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Entranced by a transit of Dione

31 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Saturn’s 698-mile-wide moon Dione crosses the face of the giant planet in a phenomenon known as a transit. Transits play an important role in astronomy and can be used to study the orbits of planets and their atmospheres, both in our solar system and in others. By carefully observing and timing transits, scientists can more precisely determine the orbital parameters of planetary moons.

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Gravitationally-lensed distant galaxies imaged with the Large Millimetre Telescope

31 August 2015 Astronomy Now

The Large Millimetre Telescope (LMT) is the world’s largest single-dish, steerable, millimetre-wavelength telescope designed specifically for astronomical observations. Astronomers have used the newly-operational LMT, situated on the summit of Volcán Sierra Negra in Mexico at an altitude of 4,600 metres, in a set of early science spectroscopic studies of submillimetre galaxies.

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Hubble resolves youthful globular cluster NGC 1783

31 August 2015 Astronomy Now

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows globular cluster NGC 1783 in the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Dorado. NGC 1783 lies within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, some 160,000 light-years from Earth. NGC 1783 is thought to be less than 1.5 billion years old — very young for a globular cluster.

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Interstellar seeds could create oases of life

30 August 2015 Astronomy Now

We only have one example of a planet with life: Earth. But within the next generation, it should become possible to detect signs of life on planets orbiting distant stars. If we find alien life, new questions will arise. For example, did that life arise spontaneously? Or could it have spread from elsewhere? If life crossed the vast gulf of interstellar space long ago, how would we tell?

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See outermost planet Neptune at its best

29 August 2015 Ade Ashford

When Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, Neptune regained the title of the solar system’s outermost planet. Since this fascinating gas giant reached opposition on 1 September in the constellation Aquarius, now is a great time to seek it out. We show you how to locate Neptune with binoculars and small telescopes.

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NASA’s New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

28 August 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic 14 July flyby of the Pluto system. The target is a 30-mile-wide Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto. New Horizons expects to reach the object, nicknamed “PT1” (Potential Target 1), on 1 January 2019.

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‘Radio phoenix’ rises from the ashes of galaxy cluster collision

28 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have found evidence for a faded electron cloud “coming back to life,” much like the mythical phoenix, after two galaxy clusters collided. This “radio phoenix,” so-called because the high-energy electrons radiate primarily at radio frequencies, is found in Abell 1033. This galaxy cluster collision is located about 1.6 billion light-years from Earth.

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Hubble finds that nearest quasar is powered by binary black hole

28 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found that Markarian 231, the nearest galaxy to Earth that hosts a quasar, is powered by two central black holes. The finding suggests that quasars — the brilliant cores of active galaxies — may commonly host two central supermassive black holes that fall into orbit about one another as a result of galactic mergers.

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The history of galaxies unravelled for the first time

27 August 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of international scientists, led by astronomers from Cardiff University, has shown for the first time that galaxies can change their structure over the course of their lifetime. The researchers have shown that a large proportion of galaxies have undergone a major ‘metamorphosis’ since they were initially formed after the Big Bang.