An extraordinary outburst from a black hole -- where its X-ray output increased at least 3,000 times -- has been seen with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in the galaxy M83. Chandra observed what is called a ULX, or ultraluminous X-ray source. Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The image above shows hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants.
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Researchers from the Australian National University Planetary Science Institute have discovered that rocky, Earth-like planets are probably more abundant than stars. The institute is a joint venture of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Earth Sciences.
“Determining whether these planets are habitable has become the new holy grail of astronomy,” said planetary scientist Dr Charley Lineweaver, lead author of the study at the The Australian National University.
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Biologists have long wondered whether life would evolve the same way again if we could rewind Earth's tape. Eric Gaucher and Betül Arslan at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta synthesised an ancient gene --EF-Tu, a gene in Escherichia coli, that plays a crucial role in protein synthesis-- and inserted it into E. coli in place of the modern version. Gaucher had previously worked out what this gene's DNA sequence must have been 500 million years ago.
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Penn State University astronomers using the world's largest radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, have discovered flaring radio emissions from the ultra-cool star J1047+21 33.6 light years away in the constellation Leo, known as a brown dwarf, which is not much warmer than the planet Jupiter, shattering the previous record for the lowest temperature at which radio waves had been detected from a star. The discovery of J1047+21 could boost the odds of discovering life elsewhere in the universe.
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Intelligent life may be in it's "very young" stage in the observable Universe. Its 200 billion galaxies show a clear potential to continue on as we see them today for hundreds of billions of years, if not much longer. Because planets and life are so young in our Universe, says Harvard's Dimitar Sasselov, perhaps "the human species are not late comers to the party. We may be among the early ones."
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Synthetic biologists have discovered that six other molecules can could store genetic information and pass it on. A host of alternative nucleic acids have been made in labs over the years, but no one has made them work like DNA. Until now, everyone thought we were limited to RNA and DNA. This is the first time artificial molecules have been made to pass genes on to their descendants. The finding is a proof of principle that life needn't be based on DNA and RNA.
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Astronomers are puzzled why it appears that some of the most distant galaxies in the universe are more dense with stars than expected. In this image of the Milky Way star cluster Omega Centauri, bright stars have been coloured blue, faint ones red. For more distant galaxies, though, faint stars are impossible to see. Now it turns out some of the most distant galaxies in the universe are more packed with stars than astronomers expected.
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When speaking about the probability of extraterrestrial life, Carl Sagan, always said that extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence. Recent discoveries of planets similar to Earth in size and proximity to the planets' respective suns have sparked scientific and public excitement about the possibility of also finding Earth-like life on those worlds.
"Fossil evidence suggests that life began very early in Earth's history and that has led people to determine that life might be quite common in the universe because it happened so quickly here, but the knowledge about life on Earth simply doesn't reveal much about the actual probability of life on other planets," says Princeton astrophysical sciences professor Edwin Turner.
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British scientists have produced a colossal picture of our Milky Way Galaxy that reveals the detail of a billion stars. The iamge was built from thousands of individual images acquired by two UK-developed telescopes operating in Hawaii and in Chile, and concentrates on the dense plane of the galaxy, which means it renders as a very long, very thin strip. An online interactive tool allows you to zoom in to particular areas.
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