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Cassini Gets New Views of Titan's Land of Lakes.

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With the sun now shining down over the north pole of Saturn’s moon Titan, a little luck with the weather, and trajectories that put the spacecraft into optimal viewing positions, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has obtained new pictures of the liquid methane and ethane seas and lakes that…

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NASA’s Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes.

The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.

“Europa’s ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa’s subsurface.”

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(via Little big black hole is a supermassive oxymoron › News in Science (ABC Science))

Astronomers have discovered the smallest supermassive black hole seen to date lurking in the centre of a dwarf galaxy around 340 million light-years away.

The black hole, discovered in the dwarf galaxy RGG 118, “weighs in” at a whopping 50,000 times the mass of our Sun.

However, it is less than half the mass of the next-smallest supermassive black hole discovered to date, report a team of astronomers in a study published on the pre-press website arXiv.org.

It is 100 times less massive than the supermassive black hole that lives in the centre of our galaxy; and 200,000 times less massive than the biggest supermassive black hole known to exist.

Size comparisons aside, this latest black hole discovery is extremely important to astronomers trying to understand the perplexing evolutionary processes that dominate supermassive black holes, which are known to reside in the majority of galaxies, and how they relate to their host galaxy’s evolution.

Robotic telescope finds three new super-Earths by neighbouring star.

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Robotic telescope that is scanning the sky every night at Lick Observatory in USA discovered three planets, supersized Earths, around a nearby star. These planets are seven to eight times the mass of Earth and orbit very close to their host star. Scientists hope that telescope will continue…

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Mystery solved behind birth of Saturn’s rings

A team of researchers has presented a new model for the origin of Saturn’s rings based on results of computer simulations. The results of the simulations are also applicable to rings of other giant planets and explain the compositional differences between the rings of Saturn and Uranus. The findings were published on October 6 in the online version of Icarus.

The lead author of the paper is HYODO Ryuki (Kobe University, Graduate School of Science), and co-authors are Professor Sébastien Charnoz (Institute de Physique du Globe/Université Paris Diderot), Professor OHTSUKI Keiji (Kobe University, Graduate School of Science), and Project Associate Professor GENDA Hidenori (Earth-Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology).

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Observable universe contains two trillion galaxies, 10 times more than previously thought

In Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “2001: A Space Odyssey,” astronaut David Bowman exclaims, “My God, it’s full of stars!” before he gets pulled into an alien-built wormhole in space. When the Hubble Space Telescope made its deepest views of the universe, astronomers might have well exclaimed: “My God, it’s full of galaxies!” The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, for example, revealed 10,000 galaxies of various shapes, sizes, colors, and ages, all within an area roughly one-tenth the diameter of the full moon. 

Astronomers came to the surprising conclusion that there are at least 10 times more galaxies in the observable universe than previously thought. This places the universe’s estimated population at, minimally, 2 trillion galaxies.

The results have clear implications for galaxy formation, and also helps shed light on an ancient astronomical paradox – why is the sky dark at night?

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Astronomers Discover First Mulitiple-image Gravitationally-lensed Supernova.

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How about four supernovae for the price of one? Using the Hubble Space Telescope, Dr. Patrick Kelly of the University of California-Berkeley along with the GLASS (Grism Lens Amplified Survey from Space) and Hubble Frontier Fields teams, discovered a remote supernova lensed into four copies of it…

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Curiosity Rover Finds Evidence of Liquid Water On Mars

Last week, we discovered that Mars has enough ice to cover the entire planet in water.

This week we discovered liquid water…
Where there is water, there is life. This is a statement that has been reaffirmed over and over again. Whether it is in the acidic waters surrounding volcanoes or in the dark and frozen wastes of the icy Antarctic, wherever we find liquid water, we find life. That’s what makes the most recent find by NASA’s Curiosity rover so amazing—Evidence of liquid water on Mars.

In 2002, we discovered that there was ice on the Red Planet. More recently (in fact, it was just lat week), we found that Mars has more than just a little ice. It has glaciers. Ultimately, this frozen ice contains enough water to cover the entire planet in a meter of water. But liquid water is an entirely different ball game

The major question that is now being asked is, how can a planet with an average temperature of -55°C (-67°F) have liquid water?

In work that was recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the scientists behind the discovery detail their ideas about the Martian water cycle. The team, led by planetary scientist Javier Martín-Torres, who hails from the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, asserts that salt is likely responsible for the pockets of water. Much like life is able to subsist in the near-frozen water of the Antarctic because of salt, the scientists state that salt could be present at such quantities that it alters the freezing point of the water, lowering the temperature at which the water freezes so that, in order to solidify, the water has to get a lot colder than it does on Earth.

Previously, we have detected evidence of salts on Mars, and it is this previous evidence that forms the basis of the team’s conclusion.

Ultimately, it is believed that the water cycle starts when vapor from the thin Martian atmosphere cools and gets absorbed by salt on the surface of the planet. Then, during the evening, when temperatures go well below zero, the salts become so saturated by water vapor that they form “liquid brines in the uppermost 5 cm [2 inches] of the subsurface”. These small liquid pools stick around until the daytime temperatures turn the pools back into vapor. As the day progresses, and things start to cool, the liquid water again appears.

Sadly, Curiosity hasn’t been able to capture any images of liquid water on Mars because, well, the technology hasn’t been invented yet. Yes, of course we do have cameras on Mars (as our many pictures attest); however, the cameras don’t work in the subzero temperatures where the liquid water exists on the Red Planet.

So on to the main event: Do these pools contain life? Well, we don’t know for sure. However, we do know a few things that allow us to make guesstimates. First, since the temperatures are so low, we know that life as we know it cannot exist. Second, since the pools appear to dry during the day, it is unlikely that any life at all could survive. But despite the fact that it is rather unlikely, it is certainly not impossible. And, well, that’s something.

What do you think? Is there life on Mars and, if so, will we find it?

How Stellar Death Can Lead To Twin Celestial Jets.

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Astronomers know that while large stars can end their lives as violently cataclysmic supernovae, smaller stars end up as planetary nebulae — colorful, glowing clouds of dust and gas. In recent decades these nebulae, once thought to be mostly spherical, have been observed to often emit powerful, b…

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Astronomers Poised to Capture Image of Supermassive Milky Way Black Hole.

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Scientists have long suspected that supermassive black holes (SMBH) reside at the center of every large galaxy in our universe. These can be billions of times more massive than our sun, and are so powerful that activity at their boundaries can ripple throughout their host galaxies. Artist’s c…

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A change in thought on Earth's core formation.

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Violent collisions between the growing Earth and other objects in the solar system generated significant amounts of iron vapor, according to a new study by LLNL scientist Richard Kraus and colleagues. This artist’s illustration shows a planetary scale impact on the Moon. Illustration by W.K. H…

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Is the universe a hologram?.

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At first glance, there is not the slightest doubt: to us, the universe looks three dimensional. But one of the most fruitful theories of theoretical physics in the last two decades is challenging this assumption. The “holographic principle” asserts that a mathematical description of…

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