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First signs of weird quantum property of empty space?

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

By studying the polarisation of light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, first predicted in the 1930s.

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Icy moon Mimas dwarfed by Saturn’s rings

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Saturn’s icy 246-mile-wide moon Mimas (near lower left) appears tiny by comparison to the planet’s rings, but scientists think the all of the small, icy particles spread over a vast area that comprise the rings are no more than a few times as massive as Mimas. The view was obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft at a distance of approximately 564,000 miles from Saturn.

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CaSSIS sends first images from Mars orbit

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The Mars Camera, CaSSIS (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System), on ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter captured its first high-resolution images of the Red Planet last week. Developed by a team at the University of Bern in Switzerland, CaSSIS is providing spectacular views, including the Hebes Chasma region at a resolution of 2.8 metres per pixel.

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Did a low-mass supernova trigger formation of solar system?

29 November 2016 Astronomy Now

About 4.6 billion years ago, a cloud of gas and dust that eventually formed our solar system was disturbed. The ensuing gravitational collapse formed the proto-Sun with a surrounding disc where the planets were born. Now, forensic evidence from meteorites provides conclusive evidence that a low-mass supernova was the trigger.

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Mystery of ultra-diffuse faint galaxies solved

29 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Over the last year, researchers have observed some very faint, diffuse galaxies. These so-called ultra-diffuse galaxies (UDGs) are as faint as dwarf galaxies but are distributed over an area just as large as the Milky Way. Now, a solution to the mystery of how such galaxies form has been found.

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Potentially habitable super-Earth K2-3d observed transiting parent star

28 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A group of researchers has observed the first ground-based transit observation of K2-3d — a potentially Earth-like extrasolar planet supposedly within the habitable zone around a bright M-dwarf host star 147 light-years away — using the multi-band imager MuSCAT on the Okayama Astrophysical Observatory’s 1.88-metre telescope.

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Hubble spotlights irregular galaxy IC 3583

28 November 2016 Astronomy Now

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals a delicate blue group of stars — actually an irregular galaxy named IC 3583 — that sits some 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. This small galaxy is thought to be gravitationally interacting with one of its neighbours, the spiral Messier 90.

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Grid computing to tackle the mystery of the dark universe

26 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Scientists from the University of Manchester working on the revolutionary Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project have harnessed the power of distributed computing from the UK’s GridPP collaboration to tackle one of the universe’s biggest mysteries — the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

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Alan Longstaff 1950-2016

25 November 2016 Astronomy Now

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of long-time Astronomy Now contributor Alan Longstaff. He passed away peacefully early Tuesday morning surrounded by family. For many years he penned the popular Ask Alan and Cutting Edge columns of the magazine.

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