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Dust grains could be remnants of stellar explosions billions of years ago

9 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Microscopic particles of stardust, known as “pre-solar grains,” have been found in meteoritic material on Earth. Researchers are investigating whether these particles may have formed in classical novae explosions, ejecting stellar material in the form of gas and dust into the space between stars in the galaxy, eventually to be recycled in the creation of our solar system.

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Repeat fast radio bursts detected from same sky location

3 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers for the first time have detected repeating short bursts of radio waves from an enigmatic source that is likely located well beyond the edge of our Milky Way galaxy. The findings indicate that these “fast radio bursts” come from an extremely powerful object which occasionally produces multiple bursts in under a minute.

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Scientists to provide update on the search for gravitational waves

10 February 2016 Astronomy Now

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Albert Einstein’s prediction of the existence of gravitational waves. With interest in this topic piqued by the centennial, researchers from UK universities in Glasgow, Birmingham, and Cardiff will discuss their ongoing efforts to observe and measure cosmic gravitational waves for scientific research in London on Thursday, 11 February.

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Space-Earth system produces highest-resolution astronomical image

27 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Using an orbiting radio-astronomy satellite combined with 15 ground-based radio telescopes, astronomers have made the most-detailed astronomical image yet, revealing new insights about a gorging black hole in a galaxy 900 million light-years away. The image has the resolving power of a telescope about 62,500 miles wide, or almost eight times the diameter of the Earth.

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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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VLA reveals dramatic new evidence about star and planet formation

5 January 2016 Astronomy Now

A detailed study of young stars and their surroundings has produced dramatic new evidence about how multiple-star systems form and how the dusty discs that are the raw material for planets grow around young stars. Scientists used the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope to study nearly 100 newborn stars in a cloud of gas and dust about 750 light-years from Earth.

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Chandra finds a remarkable galactic ribbon unfurled

25 December 2015 Astronomy Now

An extraordinary ribbon of hot gas trailing behind a galaxy like a tail has been discovered using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This ribbon, or X-ray tail, is likely due to gas stripped from the galaxy as it moves through a vast cloud of hot intergalactic gas. With a length of at least 250,000 light-years, it is likely the largest such tail ever detected.

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Twisted magnetic fields give new insights on star formation

25 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Using new images that show unprecedented detail, scientists have found that material rotating around a very young protostar probably has dragged in and twisted magnetic fields from the larger area surrounding the star. The discovery, made with the Very Large Array radio telescope, has important implications for how dusty discs — the raw material for planet formation — grow around young stars.

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Unveiling the turbulent times of a dying star

1 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Astrophysicists have used the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters supercomputer to perform 3-D simulations of a mere 10 milliseconds in the collapse of a massive star into a neutron star, proving that these catastrophic events — often called hypernovae — can generate the enormous magnetic fields needed to explode the star and fire off bursts of gamma rays visible halfway across the universe.