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The Milky Way’s tumultuous heart revealed in X-rays

21 August 2015 Astronomy Now

A newly released image from the ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray satellite observatory gives us a unprecedented look at the intense processes taking place at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. The new study, which spans a thousand light-years, is a compilation of one and a half months of monitoring, revealing the powerful remnants of dead stars and their mighty action on the surrounding gas.

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Chasms on Dione

18 August 2015 Astronomy Now

While not bursting with activity like its sister moon Enceladus, the surface of Saturn’s moon Dione is definitely not boring. Some parts of the surface are covered by linear features, called chasmata — bright icy cliffs among myriad fractures — which provide dramatic contrast to the round impact craters that typically cover moons.

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Rosetta studies Comet 67P at perihelion

14 August 2015 Astronomy Now

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has witnessed 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko make its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) at 3:03am BST on 13 August, when the comet came within 116 million miles of our nearest star. Rosetta’s measurements suggest the comet is currently spewing up to 300kg of water vapour and a metric tonne of dust every second, creating dangerous working conditions for the spacecraft.

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Philae’s descent to comet 67P

3 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Recently released images compiled into a movie show the descent of the European Space Agency’s Philae lander to its first touchdown site, Agilkia, on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014. The image sequence starts just over two miles from the comet, and the final image is from just 9 metres above the landing site.

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Rosetta’s new view of Comet 67P

20 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is now less than a month from perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun occurring on 13 August. ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft captured this view of enhanced activity from the comet’s twin-lobed nucleus on 7 July.

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New contact with intractable comet lander

11 July 2015 Stephen Clark

Europe’s Rosetta comet probe re-established momentary contact with the Philae lander late Thursday, renewing hopes of starting up the craft’s research instruments after two weeks of radio silence dampened the moods of scientists.

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Monster black hole wakes up after 26 years

26 June 2015 Astronomy Now

On 15 June 2015, a long-time acquaintance of X-ray and gamma ray astronomers made its comeback to the cosmic stage: V404 Cygni, a system comprising a black hole and a star orbiting one another. It is located in our Milky Way galaxy, almost 8,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.

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The mysterious ‘lakes’ on Saturn’s moon Titan

21 June 2015 Astronomy Now

Titan is home to seas and lakes filled with liquid hydrocarbons, but what forms the depressions on the surface? A new study using data from the joint NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) Cassini mission suggests the moon’s surface dissolves in a process that’s similar to the creation of sinkholes on Earth.