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Solar storms ignite X-ray aurorae on Jupiter

22 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Solar storms are triggering X-ray aurorae on Jupiter that are about eight times brighter than normal over a large area of the planet and hundreds of times more energetic than Earth’s “northern lights,” according to a new study using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory when a giant solar storm arrived at the planet.

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High-speed CHIMERA to scout for Kuiper Belt objects

4 March 2016 Astronomy Now

At the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, astronomers are busy tinkering with a high-tech instrument that could discover a variety of objects both far from Earth and closer to home. The Caltech HIgh-speed Multi-colour camERA (CHIMERA) system is looking for objects in the Kuiper Belt, the band of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune that includes Pluto.

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A lonely planet and its distant star

26 January 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers in the UK, USA and Australia have found a planet, until now thought to be a free floating, in a huge, 900,000-year orbit around its star. Incredibly the object, designated as 2MASS J2126, is about 1 trillion (1 million million) kilometres from the star, or about 7,000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

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NASA telescopes detect Jupiter-like storm on small, cool star

10 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using data from NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes have discovered what appears to be a Jupiter-sized star with a colossal, cloudy storm with a diameter that could hold three Earths. The storm rotates around the L-dwarf star known as W1906+40 about every 9 hours and has lasted at least two years, probably longer.

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A sharp-eyed future for historic Kitt Peak telescope

13 October 2015 Astronomy Now

The 2.1-metre telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory will be transformed into the first dedicated adaptive optics (AO) observatory for astronomy. This system, named Robo-AO KP, will allow astronomers to study large numbers of astronomical objects in high resolution, spanning science from planetary to stellar, and exoplanetary to extragalactic.

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“Failed stars” host powerful auroral displays

30 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Brown dwarfs are relatively cool, dim objects that are too massive to be planets, yet they are too small to sustain hydrogen fusion reactions. By observing a brown dwarf 20 light-years away, researchers have found another feature that makes these so-called failed stars more like supersized planets — they host powerful aurorae near their magnetic poles.