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Possible Venus twin discovered around dim star

11 April 2017 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler space telescope have found a planet 219 light-years away that seems to be a close relative to Venus. This newly discovered world is only slightly larger than Earth and orbits a low-temperature star called Kepler-1649 that’s one-fifth the diameter of our Sun.

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Did early Earth spin on its side?

1 November 2016 Astronomy Now

New theoretical modelling of the ancient history of the Earth and the Moon suggests that the giant collision that spawned our natural satellite may have left Earth spinning very fast, and with its spin axis highly tilted. The simulations give new insight into the question of whether planets with big moons are more likely to have moderate climates and life.

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New planet Kepler-1647b is largest discovered that orbits two suns

13 June 2016 Astronomy Now

If you cast your eyes toward the constellation Cygnus, you’ll be looking in the direction of the largest planet yet discovered with the widest orbit around a double-star system. It’s too faint to see with the naked eye, but a team led by astronomers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and San Diego State University used NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope to identify the new planet.

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Natural causes, not aliens, explain mystery star’s behaviour

10 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Media interest went viral last October when a group of astronomers from Pennsylvania State University cited that the “bizarre light curve” of KIC 8462852, popularly known as Tabby’s star, was “consistent with” a swarm of alien-constructed megastructures. Now, the results of a new study make it far less likely that KIC 8462852 is the home of industrious extraterrestrials.

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Moons of Saturn may be younger than the dinosaurs

25 March 2016 Astronomy Now

New research suggests that some of Saturn’s icy moons, as well as its famous rings, might be modern adornments. Their dramatic birth may have taken place a mere 100 million years ago. This would date the formation of the major moons of Saturn, with the exception of more distant Titan and Iapetus, to the relatively recent Cretaceous Period — the era of the dinosaurs.

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Surprise discovery of new Southern Hemisphere meteor shower

25 February 2016 Astronomy Now

A new network of video surveillance cameras in New Zealand detected a surprise meteor shower on New Year’s Eve. The shower is called the Volantids, named after the constellation Volans, the flying fish, from which the meteoroids appear to stream towards us. The shower was not seen the year before and is not known from past radar observations. It could be an early warning that we should be looking for a potentially hazardous comet in that orbit.

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Moon was produced by head-on collision between Earth and forming planet

29 January 2016 Astronomy Now

The Moon was formed by a violent, head-on collision between the early Earth and a “planetary embryo” called Theia (pronounced THAY-eh) approximately 100 million years after the Earth formed, UCLA scientists reveal. This new research also refutes the work of a team of German scientists who, in 2014, reported that the Moon also has its own unique ratio of oxygen isotopes, different from Earth’s.

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New Horizons finds possible ice volcanoes on Pluto

9 November 2015 Astronomy Now

From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons science team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. The two cryovolcano candidates are large features measuring tens of miles across and several miles high.

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Kerberos completes family portrait of Pluto’s moons

25 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Images just sent back to Earth this week of Pluto’s tiny moon tiny Kerberos taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft complete the family portrait of Pluto’s moons. Kerberos has a double-lobed shape suggesting that it could have been formed by the merger of two smaller objects. It also appears to be smaller than scientists expected and has a highly-reflective surface, counter to predictions prior to the Pluto flyby in July.