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Curiosity’s Martian nitrogen find raises possibility of ancient life

31 March 2015 Kerry Hebden

Nitrogen, in the form of nitric oxide (one nitrogen atom and one oxygen atom), has been detected for the first time on the surface of Mars by a team of researchers using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover, adding to the growing speculation that life could have once flourished on ancient Mars.

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Race to detect gravitational waves intensifies

31 March 2015 Astronomy Now

One of the great challenges in astrophysics is the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves — elusive ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by extremely energetic and large-scale cosmic events. To this end, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves $14.5 million over 5 years.

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Dark matter even darker than once thought

28 March 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have studied how dark matter in clusters of galaxies behaves when the clusters collide. The results show that dark matter interacts with itself even less than previously thought, and narrows down the options for what this mysterious substance might be.

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Supermassive black hole blasts star-making gas from galaxy’s core

26 March 2015 Astronomy Now

Many galaxies blast huge, wide-angled flows of material outward from their centres, pushing to their outer edges enough dust and gas each year that otherwise would have formed more than a thousand stars the size of our Sun. A team led by University of Maryland scientists has found the driving force behind these massive molecular outflows.

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The dwarf galaxy that reveals the history of the universe

24 March 2015 Astronomy Now

Dwarf galaxy I Zw 18 stands out for its extreme scarcity of heavy elements, a characteristic typical of primeval galaxies. A map of ionised helium in the galaxy has just been published, indicating the presence of peculiar stars similar to the first that ever shone in the universe.