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Distant star Kepler 11145123 is roundest object ever observed in nature

17 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of German researchers has succeeded in measuring the oblateness of a slowly rotating star with unprecedented precision using asteroseismology — the study of the oscillations of stars. The technique was applied to a hot and luminous star called Kepler 11145123 some 5,000 light-years away that is spherical to one part in 500,000.

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What lies beneath – Venus’ surface revealed through the clouds

18 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Using observations from ESA’s Venus Express satellite, scientists have shown for the first time how weather patterns seen in Venus’ thick cloud layers are directly linked to the topography of the surface below. Rather than acting as a barrier to our observations, Venus’ clouds may offer insight into what lies beneath.

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New Ceres images show bright craters

20 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Craters with bright material on dwarf planet Ceres shine in new images from NASA’s Dawn mission taken from its lowest-altitude mapping orbit. Young crater Haulani (diameter 21 miles) and 6-mile-wide Oxo Crater — the second-brightest feature on Ceres — provide scientists with insight into the dwarf planet’s materials and surface morphology.

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New clues to dwarf planet Ceres’ bright spots and origins

9 December 2015 Astronomy Now

The surface of Ceres, whose average diameter is 584 miles, is generally dark and similar in brightness to fresh asphalt. But the dwarf planet does possess 130 mysterious bright areas associated with impact craters that new research suggests are salt-rich areas left behind when briny water-ice from a subsurface layer sublimated in the past.

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Computer simulations explain Jupiter’s wild weather

30 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The numerous whirlwinds covering Jupiter are caused by upward gas flows originating deep within the giant planet. This is the conclusion reached by scientists at the University of Alberta (Canada) and the Max Planck Institute for Solar Research (MPS) in Germany after extensive computer simulations. Their models also explain why the Jovian whirlwinds’ direction of rotation is opposite to storms on Earth.

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How Rosetta’s comet got its shape

29 September 2015 Astronomy Now

The origin of of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s double-lobed form has been a key question since Rosetta first revealed its surprising shape in July 2014. By studying the layers of material seen all over the nucleus, scientists have shown that the shape arose from a low-speed collision between two fully fledged, separately formed comets.

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Hot lava flows discovered on Venus

19 June 2015 Astronomy Now

The European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft has found the best evidence yet for active volcanism on Earth’s neighbour planet. Seeing the planet’s surface is extremely difficult due to its thick atmosphere, but radar observations by previous missions to Venus have revealed it as a world covered in volcanoes and ancient lava flows.

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OSIRIS discovers balancing rock on comet 67P

19 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Scientists from Rosetta’s OSIRIS team have discovered an extraordinary formation in the Aker region on the larger lobe of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The largest of a group of three boulders with a diameter of approximately 30 metres appears to perch on the rim of a small depression. There seems to be only a very small contact area with the nucleus.

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Active asteroid spun so fast that it exploded

23 March 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers used the 10-metre Keck II telescope in Hawaii to examine a so-called active asteroid, P/2012 F5, that mimics a comet with a tail, but ejects dust like a shot without an obvious reason. The researchers found that it had a very fast spin rate and probably fragmented.