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June 27, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
For the first time, astronomers have been able to directly observe reflected light from a planet circling a distant star, allowing them to ascertain unprecedented details about the "hot Jupiter. " In the past, researchers have been able to obtain some information about the atmosphere of such planets when the planets pass between their star and the Earth, briefly dimming the star's output. But the newly analyzed planet, called Tau Bootis b, does not transit its star, making such observations impossible.
June 21, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope has discovered an unlikely pair of planets orbiting a distant star. One is small and rocky, the other is large and gaseous. What makes them unusual is that both are orbiting close to their parent star and they routinely come very close to each other, within only 1.2 million miles. "Here we have a pair of planets in nearby orbits but with very different densities," said astronomer Steve Kawaler of Iowa State University, one of the co-authors of the report appearing in the journal Science.
June 5, 2012 | By Eryn Brown and Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
As a scientist working in the cutting-edge field of exoplanets, Jean-Michel Désert usually trains his eye at far-off reaches of the Milky Way, searching for planets circling super-distant stars. But on Tuesday afternoon, the Harvard University researcher will take part in a nearly 400-year-old astronomical obsession - tracking a familiar neighbor, Venus, as its orbit carries it directly between Earth and the sun. This rare event, known as a transit of Venus, takes place only once every century or so, usually in pairs spaced eight years apart.
June 3, 2012 | By Andrea Wulf
Forget the "ring of fire" solar eclipse. On Tuesday, the heavens have something much more exciting in store: a transit of Venus, which is one of the rarest of astronomical events. In the afternoon, just after 3 p.m. in California, Venus will move between Earth and the sun, and for a few hours it will be a perfect black dot moving slowly across the sun's burning face. Such transits come as pairs - with an eight-year interval - but it then takes more than a century for the planets to do the dance again.
May 31, 2012 | By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times / For the Science Now blog
Two Los Angeles-area scientists will share the 2012 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for their work studying the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system, the Kavli Foundation announced Thursday. Michael Brown of Caltech and David Jewitt of UCLA were honored along with Jane Luu of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory “for discovering and characterizing the Kuiper Belt and its largest members, work that led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system,” according to the foundation . David Jewitt and Luu are credited with spotting the first known object in the Kuiper Belt , an icy, disc-shaped territory beyond the orbit of Neptune.
May 31, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For Science Now
The Milky Way is set to collide with its closest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope said Thursday. Galactic residents need not brace for impact just yet, however: The predicted collision would take place in 4 billion years. Andromeda, officially known as Messier 31, or M31, is located about 2.5 million light-years away from the Milky Way - which would make it our closest fellow spiral galaxy. Spiral galaxies have flat, rotating, disc-shaped bodies with spiral arms  anchored by a supermassive black hole at the center.
May 25, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
On June 5, astronomers will witness an astronomical event that has been observed in the modern era only six times previously, a passage or transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. The next time such an event will occur is 2117, so researchers are gearing up to devote as many resources as possible to view the transit from both Earth and space. Among other things, scientists hope observations of the transit will inform efforts to detect extrasolar planets -- those around distant stars -- a feat that is achieved in part by observing the dimming of a star as a planet passes between it and the Earth.
May 18, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
After more than 50 hours of imaging at a variety of wavelengths, astronomers at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile have produced a spectacular new image of the galaxy Centaurus A, one of the most prominent radio-emitting sources in the universe. Centaurus A, about 12 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Centaurus (the Centaur), was discovered in 1826 by British astronomer James Dunlop using the Parramatta observatory in Australia.
May 3, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Back when single-celled organisms ruled Earth, a gigantic black hole lurking quietly at the center of a distant galaxy dismantled and devoured a star. On Wednesday, astronomers reported that they watched the whole thing unfold over a period of 15 months starting in 2010, the first time such an event had been witnessed in great detail from start to finish. "The star got so close that it was ripped apart by the gravitational force of the black hole," said Johns Hopkins University astronomer Suvi Gezari, lead author of a paper about the observations that was published online by the journal Nature.
March 30, 2012
Call it the "Dodgers tax. " Pay-TV analysts expect Guggenheim Baseball Management, the investment group that paid an astronomical sum for the Dodgers, to recover at least part of its investment by charging a sky-high fee for the right to broadcast the team's games. With local stations and cable channels run by Time Warner Cable and News Corp. expected to get into a bidding war for those rights, the team is virtually guaranteed a multibillion-dollar contract - not unlike the one the Lakers won last year from Time Warner.
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