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NuSTAR probes black hole mystery

5 November 2017 Astronomy Now

Black holes are famous for being ravenous eaters, but they do not eat everything that falls toward them. A small portion of material gets shot back out in powerful jets of hot gas, called plasma, that can wreak havoc on their surroundings. Along the way, this plasma somehow gets energized enough to strongly radiate light, forming two bright columns along the black hole’s axis of rotation.

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NASA’s Dawn mission gears up for close look at Ceres

20 October 2017 Stephen Clark

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will remain at Ceres for the rest of its mission, heading closer to the asteroid belt’s largest resident than ever before to obtain new measurements of ice, salts and a tenuous intermittent atmosphere detected around the dwarf planet, the space agency announced Thursday.

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Cassini results still keeping scientists busy

19 October 2017 Stephen Clark

Scientists examining data from the Cassini mission’s final months reported this week unexpected measurements of Saturn’s gravity field and outer atmosphere, suggesting they may have to revisit theories about the planet’s rings and the forces that generate magnetic fields.

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Mysterious dimming of Tabby’s Star may be caused by dust

7 October 2017 Astronomy Now

One of the most mysterious stellar objects may be revealing some of its secrets at last. Called KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian’s Star, or Tabby’s Star, the object has experienced unusual dips in brightness — NASA’s Kepler space telescope even observed dimming of up to 20 percent over a matter of days. In addition, the star has had much subtler but longer-term enigmatic dimming trends, with one continuing today.

Picture This

Enceladus’ phantom limb

4 October 2017 Astronomy Now

The brightly lit limb of a crescent Enceladus looks ethereal against the blackness of space. The rest of the moon, lit by light reflected from Saturn, presents a ghostly appearance.

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Scientists celebrate 10th anniversary of Dawn mission’s launch

27 September 2017 Stephen Clark

In the ten years since its launch from Cape Canaveral, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has orbited the two largest worlds in the asteroid belt and overcome defective components that threatened to derail the mission on its 4 billion-mile voyage, discovering unexpectedly rich geologic tapestries suggesting both destinations have a watery past.