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Astronomers Catch A Quasar Shutting Off

This artist's rending shows "before" and "after" images of a changing look quasar. Credit: Yale University.

This artist’s rending shows “before” and “after” images of a changing look quasar. Credit: Yale University.

Last week, astronomers at Yale University reported seeing something unusual: a seemingly stedfast beacon from the far reaches of the Universe went quiet. This relic light source, a quasar located in the region of our sky known as the celestial equator, unexpectedly became 6-7 times dimmer over the first decade of the 21st century. Thanks to this dramatic change in luminosity, astronomers now have an unprecedented opportunity to study both the life cycle of quasars and the galaxies that they once called home.

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How Do Planets Go Rogue?


Some times planets just head off into the mysterious Universe all on their own, without a star to orbit. How and why do planets go rogue like this?
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What Are The Benefits Of Space Exploration?

Eugene Cernan on the lunar surface, December 13, 1972. Credit: NASA.

Eugene Cernan on the lunar surface, December 13, 1972. Credit: NASA.

Why explore space? It’s an expensive arena to play in, between the fuel costs and the technological challenge of operating in a hostile environment. For humans, a small mistake can quickly become fatal — something that we have seen several times in space history. And for NASA’s budget, there are projects that come in late and over budget, drawing the ire of Congress and the public.

These are some of the drawbacks. But for the rest of this article, we will focus on some of the benefits of going where few humans have gone before.

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The first qualification motor for NASA's Space Launch System's booster is installed in ATK's test stand in Utah and is ready for a March 11 static-fire test.   Credit:  ATK

The first qualification motor for NASA’s Space Launch System’s booster is installed in ATK’s test stand in Utah and is ready for a March 11, 2015 static-fire test. Credit: ATK

The first solid rocket booster qualification motor for NASA’s mammoth new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is aimed and ready to fire in a major ground test after NASA and ATK finished its installation at a test stand in Utah, and confirms that the pace of SLS development is gaining momentum. [click to continue…]

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Dust-covered, boulder-strewn landscape on the smaller of the two lobes of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken from a distance of 5 miles (8 km). Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

A bleak yet beautiful boulder-strewn landscape on the smaller of the two lobes of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken from a distance of  just 5 miles (8 km). Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

We’ve subsisted for months on morsels of information coming from ESA’s mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Now, a series of scientific papers in journal Science offers a much more complete, if preliminary, look at Rosetta’s comet. And what a wonderful and complex world it is. [click to continue…]

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