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Oldest known planet-forming circumstellar disc discovered

22 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A group of citizen scientists and professional astronomers joined forces to discover an unusual hunting ground for exoplanets. They found a red dwarf, called AWI0005x3s, surrounded by the oldest known circumstellar disc — a 45-million-year-old primordial ring of gas and dust orbiting the star from which planets can form.

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‘Frankenstein’ galaxy UGC 1382 surprises astronomers

13 July 2016 Astronomy Now

About 250 million light-years away, there’s a neighbourhood of our universe that astronomers had considered quiet and unremarkable. But now, scientists have uncovered an enormous, bizarre galaxy possibly formed from the parts of other galaxies. Some 718,000 light-years across, UGC 1382 is more than seven times wider than the Milky Way.

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Lone planetary-mass object found in a young star family

20 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have found a free-floating object called WISEA 1147, thought to be an exceptionally low-mass “brown dwarf,” which is a star that lacked enough mass to burn nuclear fuel and glow like a star. Reasearchers using data from NASA’s WISE and 2MASS sky surveys found the object in TW Hydrae — a young, 10-million-year-old association of stars.

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Spitzer sees a space spider watching over young stars

14 April 2016 Astronomy Now

The “Spider Nebula” glows fluorescent green in an infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS). Nebulae are clouds of interstellar gas and dust where stars can form. The Spider, officially named IC 417, is located about 10,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Auriga.

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Astronomers discover colossal ‘super spiral’ galaxies

18 March 2016 Astronomy Now

A strange new kind of galactic beast has been spotted in the cosmic wilderness. Dubbed “super spirals,” these unprecedented galaxies dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe. The galaxies have long hidden in plain sight by mimicking the appearance of typical spirals.

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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).