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Researchers develop acrobatic space rovers to explore moons and asteroids

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Illustration of how the mother spacecraft Phobos Surveyor and its 'hedgehogs' would work. (Credit: Courtesy of Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics)

Jan. 8, 2013 — Stanford researchers, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have designed a robotic platform that could take space exploration to new heights.

The mission proposed for the platform involves a mother spacecraft deploying one or several spiked, roughly spherical rovers to the Martian moon Phobos. Measuring about half a meter wide, each rover would hop, tumble and bound across the cratered, lopsided moon, relaying information about its origins, as well as its soil and other surface...

New Chandra movie features neutron star action

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The Vela pulsar, a neutron star that was formed when a massive star collapsed. (Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Toronto/M.Durant et al; Optical: DSS/Davide De Martin)

Jan. 7, 2013 — Unlike with some blockbuster films, the sequel to a movie from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is better than the first. This latest movie features a deeper look at a fast moving jet of particles produced by a rapidly rotating neutron star, and may provide new insight into the nature of...

Galaxy's gamma-ray flares erupted far from its black hole

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Prior to its strong outbursts in 2011, blazar 4C +71.07 was a weak source for Fermi’s LAT. These images centered on 4C +71.07 show the rate at which the LAT detected gamma rays with energies above 100 million electron volts; lighter colors equal higher rates. The image at left covers 2.5 years, from the start of Fermi’s mission to 2011. The image at right shows 10 weeks of activity in late 2011, when 4C +71.07 produced its strongest outburst. A more frequently active...

Hubble image: The galaxy puzzle in the constellation of Centaurus

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Galaxies NGC 5011B and NGC 5011C. (Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA)

Jan. 7, 2013 — The Universe loves to fool our eyes, giving the impression that celestial objects are located at the same distance from Earth. A good example can be seen in a new spectacular image produced by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxies NGC 5011B and NGC 5011C are imaged against a starry background.

Located in the constellation of Centaurus, the nature of these galaxies...

NASA's Kepler gets a little help from its friends: Kepler's follow-up observers confirm new discoveries

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At the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, NASA astronomers have linked the two 10-meter (33-foot) telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory. The linked telescopes, which together are called the Keck Interferometer, make up the world's most powerful optical telescope system. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Jan. 7, 2013 — More than 2,300 exoplanet candidate discoveries have made it the most prolific planet hunter in history. But even NASA's Kepler mission needs a little help from...

NASA's NuSTAR catches black holes in galaxy web

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This new view of spiral galaxy IC 342, also known as Caldwell 5, includes data from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR. High-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR have been translated to the color magenta, and superimposed on a visible-light view highlighting the galaxy and its star-studded arms. NuSTAR is the first orbiting telescope to take focused pictures of the cosmos in high-energy X-ray light; previous observations of this same galaxy taken at similar wavelengths...

Detecting dusty clouds and stars: New radio wave technique uncovers shadows of clouds and stars in Milky Way's center

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Jan. 7, 2013 — The center of our Milky Way galaxy is a wondrous place full of huge star clusters, dust clouds, magnetic filaments and a supermassive black hole. But it can be a confusing place, too, posing challenges to astronomers trying to image these exotic features and learn more about where they are located in the galaxy.

Northwestern University's Farhad Zadeh has discovered a new tool for detecting dusty clouds and stars: simply take a picture using radio waves. He is the...

Exocomets may be as common as exoplanets

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Artistic depiction of dust and comets around the young star Beta Pictoris as seen from the outer edge of its disk. (Credit: NASA image by Lynette Cook)

Jan. 7, 2013 — Comets trailing wispy tails across the night sky are a beautiful byproduct of our solar system's formation, icy leftovers from 4.6 billion years ago when the planets coalesced from rocky rubble.

The discovery by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Clarion University in...

At least one in six stars has an Earth-sized planet, analysis finds

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This artist's illustration represents the variety of planets being detected by NASA's Kepler spacecraft. A new analysis has determined the frequencies of planets of all sizes, from Earths up to gas giants. Key findings include the fact that one in six stars hosts an Earth-sized planet in an orbit of 85 days or less, and that almost all sun-like stars have a planetary system of some sort. (Hat tip to Robert Hurt for inspiring this illustration.) (Credit: C. Pulliam & D. Aguilar...