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First stars formed even later than previously thought

2 September 2016 Astronomy Now

ESA’s Planck satellite has revealed that the first stars in the universe started forming later than previous observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background indicated. This new analysis also shows that these stars were the only sources needed to account for reionising atoms in the cosmos, having completed half of this process when the universe had reached an age of 700 million years.

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Map of rocky exoplanet reveals a lava world

31 March 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers, led by the University of Cambridge, has obtained the most detailed ‘fingerprint’ of a rocky planet outside our solar system to date, and found a planet of two halves: one that is almost completely molten, and the other which is almost completely solid. Exoplanet 55 Cancri e lies 40 light-years from the Sun.

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Hubble team breaks cosmic distance record

4 March 2016 Astronomy Now

By pushing the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to its limits, astronomers have shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the distance to the most remote galaxy ever seen in the universe. The galaxy, named GN-z11, has a redshift of 11.1, which corresponds to 400 million years after the Big Bang when the universe was only three percent of its current age.

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James Webb Space Telescope mirror installation halfway complete

28 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Inside NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s massive clean room in Greenbelt, Maryland, the ninth flight mirror was installed onto the James Webb Space Telescope’s structure with a robotic arm. After being pieced together, all 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 6.5-metre mirror. The full installation is expected to be complete early in 2016.

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Mystery of missing exoplanet water solved using NASA space telescopes

14 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A survey of ten hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets conducted with NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescopes has led a UK-US team to solve a long-standing mystery — why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected. The findings offer new insights into the wide range of planetary atmospheres in our galaxy and how planets are assembled.

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope receives first mirror installation

27 November 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA has successfully installed the first of 18 flight mirrors onto the James Webb Space Telescope — the successor to Hubble — beginning a critical piece of the observatory’s construction. Targeted for launch in 2018, the telescope’s 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-metre) mirror.