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May 14, 2015

NASA: "X-Rays Light Up Sun-Like Coronas of Black Holes"





A new study by astronomers at NASA, Johns Hopkins University and the Rochester Institute of Technology confirms long-held suspicions about how stellar-mass black holes produce their highest-energy light. "Our work traces the complex motions, particle interactions and turbulent magnetic fields in billion-degree gas on the threshold of a black hole, one of the most extreme physical environments in the universe," said lead researcher Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

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"CSI" --The Death of a Galaxy





As murder mysteries go, it's a big one: how do galaxies die and what kills them? A new study, published today in the journal Nature, has found that the primary cause of galactic death is strangulation, which occurs after galaxies are cut off from the raw materials needed to make new stars.

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May 13, 2015

Mystery Star Clusters of Elliptical Galaxy Centaurus A --"Something Dark, Hidden and Massive"





The elliptical galaxy Centaurus A (also known as NGC 5128) shown in deep field above is the closest giant galaxy to the Milky Way and is suspected to harbour as many as 2000 globular clusters. Many of these globulars are brighter and more massive than the 150 or so orbiting the Milky Way.

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Kepler Mission Data --"Reveals Alien Planet Weather Cycles"





Astrophysicists prepare weather forecasts for planets beyond our solar system using Kepler data to find evidence of daily weather cycles on exoplanets "Cloudy for the morning, turning to clear with scorching heat in the afternoon." While this might describe a typical late-summer day in many places on Earth, it may also apply to planets outside our solar system, according to a new study by an international team of astrophysicists from the University of Toronto, York University and Queen's University Belfast.

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May 12, 2015

"Alien Life Habitats" --NASA Brainstorms Alternatives to Water





In the search for life beyond Earth, scientists have justifiably focused on water because all biology as we know it requires this fluid. A wild card, however, is whether alternative liquids can also suffice as life-enablers. For example, Saturn’s frigid moon Titan is awash in inky seas of the hydrocarbon methane.

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Iconic Supergiant Star's Hidden Companion





To measure distances in the Universe, astronomers use Cepheids, a family of variable stars whose luminosity varies with time. Their role as distance calibrators has brought them attention from researchers for more than a century. While it was thought that nearly everything was known about the prototype of Cepheids, named Delta Cephei, a team of researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), the Johns Hopkins University, and the European Space Agency (ESA), have now discovered that this star is not alone, but that it has a hidden companion. 

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May 11, 2015

NASA's First Encounter With the 'Last Planet' --"A New Class of Worlds"





After an epic journey across the breadth of the solar system, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is finally nearing its destination: the Pluto system, a staggering 3 billion miles from Earth. In December, after a journey of nine years, the spacecraft was brought out of hibernation for the last time in preparation for its rendezvous with the dwarf planet the week of July 12. The upcoming Pluto flyby, once billed as the ‘first trip to the last planet,’ is actually the first visit to an entirely new class of worlds, says planetary scientist William McKinnon.

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Oldest Fossil Brain Ever Discovered --Reveals Origin of the Head





A new study from the University of Cambridge has identified one of the oldest fossil brains ever discovered - more than 500 million years old - and used it to help determine how heads first evolved in early animals. The results, published today (7 May) in the journal Current Biology, identify a key point in the evolutionary transition from soft to hard bodies in early ancestors of arthropods, the group that contains modern insects, crustaceans and spiders.

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May 10, 2015

Dark Matter Waves at the Center of Galaxies --"The 'Operating System' of the Universe"






Is dark matter the "operating system" of the Universe? Tom Broadhurst, an Ikerbasque researcher at the UPV/EHU's Department of Theoretical Physics, thinks it is. He has participated alongside scientists of the National Taiwan University in a piece of research that explores cold dark matter in depth and proposes new answers about the formation of galaxies and the structure of the Universe. This theory can be used to suggest that all the galaxies in this context should have at their center large stationary waves of dark matter called solitons, which would explain the puzzling cores observed in common dwarf galaxies.

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Alien Megastorms of Colossal Brown Dwarfs (Weekend Feature)





Like galactic storm chasers, University of Arizona astronomers are leading an effort to discover how clouds and weather systems change over time on other worlds. Using simultaneous observations from the two space telescopes, UA astronomers are tracking the evolution of the swirling clouds and storm systems in unprecedented detail on this brown dwarf and five others like it. The goal of the UA-led Extrasolar Storms campaign is to discover how clouds and weather systems change over time on other worlds. With brown dwarf cloud systems changing in minutes, hours and years, the galaxy looks like a dark and stormy place.

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