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A globular cluster where stars collide

17 June 2015 Astronomy Now

Using the advanced adaptive optics system GeMS, on the Gemini South telescope, astronomers have imaged a beautiful stellar jewel-box — a tightly packed cluster of stars that is one of the few places in our galaxy where astronomers think stars can actually collide.

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Engineers seek to stabilise radio link with comet lander

16 June 2015 Stephen Clark

Emboldened by renewed contact with Europe’s comet lander, engineers are repositioning the mission’s Rosetta mothership this week to establish a reliable a communications link with the dishwasher-sized Philae landing craft, a prerequisite for resuming a science campaign abbreviated by a power shortfall last year.

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NGC 6503: a lone galaxy lost in space

14 June 2015 Astronomy Now

Most galaxies are clumped together in groups or clusters. A neighbouring galaxy is never far away. But this galaxy, known as NGC 6503, has found itself in a lonely position, at the edge of a strangely empty patch of space called the Local Void.

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Helium-shrouded planets may be common in our Galaxy

12 June 2015 Astronomy Now

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our Galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. These planets would be around the mass of Neptune, or lighter, and would orbit close to their stars, basking in their searing heat.