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Newborn giant exoplanet found orbiting close to its parent star

20 June 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers has confirmed the existence of a young planet known as K2-33b, only 11 million years old, that orbits very close to its star (at 0.05 astronomical units), with an orbital period of 5.4 days. Approximately five times the size of the Earth, the new planet is a “super-Neptune” and the youngest such planet known.

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A young mammoth cluster of galaxies sighted in the early universe

25 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have uncovered evidence for a vast collection of young galaxies 12 billion light years away. The newly discovered “proto-cluster” of galaxies, observed when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old (12 percent of its present age), is one of the most massive structures known at that distance.

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Astronomers confirm faintest early-universe galaxy ever detected

20 May 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of scientists has detected and confirmed the faintest early-universe galaxy ever using the ten-metre Keck II telescope on the summit on Maunakea, Hawaii. The team analysed three separate images of the object gravitationally lensed by a foreground galaxy cluster, revealing the distant galaxy as it was 13 billion years ago.

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Speeding binary star discovered approaching galactic escape velocity

14 April 2016 Astronomy Now

There are about two dozen so-called hypervelocity stars known to be escaping our Milky Way galaxy, but PB 3877 is the first wide binary star found to travel at such a high speed. The results of a new study challenge the commonly accepted scenario that hypervelocity stars are accelerated by the supermassive black hole at the galactic centre.

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Fossil globular star clusters reveal their age

28 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Using a new age-dating method and the W. M. Keck Observatory, an international team of astronomers have determined that globular star clusters formed in two distinct epochs — 12.5 and 11.5 billion years ago. They formed alongside galaxies, rather than prior to galaxies, as previously thought.

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Mars lost an ocean’s worth of water

6 March 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA scientists have determined that a primitive ocean occupying almost half of Mars’ northern hemisphere once held more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean and that the Red Planet has lost 87% of that water to space.