Heavenly Ho Ho Ho! From A Cosmic Santa Claus

If you look closely, you might be able to picture the face of Santa Claus in these festive pink clouds. You’re seeing two overlapping glowing nebulas called NGC 248 in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a small galaxy that orbits the Milky Way like a planet orbit the sun. Intense radiation from hot young stars in the center…
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Astronomers Plan To Take First Picture Of A Black Hole Next April

On two nights in April 2017, eight observatories around the planet will function together as one Earth-size telescope to simultaneously observe Sagittarius A* (Sagittarius A star), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Collectively known as the Event Horizon Telescope, this will be humanity’s first attempt to get an image of a black hole.…
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Astronomers Discover ‘Ghost Galaxy’ Made Of 99.99% Dark Matter

Dark matter is infuriating. It’s everywhere, outnumbering regular matter by 5 to 1. Yet it doesn’t reveal itself to our eyes or telescopes. Dark matter gives off no light and interacts with ordinary matter in just one way — through gravity. By measuring how much it tugs on stars and galaxies, we can estimate the…
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Getting Stung By A Scorpion Can Be A Beautiful Thing

Near the tail end of Scorpius the scorpion you’ll find a neat pair of stars — Shaula and Lesath — that form the stinger. Dubbed the Stinger Stars, from mid-northern latitudes they never rise higher than 10°-15° or a little more than a fist above the southern horizon. Trees and buildings usually get in the way of seeing…
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Care For Tea With ‘Milk’? Fill Up At Sagittarius

I’m a tea drinker. Two cups a day keep my engine humming. On summer nights, the Teapot of Sagittarius stands at the ready to tip a different sort of cup. One that provides a thick brew of Milky Way stars, sooty interstellar gas clouds and sparkling star clusters. Sagittarius is a centaur with the body and four…
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