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Simulated mission to Mars reveals critical data about sleep needs for astronauts

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Artist's concept of the landing of the first human mission to Mars. (Credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center)

Jan. 7, 2013 — In the first study of its kind, a team of researchers led by faculty at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Baylor College of Medicine, has analyzed data on the impact of prolonged operational confinement on sleep, performance, and mood in astronauts from a groundbreaking international effort to simulate a 520-day space mission to Mars.

The findings, published online-first in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed alterations of life-sustaining sleep patterns and neurobehavioral consequences for crew members that must be...

NASA's Kepler discovers 461 new planet candidates

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Since the last Kepler catalog was released in February 2012, the number of candidates discovered in the Kepler data has increased by 20 percent and now totals 2,740 potential planets orbiting 2,036 stars. Based on observations conducted May 2009 to March 2011, the most dramatic increases are seen in the number of Earth-size and super Earth-size candidates discovered, which grew by 43 and 21 percent respectively. (Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

Jan. 7, 2013 — NASA's...

Sudden, massive outburst in neighbor galaxy surprises astronomers

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HSA image of bright "hotspots" (inset), in galaxy NGC 660. Entire HSA image is less than a pixel in the larger optical image. (Credit: Minchin et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF (HSA);Travis Rector, Gemini Observatory, AURA (optical).)

Jan. 7, 2013 — The surprising discovery of a massive outburst in a neighboring galaxy is giving astronomers a tantalizing look at what likely is a powerful belch by a gorging black hole at the galaxy's center. The scientists were conducting a...

Fifteen new planets hint at 'traffic jam' of moons in habitable zone

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Artist's impression of the view from a moon around planet PH2b. (Credit: Haven Giguere)

Jan. 7, 2013 — Volunteers from the Planethunters.org website, part of the Oxford University-led Zooniverse project, have discovered 15 new planet candidates orbiting in the habitable zones of other stars.

Added to the 19 similar planets already discovered in habitable zones, where the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water, the new finds suggest...

Wide binary stars wreak havoc in planetary systems, astrophysicists find

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Two simulations of planetary system disruption by galactic disturbances to wide binary stars. On the left is a zoomed-out view showing the orbit of a hypothetical 0.1 solar mass binary star around our own solar system with an initial orbital separation of 10,000 AU (1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun). On the right is a zoomed-in view of the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. As the binary orbit becomes eccentric, this eventually excites the planetary...

Planets abound: Astronomers estimate that at least 100 billion planets populate the galaxy

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A new analysis of data from NASA's Kepler mission finds evidence for at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Jan. 3, 2013 — Look up at the night sky and you'll see stars, sure. But you're also seeing planets -- billions and billions of them. At least.

That's the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) that provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm...

Carbon in Vesta's craters: Asteroid impacts may have transferred carbonaceous material to protoplanet and inner solar system

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In this three-dimensional image of one of Vesta’s smaller craters, the dark material can be seen within the crater. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Jan. 3, 2013 — The protoplanet Vesta has been witness to an eventful past: images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA's space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere. The images were obtained during Dawn's year-long visit to Vesta that ended in September 2012. These huge...

Astrophysicists make stellar discovery about galaxies far, far away

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The Andromeda Galaxy. (Credit: GALEX, JPL-Caltech, NASA)

Jan. 3, 2013 — Andromeda is the nearest 'large' galaxy to the Milky Way, at 2.5 million light years away. Its size and disc-like structure is similar to the Milky Way, and it's often referred to as our companion galaxy. The next closest large galaxy is 10 million light years away.

This new study observes 13 smaller satellite galaxies orbiting around the immense Andromeda galaxy in a way similar to how...

Our galaxy's 'geysers' are towers of power

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This shows the “geysers” (in blue) shooting out of the Milky Way. (Credit: Optical image – A. Mellinger, U.Central Michigan; radio image – E. Carretti, CSIRO; radio data – S-PASS team; composition – E. Bresser, CSIRO)

Jan. 2, 2013 — "Monster" outflows of charged particles from the centre of our Galaxy, stretching more than halfway across the sky, have been detected and mapped with CSIRO's 64-m Parkes radio telescope. Corresponding...