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astrophysics, cosmology, the universe...

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Simulation suggests black holes may make ideal dark matter labs

A new NASA computer simulation shows that dark matter particles colliding in the extreme gravity of a black hole can produce strong, potentially observable gamma-ray light. Detecting this emission would provide astronomers with a new tool for understanding both black holes and the nature of dark matter, an elusive substance accounting for most of the mass of the universe that neither reflects, absorbs nor emits light.

Posted: Jun 23rd, 2015

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MAVEN results find Mars behaving like a rock star

If planets had personalities, Mars would be a rock star according to recent preliminary results from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. Mars sports a 'Mohawk' of escaping atmospheric particles at its poles, 'wears' a layer of metal particles high in its atmosphere, and lights up with aurora after being smacked by solar storms.

Posted: Jun 22nd, 2015

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Detecting exoplanets close to their host stars

Astronomers have successfully commissioned a new type of optic that can reveal the image of an exoplanet next to its parent star. The 'vector Apodizing Phase Plate' coronagraph was installed at the 6.5-m Magellan Clay telescope in Chile in May 2015, and the first observations demonstrated an unprecedented contrast performance very close to the star, where planets are more likely to reside.

Posted: Jun 22nd, 2015

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Masters of the universe

The 'world's largest IT project' - a system with the power of one hundred million home computers - may help to unravel many of the mysteries of our universe: how it began, how it developed and whether humanity is alone in the cosmos.

Posted: Jun 19th, 2015

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NASA moves ahead with mission to Europa (w/video)

NASA's mission concept - to conduct a detailed survey of Europa and investigate its habitability - has successfully completed its first major review by the agency and now is entering the development phase known as formulation.

Posted: Jun 19th, 2015

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Study suggests active volcanism on Venus

An international team of scientists has found some of the best evidence yet that Venus is volcanically active. In combing through data from ESA's Venus Express mission, the scientists found transient spikes in temperature at several spots on the planet's surface. The hotspots, which were found to flash and fade over the course of just a few days, appear to be generated by active flows of lava on the surface.

Posted: Jun 18th, 2015

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ALMA weighs supermassive black hole at center of distant spiral galaxy

In a new proof-of-concept observation, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have measured the mass of the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 1097. The researchers determined that this galaxy harbors a black hole 140 million times more massive than our Sun.

Posted: Jun 18th, 2015

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Twisted magnetic field in galaxy IC 342

Magnetic fields exist everywhere in the Universe, but what role do they play in the evolution of cosmic objects? In their detailed data of the nearby galaxy IC 342, astronomers have discovered a magnetic field aligned along the optical spiral arms. These observations could help to discover answers to the question of how galaxies evolve and develop further.

Posted: Jun 18th, 2015

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Hubble views a bizarre cosmic quartet

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a gathering of four cosmic companions. This quartet forms part of a group of galaxies known as the Hickson Compact Group 16, or HCG 16 - a galaxy group bursting with dramatic star formation, tidal tails, galactic mergers and black holes.

Posted: Jun 18th, 2015

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Seeing where stars collide

Scientists have imaged a cluster of stars, heavily obscured by material in our galaxy, where stars are so densely packed that it is likely a rare environment where stars can collide.

Posted: Jun 17th, 2015

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Best observational evidence of first generation stars in the universe

Astronomers have used ESO's Very Large Telescope to peer back into the ancient Universe, to a period known as reionisation, approximately 800 million years after the Big Bang. Instead of conducting a narrow and deep study of a small area of the sky, they broadened their scope to produce the widest survey of very distant galaxies ever attempted.

Posted: Jun 17th, 2015

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Why the Sun's atmosphere is hotter than its surface

How can the temperature of the Sun's atmosphere be as high as 1 million degrees Celsius when its surface temperature is only around 6000 degrees? By simulating the evolution of part of the Sun's interior and exterior, researchers have identified the mechanisms that provide sufficient energy to heat the solar atmosphere.

Posted: Jun 17th, 2015

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Scientists find methane in Mars meteorites

The researchers examined samples from six meteorites of volcanic rock that originated on Mars. The meteorites contain gases in the same proportion and with the same isotopic composition as the Martian atmosphere. All six samples also contained methane, which was measured by crushing the rocks and running the emerging gas through a mass spectrometer.

Posted: Jun 16th, 2015

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NOEMA takes a look into a distant stellar delivery room

Astronomers have succeeded in recording the first image with the most sensitive millimetre radio telescope in the northern hemisphere: The installation known as NOEMA provided a spectacular image of a previously unknown region of massive star formation in the Medusa Merger - a brightly shining pair of colliding of galaxies.

Posted: Jun 16th, 2015

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