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“Orion Nebula, M42” by Patrick Gilliland

2 September 2015 Astronomy Now

Nomination number 11 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. The 2015 competition received 2700 spectacular entries from over 60 countries and the winners will be announced 17 September.

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Comet Hitchhiker would take tour of small solar-system bodies

2 September 2015 Astronomy Now

A concept called Comet Hitchhiker, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, puts forth a new way to get into orbit and land on comets and asteroids, using the kinetic energy — the energy of motion — of these small bodies. Masahiro Ono, the principal investigator based at JPL, had Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in mind when dreaming up the idea.

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Messier 96: a galactic maelstrom

1 September 2015 Astronomy Now

This new Hubble image shows Messier 96 (M96 or NGC 3368), a spiral galaxy in the constellation Leo that lies about 35 million light-years away. About the same mass and size as the Milky Way, M96 resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust along asymmetric arms that swirl inwards towards the nucleus.

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World’s most powerful telescope digital camera gets green light for construction

1 September 2015 Astronomy Now

The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the start of construction for a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera — the world’s largest — at the heart of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Assembled at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the camera will be the eye of LSST, revealing unprecedented details of the universe and helping unravel some of its greatest mysteries.

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Canyonlands granted Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status

1 September 2015 Astronomy Now

The Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah, USA is visited by more than 400,000 people each year. The International Dark-Sky Association has now granted Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status to Canyonlands, an honour reserved for the darkest of dark skies and the most stunning of starscapes.