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Hubble team breaks cosmic distance record

4 March 2016 Astronomy Now

By pushing the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to its limits, astronomers have shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the distance to the most remote galaxy ever seen in the universe. The galaxy, named GN-z11, has a redshift of 11.1, which corresponds to 400 million years after the Big Bang when the universe was only three percent of its current age.

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Great tilt gave ancient Mars a new face

3 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Mars hasn’t always looked like it does today. Some 3 to 3.5 billion years ago, the planet underwent a huge tilt of 20 to 25 degrees. The gigantic Tharsis volcanic dome, which started to form over 3.7 billion years ago, grew so massive that it caused Mars’ crust and mantle to swivel around, shifting the Tharsis dome to the planet’s equator.

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Repeat fast radio bursts detected from same sky location

3 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers for the first time have detected repeating short bursts of radio waves from an enigmatic source that is likely located well beyond the edge of our Milky Way galaxy. The findings indicate that these “fast radio bursts” come from an extremely powerful object which occasionally produces multiple bursts in under a minute.

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Asteroid 2013 TX68 won’t hit Earth, but will get close

2 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on 6 October 2013 a week before its last close flyby of Earth, 30-metre-wide asteroid 2013 TX68 was initially thought to pass by Earth again on 5 March 2016. Additional observations of the body have now been obtained, refining its orbital path and moving the date of the asteroid’s close brush with our planet to 8 March.

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The realm of buried giants

2 March 2016 Astronomy Now

In this huge image of part of the southern constellation of Norma, wisps of crimson gas are illuminated by rare, massive stars that have only recently ignited and are still buried deep in thick dust clouds. The vast nebula where these giants were born, known as RCW 106, is captured here in fine detail by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST), at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

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Why celestial bodies come in different sizes

1 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Since the 1700s scientists have known that gravity causes objects in the universe to get bigger, but the phenomenon of growth does not explain the hierarchy. Now researchers have proposed a new explanation for the size diversity: a universe that contains some big objects and many small objects relieves gravitational tension faster than a uniform universe.

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Solving the mystery of how Mars’ moon Phobos formed

1 March 2016 Astronomy Now

In late November and early December 2015, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission made a series of close approaches to the Martian moon Phobos. Among the data returned were spectral images of Phobos in the ultraviolet. The images will allow MAVEN scientists to better assess the composition of this enigmatic object, whose origin is unknown.