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News: May 2010

Penetrating the mysteries of the Martian ice cap

Martian mysteries dating back four decades concerning the formation of a deep chasm and spiral troughs in the north polar ice cap have finally been solved thanks to new data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MRO.

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Active black holes triggered by galaxy collisions

Thanks to an X-ray survey of active supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies conducted by NASA’s Swift satellite, scientists now have conclusive proof that galaxy mergers are one of the main triggers for many of these monster objects.

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Hundreds of star-forming nebulae discovered

A new census of star-forming activity in the Milky Way has revealed over 400 new nebulae, with the potential for many thousands more lurking in the shadows of our Galaxy. The findings were revealed today at the 216th American Astronomical Society meeting in Miami, Florida.

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Andromeda’s black hole wakes up

Since 2006 the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, has stirred from its slumber and unleashed violent outbursts that have been chronicled by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the observations from which were presented yesterday at the 216th American Astronomical Society meeting in Miami, Florida.

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M87’s black holes gets its kicks from merger

The supermassive black hole at the centre of the giant galaxy M87 isn’t where it is supposed to be, according to new findings presented yesterday at the American Astronomical Society’s 216th meeting in Miami. Measurements indicate that it has been kicked 71 light years from the centre of M87 by a merger with another black hole.

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Sun's big bursts have
small-time origins

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has made good on its promise of getting down to the fine details that drive activity on the Sun, after researchers revealed new findings that show how small scale disturbances can have big impacts.

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A twisted starburst galaxy

A spectacular new picture of the nearby starbursting galaxy NGC 1313, taken by the Gemini Observatory, shows giant regions of intense star formation whose origin are still a mystery.

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An action-packed
white dwarf binary

A dramatic pair of white dwarfs are surprising astronomers with their unruly behaviour, challenging our ideas about how material can be transferred from one object to another.

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Unusual exoplanet orbits suggest violent past

Two planets discovered orbiting their host star at highly inclined angles could impact theories of how multi-planet systems evolve.

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WISE witnesses Trojan war

Brand new results from the WISE telescope, presented today at the 216th American Astronomical Society meeting in Miami, Florida, have revealed a stunning new look at the star-forming Heart and Soul nebulae, plus indications that smaller asteroids shadowing Jupiter are undergoing frequent collisions.

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NASA calls it quits on damaged Phoenix lander

NASA gave the Phoenix lander a final chance to phone home last week, but the craft's continuing silence and a new image showing ice damage to its solar panels have forced the space agency to give up hope on the mission.

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The Drake Equation part 3: Life

Life is a mystery, and if we can understand how and why life developed on Earth, we’ll be in a better position to appreciate whether it could happen somewhere else, too.

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The Drake Equation part 2: Planets

Life as we know it needs a planet to live on. With over 450 exoplanets currently known we take it for granted that there are planets out there, orbiting other suns, but it is all too easy to forget that back in 1960, there were no planets known beyond our Solar System. That other planets existed was a huge assumption based on no evidence whatsoever.

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SETI: The Drake Equation

How many advanced extraterrestrial civilisations are there in our Galaxy? Some critics argue that you might as well ask how many angels can dance on the point of a needle, but Frank Drake thinks otherwise. The SETI pioneer’s famous equation seeks an answer to that question and although it has proven controversial over the years, Drake still stands by it and it continues, rightly or wrongly, to form the heart of our estimates about ET.

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Star caught
consuming planet

According to new data collected by Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), the hottest known exoplanet in the Galaxy, WASP-12b, may also be the shortest lived, for it is being mercilessly consumed by its host star.

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Mars rovers surpass Red Planet endurance record

The Opportunity rover broke a 28-year-old Mars duration record Thursday, surpassing the Viking 1 lander to become the longest-lived spacecraft to ever operate on the Red Planet, at least until the identical Spirit rover awakes from a winter snooze.

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Supernova uncertainty

Spectacular stellar explosions – supernovae – mark the end of a massive star's life, but in two separate studies reported this week in the journal Nature, a peculiar new breed of supernovae is causing controversy.

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Clear view of a classic spiral

A new infrared image of nearby galaxy M83 has been taken by the HAWK-I instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, revealing a whole host of stars that are otherwise invisible.

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White dwarfs discovered in eclipsing binary system

A pair of white dwarf stars have been discovered in an eclipsing binary system, offering astronomers the first chance to directly measure the radius of a rare white dwarf composed of pure helium.

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Preview the June issue of Astronomy Now!

Straight from the Editor's desk, Keith Cooper presents the June issue of Astronomy Now magazine, on sale 20 May.

WATCH

 

Asteroids and satellites swim through Tadpole Nebula

A new infrared image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) captures two asteroids and a pair of satellites sweeping through a star-forming region known as the Tadpole Nebula. Can you spot them?

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Ice crystal tumbler on Titan

Titan’s largest highland region is sparkling with the reflected light of countless crystal balls of ice, washed down slopes by flash floods instigated by downpours of methane rain, judging by new analysis of radar observations that show they are the brightest features on Saturn’s largest moon.

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Escaped: supermassive black hole & heavy star

In two separate reports released today, scientists announce a supermassive black hole being ejected from its host galaxy, and a heavyweight star racing away from a stellar nursery.

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Heavyweight galaxy is king
of its cluster

The words ‘enormous’ and ‘gigantic’ are barely fit for purpose when describing a cannibalistic elliptical galaxy that has been measured by the Gemini South Telescope to tip the scales at 30 trillion solar masses – 50 times more massive than our Milky Way Galaxy.

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Most distant
galaxy cluster found

A team of astronomers have identified the most distant galaxy cluster yet using near-infrared spectroscopy, placing it at a distance of 9.6 billion light years.

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An impossible star

The first science results from ESA's Herschel Space Observatory include an image of the birth of an 'impossible' star that is set to challenge ideas of star formation.

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Amid a sea of galaxies

ESO has today released a wide-field long-exposure image that reveals a sea of galaxies, including a group belonging to the dark matter-dominated cluster Abell 315.

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Ice and organics found on main belt asteroid

Water-ice, accompanied by organic compounds, has been detected for the first time on the surface of a large main belt asteroid, a finding that carries important implications for the source of Earth's oceans.

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SETI: Terminating
the transmission

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI, sometimes called Active SETI), is much like diving into a party and making your presence felt. However, a core group of SETI scientists forcefully argue that we should not be shouting into the jungle, that we shouldn’t be looking to strike up a conversation with strangers whose motivations and capabilities are completely unknown to us.

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SETI – Cosmic Call

Despite fifty years of searching, there is still no sign of little green men. SETI researchers will point out that if the Galaxy were an ocean, we’ve searched the equivalent of a beaker’s worth of water. The cynical suggest that the reason we’ve not found anyone is because there is nobody out there. It’s a depressing thought, but there are alternatives.

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Preview the May 2010 issue of Astronomy Now!

Editor Keith Coopers presents the latest issue of Britain's best selling astronomy magazine.

WATCH

 

Ask Alan meteorite special

To accompany the May issue's Focus on meteorites, Dr Alan Longstaff of Astronomy Now's Ask Alan fame, answers questions about how different types of meteorites, and also tektites, are formed.

WATCH

 

Meteorites: the inside story

To accompany the meteorite Focus in this month's issue of Astronomy Now, we talk to Natural History Museum meteorite experts Caroline Smith, Sara Russell and Gretchen Benedix about how to recognise meteorites, what's on display at the NHM, and some of the most interesting meteorite finds.

READ MORE

 
 

Back to latest news

2010 Yearbook
Our latest 132-page Astronomy Now special edition is an extravaganza of astronomy for the year ahead, with a complete 30-page guide to observing the planets, moon, meteor showers, two solar eclipses, and the deep sky in 2010.
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Take the tour!
A 100-page special edition from the creators of Astronomy Now magazine, The Grand Tour of the Universe takes readers from one end of the Universe to the other and, in doing so, asks the question "just how big is the Universe?"
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Guide to the Constellations
Astronomy Now presents this 100-page, full-colour guide to the 68 constellations visible from the British Isles by Neil Bone, the respected amateur astronomer and writer.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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