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Hubble sees a distinctly disorganised dwarf galaxy

28 March 2016 Astronomy Now

In this Hubble Space Telescope image we see an irregular dwarf galaxy known as UGC 4459, located in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). While UGC 4459’s diffused and disorganised stellar population of several billion sounds impressive, this is small when compared to the 200 to 300 billion stars in the Milky Way.

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Tracing star formation rates in distant galaxies

27 March 2016 Astronomy Now

To understand the physics of the evolution and formation of galaxies it is crucial to know at what rate galaxies form stars, referred to as the star-formation rate. A group of researchers used Earth- and space-based telescopes to create a complete multi-wavelength picture of distant galaxies.

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See comet 252P emerge in the UK predawn sky

27 March 2016 Ade Ashford

When 252P/LINEAR passed just 14 lunar distances from Earth on 21 March, the comet was galloping across the far southern sky at a rate of almost ten degrees per day. Now rapidly heading north, 252P finally appears in the predawn UK sky. While moonlight will interfere with current observations, the comet is much brighter than predicted.

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A new view of the X-ray sky

26 March 2016 Astronomy Now

In the 1990s, the ROSAT X-ray satellite performed the first deep all-sky survey. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) have revisited the all-sky survey, publishing an extended “2RXS catalogue” — the deepest and cleanest X-ray all-sky survey to date.

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Dark comet’s flyby of Earth observed with radar and infrared

25 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers were watching when comet P/2016 BA14 flew close by Earth on 22 March at a distance of slightly more than nine times the distance of the Moon. Radar images from the flyby indicate that the body is about a kilometre in diameter, while infrared spectra indicate that the comet’s nucleus is as dark as fresh asphalt.

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Moons of Saturn may be younger than the dinosaurs

25 March 2016 Astronomy Now

New research suggests that some of Saturn’s icy moons, as well as its famous rings, might be modern adornments. Their dramatic birth may have taken place a mere 100 million years ago. This would date the formation of the major moons of Saturn, with the exception of more distant Titan and Iapetus, to the relatively recent Cretaceous Period — the era of the dinosaurs.

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A pond of frozen nitrogen on Pluto

24 March 2016 Astronomy Now

This feature appears to be a frozen, former lake of liquid nitrogen, located in a mountain range just north of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planum. Captured by the New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Pluto on 14 July 2015, the image shows the possible lake to be about 20 miles (30 kilometres) across.

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Cassini spies Titan’s tallest peaks

24 March 2016 Astronomy Now

By convention, mountains on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, are named for mountains from Middle-earth, the fictional setting in fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Unfortunately for “Lord of the Rings” fans, Titan’s highest peak is not Doom Mons, but a trio of ridges known as Mithrim Montes, where the tallest peak is 10,948 feet (3,337 metres) high.