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Hubble reveals rogue planetary orbit for Fomalhaut b

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This false-color composite image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, reveals the orbital motion of the planet Fomalhaut b. Based on these observations, astronomers calculated that the planet is in a 2,000-year-long, highly elliptical orbit. The planet will appear to cross a vast belt of debris around the star roughly 20 years from now. If the planet's orbit lies in the same plane with the belt, icy and rocky debris in the belt could crash into the planet's atmosphere and produce various phenomena. The black circle at the center of the image blocks out the light from the bright star, allowing reflected light from the belt and planet to be photographed. The Hubble images were taken with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph...

NASA telescopes see weather patterns in brown dwarf

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This artist's illustration shows the atmosphere of a brown dwarf called 2MASSJ22282889-431026, which was observed simultaneously by NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. The results were unexpected, revealing offset layers of material as indicated in the diagram. For example, the large, bright patch in the outer layer has shifted to the right in the inner layer. The observations indicate this brown dwarf -- a ball of gas that "failed" to become a star -- is marked by...

Evidence of asteroid belt around Vega

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This artist's concept illustrates an asteroid belt around the bright star Vega. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Jan. 8, 2013 — Astronomers have discovered what appears to be a large asteroid belt around the star Vega, the second brightest star in northern night skies. The scientists used data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, in which NASA plays an important role.

The discovery of an asteroid belt-like...

First 'bone' of the Milky Way identified

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Researchers have identified the first "bone" of the Milky Way - a long tendril of dust and gas that appears dark in this infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Running horizontally along this image, the "bone" is more than 300 light-years long but only 1 or 2 light-years wide. It contains about 100,000 suns' worth of material. (Credit: NASA/JPL/SSC)

Jan. 8, 2013 — Our Milky Way is a spiral galaxy -- a pinwheel-shaped collection of stars, gas and dust. It...

New approach for simulating supernovas

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A computer simulation of one octant of a core collapse supernova, using SNSPH. (Credit: Dr. Carola Ellinger)

Jan. 8, 2013 — Two University of Texas at Arlington researchers want to bridge the gap between what is known about exploding stars and the remnants left behind thousands of years later. So they're trying something new -- using SNSPH, a complex computer code developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

On January 8, Carola I. Ellinger, a post-doctoral...

Cluster mission indicates turbulent eddies may warm the solar wind

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A 2-dimensional vision of the solar wind turbulence at the smallest scale seen yet, thanks to observations by Cluster satellites. The approximate location of the measurements is indicated on a graphic illustrating features of Earth’s magnetic environment. The inset shows conditions as would be seen facing the solar wind, with current sheets forming at the border of turbulent eddies. The trajectory of the Cluster spacecraft is marked on the inset by the black line and the color...

New telescopes to give researchers glimpse of the beginning of time

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The first POLARBEAR telescope on Cerro Toco in Chile's Atacama Desert, began collecting data last year. The addition of two more telescopes to create the Simons Array will give us a clearer view of the beginning of the universe. (Credit: Brian Keating)

Jan. 8, 2013 — Where do we come from? What is the universe made of? Will the universe exist only for a finite time or will it last forever? These are just some of the questions that University of California, San Diego...

Earth-size planets common in galaxy: Perhaps 17 percent of sun-like stars have Earth-size planets within the orbit of Mercury

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The fraction of sun-like stars having planets of different sizes, orbiting within 1/4 of the Earth-sun distance (0.25 AU) of the host star. The graph shows that planets as small as Earth (far left) are relatively common compared to planets 8.0x the size of Earth (similar to Jupiter). For example, 7.9 percent of sun-like stars harbor a planet with a size of 1.0-1.4 times the size of Earth, orbiting inward of 1/4 the Earth-sun distance (closer than Mercury's distance from the sun)...

Icing on a lake: Blocks of hydrocarbon ice might decorate surface of lakes and seas on Saturn's moon Titan

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This artist's concept envisions what hydrocarbon ice forming on a liquid hydrocarbon sea of Saturn's moon Titan might look like. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS)

Jan. 8, 2013 — It's not exactly icing on a cake, but it could be icing on a lake. A new paper by scientists on NASA's Cassini mission finds that blocks of hydrocarbon ice might decorate the surface of existing lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbon on Saturn's moon Titan. The presence of ice floes might explain...