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Space telescopes find “twins” of Eta Carinae in other galaxies

6 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Located about 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina, Eta Carinae outshines our Sun by 5 million times. The binary system consists of two massive stars in a tight 5.5-year orbit, shrouded in an expanding veil of gas and dust from an enormous eruption seen in the 1840s. Now a study using archival data from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes has found five similar objects in other galaxies for the first time.

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Hubble sees the Force awakening in a newborn star

17 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Just in time for the release of the movie “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has photographed what looks like a cosmic, double-bladed lightsabre. In the centre of the image, partially obscured by a dark, Jedi-like cloak of dust, a newborn star shoots twin jets out into space as a sort of birth announcement to the universe.

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Earth-sized rocky planet found orbiting a nearby star

12 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The collection of rocky planets orbiting distant stars has just grown by one, and the latest discovery is the most intriguing yet. Known as GJ 1132b, the newfound world lies just 39 light-years away. Although hot as an oven, the 9,200 mile-wide planet is cool enough to potentially host an atmosphere. If it does, we could study that atmosphere in detail with the Hubble Space Telescope and future observatories like the Giant Magellan Telescope.

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Helium-shrouded planets may be common in our Galaxy

12 June 2015 Astronomy Now

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our Galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. These planets would be around the mass of Neptune, or lighter, and would orbit close to their stars, basking in their searing heat.

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Astronomers set a new galaxy distance record

5 May 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers has pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5 percent of its present age with the discovery of an exceptionally luminous galaxy more than 13 billion light-years from Earth. The galaxy existed so long ago, it appears to be only 100 million years old.