Sky and Telescope 16 Jan 2019, 15:50 UTC A cosmic lens has magnified light from a distant quasar, making it shine with brightness of 600 trillion Suns, astronomers report in a study published in the January 9th Astrophysical Journal Letters. That makes it “the brightest object in cosmic dawn,” says study author Xiaohui Fan (University of Arizona), and it’s giving astronomers an unprecedented look at the formation of supermassive black holes and their galaxies in the early universe.
Bad Astronomy 16 Jan 2019, 14:00 UTC New observations of a young, nearby red dwarf star indicate that any planets forming there may get scoured clean of water and other materials before they even get a chance to cool down after forming. If this is the case, it implies that life on these kinds of planets may be more rare than we first thought. Given that planets around red dwarfs are probably the most common in the Universe, this news, well, kinda sucks.
ESO Announcements 16 Jan 2019, 09:00 UTC Work on the elaborate optics of ESO’s 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) has taken a major step forwards following the successful casting, annealing, ceramization, machining and acid-etching of the substrate for the ELT’s secondary mirror, M2. This massive 3-ton mirror blank has been successfully machined from a slab of the low-expansion ceramic material ZERODURⓇ into its near-final form by the German company SCHOTT . The creation of this technological masterpiece was a challenging process, requiring state-of-the-art CNC machines to correctly grind the mirror blank. Now, safely stowed in an extra-large transport box, the blank is being shipped to France for final grinding and polishing by Safran Reosc.
Centauri Dreams 15 Jan 2019, 14:57 UTC ‘Oumuamua continues to inspire questions and provoke media attention, not only because of its unusual characteristics, but because of the discussion that has emerged on whether it may be a derelict (or active) technology. Harvard’s Avi Loeb examined the interstellar object in these terms in a paper with Shmuel Bialy, one we talked about at length in these pages (see ‘Oumuamua, Thin Films and Lightsails). The paper would quickly go viral.
Bad Astronomy 15 Jan 2019, 14:00 UTC Last year, astronomers saw a really weird flash of light in the sky. About all anyone can agree on is that it was an extremely big explosion seen from very far away, but other than that there are as many explanations as there are observations. Something catastrophic happened in a distant galaxy, but what? I love stuff like this. A mystery is afoot! Watson! To the telescope!