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Jets that dart across the low atmosphere of the Sun.
Scientists from Lockheed Martin and the University of Sheffield believe they've solved the mystery of supersonic jets that dart across the low atmosphere of the Sun. The team used computer modeling and high-resolution images taken with the Swedish 1-metre Solar telescope to understand how these jets - called "spicules" - are formed. They noticed that the spicules formed in certain spots quite regularly, usually every five minutes or so. This matched sound waves on the Sun's surface that had the same five minute period. The sound waves are usually dampened before they reach the Sun's atmosphere, but wherever they aren't dampened, spicules are formed, propelling matter upward.
NASA's Swift satellite is due to arrive at Florida's Cape Canaveral today, to prepare for its launch in October. Named after the fast-moving bird, Swift will track down the fastest and most powerful known explosions in the Universe: gamma ray bursts. Swift has one instrument to detect bursts in the sky, and then it can swing around two high-resolution Telescopes in less than a minute for a closer look. It'll also inform the astronomical community of a blast so that anyone watching the sky can tune in as well and watch the explosion unfold. Swift should help turn up more than 100 bursts a year.
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has taken this image of a mysterious group of stars called the Quintuplet Cluster. This dense cluster of stars is located near the centre of our Milky Way, and actually contains hundreds of young stars, but they're obscured by thick dust. In fact it wasn't even discovered until 1990 when it was located with an Infrared telescope that can peer through the dust. The bright concentrations in the image aren't stars, but points where powerful winds from the young, hot stars are colliding and being superheated to 50 million degrees Celsius.
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