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Dying white dwarf star suffers “irregular heartbeats”

27 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers at the University of Warwick analysing data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have discovered a unexpected anomaly in the ‘pulse’ of aging white dwarf star PG1149+057. In addition to the expected regular rhythm of pulsations, the researchers observed arrhythmic, massive outbursts, which significantly heated up the star’s surface for many hours.

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Hubble’s new view of the Butterfly Nebula

26 August 2015 Astronomy Now

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Twin Jet Nebula highlights the shimmering colours, shells and knots of expanding gas in striking detail. Two iridescent lobes of material stretch outwards from a central star system. Within these lobes two huge jets of gas are streaming from the star system at speeds in excess of one million kilometres per hour.

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IRIS and Hinode: a stellar research team

26 August 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph satellite, or IRIS, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA)/NASA’s Hinode solar observatory, have just made a significant step towards understanding why the corona — the outermost, wispy layer of the Sun’s atmosphere — is hundreds of times hotter than the lower photosphere, which is the Sun’s visible surface.

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Dawn sends sharper scenes from dwarf planet Ceres

25 August 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has delivered the closest-yet views of Ceres, showing the dwarf planet’s surface in unprecedented detail — including the small world’s mysterious four-mile-high conical mountain. At its current orbital altitude, Dawn takes 11 days to capture and return images of Ceres’ whole surface at a resolution of 450 feet (140 metres) per pixel.

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Herschel sees feathery filaments in Mon R2

25 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Fierce flashes of light ripple through delicate tendrils of gas in this new image, from ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, which shows the dramatic heart of a large and dense cosmic cloud known as Mon R2 in the constellation Monoceros that lies eight degrees east of the Orion Nebula. Mon R2 lies some 2700 light-years away and is studded with hot, newly-formed stars.

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Sun emits a mid-level solar flare on 24 August

24 August 2015 Astronomy Now

The Sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 8:33am BST on 24 August 2015. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured the image of the event shown here. Although harmful radiation from such a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere, intense flares can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

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Research may solve Moon’s volcanic fire-fountain mystery

24 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Tiny beads of volcanic glass found on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions are a sign that fire fountain eruptions took place on the Moon’s surface. Now, scientists have identified the volatile gas that drove those eruptions. If volatile reservoirs on the Earth and Moon do indeed share a common source, it has implications for understanding the Moon’s origin.

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Origin of Saturn’s F Ring and its shepherd moons revealed

24 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Researchers at Kobe University have used computer models to reveal that Saturn’s F Ring and its shepherd satellites are a natural outcome of the final stage of the planet’s satellite system. This new finding is expected to help elucidate the formation of satellite systems both within and outside our solar system.