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Earth-like Planet Found Orbiting Nearest Star?

Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a…

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Exploring a Frozen Extrasolar World

Astronomers have “cracked” a very cold case with the dissection of light from the coldest known brown dwarf. In fact, the brown dwarf, named WISE 0855, is billed as the most frigid discrete world yet discovered beyond our solar system. The research also presents the strongest evidence yet for water clouds in the atmosphere of…

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Mars’ Moons Formed by a Giant Impact

The origin of the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, remained a mystery. Due to their small size and irregular shape, they strongly resembled asteroids, but no one understood how Mars could have “ captured “ them and made them into satellites with almost circular and equatorial orbits. According to a competing theory, toward the…

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Pluto’s Subsurface Ocean May Likely Exist Today

When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft buzzed by Pluto last year, it revealed tantalizing clues that the dwarf planet might have — or had at one time — a liquid ocean sloshing around under its icy crust. According to a new analysis led by a Brown University Ph.D. student, such an ocean likely still exists today….

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to Risk Jupiter’s Fireworks for Science

On July 4, NASA will fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles (4,667 kilometers) of the cloud tops of our solar system’s largest planet. As of Thursday, Juno is 18 days and 8.6 million miles (13.8 million kilometers) from Jupiter. On the evening of July 4, Juno will fire…

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A simulation of the powerful jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centers of the largest galaxies explains why some burst forth as bright beacons visible across the universe, while others fall apart and never pierce the halo of the galaxy. About 10 percent of all galaxies with active nuclei — all presumed to…

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Cloudy Days on Exoplanets May Hide Atmospheric Water

Water is a hot topic in the study of exoplanets, including “hot Jupiters,” whose masses are similar to that of Jupiter, but which are much closer to their parent star than Jupiter is to the Sun. They can reach a scorching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 degrees Celsius), meaning any water they host would take the…

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Secrets Revealed from Pluto’s “Twilight Zone”

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took this stunning image of Pluto only a few minutes after closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image was obtained at a high phase angle — that is, with the Sun on the other side of Pluto, as viewed by New Horizons. Seen here, sunlight filters through and illuminates Pluto’s…

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