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The heart of Pluto in high-resolution

29 July 2015 Stephen Clark

The icy plains of Pluto resolved by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft stretch as wide as Texas, enveloping mountain ranges and bizarre hilly outcrops in a mosaic revealing one lobe of the distant world’s heart-shaped reservoir of exotic frozen carbon monoxide, nitrogen and methane.

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New names and insights at dwarf planet Ceres

29 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Colourful new maps of Ceres, based on data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, showcase a diverse topography, with height differences between crater bottoms and mountain peaks as great as 9 miles (15 kilometres). Some of these craters and other features now have official names, inspired by spirits and deities relating to agriculture from a variety of cultures.

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Fossil globular star clusters reveal their age

28 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Using a new age-dating method and the W. M. Keck Observatory, an international team of astronomers have determined that globular star clusters formed in two distinct epochs — 12.5 and 11.5 billion years ago. They formed alongside galaxies, rather than prior to galaxies, as previously thought.

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Impact of cosmic wind on galaxy evolution revealed

27 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have long known that powerful cosmic winds can sometimes blow through galaxies, sweeping out interstellar material and stopping future star formation. A Yale University analysis of one such event in a nearby galaxy provides an unprecedented look at the process, offering a clearer snapshot of how it happens.

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New Horizons discovers flowing ices on Pluto

25 July 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s New Horizons mission has found evidence of exotic ices flowing across Pluto’s surface, at the left edge of its bright heart-shaped area. New close-up images from the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) reveal signs of recent geologic activity, something scientists hoped to find but didn’t expect.

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Simulated map of missing satellite galaxies could answer dark matter puzzle

23 July 2015 Astronomy Now

A ripple in the outskirts of the Milky Way led Rochester Institute of Technology astrophysicist Sukanya Chakrabarti to a previously undetected dwarf galaxy hidden under a veil of dark matter. Now Chakrabarti is refining her technique to uncover dwarf galaxies and understand dark matter by simulating the evolutionary histories of galactic discs and their satellite populations.

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Pulsar punches hole in stellar disc

23 July 2015 Astronomy Now

A fast-moving pulsar appears to have punched a hole in a disc of gas around its companion star and launched a fragment of the disc outward at a speed of about 4 million miles per hour. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is tracking this cosmic clump, which appears to be picking up speed as it moves out.

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ALMA witnesses assembly of galaxies in early universe

22 July 2015 Astronomy Now

The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) has been used to detect the most distant clouds of star-forming gas yet found in normal galaxies in the early universe. The new observations allow astronomers to start to see how the first galaxies were built up and how they cleared the cosmic fog during the era of reionisation.

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Pluto probe’s camera sees striking geologic boundary

21 July 2015 Stephen Clark

A newly discovered mountain range lies near the southwestern margin of Pluto’s Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), situated between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain. This image was acquired by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015 from a distance of 48,000 miles.