17 Jan 2018, 11:00 UTC Astronomers using ESO’s MUSE instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered a star in the cluster NGC 3201 that is behaving very strangely. It appears to be orbiting an invisible black hole with about four times the mass of the Sun — the first such inactive stellar-mass black hole found in a globular cluster and the first found by directly detecting its gravitational pull. This important discovery impacts on our understanding of the formation of these star clusters, black holes, and the origins of gravitational wave events. Next Previous
10 Jan 2018, 19:18 UTC Next Previous
10 Jan 2018, 07:15 UTC Astronomers have looked back to a time soon after the Big Bang, and have discovered swirling gas in some of the earliest galaxies to have formed in the Universe. These ‘newborns’ – observed as they appeared nearly 13 billion years ago – spun like a whirlpool, similar to our own Milky Way.An international team led by Renske Smit from the Kavli Institute of Cosmology at the University of Cambridge used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to open a new window onto the distant Universe, and have identified normal star-forming galaxies at a very early stage in cosmic history. The results are reported in the journal Nature, and will be presented at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.Light from distant objects takes time to reach Earth, so observing objects that are billions of light years away enables us to look back in time and directly observe the formation of the earliest galaxies. The Universe at that time, however, was filled with an obscuring “haze” of neutral hydrogen gas, which makes it difficult to see the formation of the very first galaxies with optical telescopes.Smit and her colleagues used ALMA to observe two small newborn galaxies, as they existed ... Next Previous
9 Jan 2018, 19:15 UTC Today, astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) announced new measurements of the masses of a large sample of supermassive black holes far beyond the local Universe.The results, being presented at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in National Harbor, Maryland and published in the Astrophysical Journal, represent a major step forward in our ability to measure supermassive black hole masses in large numbers of distant quasars and galaxies. Next Previous
9 Jan 2018, 19:15 UTC Astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have learned that the chemical composition of a star can exert unexpected influence on its planetary system — a discovery made possible by an ongoing SDSS survey of stars seen by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, and one that promises to expand our understanding of how extrasolar planets form and evolve. Next Previous
14 Dec 2017, 15:00 UTC A riot of colour and light dances through this peculiarly shaped galaxy, NGC 5256. Its smoke-like plumes are flung out in all directions and the bright core illuminates the chaotic regions of gas and dust swirling through the galaxy’s centre. Its odd structure is due to the fact that this is not one galaxy, but two — in the process of a galactic collision. Next Previous
13 Dec 2017, 11:00 UTC The OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope has captured this glittering view of the stellar nursery called Sharpless 29. Many astronomical phenomena can be seen in this giant image, including cosmic dust and gas clouds that reflect, absorb, and re-emit the light of hot young stars within the nebula. Next Previous
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 18 Jan 2018, 18:14 UTC Like the waistband of a couch potato in midlife, the orbits of planets in our solar system are expanding. It happens because the Sun’s gravitational grip gradually weakens as our star ages and loses mass. Now, a team of NASA and MIT scientists has indirectly measured this mass loss and other solar parameters by looking at changes in Mercury’s orbit.
ESA Science & Technology 16 Jan 2018, 18:24 UTC ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – JUICE – passed an important milestone, the ground segment requirements review, with flying colours, demonstrating that the teams are on track in the preparation of the spacecraft operations needed to achieve the mission's ambitious science goals.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 16 Jan 2018, 15:00 UTC In 2014, astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope found that this enormous galaxy cluster contains the mass of a staggering three million billion suns — so it’s little wonder that it has earned the nickname of “El Gordo” (“the Fat One” in Spanish)! Known officially as ACT-CLJ0102-4915, it is the largest, hottest, and brightest X-ray galaxy cluster ever discovered in the distant Universe.
When Is The Next Eclipse? 15 Jan 2018, 18:45 UTC A Blue Supermoon Lunar Eclipse is coming. It’s a dream scenario for sensationalist websites, who are increasingly one-upping each other on how absolutely amazing they can frame an upcoming night sky event. So a Blue Supermoon Lunar Eclipse is a bit of a dream come true for the internet.
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ESO Blog 19 Jan 2018, 11:00 UTC Even in the pristine conditions of ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the high, dry Chilean desert, turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere can distort starlight and blur astronomical observations. Astronomers are able to peer past this distortion using advanced technology that has become more and more refined in recent years. We’ve asked Dr Julien Milli, Paranal’s Adaptive Optics Scientist, to tell us about how his work provides ESO telescopes with a truly spectacular view of the Universe.
Space Fellowship 19 Jan 2018, 06:17 UTC An alluring sight in southern skies, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is seen in this deep and detailed telescopic mosaic. Recorded with broadband and narrowband filters, the scene spans some 5 degrees or 10 full moons. The narrowband filters are designed to transmit only light emitted by hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Ionized by energetic starlight, the atoms emit their characteristic light as electrons are recaptured and the atoms transition to a lower energy state.
Sky and Telescope 19 Jan 2018, 03:30 UTC Despite their name, supermassive black holes are tiny relative to their galaxies. Still, they typically have masses of millions or billions times the mass of the Sun, guzzle any gas nearby, and pump out plasma, heat, and radiation at levels that effect the evolution of their hosts. We're still trying to understand how these black holes and their host galaxies evolve over cosmic time. Astronomers at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington D.C. presented some recent findings that will change our understanding of how supermassive black holes affect the galaxies they live in.
Universe Today 18 Jan 2018, 19:49 UTC In February of 2016, scientists working at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) made history when they announced the first-ever detection of gravitational waves. Since that time, the study of gravitational waves has advanced considerably and opened new possibilities into the study of the Universe and the laws which govern it. For example, a team from the University of Frankurt am Main recently showed how gravitational waves could be used to determine how massive neutron stars can get before collapsing into black holes. This has remained a mystery since neutron stars were first discovered in the 1960s. And with an upper mass limit now established, scientists will be able to develop a better understanding of how matter behaves under extreme conditions.
Centauri Dreams 18 Jan 2018, 17:38 UTC Cassini’s huge dataset will yield discoveries for many years, as witness the global topographical map of Titan that has been assembled by Cornell University astronomers. The map draws on topographical data of the moon from multiple sources by way of studying its terrain and the flow of its surface liquids. Bear in mind that only 9 percent of Titan has been observed at relatively high resolution, and another 25-30 percent at lower resolution. For the remainder, the team mapped the surface using an interpolation algorithm and a global minimization process described in the first of two papers in Geophysical Review Letters.
Cosmic Diary 18 Jan 2018, 16:59 UTC This 0.5×0.4 km (0.31×0.25 mi) scene shows two dunes near the north pole. The shape of the dunes indicates two main winds: one blowing left to right (which makes slip faces on the right side, one of which still has some bright white ice on it), and a secondary wind blowing from the lower right to upper left (elongating the upper “corners” of these dunes). The two lee sides are marked by yellow patches, where bright dust falls out of the atmosphere, accumulating in areas of relative calm. But if you look at the boulders (the largest of which is ~4m across, about the size of a subcompact car), you’ll see that a third wind blowing from the upper right to lower left has left some bright streaks in the wake of the boulders. This third wind isn’t persistent enough to shape the dunes, so it probably is somewhat unusual, or perhaps simply short-lived. A question: are the bright streaks in the lee of the boulders formed by deposited dust, or by dark sand removed to reveal a bright surface under the sand?