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Scientists predict that rocky planets formed from ‘pebbles’

27 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Using a new process in planetary formation modelling, where planets grow from tiny bodies called “pebbles,” Southwest Research Institute scientists can explain why Mars is so much smaller than Earth. This same process also explains the rapid formation of the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, as reported earlier this year.

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VLA reveals spectacular “haloes” of spiral galaxies

13 October 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to investigate 35 edge-on spiral galaxies at distances from 11 million to 137 million light-years from Earth. The study has revealed that “haloes” of cosmic rays and magnetic fields above and below the galaxies’ discs are much more common than previously thought.

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Largest planets likely formed first from icy “planetary pebbles”

20 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Researchers at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and Queen’s University in Canada have unravelled the mystery of how Jupiter and Saturn likely formed using computer simulations. The discovery, which changes our view of how all planets might have formed, also suggests that the gas giants in the solar system probably formed before the terrestrial planets.