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Swift space telescope spots gamma-ray bursts.
Since its launch late last year, NASA's Swift space telescope has already spotted 24 gamma-ray bursts - the most powerful known explosions in the Universe. Now Swift has measured the distance to two of these explosions which occurred on March 18/19; both are more than 9 billion light-years away. Swift should become even more accurate in the next few months as more of its instruments are enabled.
When he developed his General theory of Relativity, Einstein predicted that the motion of large masses should create ripples in Spacetime called gravity waves. Now 100 years after his theory, a precise instrument is being prepared that should be able to find out if he was right or not. A joint ESA/NASA mission called LISA (Laser Interferometric Space Antenna) will launch in 2012. It will consist of three spacecraft flying 5 million km apart, which measure their distances from each other precisely. LISA should be able to detect black holes and neutron stars as well as echos from the Big Bang.
Starburst Galaxies get their name from the enormous amount of star formation going on inside them; on average, they create 50 times as many stars as regular Galaxies like our own Milky Way in vast regions of furious star formation. Astronomers from the UK think these regions could also be the home to black holes. The team looked at Hubble images of these star-forming regions, and compared them to X-ray images of the same locations and found the telltale signs for both star formation and black holes.
The chances of finding life somewhere else in the universe depends on how many planets are capable of supporting life. Well, according to new calculations by Astronomers at Open University, as many as half of all star systems could contain habitable planets. The team created mathematical models of known exoplanetary systems, and then added Earth-sized planets into the mix. They found that in half of all planetary systems they simulated, the gravity of the Gas giants won't catastrophically affect the orbits of these smaller planets, giving life a chance to evolve.
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