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Lyman-alpha blob Himiko. Image: M. Ouchi
'Space blob' baffles astronomers
(Apr 23, 2009)

It might not look like much, but this image represents one of the most distant objects astronomers have ever seen, 12.9 billion light years away. It is a "Lyman-alpha blob" and is 55,000 light years across – as large as present-day galaxies. Though younger such blobs have been found, "Himiko" confounds the idea that such large objects grew more recently by the merger of smaller ones.

Read more. Source: BBC

NASA logo. Image: NASA
Where next for NASA?
(Apr 23, 2009)

The US risks losing its edge in human space exploration and faces the humbling prospect of relying on outsiders to put its astronauts into space. Battles are brewing over the direction the agency should take, and decisions made in the next few months may shape US spaceflight for decades to come. So where does NASA's future lie?

Read more. Source: New Scientist

ethyl formate molecule
Complex molecules seen in space
(Apr 23, 2009)

Astronomers have detected two of the most complex carbon-rich molecules ever found in interstellar space. Their models suggest even more complex await to be discovered, including amino acids – which are essential for life. The results were presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science meeting being held in the UK.

Read more. Source: BBC

remote water maser. Image: J. McKean/HST
Black hole spews water vapor
(Apr 22, 2009)

Astronomers have found the most distant evidence of water in the Universe, a major conference has been told. The vapor is thought to be present in a jet ejected from a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy that is billions of light-years away. The discovery, by a US-European team, was announced at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science meeting.

Read more. Source: BBC

This dramatic 'sigmoid' appeared on the surface of the sun in 2007 and later erupted. Image: NASA/STFC/ISAS/JAXA
'Sigmoids' on the sun could help predict space storms
(Apr 22, 2009)

The formation and eruption of large "S"-shaped structures on the surface of the Sun have been modelled for the first time. Further refinements of the model might help sun-watchers predict severe space storms days in advance.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

artist's impression of the Gliese 581 system
Lightest exoplanet yet discovered
(Apr 21, 2009)

Well-known exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor today announced the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, "e", in the famous system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of our Earth. The team also refined the orbit of the planet Gliese 581 d, first discovered in 2007, placing it well within the habitable zone, where liquid water oceans could exist.

Read more. Source: ESO

ultraviolet image of the Sun. Source: SOHO
'Quiet Sun' baffling astronomers
(Apr 21, 2009)

The Sun is the dimmest it has been for nearly a century. There are no sunspots, very few solar flares – and our nearest star is the quietest it has been for a very long time. The observations are baffling astronomers, who are due to study new pictures of the Sun, taken from space, at the UK National Astronomy Meeting.

Read more. Source: BBC

Composite image of the Orion Nebula. Source: UKIRT/JAC/Spitzer Telescope
High-speed jets stream from baby stars in Orion
(Apr 21, 2009)

Dozens of high-speed jets of gas in a crowded stellar nursery have been traced to the stars from which they emanate. The well-known Orion Nebula, which sits some 1300 light years from Earth, is just a small portion of a much larger stellar nursery.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

breakup of an asteroid
Rocky clues from dirty dead stars
(Apr 20, 2009)

A survey of dead stars has found that many are probably surrounded by the rocky remains of asteroids and planets. The discovery comes from a Spitzer Space Telescope study of white dwarfs – the fading embers of burnt-out stars. Astronomers showed at least one in 100 of these objects has "surface" layers that are contaminated with elements such as calcium and magnesium.

Read more. Source: BBC

Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank
Switch-on success for superscope
(Apr 20, 2009)

The first stage of the switch-on of one of the world's most powerful stargazing systems has got under way. Seven radio telescopes around the UK have been linked with optical fibres, allowing scientists to probe deeper into the Universe than ever before. The new data-link upgrade has replaced the older microwave technology that once connected the telescopes.

Read more. Source: BBC

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