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Did a low-mass supernova trigger formation of solar system?

29 November 2016 Astronomy Now

About 4.6 billion years ago, a cloud of gas and dust that eventually formed our solar system was disturbed. The ensuing gravitational collapse formed the proto-Sun with a surrounding disc where the planets were born. Now, forensic evidence from meteorites provides conclusive evidence that a low-mass supernova was the trigger.

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Mystery of ultra-diffuse faint galaxies solved

29 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Over the last year, researchers have observed some very faint, diffuse galaxies. These so-called ultra-diffuse galaxies (UDGs) are as faint as dwarf galaxies but are distributed over an area just as large as the Milky Way. Now, a solution to the mystery of how such galaxies form has been found.

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Potentially habitable super-Earth K2-3d observed transiting parent star

28 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A group of researchers has observed the first ground-based transit observation of K2-3d — a potentially Earth-like extrasolar planet supposedly within the habitable zone around a bright M-dwarf host star 147 light-years away — using the multi-band imager MuSCAT on the Okayama Astrophysical Observatory’s 1.88-metre telescope.

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Hubble spotlights irregular galaxy IC 3583

28 November 2016 Astronomy Now

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals a delicate blue group of stars — actually an irregular galaxy named IC 3583 — that sits some 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. This small galaxy is thought to be gravitationally interacting with one of its neighbours, the spiral Messier 90.

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Grid computing to tackle the mystery of the dark universe

26 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Scientists from the University of Manchester working on the revolutionary Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project have harnessed the power of distributed computing from the UK’s GridPP collaboration to tackle one of the universe’s biggest mysteries — the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

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Alan Longstaff 1950-2016

25 November 2016 Astronomy Now

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of long-time Astronomy Now contributor Alan Longstaff. He passed away peacefully early Tuesday morning surrounded by family. For many years he penned the popular Ask Alan and Cutting Edge columns of the magazine.

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Large number of dwarf galaxies discovered in the early universe

25 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers have found a large population of distant dwarf galaxies that could reveal important details about a productive period of star formation in the universe billions of years ago. It is believed that dwarf galaxies played a significant role during the so-called reionisation era in transforming the dark early universe into one that is bright, ionised and transparent.

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International Astronomical Union formally approves 227 star names

24 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The creation of a specialised IAU Working Group, the Working Group on Star Names (WGSN), was approved by the IAU Executive Committee in May 2016 to formalise star names that have been used colloquially for centuries. WGSN has now established a new catalogue of IAU star names, with the first set of 227 approved names published on the IAU website.

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Worldwide pro-am help sought for comet trio study

24 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Amateur and professional astronomers are invited to provide observations of comets 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák, 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, and 46P/Wirtanen that will pass by Earth at distances ranging from 0.08 to 0.15 astronomical units. Such close approaches of a trio of comets within the next two years are rare and typically occur only once every few decades.

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Martian ice deposit holds as much water as Lake Superior

23 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have determined that frozen beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on the Red Planet there lies about as much water as fills Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes. Scientists examined part of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region with the orbiter’s ground-penetrating instrument, revealing a deposit more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico.

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