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Hubble spots possible water plumes erupting on Jupiter’s moon Europa

26 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapour plumes erupting 125 miles (200 kilometres) off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Europa has a huge global ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans, but it is protected by a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness.

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Searching for distant and wandering worlds

10 April 2016 Astronomy Now

In a global exoplanet observation experiment, NASA’s Kepler K2 mission and Earth-based observatories on six continents hope to survey millions of stars toward the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. Using a technique called gravitational microlensing, scientists will hunt for exoplanets that orbit far from their host star and for free-floating exoplanets that wander between the stars.

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Introducing WFIRST — NASA’s wider set of eyes on the universe

21 February 2016 Astronomy Now

With a view 100 times bigger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will aid researchers in their efforts to unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos. It also will discover new worlds outside our solar system and advance the search for worlds that could be suitable for life.

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James Webb Space Telescope primary mirror fully assembled

4 February 2016 Astronomy Now

The final primary mirror segment is installed on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Once in space and fully deployed, the 18 hexagonal-shaped mirror segments will work together as one large 6.5-metre mirror. The crowning mirror installation marks an important milestone in the assembly of what will be the biggest and most powerful space telescope ever launched.

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NASA office to coordinate asteroid detection and hazard mitigation

12 January 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA has formalised its ongoing program for detecting and tracking near-Earth objects (NEOs) as the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). The office will be responsible for supervision of all NASA-funded projects to find and characterise asteroids and comets that pass near Earth. It will also take a leading role in coordinating efforts in response to any potential impact threats.

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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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New Horizons returns first, best images of Pluto

4 December 2015 Astronomy Now

It is almost five months since New Horizons’ epic encounter with Pluto, but the captured images and data will stream back to Earth across 3 billion miles of interplanetary space for a further 11 months. The first in a series of the best close-ups of the dwarf planet that humans may see for decades have been released, obtained when the spacecraft was just 15 minutes before closest approach during the 14 July flyby.

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NASA confirms evidence that liquid water flows on today’s Mars

28 September 2015 Astronomy Now

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars. Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious darkish streaks that appear to ebb and flow over time are seen on the Red Planet.