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Nitrogen fingerprint in biomolecules could be from early sun

Chemical fingerprints of the element nitrogen vary by extremes in materials from the molecules of life to the solar wind to interstellar dust. Ideas for how this great variety came about have included alien molecules shuttled in by icy comets from beyond our solar system and complex chemical scenarios. New experiments using a powerful source of ultraviolet light have shown that no extra-solar explanation is needed and the chemistry is straight forward.

Posted: Sep 30th, 2014

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Simulations reveal an unusual death for ancient stars

Certain primordial stars - those 55,000 and 56,000 times the mass of our sun, or solar masses - may have died unusually. In death, these objects would have exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no remnant black hole behind.

Posted: Sep 29th, 2014

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Earth's water is older than the sun

Water was crucial to the rise of life on Earth and is also important to evaluating the possibility of life on other planets. Identifying the original source of Earth's water is key to understanding how life-fostering environments come into being and how likely they are to be found elsewhere. New work found that much of our solar system's water likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space.

Posted: Sep 25th, 2014

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New molecule found in space connotes life origins

Hunting from a distance of 27,000 light years, astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-based molecule contained within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space. The discovery suggests that the complex molecules needed for life may have their origins in interstellar space.

Posted: Sep 25th, 2014

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A galaxy of deception

Astronomers usually have to peer very far into the distance to see back in time, and view the Universe as it was when it was young. This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy DDO 68, otherwise known as UGC 5340, was thought to offer an exception. This ragged collection of stars and gas clouds looks at first glance like a recently-formed galaxy in our own cosmic neighborhood. But, is it really as young as it looks?

Posted: Sep 25th, 2014

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Most metal-poor star hints at universe's first supernovae

In a new study, researchers point out that the elemental abundance of the most iron-poor star can be explained by elements ejected from supernova explosions of the universe's first stars. This reveals that massive stars, which are several tens of times more immense than the Sun, were present among the first stars.

Posted: Sep 24th, 2014

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Astronomers find clear skies and water vapor on exoplanet

Astronomers using data from three space telescopes - Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler - have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

Posted: Sep 24th, 2014

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Most stars are born in clusters, some leave 'home'

New modeling studies demonstrate that most of the stars we see were formed when unstable clusters of newly formed protostars broke up. These protostars are born out of rotating clouds of dust and gas, which act as nurseries for star formation. Rare clusters of multiple protostars remain stable and mature into multi-star systems. The unstable ones will eject stars until they achieve stability and end up as single or binary stars.

Posted: Sep 24th, 2014

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Solar explosions inside a computer

Strong solar flares can bring down communications and power grids on Earth. By demonstrating how these gigantic eruptions are caused, physicists are laying the foundations for future predictions.

Posted: Sep 24th, 2014

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Explainer: why are countries vying for a piece of Mars?

The red planet is about to welcome a new visitor: India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is hoping to start orbiting Mars on September 24. MOM is not the only new kid in town. There are currently five operational spacecraft orbiting Mars and two rovers on its surface. China, Japan, Russia, the US and joint European countries have all tried to send missions to Mars before India. What is it about our rocky neighbour that makes it such a focus of interest?

Posted: Sep 23rd, 2014

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The origin of Uranus and Neptune elucidated?

Researchers have proposed a solution to the problematic chemical composition of Uranus and Neptune, thus providing clues for understanding their formation. The researchers focused on the positioning of these two outermost planets of the Solar System, and propose a new model explaining how and where they formed.

Posted: Sep 23rd, 2014

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