First Planets Discovered Outside Milky Way

Xinyu Dai and Eduardo Guerras from the University of Oklahoma have published a paper in the Astrophysical Journal letters claiming they have discovered evidence of planets outside the Milky Way, about 3.8 billion light years away. The team used microlensing techniques to make their discovery.
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Obituary: Thomas Bopp

Amateur astronomer Thomas J. Bopp (b.1949) died on January 6. Bopp was working as a manager at a construction materials factory when he discovered Comet Hale-Bopp (also discovered by Alan Hale), on July 22, 1995. Following the discovery, he left his job to become a full time speaker and educator on astronomy.

Nickname a World

The New Horizons team is looking for public input in coming up with a nickname for MU69, the next target for the spacecraft. After flyby, the nickname chosen will be replaced by a more permanent name depending on what is found. The New Horizons team is considering Año Nuevo; Camalor; Kibo, Mwenzi, and Shira; Mjölnir; Peanut, Almond, and Cashew; Pluck and Persistence, Sagittarius, or Z’ha’dum. Camalor is the name of a city in the writings of Robert L. Forward and Z’ha’dum is a planet from Babylon 5.

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Ring Around Haumea

Only days after confirming that Pluto does not have rings, NASA has announced that dwarf planet Haumea does have a particulate ring, making it the only dwarf planet known to have a ring. The same scientists who discovered Haumea’s rings previously discovered rings around the centaur asteroid Chariklo, which orbits between Saturn and Uranus. The formation of rings around small celestial bodies raises questions for astronomers about ring formation.
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Obituary: Yoji Kondo

Astronomer and author Yoji Kondo (b.1933) died on October 9. Kondo served as the president of various commissions for the International Astronomical Union and headed the astrophysics lab at the Johnson space center during the Apollo and Skylab missions. He published several astronomy books. In addition, Kondo wrote science fiction using the name Eric Kotani and edited Requiem: New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein.

Obituary: Kim Poor

Artist Kim Poor (b.1952) died on August 16. Poor’s space art appeared in Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Omni, and other astronomy-focused magazines. He was commissioned to produce art for the National Air & Space Museum. In 1987, he led a delegation of space artists who displayed their work in Moscow to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sputnik, which led to a series of joint workshops between US and Soviet space artists. Poor served as the first president of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA), which he co-founded with Michael Carroll and Rick Sternbach. He ran Novaspace Galleries.

Potential for Life on Two Moons

NASA has announced that Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa both have the elements believed necessary for life to exist. Both moons are covered in subsurface oceans and NASA believes that Enceladus has the necessary energy source that makes life a possibility. No direct evidence of life has been found on either moon.
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Woman Wins Moon Dust

A Chicgao area woman who purchased a bag of Moon dust that was put up for auction inadvertently by the US government has won the right to own the artifacts. The bag was stolen by Max Ary, former president of a space museum in Kansas and was seized by the government. The back was accidentally put up for auction by the US Marshal service and Nancy Carlson purchased it. NASA tried to reclaim it when she sought their assistance in verifying the bag and dust.
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SpaceX Targets Moon Launch 2018

Elon Musk has announced plans to put two humans into orbit around the Moon in 2018. Two private citizens have already placed a significant deposit for the flight, which will be the furthest any humans have traveled from Earth since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Musk hasn’t announced the names of the astronauts who will fly to the moon aboard a Falcon Heavy.
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Apollo 11 Goes on Tour

The Smithsonian Institute is sending the Apollo 11 on a tour of four museums in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing. The command module Columbia, along with other artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission, will visit Space Center Houston (October 14, 2017-March 18, 2018), the Saint Louis Science center (April 14-September 3, 2018), the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh (September 29, 2018-February 18, 2019) and Seattle’s Museum of Flight (March 16-September 2, 2019).