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Updated: 19 hours 42 min ago

ExoMars lander descent data: Decoding underway

Thu, 10/20/2016 - 12:33pm
Essential data from the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander sent to its mothership Trace Gas Orbiter during the module's descent to the Red Planet's surface yesterday has been downlinked to Earth and is currently being analysed by experts.

Unexplainable activity in distant stars: New class of explosive events?

Thu, 10/20/2016 - 9:25am
Researcher pored through more than 10 years of existing Chandra X-ray Observatory data and found stars that repeatedly survive quick, massive surges in space energy. There are no such instances in our galaxy, as stars are destroyed by similar conditions.

Astrophysicists map the Milky Way

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 6:50pm
Hydrogen. Atomic number 1. It is the simplest and lightest element on the periodic table, but don't be fooled by its humble appearance. With just a single proton and a single electron, it is the most abundant element in the universe and has fueled star formation for the past 13 billion years. Now scientists have mapped the key ingredient's distribution across the Milky Way, revealing details about our galaxy that have never been seen before.

Curious tilt of the Sun traced to undiscovered planet

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 5:30pm
Planet Nine the undiscovered planet at the edge of the solar system appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the Sun, according to a new study.

First Pluto, now this: Discovery of first binary-binary calls solar system formation into question

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 4:25pm
Everything we know about the formation of solar systems might be wrong, says two astronomers. They've discovered the first "binary--binary" -- two massive companions around one star in a close binary system, one so-called giant planet and one brown dwarf, or "failed star" The first, called MARVELS-7a, is 12 times the mass of Jupiter, while the second, MARVELS-7b, has 57 times the mass of Jupiter.

Ups and downs of water escape from Mars

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 12:22pm
After investigating the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet for a full Martian year, NASA's MAVEN mission has determined that the escaping water does not always go gently into space. Hydrogen in Mars' upper atmosphere comes from water vapor in the lower atmosphere. An atmospheric water molecule can be broken apart by sunlight, releasing the two hydrogen atoms from the oxygen atom that they had been bound to. Several processes at work in Mars' upper atmosphere may then act on the hydrogen, leading to its escape.

ExoMars orbiter reaches Mars orbit while lander situation under assessment

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 11:11am
The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of ESA's ExoMars 2016 has successfully performed the long 139-minute burn required to be captured by Mars and entered an elliptical orbit around the Red Planet, while contact has not yet been confirmed with the mission's test lander from the surface.

Possible clouds on Pluto, next target is reddish

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 10:17am
Stern said that Pluto's complex, layered atmosphere is hazy and appears to be mostly free of clouds, but the team has spied a handful of potential clouds in images taken with New Horizons' cameras. "If there are clouds, it would mean the weather on Pluto is even more complex than we imagined," Stern said.

Did LIGO detect black holes or gravastars?

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 8:27am
After the first direct detection of gravitational waves that was announced last February by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and made news all over the world, two researchers set out to test whether the observed signal could have been a gravastar or not.

NASA's MAVEN mission gives unprecedented ultraviolet view of Mars

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 9:11am
New global images of Mars from the MAVEN mission show the ultraviolet glow from the Martian atmosphere in unprecedented detail, revealing dynamic, previously invisible behavior. They include the first images of "nightglow" that can be used to show how winds circulate at high altitudes.

Astronomers predict possible birthplace of Rosetta-probed comet 67P

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 8:16am
When the Rosetta spacecraft successfully touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on September 30, 2016, the news was shared globally via Twitter in dozens of languages. Citizens the world over were engaged by the astronomical achievement, and now experts are eager to learn as much as possible about the critically important celestial body of ice. 

Ready for Mars: ExoMars has just a single chance to get captured by Mars’ gravity

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 11:33am
Next week, ESA's ExoMars has just a single chance to get captured by Mars' gravity. The spacecraft and the mission controllers who will make it so are ready for arrival.

Observable universe contains two trillion galaxies, 10 times more than previously thought

Thu, 10/13/2016 - 11:17am
Using data from deep-space surveys taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories, astronomers have performed a census of the number of galaxies in the universe. The team came to the surprising conclusion that there are at least 10 times as many galaxies in the observable universe than previously thought. The results have clear implications for our understanding of galaxy formation, and also helps shed light on an ancient astronomical paradox -- why is the sky dark at night?

Dense molecular gas disks drive the growth of supermassive black holes: Are supernova explosions the key?

Thu, 10/13/2016 - 9:57am
Astronomers have revealed that dense molecular gas disks a few hundred light years in scale located at the centers of galaxies supply gas to supermassive black holes situated within them. This finding provides important insights on the growth of supermassive black holes over cosmic time.

Proxima Centauri might be more sunlike than we thought

Wed, 10/12/2016 - 3:59pm
In August astronomers announced that the nearby star Proxima Centauri hosts an Earth-sized planet (called Proxima b) in its habitable zone. At first glance, Proxima Centauri seems nothing like our Sun. It's a small, cool, red dwarf star only one-tenth as massive and one-thousandth as luminous as the Sun. However, new research shows that it is sunlike in one surprising way: it has a regular cycle of starspots.

Sun's coronal tail wags its photospheric dog

Wed, 10/12/2016 - 2:22pm
Solar physicists have long viewed the rotation of sunspots as a primary generator of solar flares -- the sudden, powerful blasts of electromagnetic radiation and charged particles that burst into space during explosions on the sun's surface. Their turning motion causes energy to build up that is released in the form of flares. But a team of scientists now claims that flares in turn have a powerful impact on sunspots, the visible concentrations of magnetic fields on the sun's surface, or photosphere. The researchers argue that flares cause sunspots to rotate at much faster speeds than are usually observed before they erupt.

Tatooine worlds orbiting two suns often survive violent escapades of aging stars

Wed, 10/12/2016 - 12:12pm
Planets that revolve around two suns may surprisingly survive the violent late stages of the stars' lives, according to new research. The finding is surprising because planets orbiting close to a single sun, like Mercury and Venus in our solar system, would be destroyed when the aging star swells into a red giant.

The Milky Way's ancient heart: VISTA finds remains of archaic globular star cluster

Wed, 10/12/2016 - 9:56am
Ancient stars, of a type known as RR Lyrae, have been discovered in the centre of the Milky Way for the first time, using ESO’s infrared VISTA telescope. RR Lyrae stars typically reside in ancient stellar populations over 10 billion years old. Their discovery suggests that the bulging centre of the Milky Way likely grew through the merging of primordial star clusters. These stars may even be the remains of the most massive and oldest surviving star cluster of the entire Milky Way.

Chaos in cosmos: System of two stars with three planet-forming discs of gas

Tue, 10/11/2016 - 1:43pm
A star with a ring of planets orbiting around it -- that is the picture we know from our own solar system and from many of the thousands of exoplanets observed in recent years. But now researchers have discovered a system consisting of two stars with three rotating planet-forming accretion discs around them. It is a binary star where each star has its own planet-forming disc and in addition, there is one large shared disc. All three planet-forming discs are misaligned in relation to one another.

Jupiter’s spooky sounds: Emissions from Jupiter’s auroras captured

Mon, 10/10/2016 - 2:19pm
When a NASA spacecraft made its first full orbit around Jupiter, an instrument on board recorded haunting sounds befitting the Halloween season.