11 Nov 2021, 12:00 UTC Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), astronomers have discovered a small black hole outside the Milky Way by looking at how it influences the motion of a star in its close vicinity. This is the first time this detection method has been used to reveal the presence of a black hole outside of our galaxy. The method could be key to unveiling hidden black holes in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, and to help shed light on how these mysterious objects form and evolve. Next Previous
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NASA’s Webb Will Join Forces with the Event Horizon Telescope to Reveal the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black HoleNext Previous
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25 Oct 2021, 04:00 UTC Most elements lighter than iron are forged in the cores of stars. A star’s white-hot center fuels the fusion of protons, squeezing them together to build progressively heavier elements. But beyond iron, scientists have puzzled over what could give rise to gold, platinum, and the rest of the universe’s heavy elements, whose formation requires more energy than a star can muster. A new study by researchers at MIT and the University of New Hampshire finds that of two long-suspected sources of heavy metals, one is more of a goldmine than the other. The study, published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters, reports that in the last 2.5 billion years, more heavy metals were produced in binary neutron star mergers, or collisions between two neutron stars, than in mergers between a neutron star and a black hole. The study is the first to compare the two merger types in terms of their heavy metal output, and suggests that binary neutron stars are a likely cosmic source for the gold, platinum, and other heavy metals we see today. The findings could also help scientists determine the rate at which heavy metals are produced across the universe. “What we find exciting about our result ... Next Previous
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 3 Dec 2021, 13:00 UTC This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features the spiral galaxy Mrk (Markarian) 1337, which is roughly 120 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 snapped Mrk 1337 at a wide range of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths, producing this richly detailed image. Mrk 1337 is a weakly barred spiral galaxy, which as the name suggests means that the spiral arms radiate from a central bar of gas and stars. Bars occur in roughly half of spiral galaxies, including our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
ESA Space Science 2 Dec 2021, 10:00 UTC By performing a series of real and 'fake' flybys, ESA’s Mars Express has revealed how Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, interacts with the solar wind of charged particles thrown out by the Sun – and spotted an elusive process that has only been seen at Phobos once before.
McDonald Observatory 1 Dec 2021, 06:12 UTC Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory have discovered an unusually massive black hole at the heart of one of the Milky Way’s dwarf satellite galaxies, called Leo I. Almost as massive as the black hole in our own galaxy, the finding could redefine our understanding of how all galaxies — the building blocks of the universe — evolve. The work is published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
Universities Space Research Association 29 Nov 2021, 18:10 UTC NGC 7479, also known as Caldwell 44, is a barred spiral galaxy, with a bar-shaped center filled with stars (as is characteristic of a majority of spiral galaxies), and S- shaped arms. However, looking at features of NGC 7479 that are hidden from the naked eye reveals another pair of arms bending in an opposite direction to the visible galaxy. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) observed ionized carbon emissions to help confirm these counter-arms. The results were published in The Astrophysical Journal.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 29 Nov 2021, 14:00 UTC NGC 6891 is a bright, asymmetrical planetary nebula in the constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin. This Hubble image reveals a wealth of structure, including a spherical outer halo that is expanding faster than the inner nebula, and at least two ellipsoidal shells that are orientated differently. The image also reveals filaments and knots in the nebula’s interior, surrounding the central white dwarf star. From their motions, astronomers estimate that one of the shells is 4,800 years old while the outer halo is some 28,000 years old, indicating a series of outbursts from the dying star at different times.
MIT Kavli Institute 23 Nov 2021, 10:00 UTC The hunt for planets beyond our solar system has turned up more than 4,000 far-flung worlds, orbiting stars thousands of light years from Earth. These extrasolar planets are a veritable menagerie, from rocky super-Earths and miniature Neptunes to colossal gas giants.
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Physics World Blog 3 Dec 2021, 18:26 UTC The observation of black holes with unexpectedly high masses could be partly explained by an effect related to the expansion of the universe, astronomers in the US have proposed. The team, led by Kevin Croker at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, used comparisons between simulated black hole mergers, and gravitational waves detected by the LIGO–Virgo collaboration, to show how ignoring the expansion of the universe may be limiting our understanding of black-hole physics.
The Planetary Society Blog 3 Dec 2021, 15:30 UTC Not to be outshone by 2021’s new fleet of Mars missions, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover sent home this stunning image from Mount Sharp, the mountain the rover has been climbing since 2014. The image combines two panoramas taken by Curiosity’s navigation camera, one at 8:30 a.m. and the other at 4:10 p.m. local Mars time, with details from the morning scene in blue, the afternoon scene in orange, and a combination of both in green. The two times of day provided contrasting lighting conditions that brought out a variety of unique landscape details.
Cosmos Magazine 2 Dec 2021, 02:56 UTC Over the last few years, gravitational waves have revolutionised physics. Sensitive instruments like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), Virgo and KAGRA have spotted these ripples in spacetime emanating out from collisions between black holes and neutron stars billions of light-years away. But can gravitational waves find dark matter? Now, researchers think that gravitational wave detectors may be able to spot a possible source of the elusive material that makes up 85% of the universe. “Gravitational-wave discoveries not only provide information about mysterious compact objects in the universe, like black holes and neutron stars, they also allow us to look for new particles and dark matter,” says astrophysicist Lilli Sun from the Australian National University (ANU) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav). Sun co-authored a new international study that appears on the preprint server ArXiv. The paper offers a new lead for dark matter: clouds of ultralight subatomic particles called bosons, predicted by theories that reach beyond the standard model of particle physics. “It is almost impossible to detect these ultralight boson particles on Earth,” explains Sun. “The particles, if they exist, have extremely small mass and rarely interact with other matter – which is ...
The Planetary Society Blog 1 Dec 2021, 16:31 UTC With over 3,000 votes cast, the results are in for the Best of 2021. Here are the missions, images, and exploration highlights that you chose as your favorites from the past year.