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Massive galaxy discovered made almost entirely of dark matter

26 August 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers has discovered a massive galaxy that consists of 99.99 percent dark matter. Even though it is relatively nearby, astronomers had missed the galaxy, named Dragonfly 44, for decades because it is very dim. The galaxy lies about 300 million light-years away in the constellation Coma.

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X marks the spot at the centre of the Milky Way

20 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have uncovered the strongest evidence yet that an enormous X-shaped structure made of stars lies within the central bulge of the Milky Way. Previous computer models, observations of other galaxies, and observations of our own Galaxy have suggested that the X-shaped structure existed, but no one had observed it directly.

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Jupiter kicked a giant planet out of the solar system 4 billion years ago

3 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The existence of a fifth giant gas planet at the time of the solar system’s formation — in addition to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune that we know of today — was first proposed in 2011. Now astrophysicists at the University of Toronto have found that a close encounter with Jupiter about four billion years ago may have resulted in the fifth giant planet’s ejection from the solar system altogether.

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Mysterious energy bursts provide new way to chart the cosmos in 3-D

20 September 2015 Astronomy Now

In deep space, some unknown astrophysical phenomenon is causing mysterious bursts of energy that appear as short flashes of radio waves. In a University of British Columbia study, researchers propose a new way to calculate cosmological distances using these fast radio bursts. The method allows researchers to position distant galaxies in three dimensions and map out the cosmos.

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Watching an exoplanet in motion around a distant star

17 September 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers, using the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) on the Gemini South telescope in Chile, has given us our best view yet of an exoplanet moving in its orbit around a distant star. A series of images captured between November 2013 and April 2015 shows the exoplanet β Pictoris b as it moves through 1½ years of its 22-year orbital period.

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‘Fluffiest galaxies’ discovered by Keck Observatory

16 May 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of researchers have used the W. M. Keck Observatory to confirm the existence of the most diffuse class of galaxies known in the universe. These Ultra Diffuse Galaxies (UDGs) are nearly as wide as our own Milky Way galaxy — about 60,000 light-years — yet harbour only one percent as many stars.