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Hubble captures ‘shadow play’ caused by possible planet

10 January 2017 Stephen Clark

Searching for planets around other stars is a tricky business. They’re so small and faint that it’s hard to spot them. But a possible planet in a nearby stellar system may be betraying its presence in a unique way: by a shadow that is sweeping across the face of a vast pancake-shaped gas-and-dust disk surrounding a young star.

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Breakthrough Listen searches new-found nearby planet Proxima b for signs of ET

8 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Breakthrough Listen, the 10-year, $100-million astronomical search for intelligent life beyond Earth launched in 2015 by Internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, has just announced its first observations of newly-discovered Earth-size planet Proxima b orbiting the nearest star to the Sun using the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

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Oldest known planet-forming circumstellar disc discovered

22 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A group of citizen scientists and professional astronomers joined forces to discover an unusual hunting ground for exoplanets. They found a red dwarf, called AWI0005x3s, surrounded by the oldest known circumstellar disc — a 45-million-year-old primordial ring of gas and dust orbiting the star from which planets can form.

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A new Goldilocks for habitable planets

22 August 2016 Astronomy Now

The search for habitable, alien worlds beyond our Solar System needs to make room for a second “Goldilocks,” according to a Yale University researcher. The new study suggests that simply being in the habitable zone isn’t sufficient to support life.

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Pirouetting Pleiads provide clues to stellar structure and evolution

13 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning, but all at different speeds. By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has helped amass the most complete catalogue of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can provide insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

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Hubble makes first atmospheric study of Earth-sized exoplanets

21 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have conducted the first search for atmospheres around temperate, Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system. They found indications that increase the chances of habitability on two exoplanets known as TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c orbiting a red dwarf star approximately 40 light-years away.

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Warm Jupiters are not as lonely as expected

15 July 2016 Astronomy Now

After analysing four years of observations from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers from the University of Toronto have given us our clearest understanding yet of a class of exoplanets called “warm Jupiters,” showing that many have unexpected planetary companions.

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“Electric wind” can strip Earth-like planets of oceans and atmospheres

21 June 2016 Astronomy Now

The space environment around a planet plays a key role in determining what molecules exist in the atmosphere – and whether the planet is habitable for life. New research shows that Venus has an “electric wind” strong enough to remove the components of water from its upper atmosphere, which may have played a significant role in stripping Earth’s twin planet of its oceans.

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