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“Aurora Panorama 3” by Jan R. Olsen

31 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Our third nomination from the prestigious Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, an annual celebration of the most beautiful and spectacular visions of the cosmos by astrophotographers worldwide. Now in its seventh year, the 2015 competition received 2700 spectacular entries from over 60 countries and the winners will be announced 17 September.

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The closest rocky, transiting exoplanet found in Cassiopeia

31 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Northern Hemisphere astronomers are familiar with the W-shaped star pattern of Cassiopeia, a circumpolar constellation near the Pole Star that never sets for latitudes north of 35°. Tucked next to one leg of the W lies a modest 5th-magnitude star named HD 219134 that has been hiding a secret.

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Pluto’s Moon Charon mapped

31 July 2015 Astronomy Now

The science team of NASA’s New Horizons mission has produced this global map of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, from the data received so far from the 14 July flyby.

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New Hubble view of the Lagoon Nebula

30 July 2015 Astronomy Now

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8) an object with a deceptively tranquil name. The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, churning funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust.

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“Failed stars” host powerful auroral displays

30 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Brown dwarfs are relatively cool, dim objects that are too massive to be planets, yet they are too small to sustain hydrogen fusion reactions. By observing a brown dwarf 20 light-years away, researchers have found another feature that makes these so-called failed stars more like supersized planets — they host powerful aurorae near their magnetic poles.

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Unusual red arcs discovered on icy Saturnian moon

30 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Like graffiti sprayed by an unknown artist, unexplained narrow, arc-shaped, reddish streaks are visible on the surface of Saturn’s icy moon Tethys in new, enhanced-colour images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The red arcs are among the most unusual colour features on Saturn’s moons to be revealed by Cassini’s cameras.

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The heart of Pluto in high-resolution

29 July 2015 Stephen Clark

The icy plains of Pluto resolved by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft stretch as wide as Texas, enveloping mountain ranges and bizarre hilly outcrops in a mosaic revealing one lobe of the distant world’s heart-shaped reservoir of exotic frozen carbon monoxide, nitrogen and methane.

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New global map of Pluto

29 July 2015 Astronomy Now

The science team of NASA’s New Horizons mission has produced an updated global map of dwarf planet Pluto that includes all resolved images of the surface acquired 7-14 July 2015, up to 400 metres/pixel resolution. Many additional images are expected in autumn 2015 and these will be used to complete the global map.

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New names and insights at dwarf planet Ceres

29 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Colourful new maps of Ceres, based on data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, showcase a diverse topography, with height differences between crater bottoms and mountain peaks as great as 9 miles (15 kilometres). Some of these craters and other features now have official names, inspired by spirits and deities relating to agriculture from a variety of cultures.