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Unusual Martian region leaves clues to planet’s past

27 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers studying the geography and mineralogy of an area on Mars known as Thaumasia Planum, based on Gamma Ray Spectrometer data collected by the Mars Odyssey Orbiter launched in 2001, have found that the mountain ridge outlining Greater Thaumasia was most likely created by a chain of ancient volcanoes.

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New low-mass objects could help refine planetary evolution

27 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers like to find rotating primordial discs of gas and dust around young stars from which planets can form. They might be able to catch the star partway through the planet-formation process, but it’s highly unusual to find such discs around brown dwarfs or stars with very low masses. Now, recent work reveals four new low-mass objects surrounded by discs.

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Hubble spots possible water plumes erupting on Jupiter’s moon Europa

26 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapour plumes erupting 125 miles (200 kilometres) off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Europa has a huge global ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans, but it is protected by a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness.

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The hidden dark side of spiral galaxy NGC 24

26 September 2016 Astronomy Now

This glorious spiral galaxy is known as NGC 24, measures some 40,000 light-years across and lies about 25 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor. However, there may be more to this picture than first meets the eye: 80 percent of NGC 24’s mass is thought to be held within an invisible dark matter halo.

Observing

See Mercury at its best in the east at dawn

25 September 2016 Ade Ashford

Mercury is currently putting on a fine show in the east before dawn. Find a UK location with an unobstructed view due east an hour before sunrise to see the innermost planet some 6 degrees above the horizon from about 25 September—5 October. The very old crescent Moon lies just 2 degrees from Mercury at dawn on Thursday, 29 September.

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Cosmologists show that universe is expanding uniformly

24 September 2016 Astronomy Now

The universe is expanding uniformly according to research led by University College London (UCL). The researchers studied the cosmic microwave background (CMB) which is the remnant radiation from the Big Bang. It shows the universe expands the same way in all directions, supporting the assumptions made in cosmologists’ standard model of the universe.

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Hubble helps find light-bending world orbiting two stars

23 September 2016 Astronomy Now

A distant planet orbiting two red dwarf stars, found by its warping of spacetime, has been confirmed using observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The planet’s mass caused what is known as a microlensing event, where light is bent by an object’s gravitational field. This is the first circumbinary planet to be confirmed following detection of a microlensing event.

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ALMA uncovers insights into “Golden Age” of galaxy formation

22 September 2016 Astronomy Now

International teams of astronomers have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to explore the distant corner of the universe first revealed in the iconic images of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). These new ALMA observations are significantly deeper and sharper than previous surveys at millimetre wavelengths.

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‘Impossible’ cloud found on Saturn’s moon Titan — again

22 September 2016 Astronomy Now

The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud seemingly out of thin air in the stratosphere of Titan has prompted NASA scientists to suggest that a different process than previously thought — possibly similar to one seen over Earth’s poles — could be forming clouds in the giant Saturnian moon’s hazy, brownish-orange atmosphere.