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...By imagining the Earth as an exoplanet, scientists observing our planet's reflected light on the Moon with ESO's Very Large Telescope have demonstrated a way to detect life on other worlds...

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Life and death in the Andromeda Galaxy
Posted: 10 January 2011

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In the most detailed image of the Andromeda Galaxy yet, the Herschel Space Observatory highlights zones of new star formation, while XMM-Newton pinpoints dying stars.

Images collected by Herschel and XMM-Newton cover the life cycle of stars in our neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy. Image: Infrared: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/J. Fritz, U. Gent; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/W. Pietsch, MPE; optical: R. Gendler.

ESA's Herschel and XMM-Newton space telescopes joined forces over Christmas to reveal the life cycle of stellar birth and death at infrared and X-ray wavelengths respectively. Herschel is sensitive to the far-infrared light emitted by the cool dust and gas clouds that harbour the seeds of new stars. The new image reveals details of a large dust ring some 75,000 light years across that wraps around the centre of the galaxy and which boasts at least five concentric rings of star-forming material. Astronomers speculate that this feature might have resulted from a recent collision with another galaxy.

In XMM-Newton's image, the glow of star death is revealed in hundreds of X-ray sources, many clustered towards the crowded core of the galaxy. Some of the X-ray sources reveal the sites of shockwaves and debris from already exploded stars, others are pairs of stars caught in a gravitational tug-of-war whereby a dying star is ripping material from its neighbour.

The latest image of old friend Andromeda shows just how important space-based images are to reveal the full range of stellar evolution since infrared and X-ray wavelengths are absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, preventing acquisition of ground-based images of the same detail.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.

Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.

3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!


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