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Fossilised rivers suggest warm, wet ancient Mars

24 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Extensive systems of fossilised riverbeds have been discovered on an ancient region of the Martian surface on a northern plain called Arabia Terra, supporting the idea that the now cold and dry Red Planet had a warm and wet climate about 4 billion years ago, according to University College London-led research.

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Hubble’s fireball

17 August 2016 Astronomy Now

In this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image we see the central Wolf-Rayet star known as Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — surrounded by the nebula M1-67. Both objects are found in the constellation of Sagitta some 15,000 light-years away. The hot clumps of gas ejected by the star into space are travelling at over 150,000 kilometres per hour.

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The curious case of Earth’s leaking atmosphere

8 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Overall, about 1 kg of material is escaping our atmosphere every second. Every day, around 90 tonnes of material escapes from our planet’s upper atmosphere and streams out into space. Although missions such as ESA’s Cluster fleet have long been investigating this leakage, there are still many open questions. How and why is Earth losing its atmosphere?

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Saturn’s moon Enceladus and its paper-thin crust

6 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers have used data collected by the Cassini spacecraft to build a computer simulation of Saturn’s icy ocean moon Enceladus that includes the thickness of the ice crust. At its south poles, huge geysers of water jet into space. These come from the ocean depths and suggest that the ice there must be relatively thin for this to happen.

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Using gravitational waves to catch runaway intergalactic black holes

4 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a new method for detecting and measuring one of the most powerful, and most mysterious, events in the universe — a black hole being kicked out of its host galaxy and into intergalactic space at speeds as high as 5,000 kilometres per second (11 million miles per hour).

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The spider in the loop

23 June 2016 Astronomy Now

This multicoloured swirl of yellow and blue shows a prominent ring of gas near the North Celestial Pole. The pole appears to be fixed in place, while the rest of the night sky slowly circles around it because of Earth’s rotation. This image comes courtesy of ESA’s Planck satellite, which spent years mapping the entire sky in exquisite detail between 2009 and 2013.

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Hubble resolves globular cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud

20 June 2016 Astronomy Now

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the globular cluster NGC 1854, a gathering of white and blue stars in the southern constellation of Dorado. NGC 1854 is located about 135,000 light-years away, in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of our closest cosmic neighbours and a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

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Supermassive black hole fed by cold intergalactic downpour

9 June 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) has witnessed a cosmic weather event that has never been seen before — a cluster of towering intergalactic gas clouds raining in on the supermassive black hole at the centre of a huge galaxy one billion light-years from Earth.

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LISA Pathfinder success paves way for space-based gravitational wave detection

9 June 2016 Astronomy Now

LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by the European Space Agency with contributions from NASA, has successfully tested key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves. These tiny ripples in the fabric of space, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).