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astrophysics, cosmology, the universe...

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Planck satellite on course for safe retirement

In preparation for its final switch-off on 23 October, mission controllers today fired Planck's thrusters to empty its fuel tanks. The burn is one of the final steps to ensure that Planck ends its hugely successful mission in a permanently safe configuration.

Posted: Oct 21st, 2013

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Countdown to ESA's billion-star surveyor

ESA's billion-star surveyor Gaia will be launched from Europe's spaceport in Kourou on 20 November to begin a five-year mission to map the stars with unprecedented precision.

Posted: Oct 21st, 2013

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Astronomers detect gravitational lens at record distance

Astronomers have found the most distant gravitational lens yet - a galaxy that, as predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, deflects and intensifies the light of an even more distant object. The discovery provides a rare opportunity to directly measure the mass of a distant galaxy.

Posted: Oct 17th, 2013

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Curiosity confirms origins of Martian meteorites

Earth's most eminent emissary to Mars has just proven that those rare Martian visitors that sometimes drop in on Earth -- a.k.a. Martian meteorites -- really are from the Red Planet. A key new measurement of Mars' atmosphere by NASA's Curiosity rover provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origins of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origins of other meteorites.

Posted: Oct 16th, 2013

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New survey tools unveil 2 celestial explosions

A team of researchers, including two Carnegie scientists, used a novel astronomical survey software system - the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory - to link a new stripped-envelope supernova, named iPTF13bvn, to the star from which it exploded, which is a first for this type of supernova, called Type Ib. The iPTF team also pinpointed the first afterglow of an explosion called a gamma-ray burst that was found by the Fermi satellite.

Posted: Oct 16th, 2013

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How the largest star known is tearing itself apart

An international team of astronomers has observed part of the final death throes of the largest known star in the Universe as it throws off its outer layers. The discovery, by a collaboration of scientists from the UK, Chile, Germany and the USA, is a vital step in understanding how massive stars return enriched material to the interstellar medium which is necessary for forming planetary systems.

Posted: Oct 16th, 2013

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Astronomers find clues to decades-long coronal heating mystery

Scientists found evidence that magnetic waves in a polar coronal hole contain enough energy to heat the corona and moreover that they also deposit most of their energy at sufficiently low heights for the heat to spread throughout the corona. The observations help to answer a 70-year-old solar physics conundrum about the unexplained extreme temperature of the Sun's corona - known as the coronal heating problem.

Posted: Oct 16th, 2013

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Martian scars

Ripped apart by tectonic forces, Hebes Chasma and its neighbouring network of canyons bear the scars of the Red Planet's early history.

Posted: Oct 11th, 2013

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Watery asteroid discovered in dying star points to habitable exoplanets

Astronomers have found the shattered remains of an asteroid that contained huge amounts of water orbiting an exhausted star, or white dwarf. This suggests that the star GD 61 and its planetary system - located about 150 light years away and at the end of its life - had the potential to contain Earth-like exoplanets, they say.

Posted: Oct 10th, 2013

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Soft shells and strange star clusters

The beautiful, petal-like shells of galaxy PGC 6240 are captured in intricate detail by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, set against a sky full of distant background galaxies. This cosmic bloom is of great interest to astronomers due to both its uneven structure, and the unusual clusters of stars that orbit around it - two strong indications of a galactic merger in the recent past.

Posted: Oct 10th, 2013

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