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Meteorites delivered water ice to asteroids in early solar system

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Planetary scientists have discovered pieces of opal in a meteorite found in Antarctica, a result that demonstrates that meteorites delivered water ice to asteroids early in the history of the solar system. Opal, familiar on Earth as a precious stone used in jewellery, is made up of silica (the major component of sand) with up to 30 percent water in its structure.

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Seeds of supermassive black holes could be revealed by gravitational waves

27 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Gravitational waves captured by space-based detectors could help identify the origins of supermassive black holes, according to new computer simulations. Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology ran the huge cosmological simulations that can be used to predict the rate at which gravitational waves caused by collisions between the monster black holes might be detected.

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Spectacular VLT images of Jupiter presented before Juno’s arrival

27 June 2016 Astronomy Now

In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter as part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet. These observations will help astronomers to better understand the gas giant ahead of Juno’s close encounter next month.

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Hubble views the iridescent interior of a starburst galaxy

27 June 2016 Astronomy Now

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the glittering interior of one of the most active galaxies in our local neighbourhood — NGC 1569, a small starburst galaxy located about eleven million light-years away in the northern constellation of Camelopardalis. For almost 100 million years, NGC 1569 has pumped out stars over 100 times faster than the Milky Way.

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft closing in on Jupiter for 4 July orbit insertion

25 June 2016 Astronomy Now

On 4 July, NASA will fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles of the cloud tops of our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter. Over the past two weeks, several milestones occurred that were key to a successful 35-minute burn of its rocket motor, which will place the robotic explorer into a polar orbit around the gas giant.

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A ‘super Grand Canyon’ on Pluto’s moon Charon

24 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is home to an unusual canyon system that’s far longer and deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon. As far as NASA’s New Horizons scientists can tell, the canyon informally named Argo Chasma has a total length of approximately 430 miles — one and a half times the length and five times the depth of the Grand Canyon on Earth.