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Asteroseismology reveals magnetic fields deep within stars

24 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have for the first time probed the magnetic fields in the mysterious inner regions of stars, finding they are strongly magnetised. Using a technique called asteroseismology, the scientists were able to calculate the magnetic field strengths in the fusion-powered hearts of dozens of red giants, stars that are evolved versions of our Sun.

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VLA reveals spectacular “haloes” of spiral galaxies

13 October 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to investigate 35 edge-on spiral galaxies at distances from 11 million to 137 million light-years from Earth. The study has revealed that “haloes” of cosmic rays and magnetic fields above and below the galaxies’ discs are much more common than previously thought.

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IRIS and Hinode: a stellar research team

26 August 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph satellite, or IRIS, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA)/NASA’s Hinode solar observatory, have just made a significant step towards understanding why the corona — the outermost, wispy layer of the Sun’s atmosphere — is hundreds of times hotter than the lower photosphere, which is the Sun’s visible surface.

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Sharp-eyed ALMA spots a flare on famous red giant star

30 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Observations with the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) have revealed what seems to be a gigantic flare on the surface of Mira, one of the closest and most famous red giant stars in the sky. Activity like this in red giants — similar to what we see in the Sun — comes as a surprise to astronomers.

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Magnetar near Galactic Centre supermassive black hole delivers surprises

16 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Magnetars are dense, collapsed stars that possess enormously powerful magnetic fields. At a distance that could be as small as 0.3 light-years from the 4-million-solar mass black hole in the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, magnetar SGR 1745-2900 is by far the closest neutron star to a supermassive black hole ever discovered and is likely in its gravitational grip.

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The seasons of the Sun

8 April 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of researchers has determined that the Sun undergoes a type of seasonal variability with its activity waxing and waning over the course of nearly two years. This behaviour affects the approximately 11-year solar cycle, sometimes amplifying solar storms that can buffet Earth’s atmosphere.