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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2007
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a hot Jupiter
Supersonic gales rage on planets
(Jan 12, 2007)

Strong winds of 14,000 km/h (9,000 mph) may gust on three "gas giant" planets outside our Solar System, astronomers have told a US science meeting. Each planet orbits very close to its "Sun"; one side of each world always faces the star, while the other side remains in permanent darkness. Despite this, temperatures across these planets are uniform – and blazing hot. The team believes these winds are mixing the atmospheres, balancing temperatures across the planets.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mira A (yellow, at centre) is shedding material (green) that flows into a disc (red) around the ordinary star Mira B (blue, at left) (Image: M Ireland/Caltech)
Dying star's wind creates planetary nursery
(Jan 11, 2007)

Planets may form from gas shed by dying stars, new observations suggest. The finding is surprising because planets were thought to form only around very young stars. Standard theories posit that planets take shape in a disc of dust and gas around newborn stars, where the disc is made of material left over from the star's own birth. Now, astronomers have discovered a disc around a Sun-like star that was actually captured from a dying companion, called a red giant.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Kepler's supernova remnant, Chandra image
Kepler's supernova may aid dark energy search
(Jan 10, 2007)

The star that astronomer Johannes Kepler saw explode four centuries ago was just 100 million years old rather than the usual billions of years old, new observations suggest. This means some supernovae could have exploded much sooner after the big bang than previously believed, allowing astronomers to probe dark energy back to very early times.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

New Horizons image of Jupiter taken in September 2006. Image: NASA/JHU-APL/SWRI
Pluto probe begins close-up study of Jupiter
(Jan 10, 2007)

The Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has begun snapping images and making scientific measurements of Jupiter, as it nears its closest approach to the planet on 28 February. The measurements will act as a 'dress rehearsal' for the spacecraft's true target – a flyby study of Pluto and its three moons in 2015.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Eagle Nebula
Doom for Hubble's iconic pillars
(Jan 10, 2007)

The three iconic columns of gas and dust pictured in space by the Hubble Telescope in 1995 may have met their end, the US space agency says. Hubble's image, dubbed the "pillars of creation" [see Eagle Nebula], has featured in countless papers, magazines and posters. Now, new data shows the pillars being scorched by an exploding star – and a shockwave has probably torn them apart.

Read more. Source: BBC

Large Magellanic Cloud
Speeding dwarfs upset galactic family picture
(Jan 10, 2007)

The Milky Wayís two best-known companions may be nothing more than strangers passing by. Recent observations of the Magellanic Clouds, a pair of nearby dwarf galaxies, reveal that they are moving too fast to be satellites of the Milky Way – unless our galaxy contains twice as much dark matter as thought.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Tiny galaxy hosts huge black hole
(Jan 10, 2007)

Astronomers have found evidence of a supermassive black hole at the heart of a tiny galaxy. VCC128 is an elliptical dwarf galaxy, about 1% the size of our own Milky Way, located in the Virgo Cluster, which is about 59 million light-years away. The finding is a puzzle, say scientists: a galaxy this small should have ejected its large black hole.

Read more. Source: BBC

Andromeda Galaxy
Vast halo extends galaxy's size
(Jan 9, 2007)

Astronomers have found an enormous halo of stars around the Andromeda galaxy. The discovery suggests the nearby spiral galaxy, also known as M31, is as much as five times bigger than astronomers had previously thought. In fact, Andromeda's "suburbs" are so vast that they nearly overlap with those of our own Milky Way galaxy.

Read more. Source: BBC

Crab Nebula
Neutron star may sport four magnetic poles
(Jan 9, 2007)

The neutron star inside the Crab Nebula may have four magnetic poles, rather than the usual two – unlike any other astronomical object known. The poles may have somehow been frozen into the neutron star when it was formed in a supernova explosion.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

quasar triplet
Astronomers see first quasar trio
(Jan 9, 2007)

Astronomers have found the first example of a triple quasar, the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle has heard. Quasars are powerful sources of energy, thought to be powered by supermassive black holes. At first, researchers thought the triplet was just an illusion, caused by the splitting of light beams. But a team using Hawaii's WM Keck Observatory has found the system really involves three black holes.

Read more. Source: BBC

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