Posts

August 01, 2014

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3:51 AM | Why the stuff between the stars is like a glass of beer
By Nola Wilkinson   Ever wondered what there is between the stars? Dr Naomi McClure-Griffiths not only wonders about it, she’s on a mission to find out. Naomi is fascinated with the life of stars, the behaviour of interstellar gas, and how gas and stars interact.  “As an astronomer, I’d like to understand how the […]

July 31, 2014

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4:50 PM | [Article 6826]Rosetta’s Sweaty Comet Gets Closer
Bi-lobed Comet Nucleus Tumbles Along in Its Orbit When the Rosetta mission planners selected Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P) as a rendezvous target, they probably didn’t expect the tumbling, rubber ducky-shaped blob of ice and dust they’re now seeing as the spacecraft gets closer to its August 6th arrival at the comet. The past few weeks have been […]
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4:15 PM | Here's Our Best Look Yet At Rosetta's "Rubber Ducky" Comet
The Rosetta spacecraft has been chasing comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for more than a decade. Now, with arrival less than a week away, the distance between the spacecraft and its quarry is rapidly shrinking. Meanwhile, Rosetta continues to return clearer and clearer images of the double-lobed "rubber ducky comet." Read more...
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3:40 PM | The Most Accurate Model Yet Of Jupiter's Bizarre Magnetic Field
It may look like a giant ball oozing with earthworms, but it's actually a simulation of Jupiter's massive and complex magnetosphere — a magnetic field that extends more than four million miles from its surface.Read more...
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5:13 AM | A Special Event near San Francisco This Sunday
I would like to invite all of you who live in or near the San Francisco area to a very special event this Sunday, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel near the San Francisco Airport, in the town of Burlingame. I will be moderating an afternoon discussion with three of my favorite astronomers (all excellent public speakers.)Our topic will be "Beyond Earth: Planets, Life, and Intelligence in the Cosmos" and we will discuss the search for planets around other stars, for life on the worlds in our own solar […]
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1:00 AM | New measurements, published today in Nature, indicate the moon is shaped "like a lemon with a small
New measurements, published today in Nature, indicate the moon is shaped "like a lemon with a small bulge in the middle." That's okay, of course; Earth isn't perfectly round, either . The Sun, on the other hand, may be the most perfect natural sphere in the known Universe . Read more...

July 30, 2014

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5:22 PM | Weirdly Wonky Binary Star System Discovered
A double star system with misaligned protoplanetary disks around 450 light-years from Earth has been discovered, potentially explaining why some exoplanet orbits can be wildly eccentric. Continue reading →

July 29, 2014

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11:00 PM | Milky Way Punier Than We Thought
The Milky Way looks less hefty, but just as beautiful as ever, this summer.
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10:18 PM | Message From the Moon At first glance, these probably come...
Message From the Moon At first glance, these probably come across as little more than hastily painted watercolor sketches of the moon. That’s precisely what they are, actually. Attractive, yes, but certainly not high art.   But hiding in their shadows lies a greater significance. The squiggled edges of that bleeding ink bear an observation that altered the heavens themselves. Or at the very least, our view of them. The hand that traced these orbs belonged to none other than […]
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1:39 AM | Messier Monday: Virgo’s Final Galaxy, M100 (Synopsis)
“From a little spark may burst a flame.” -Dante Alighieri It’s hard to believe that less than two years ago, we hadn’t even begun Messier Monday, and now there are fewer than 20 objects left! Today represents a great milestone, as we finally take on the last of fifteen galaxies that Messier catalogued as part of the…

July 28, 2014

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10:50 PM | NASA’s Opportunity Rover Just Set the Off-World Driving Distance Record
NASA’s Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars in January of 2004. As of Sunday (July 26), the Opportunity rover had driven a total distance of 25 miles (40 kilometers). Opportunity took the top spot in total off-world distance traveled by surpassing Russia’s Lunokhod 2 lunar rover, which traveled a total distance of 39 […]
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10:28 PM | 101 Geysers Spotted Erupting From Saturn Moon
NASA's Cassini spacecraft team have numbered the plumes of Saturn's moon, Enceladus.
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7:55 PM | Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower to Peak Tonight
The Delta Aquarid meteor shower is peaking from tonight (July 28) into Tuesday (July 29), and even if you can't catch the cosmic show in person, you can still see live views of the annual shower online.
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1:36 PM | Is It That Time Of Year Again?!!
  Perseid Time! On July 27th, NASA’s All Sky Fireball Network cameras caught the above Perseid fireball flying over New Mexico. Yep, it’s THAT time! Our planet is entering a broad stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which is the source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. The peak of the shower is not expected […]
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12:31 PM | How Dead Stars are Teaching Us What You Need to Build a Planet
What I actually do for living...Repost alert! This first appeared as a guest post on Andrew Rushby's excellent II-I blog. I'm reposting it here as I'm off to a conference at Cambridge today, so will hopefully have quite a lot to write about soon. This post was written as an introduction to the research I'm doing for my PhD, so may be useful in providing some context for what I talk about next time. If you've already read it, feel free to stop here. If not, read on!An asteroid plummets to its […]
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10:58 AM | Of dark matter and new eyes on galaxy structure
Two of my articles went live over the weekend, but I don’t have time to summarize them separately on this blog, so you’ll have to go read ‘em yourself. (I have a good excuse: I’m moving to Cleveland this week.) The second part of my series on dark matter is up over at Ars Technica: […]
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1:00 AM | Dark matter makes up 80% of the Universe—but where is it all?
We know dark matter exists, but new research aims to pinpoint its exact location.

July 26, 2014

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9:45 PM | Lives and deaths of sibling stars: NGC 3293 from ESO La Silla
Image: ESO. More on the formation and lives of sibling stars, as they age in slowly dissipating open clusters: Most of the stars seen here are very young, and the cluster itself is less than 10 million years old. Just babies on cosmic scales if you consider that the Sun is 4.6 billion years old […]
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9:45 PM | Having Fun With The Equation of Time
If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.Read more...
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8:02 PM | Morsels For The Mind – 25/07/2014
Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy! If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”. **** Star Wars […]
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8:02 PM | Morsels For The Mind – 25/07/2014
Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy! If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”. **** Star Wars […]
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8:00 PM | We've Observed Mars for Decades, But Still Have No Big Theories
Mars geologist Phil Christensen says we're still short on understanding the red planet. "The devil continues to be in the details," he said at this week's Eighth International Conference on Mars. Astrobiologist David Des Marais said Mars research today adds up to "lots of observations but no overarching [breakthroughs]." Read more...
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11:02 AM | New mass map of distant galaxy cluster is most precise yet
Astronomers have mapped the mass within a galaxy cluster more precisely than ever before. Created using observations from Hubble’s Frontier Fields observing program, the map shows the amount and distribution of mass within MCS J0416.1-2403, a massive galaxy cluster found to be 160 trillion times the mass of the Sun. Measuring the amount and distribution …
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10:49 AM | Hubble finds three surprisingly dry exoplanets
Astronomers have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun — and have come up nearly dry. The three planets, known as HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away from Earth and were thought to be ideal candidates for detecting …
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10:45 AM | NASA’s Fermi finds a ‘transformer’ pulsar
In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar’s radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. “It’s …
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10:38 AM | Hubble Traces Halo of Giant Elliptical Galaxy
Astronomers have probed the extreme outskirts of the stunning elliptical galaxy Centaurus A. The galaxy’s halo of stars has been found to extend much further from the galaxy’s center than expected and the stars within this halo seem to be surprisingly rich in heavy elements. This is the most remote portion of an elliptical galaxy …
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10:36 AM | Massive neutrinos and new standard cosmological model
Neutrinos, also known as ‘ghost particles’ because they barely interact with other particles or their surroundings, are massless particles according to the standard model of particle physics. However, there is a lot of evidence that their mass is in fact non-zero, but it remains unmeasured. In cosmology, neutrinos are suspected to make up a fraction …
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10:31 AM | Mysterious dance of dwarf galaxies may force a cosmic rethink
The discovery that many small galaxies throughout the universe do not ‘swarm’ around larger ones like bees do but ‘dance’ in orderly disc-shaped orbits is a challenge to our understanding of how the universe formed and evolved. The researchers believe the answer may be hidden in some currently unknown physical process that governs how gas …

July 25, 2014

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6:40 PM | It's going to be harder to find habitable Earth-like worlds than we thought.
It's going to be harder to find habitable Earth-like worlds than we thought. An analysis of three hot Jupiters yielded only 1/10 to 1/1000 the amount of water predicted by models. This means our planetary formation theories are incomplete — and that we should expect to see lower water abundances on potentially habitable terrestrial exoplanets. Read more...
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5:25 PM | Astronomers Discover Three Surprisingly Dry Jupiter-Like Exoplanets
A team of astronomers headed by Dr Nikku Madhusudhan of the Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy has found that the abundance of water vapor in the atmospheres of the three newly discovered hot Jupiters – HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b – is between ten and a thousand times less than what standard planet formation [...]
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