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Artist's concept of HFLS3
Early starburst challenges galaxy evolution theories
(Apr 18, 2013)

Here's another new observation that's going to keep theorists on their toes. ESA's Herschel space telescope has spotted a galaxy, far, far away (and therefore long, long ago), that is in a furious phase of star formation (the picture here is just as an artist's impression). The finding calls into question some models of how the first galaxies formed.

Read more (ESA/Herschel)

Artist's concept of a blazar
Erupting blazar amazes astronomers
(Apr 17, 2013)

A blazar – an active galaxy whose jet is pointing roughly along our line of sight – called Markarian 421 is currently putting on the brightest sustained display of gamma-ray emission ever seen by astronomers. And its timing couldn't have been better, coinciding with the start of a global program to monitor it and a meeting of some of the world's top astrophysicists.

Read more (BBC)

CDMS experiment
Are we close to understanding dark matter?
(Apr 16, 2013)

It seems as if the net might be closing on dark matter. Less than two weeks after it was announced that the AMS experiment attached to the International Space Station may have caught a whiff of the elusive stuff comes news that three events detected by the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search deep in a mine in Minnesota may have been triggered by WIMPs (Weakly-Interacting Massive Particles) – a popular dark matter candidate.

Read more (BBC)

IC 1295
Final act of a Sunlike star
(Apr 15, 2013)

I have a special fondness for planetary nebulae because they were the subject of my university research many years ago. Here's a recently-taken image of one such object – IC 1295, a glowing shell of gas lying about 3,300 light-years away in the constellation Scutum. It was captured by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

Read more (ESO)

Model of Mars 3 lander
Old Soviet space probe spotted on the surface of Mars
(Apr 12, 2013)

It looks like the Soviet lander Mars 3 has been found – 42 years after it became the first spacecraft to touch down safely on the Red Planet. What appear to be the main components of the spacecraft have been seen in high resolution images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Read more (

Yuri Gagarin
52 years ago, humans became spacefaring
(Apr 12, 2013)

On this day in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth. The flight of his spacecraft, Vostok 1, was fully automated, although Gagarin was provided with a key in a sealed envelope (never opened) to take control in an emergency. Vostok 1 completed a single orbit in a mission lasting 108 minutes, from launch to landing. After re-entry, Gagarin ejected and made a planned descent with his own parachute. However for many years the Soviet Union denied this, because the flight would not have been recognized for various FAI world records unless the pilot had accompanied his craft to a landing.

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Capturing an asteroid
NASA outlines plans to capture an asteroid
(Apr 11, 2013)

NASA has announced its intention to capture and redirect an asteroid robotically, and then visit it with astronauts to study it and return samples of it to Earth. The space agency's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier explained that the mission will afford valuable experience in deep space operations to send humans to more distant destinations in the solar system, including Mars.

Read more (NASA/JPL)

Powerful new tool in the hunt for exoplanets
(Apr 9, 2013)

The rate at which planets are found around other stars is set to go up dramatically over the next decade, thanks to powerful telescopes that will be joining the search both on the ground and in space. Now NASA has announced plans to launch a new exoplanet mission to continue and expand upon the outstanding work being done by Kepler. TESS – the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite – will be the first space-based mission that hunts for planetary transits (the same method used by Kepler) over most of the sky. It is scheduled for lift-off in 2017.

Read more (Nature)

exoplanet system
Strange new worlds
(Apr 8, 2013)

The second part of my article on exoplanets. The number and variety of planets discovered around other stars over the past two decades are stunning. Giant planets in tiny orbits, worlds around red dwarfs and pulsars, and planets wandering free through space are among the curiosities that have come to light.

Read more (

Planets, planets, everywhere ...
(Apr 6, 2013)

It's been only about 20 years since the first planets were found outside our solar system. Today almost 900 exoplanets are known and that number is set to increased dramatically. According to current estimates there may be at least one planet for every star in our galaxy -- 100 to 400 billion planets in the Milky Way alone.

Read more (

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