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Live coverage: Falcon 9 rocket counting down to launch tonight

14 August 2016 Stephen Clark

For the second time this year, SpaceX is preparing to launch a commercial communications satellite for Tokyo-based SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. early Sunday. A Falcon 9 rocket is set to blast off at 1:26 a.m. EDT (0526 GMT) from Cape Canaveral with the JCSAT 16 satellite to relay data and video across Japan and the Asia-Pacific. A first stage landing attempt will follow in the Atlantic Ocean a few minutes later.

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Pirouetting Pleiads provide clues to stellar structure and evolution

13 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning, but all at different speeds. By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has helped amass the most complete catalogue of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can provide insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

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Astronomers use cosmic voids to study the universe

12 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers who are looking for new ways to probe the nature of gravity and dark energy in the universe have adopted a new strategy: looking at what’s not there. An international team of astronomers were able to achieve four times better precision in measurements of how the universe’s visible matter is clustered together by studying the empty spaces in between.

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VST captures 615-megapixel image of open cluster Messier 18

11 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Messier 18 is the small smattering of bright blue stars upper left of centre in this small-scale version of the original mammoth 30,577 x 20,108 pixel ESO image captured by the OmegaCAM camera attached to the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), located at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

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Cassini finds flooded canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan

10 August 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found deep, steep-sided canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan that are flooded with liquid hydrocarbons. The finding represents the first direct evidence of the presence of liquid-filled channels on Titan, as well as the first observation of canyons hundreds of metres deep.

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Solar storm of 1967 nearly took US to brink of war

10 August 2016 Astronomy Now

The solar storm of 23 May 1967 that jammed radar and radio communications at the height of the Cold War could have led to a disastrous military conflict if not for the U.S. Air Force’s budding efforts to monitor the Sun’s activity, a new study finds. The ensuing geomagnetic storm was so strong that the northern lights were visible as far south as New Mexico.

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Saturn’s seasonal shadows

9 August 2016 Astronomy Now

The shadow of Saturn’s globe on the rings, which stretched across all of the rings earlier in the Cassini spacecraft’s mission, now barely makes it past the Cassini Division. The changing length of the globe’s shadow marks the passing of the seasons on Saturn. As the planet nears its northern-hemisphere solstice in May 2017, the shadow will get even shorter.

Observing

Get ready for the Perseid meteor shower peak of 11-12 August

8 August 2016 Ade Ashford

With a waxing gibbous Moon setting at 1am BST for the UK on the night of 12-13 August, observers will have dark skies for what could be a Perseid meteor shower to remember. Some theorists believe that Jupiter’s gravitational influence has deflected more particles from parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle into Earth’s path for a spectacular show.

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Kepler finds Tabby’s Star is mysteriously dimming

8 August 2016 Keith Cooper

The so-called ‘most mysterious star in the galaxy’, also known as KIC 8462852, Tabby’s Star, the WTF (‘where’s the flux’) star and the ‘alien megastructure star’, has become even stranger according to new analysis of old observations from Kepler.

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Hubble sees a lopsided lynx

8 August 2016 Astronomy Now

This galaxy, known as NGC 2337, resides 25 million light-years away in the high northern constellation of Lynx. NGC 2337 is an irregular galaxy, meaning that it lacks a distinct, symmetrical appearance. The galaxy was discovered in 1877 by the French astronomer Édouard Stephan who, in the same year, discovered the galactic group Stephan’s Quintet.