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Hubble views a stubborn dwarf galaxy

4 July 2016 Astronomy Now

The fuzzy collection of stars seen in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image forms an intriguing dwarf galaxy named LEDA 677373, located about 14 million light-years away from us in the constellation Centaurus. This particular dwarf galaxy contains a plentiful reservoir of gas from which it could form stars, but it stubbornly refuses to do so. Why?

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AutoLens steps up for Euclid satellite’s 100,000 gravitational lens challenge

3 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Due for launch in 2020, ESA’s Euclid satellite will set astronomers a huge challenge: to analyse 100,000 strong gravitational lenses. The gravitational deflection of light from distant astronomical sources by interposing massive galaxies can create multiple images of the source that are not just visually stunning, but are also valuable tools for probing our universe.

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See Mars before it gets too distant, lost in the dusk twilight

1 July 2016 Ade Ashford

Mars lies highest in the sky to the south soon after sunset at the beginning of July for observers in the UK, so you should not waste any opportunities to view the Red Planet while it is close and still relatively large in size. Tharsis, the great Martian volcanic plateau that is home to the largest volcanoes in the solar system, is turned toward Earth in the first week of the month.

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Chance microlensing events enable astronomers to probe distant quasars

1 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Some galaxies pump out vast amounts of energy from a very small volume of space, typically not much bigger than our own solar system. The cores of so-called active galactic nuclei (AGNs) can be billions of light-years away, so are difficult to study in any detail. However, natural gravitational ‘microlenses’ can provide a way to probe these objects.

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Chaotic orbit of Comet Halley explained

1 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Halley’s Comet, officially designated 1P/Halley, is visible from Earth every 75–76 years. Despite this regular return, the comet’s orbit cannot be predicted exactly due to processes inside the comet and its chaotic interaction with the planets and minor bodies in the solar system. A team of Dutch and Scottish researchers has now found an explanation for the chaotic orbital behaviour of 1P/Halley.