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Extreme starburst in the core of a gargantuan galaxy cluster

11 September 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers has discovered a prodigious galaxy cluster with a core bursting with new stars — an incredibly rare find. This surprising new discovery, the result of collaborative synergy from ground- and space-based observations, is the first to show that gigantic galaxies at the centres of massive clusters can grow significantly by feeding off gas stolen from other galaxies.

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The closest rocky, transiting exoplanet found in Cassiopeia

31 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Northern Hemisphere astronomers are familiar with the W-shaped star pattern of Cassiopeia, a circumpolar constellation near the Pole Star that never sets for latitudes north of 35°. Tucked next to one leg of the W lies a modest 5th-magnitude star named HD 219134 that has been hiding a secret.

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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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Charting the Milky Way from the inside out

7 June 2015 Astronomy Now

The Sun’s location within the Milky Way’s dust-obscured disc is a complicating factor when trying to determine the Galaxy’s four-arm spiral structure, but researchers are obtaining a clearer picture by mapping embedded star clusters using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).

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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.

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First evidence of volcanic activity on a super-Earth?

5 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have detected wildly changing temperatures on a super-Earth — the first time any atmospheric variability has been observed on a rocky planet outside the Solar System — and believe it could be due to huge amounts of volcanic activity, further adding to the mystery of what had been nicknamed the ‘diamond planet.’