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Cassini views Helorus in half-light

22 March 2016 Astronomy Now

In this image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft we see a crater duo on Saturn’s 698-mile-wide moon Dione. The upper of the pair, named Italus, is overprinted on a grouping of ancient troughs called Petelia Fossae. The lower crater, Caieta, sits atop a feature named Helorus Fossa. Fossae on Dione are believed to be tectonic features.

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Astronomers glimpse supernova shockwave for the first time

22 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have captured the earliest minutes of two exploding stars and for the first time seen a shockwave generated by a star’s collapsing core. The international team found a shockwave only in the smaller supernova — a finding that will help them understand these complex explosions that create many of the elements that make up the Earth and solar system.

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Polaris, the Pole Star by Greg Parker

21 March 2016 Astronomy Now

With around 8-hours worth of 5- and 10-minute subs taken with his Sky 90 array, Greg Parker managed to pick up a trace of the Integrated Flux Nebula around Polaris, the Pole Star, in Ursa Minor.

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Astrophysicists detect ultra-fast winds near supermassive black hole

21 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Quasars are the discs of hot gas that form around supermassive black holes at the centre of massive galaxies — they are hotter than the surface of the Sun, generating enough light to be seen across the observable universe. New research has revealed quasar wind speeds of 20 percent the speed of light near a supermassive black hole.

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See the Moon’s close encounter with Jupiter on 21 March

21 March 2016 Ade Ashford

As darkness falls, observers in Western Europe and the British Isles fortunate to have clear skies can view a naked-eye conjunction between largest planet Jupiter and the Moon. For telescope owners, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot will be on show, while Galilean moons Io and Europa partake in a close orbital dance.

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A cosmic kaleidoscope seen through multi-spectral eyes

21 March 2016 Astronomy Now

At first glance, this cosmic kaleidoscope of purple, blue and pink offers a strikingly beautiful — and serene — snapshot of the cosmos. However, this multi-coloured haze actually marks the site of two colliding galaxy clusters, forming a single object known as MACS J0416.1-2403 (or MACS J0416 for short), 4.3 billion light-years away from Earth.

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Planet with most eccentric orbit flashes astronomers with reflected light

19 March 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of researchers led by San Francisco State University astronomer Stephen Kane were able to detect a signal of reflected light from a planet known as HD 20782 b — a “flash” of starlight bouncing off the planet’s atmosphere as it made its closest orbital approach to its parent star on the most eccentric, comet-like orbit yet seen.

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A ‘tail’ of cometary twins buzzing Earth on 21-22 March

19 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Comet 252P/LINEAR will zip past Earth on Monday, 21 March at a range of about 3.3 million miles. The following day, comet P/2016 BA14 will safely fly by our planet at a distance of about 2.2 million miles, or nine times the distance to the Moon. This will be the second closest flyby of a comet in recorded history next to comet D/1770 L1 (Lexell) in 1770.

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Astronomers discover colossal ‘super spiral’ galaxies

18 March 2016 Astronomy Now

A strange new kind of galactic beast has been spotted in the cosmic wilderness. Dubbed “super spirals,” these unprecedented galaxies dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe. The galaxies have long hidden in plain sight by mimicking the appearance of typical spirals.

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ExoMars spotted in space en route to Red Planet

18 March 2016 Astronomy Now

On 14 March, the ExoMars spacecraft and Schiaparelli lander were lofted into orbit by a Proton rocket, starting a seven-month journey to the Red Planet. For the ExoMars launch, ESA’s near-Earth object (NEO) coordination centre in Italy organised a successful international campaign for ground-based optical observations of the departing spacecraft.