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Astronomers find planet hotter than most stars

7 June 2017 Astronomy Now

A newly discovered Jupiter-like world is so hot, it’s being vaporized by its own star. With a dayside temperature of more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit, KELT-9b is a planet that is hotter than most stars. But its blue A-type star, called KELT-9, is even hotter — in fact, it is probably unraveling the planet through evaporation.

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Black holes crash together and make waves

3 June 2017 William Harwood

Three billion years ago, in a third of a second, two black holes crashed into each other and merged into a single entity, converting two solar masses into energy that shook the fabric of spacetime, sending gravitational ripples across the universe that were detected on Earth last January, researchers announced Thursday.

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Do stars fall quietly into black holes?

30 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Astronomers at the University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University have put a basic principle of black holes to the test, showing that matter completely vanishes when pulled in. Their results constitute another successful test for Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

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Cassini survives closest brush with Saturn’s inner ring

30 May 2017 Stephen Clark

Barreling through space near the inner edge of Saturn’s wispy D ring, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shielded itself from bits of ice and dust Sunday as the probe made its most dangerous plunge close to the planet, collecting spectacular edge-on views of Saturn’s rings with an on-board camera.

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Newly discovered fast-growing galaxies could solve cosmic riddle

29 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have discovered a new kind of galaxy in the early universe, less than a billion years after the Big Bang. These galaxies are forming stars more than a hundred times faster than our own Milky Way. The discovery could explain an earlier finding: a population of surprisingly massive galaxies at a time 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, which would require such hyper-productive precursors to grow their hundreds of billions of stars.

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Jupiter surprises in first trove of data from NASA’s Juno mission

27 May 2017 Stephen Clark

The first months of observations of the solar system’s biggest planet from NASA’s Juno spacecraft have revealed huge swirling polar cyclones, previously-undetected structures and motions beneath Jupiter’s distinctive clouds, and the first evidence for what lies at the core of the gas giant, scientists said Thursday.

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Earlier launch of NASA’s Psyche mission touted as cost-saving measure

26 May 2017 Stephen Clark

A NASA spacecraft set to explore a metallic asteroid for the first time will launch in 2022, a year earlier than originally planned, and reach its destination in 2026, four years ahead of schedule, giving ground teams a shorter wait for the mission’s scientific payoff and shaving $100 million off the project’s total cost, officials said Wednesday.

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The Galaxy’s strangest star dims again

24 May 2017 Keith Cooper

A sudden dimming in brightness of Tabby’s Star, famed for its large and puzzling fades, has triggered a frenzy of observations as astronomers hurry to try to get to the bottom of what is rapidly become one of the biggest mysteries in astronomy.