News

Black holes hide in our cosmic backyard

10 January 2017 Stephen Clark

Monster black holes sometimes lurk behind gas and dust, hiding from the gaze of most telescopes. But they give themselves away when material they feed on emits high-energy X-rays that NASA’s NuSTAR mission can detect. That’s how NuSTAR recently identified two gas-enshrouded supermassive black holes, located at the centers of nearby galaxies.

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Chorus of black holes sings in X-rays

31 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Supermassive black holes do not give off any of their own light, hence the word “black” in their name. However, many black holes pull in surrounding material and emit powerful bursts of X-rays. Collectively, these active black holes can be thought of a cosmic choir, singing in the language of X-rays. Their “song” is what astronomers call the cosmic X-ray background.

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Japan’s Hitomi observatory made cosmic discovery before failing

12 July 2016 Stephen Clark

Japan’s doomed Hitomi observatory peeled back a veil on the inner workings of the Perseus cluster of galaxies before the satellite spun out of control earlier this year, revealing in unprecedented detail how gas heated to millions of degrees behaves around an unseen supermassive black hole, scientists said.

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Black hole observatory launched from Japan

17 February 2016 Stephen Clark

Japan launched a pioneering observatory with X-ray vision Wednesday to peer into the mysterious, light-starved neighbourhoods around black holes and study the genesis of galaxies and other cosmic mega-structures billions of light-years from Earth.

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Galaxy cluster survey yields 3-D view of universe’s dark side

18 December 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers used European Southern Observatory telescopes to complement other earth- and space-based instruments as part of the XXL survey of galaxy clusters. The ESO team measured the precise distances to the galaxy clusters, providing the 3-D view of the cosmos required to perform accurate measurements of dark matter and dark energy.

Picture This

Terzan 1: a home for old stars

15 December 2015 Astronomy Now

This image, taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the globular cluster Terzan 1. Lying around 20,000 light-years from us in the constellation of Scorpius, it is one of about 150 globular clusters belonging to our galaxy, the Milky Way.

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