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Hubble snaps a pic of a microwave-emitting galaxy

The Hubble telescope team is ending the year with a photo of an unusual galaxy, one that emits microwaves instead of visible light. See that image above? That’s a snapshot of IRAS 16399-0937, a “megamaser” 370 million light-years away from Earth. Megamaser galaxies are intense and are around 100 million times brighter than the microwave-emitting areas — or masers, found in star-forming regions — of the Milky Way.

To come up with the final image, the telescope had to capture the galaxy across various wavelengths using two instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). The latter’s high resolution, in particular, allowed the team to see that the galaxy actually has two separate cores in the midst of merging hiding behind thick cosmic gas and dust. Thanks to the new images, they also discovered that the galaxy has a massive black hole, 100 times the size of the sun.

The Hubble telescope is far from retiring despite its successor’s scheduled launch in 2018. Over the past few years, it gave us a way to see the farthest star we’ve ever spotted, as well as particularly interesting galaxies, including one with a natural magnifying glass. It also helped solve cosmic mysteries, such as the heyday of galaxy formation and the origin of lyman-alpha blobs’ intense glow.

Source: NASA

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Windows 10 included password manager with huge security hole

There's a good reason why security analysts get nervous about bundled third-party software: it can introduce vulnerabilities that the companies can't control. And Microsoft, unfortunately, has learned that the hard way. Google researcher Tavis Ormandy discovered that a Windows 10 image came bundled with a third-party password manager, Keeper, which came with a glaring browser plugin flaw -- a malicious website could steal passwords. Ormandy's copy was an MSDN image meant for developers, but Reddit users noted that they received the vulnerable copy of Keeper after clean reinstalls of regular copies and even a brand new laptop.

A Microsoft spokesperson told Ars Technica that the Keeper team had patched the exploit (in response to Ormandy's private disclosure), so it shouldn't be an issue if your software is up to date. Also, you were only exposed if you enabled the plugin.

However, the very existence of the hole has still raised a concern: are Microsoft's security tests as thorough for third-party apps as its own software? The company has declined to comment, but that kind of screening may prove crucial if Microsoft is going to maintain the trust of Windows users. It doesn't matter how secure Microsoft's code is if a bundled app undermines everything.

Source: Monorail, Tavis Ormandy (Twitter)

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