First Super-Earths Discovered Orbiting Sun-Like Stars

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This image from a simulation of atmospheric flow shows temperature patterns on one of the newly discovered planets (61Virb), which is hot enough that it glows with its own thermal emission.

An international team of planet hunters has discovered as many as six low-mass planets around two nearby Sun-like stars, including two “super-Earths” with masses 5 and 7.5 times the mass of Earth. The researchers, led by Steven Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said the two “super-Earths” are the first ones found around Sun-like stars.

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Magnetic Power Revealed in Gamma-Ray Burst Jet

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Gamma-ray bursts that are longer than two seconds are caused by the detonation of a rapidly rotating massive star at the end of its life on the main sequence.

A specialized camera on a telescope operated by U.K. astronomers from Liverpool has made the first measurement of magnetic fields in the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst (GRB). The result is reported in the Dec. 10 issue of Nature magazine by the team of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) astronomers who built and operate the telescope and its unique scientific camera, named RINGO.

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Nasa’s Fermi Telescope Peers Deep Into a ‘Micro-Quasar’

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n Cygnus X-3, an accretion disk surrounding a black hole or neutron star orbits close to a hot, massive star.

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has made the first unambiguous detection of high-energy gamma-rays from an enigmatic binary system known as Cygnus X-3. The system pairs a hot, massive star with a compact object — either a neutron star or a black hole — that blasts twin radio-emitting jets of matter into space at more than half the speed of light.

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Watching a Cannibal Galaxy Dine

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This image of the central parts of Centaurus A reveals the parallelogram-shaped remains of a smaller galaxy that was gulped down about 200 to 700 million years ago.

A new technique using near-infrared images, obtained with ESO’s 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT), allows astronomers to see through the opaque dust lanes of the giant cannibal galaxy Centaurus A, unveiling its “last meal” in unprecedented detail — a smaller spiral galaxy, currently twisted and warped. This amazing image also shows thousands of star clusters, strewn like glittering gems, churning inside Centaurus A.

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Close-Up Movie Shows Hidden Details in the Birth of Super-Suns

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Artist’s conception of the “boiling disk” surrounding the massive young stellar object known as Orion Source I. A disk of hot, ionized gas surrounds the central star, blocking our view

The constellation of Orion is a hotbed of massive star formation, most prominently in the Great Nebula that sits in Orion’s sword. The glowing gas of the Nebula is powered by a group of young massive stars, but behind it is a cluster of younger stars and clumps of gas. Still gathering together under gravity’s pull, these gas clumps will eventually ignite into stars.

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Bubbling Ball of Gas: SUNRISE Telescope Delivers Spectacular Pictures of Sun’s Surface

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The IMaX instrument not only depicts the solar surface, it also makes magnetic fields visible; these appear as black or white structures in the polarised light.

The Sun is a bubbling mass. Packages of gas rise and sink, lending the sun its grainy surface structure, its granulation. Dark spots appear and disappear, clouds of matter dart up — and behind the whole thing are the magnetic fields, the engines of it all. The SUNRISE balloon-borne telescope, a collaborative project between the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau and partners in Germany, Spain and the USA, has now delivered images that show the complex interplay on the solar surface to a level of detail never before achieved.

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Middleweight Black Hole: Swift, XMM-Newton Satellites Tune Into X-ray Source

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Swift X-ray observations of galaxy NGC 5408 indicate its ultraluminous X-ray source undergoes periodic changes every 115.5 days.

While astronomers have studied lightweight and heavyweight black holes for decades, the evidence for black holes with intermediate masses has been much harder to come by. Now, astronomers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., find that an X-ray source in galaxy NGC 5408 represents one of the best cases for a middleweight black hole to date.

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Unsettled Youth: Spitzer Observes A Chaotic Planetary System

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captured this infrared image of a giant halo of very fine dust around the young star HR 8799.

Before our planets found their way to the stable orbits they circle in today, they wiggled and jostled about like unsettled children. Now, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has found a young star with evidence for the same kind of orbital hyperactivity. Young planets circling the star are thought to be disturbing smaller comet-like bodies, causing them to collide and kick up a huge halo of dust.

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NASA’s Fermi Telescope Detects Gamma Rays From ‘Star Factories’ In Other Galaxies

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Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) shows that an intense star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud named 30 Doradus is also a source of diffuse gamma rays.

Nearby galaxies undergoing a furious pace of star formation also emit lots of gamma rays, say astronomers using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Two so-called “starburst” galaxies, plus a satellite of our own Milky Way galaxy, represent a new category of gamma-ray-emitting objects detected both by Fermi and ground-based observatories.

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Sophisticated Telescope Camera Debuts With Peek At Nest Of Black Holes

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This is a near-infrared image of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the largest satellite galaxy circling the Milky Way.

Less than two months after they inaugurated the world’s largest telescope, University of Florida astronomers have used one of the world’s most advanced telescopic instruments to gather images of the heavens. Continue reading… “Sophisticated Telescope Camera Debuts With Peek At Nest Of Black Holes”

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Hubble Captures Rare Jupiter Collision

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New expanding spot on the giant planet Jupiter. (Credit: NASA, ESA, and H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.), and the Jupiter Comet Impact Team.)

The checkout and calibration of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been interrupted to aim the recently refurbished observatory at a new expanding spot on the giant planet Jupiter. The spot, caused by the impact of a comet or an asteroid, is changing from day to day in the planet’s cloud tops. Continue reading… “Hubble Captures Rare Jupiter Collision”

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New Portrait Of Omega Nebula’s Glistening Watercolors

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Three-colour composite image of the Omega Nebula

The Omega Nebula, sometimes called the Swan Nebula, is a dazzling stellar nursery located about 5500 light-years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer). An active star-forming region of gas and dust about 15 light-years across, the nebula has recently spawned a cluster of massive, hot stars. The intense light and strong winds from these hulking infants have carved remarkable filigree structures in the gas and dust.

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