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The Pulsar Phoenix
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
04/07/06
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has uncovered new evidence that planets might rise up out of a dead star's ashes. Spitzer surveyed the scene around a pulsar, the remnant of an exploded star. The infrared telescope found a surrounding disk made up of debris shot out during the star's death throes. The dusty rubble in this disk might ultimately stick together to form planets.

Locked in the Disk
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
03/22/06
In an article to be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, two British astronomers present new numerical simulations of how planetary systems form. They find that, in the early stages of planetary formation, giant protoplanets migrate inward in lockstep into the central star.

Modeling Giant Cores
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
02/24/06
University of Minnesota researchers Renata Wentzcovitch and Koichiro Umemoto and Philip B. Allen of Stony Brook University have modeled the properties of rocks at the temperatures and pressures likely to exist at the cores of Jupiter, Saturn and two exoplanets far from the solar system. They show that rocks in these environments are different from those on Earth and have metallic-like electric and thermal conductivity. These properties can produce different terrestrial-type planets, with longer-lasting magnetic fields, enhanced heat flow to the planetary surfaces and, consequently, more intense "planetquake" and volcanic activity.

Indecisive Solar System
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
02/21/06
Astronomers studying a disk of material circling a still-forming star inside our Galaxy have found a tantalizing result -- the inner part of the disk is orbiting the protostar in the opposite direction from the outer part of the disk.

Mega Solar Systems
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
02/12/06
The Spitzer Space Telescope has identified two huge "hypergiant" stars circled by monstrous disks of what might be planet-forming dust. The findings surprised astronomers because stars as big as these were thought to be inhospitable to planets.

Galactic Exiles
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
01/31/06
TV reality show contestants aren't the only ones under threat of exile. Astronomers using the MMT Observatory in Arizona have discovered two stars exiled from the Milky Way galaxy. Those stars are racing out of the Galaxy at speeds of more than 1 million miles per hour - so fast that they will never return.

Kuiper Belt Clones
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
01/25/06
These two bright debris disks of ice and dust appear to be the equivalent of our own solar system's Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy rocks outside the orbit of Neptune and the source of short-period comets. The disks encircle the types of stars around which there could be habitable zones and planets for life to develop. The disks seem to have a central area cleared of debris, perhaps by planets.

Hit and Run Planets
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
01/17/06
Hit-and-run collisions between embryonic planets during a critical period in the early history of the Solar System may account for some previously unexplained properties of planets, asteroids, and meteorites, according to researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Starmates
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
01/15/06
New theoretical work shows that gas-giant planet formation can occur around binary stars in much the same way that it occurs around single stars like the Sun. The work was presented by Dr. Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC. The results suggest that gas-giant planets, like Jupiter, and habitable Earth-like planets could be more prevalent than previously thought.

Milky Way Harboring the Chemistry of Life
Topic: Cosmic Evolution
12/27/05
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered some of life's most basic ingredients in the dust swirling around a young star. The ingredients - gaseous precursors to DNA and protein - were detected in the star's terrestrial planet zone, a region where rocky planets such as Earth are thought to be born.

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