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The Magellanic Stream (pink in this false-color image) sweeps across part of the sky around the Milky Way (horizontal light-blue band)
Secrets of the Magellanic Stream revealed
(May 22, 2013)

It seems that the Magellanic Stream – a long ribbon of gas – that wends its way around the halo of the Milky Way contains material that has been stripped out from both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Observations of the Stream also suggest a new theory: that the Clouds have not always been close neighbors of ours.

Read more (Nature)

Some of the candidate planets found by Kepler
Kepler's amazing planetary haul
(May 20, 2013)

The Kepler planet-hunting mission may (we don't know yet) be over, but astronomers have enough data from it to keep them busy for years. This graphic shows 1,235 of the 2,740 planet candidates that the Kepler mission has found.

Read more (NASA/Kepler)

NASA to install quantum computer
(May 17, 2013)

Quantum computers are no longer pie-in-the-sky devices being talked about theoretically or tinkered with in labs. A $15 million D-Wave Two quantum computer, made by Canadian company D-Wave Systems, is going to be installed at NASA's Ames Research Center later this year.

Read more (BBC)

Kepler Space Telescope
The end for Kepler?
(May 16, 2013)

One of the Kepler Space Telescope's reaction wheels has frozen, meaning that it can no longer be pointed at targets in the sky. The spacecraft is now in safe mode while engineers try to free the wheel or devise some means by which the mission can be continued.

Read more (New York Times)

Neutrino astronomy is born
(May 16, 2013)

We may be seeing the dawn of a completely new branch of astronomy – neutrino astronomy – with the announcement today that the IceCube experiment at the South Pole has now detected 28 of these elusive particles of such high energy that they must have come from outside the solar system.

Read more (BBC)

Launch of MA-9/Faith 7
50 years ago, the final Mercury launch took place
(May 15, 2013)

Launched on this day in 1963, the final mission of Project Mercury – America's first crewed space program. It carried astronaut L. Gordon Cooper into orbit aboard his Faith 7 capsule. Cooper was so relaxed while waiting on the launch pad, he actually managed to nod off! He had another opportunity to sleep once in space because this 22-orbit mission was the first in American manned spaceflight history to last more than a day. (Vostok 2, however, holds the record for the first full-day manned mission of all.)

Read more

Sgr A-star
Magnetar found at galactic center
(May 14, 2013)

Astronomer Dale Frail, using the Very Large Array, has made an exciting discovery at the center of our galaxy. Seeking to find out more about an X-ray flare from close to the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, he found that the flare was coming from a magnetar – a highly magnetized neutron star. The magnetar's regular radio pulses should prove valuable in measuring the warping of space-time near the black hole and testing predictions of Einsteinís general theory of relativity.

Read more (Nature)

Chris Hadfield and the other members of ISS Expedition coronavirus
Safe return for Hadfield and his ISS expedition crewmembers
(May 14, 2013)

They do it differently in Russia. No splashdown in the sea to be winched aboard an aircraft carrier. You get to sit in a field in a comfy chair with a beach towel over you, while an interested crowd looks on! The return to Earth, earlier this day, of ISS expedition crew Chris Hadfield, Roman Romanenko, and Tom Marshburn.

Read more (BBC)

Deadly pandemic steps closer
(May 13, 2013)

When we (Dirk Schulze-Makuch and I) wrote our book Megacatastrophes, we included a "catastrophometer" reading at the end of each chapter. The highest ranking we gave was to the possibility of a worldwide pandemic of disease for which there was no adequate treatment. That possibility seems to be getting closer ...

Read more (BBC)

Artist's impression of debris disk around a white dwarf
Rock-polluted stars hint at Sun's future
(May 11, 2013)

By looking at the spectra of two white dwarfs in the Hyades cluster, astronomers have found signs that rocky objects have fallen into these stars – evidence of the disruptive effect that late stellar evolution can have on planetary systems and offering clues as to what might befall our own solar system in a few billion years time.

Read more (BBC)

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