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Hubble captures massive dead disk galaxy

25 June 2017 Astronomy Now

By combining the power of a “natural lens” in space with the capability of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers made a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang. 

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The curious case of the warped Kuiper Belt

22 June 2017 Astronomy Now

An unknown, unseen “planetary mass object” may lurk in the outer reaches of our solar system, according to new research on the orbits of minor planets to be published in the Astronomical Journal. This object would be different from — and much closer than — the so-called Planet Nine, a planet whose existence yet awaits confirmation.

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Updated Kepler catalog contains 219 new exoplanet candidates

21 June 2017 Stephen Clark

Scientists have published a catalog of exoplanet discoveries made by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, identifying 219 previously-unknown planet candidates circling stars elsewhere in the galaxy, including 10 would-be worlds that appear to be about the same size of Earth with temperatures potentially hospitable for life.

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NuSTAR’s first five years in space

16 June 2017 Astronomy Now

The chief scientist on NASA’s NuSTAR mission shares her take on five of the X-ray telescope’s iconic images and artist concepts, ranging from our flaring Sun to distant, buried black holes.

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Mini-flares potentially jeopardise habitability of planets circling red dwarf stars

11 June 2017 Astronomy Now

Cool dwarf stars are hot targets for exoplanet hunting right now. The discoveries of planets in the habitable zones of the TRAPPIST-1 and LHS 1140 systems, for example, suggest that Earth-sized worlds might circle billions of red dwarf stars, the most common type of star in our galaxy. But, like our own sun, many of these stars erupt with intense flares. Are red dwarfs really as friendly to life as they appear, or do these flares make the surfaces of any orbiting planets inhospitable?

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Ingredient of life found around infant Sun-like stars

9 June 2017 Astronomy Now

ALMA has observed stars like the Sun at a very early stage in their formation and found traces of methyl isocyanate — a chemical building block of life. This is the first ever detection of this prebiotic molecule towards solar-type protostars, the sort from which our Solar System evolved.