bodies.

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White dwarf lashes red dwarf with mystery ray

28 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have discovered a new type of exotic binary star. In the system AR Scorpii a rapidly spinning white dwarf star powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star, and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio.

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot heats planet’s upper atmosphere

27 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers from Boston University have discovered that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) may provide the mysterious source of energy required to heat the planet’s upper atmosphere to the unusually high values observed. Heating in Jupiter’s atmosphere 500 miles above the GRS is thought to be caused by gravity waves and acoustic waves creating turbulent atmospheric flows.

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The case of the missing Ceres craters

27 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Ceres is covered in countless small, young craters, but none are larger than 175 miles (280 kilometres) in diameter. To scientists, this is a huge mystery, given that the dwarf planet must have been hit by numerous large asteroids during its 4.5 billion-year lifetime. Where did all the large craters go?

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Ancient eye in the sky reveals galaxies

26 July 2016 Astronomy Now

A gravitational lens system has been discovered by undergraduate students examining images from the 8.2-metre Subaru Telescope’s Hyper Suprime-Cam. Dubbed the “Eye of Horus” due to the system’s uncanny resemblance to the sacred eye of the ancient Egyptian goddess, it is formed by a galaxy 7 billion light-years from the Earth bending the light from two more galaxies directly behind it.

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Warp in the rings of Saturn

25 July 2016 Astronomy Now

In this image from NASA’s Cassini probe, Saturn’s A and F rings appear bizarrely warped where they intersect the planet’s limb, whose atmosphere acts here like a very big lens.

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