News

UPDATED: Are comet fragments best explanation for mysterious dimming star?

25 November 2015 Keith Cooper

A star called KIC 8462852 has been in the news recently for unexplained and bizarre behaviour. NASA’s Kepler mission had monitored the star for four years, observing two unusual incidents, in 2011 and 2013, when the star’s light dimmed in dramatic, never-before-seen ways. Something had passed in front of the star and blocked its light, but what?

News

Oodles of faint dwarf galaxies shed light on cosmological mystery

24 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Computer simulations of the evolution of matter distribution in the universe predict hundreds of low mass dwarf galaxies for every Milky Way-like galaxy. An international team of astronomers recently announced the discovery of an astonishing number of faint low surface brightness dwarf galaxies in the Fornax Cluster, suggesting that the “missing satellites” are now being found.

Picture This

Where Alice in Wonderland meets Albert Einstein

23 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The latest results from the “Cheshire Cat” group of galaxies 4.6 billion light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major show how manifestations of Einstein’s 100-year-old Theory of General Relativity can lead to new discoveries today. Astronomers have given the group this name because of its resemblance to the smiling feline from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

News

Earth might have hairy dark matter

23 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Dark matter is an invisible, mysterious substance that makes up about 27 percent of all matter and energy in the universe. A new NASA study publishing this week proposes that when a stream of dark matter particles goes through a planet, the planet’s gravity bends and focuses the particles into an ultra-dense filament, or “hair,” of dark matter. In theory, there should be many such hairs sprouting from Earth.

Picture This

Hubble views NGC 3610, a young elliptical galaxy with a disc

23 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Elliptical galaxy NGC 3610 is the most prominent object in this amazing Hubble image — and a very interesting one at that! Discovered in 1793 by William Herschel, it was later found that this galaxy contains a disc. This is very unusual, as discs are one of the main distinguishing features of a spiral galaxy. And the disc in NGC 3610 is remarkably bright.

News

“Planetary Nebulae” receive more meaningful physical presence

22 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Despite their name, planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets. They were described as such by early astronomers whose telescopes showed them as glowing disc-like objects, but we now know that they represent the final stage of activity of stars like our Sun. A way of estimating more accurate distances to planetary nebulae dispersed across our Galaxy has just been announced.

Observing

Find planet Uranus close to the Moon on the night of 22 November

22 November 2015 Ade Ashford

Have you ever seen planet Uranus? If UK skies are clear on the evening of Sunday, 22 November, the icy gas giant lies just 1.5 degrees (or three lunar diameters) from the 11-day-old waxing gibbous Moon, making it very easy to locate in binoculars and small telescopes. Here’s our online guide to locating this fascinating distant world.

Equipment

Howie Glatter Blug™

21 November 2015 Steve Ringwood

In order for a telescope to perform to theoretical limits its optical components must be perfectly aligned. With an optically fast Newtonian reflector this can be a challenge, but a laser collimator makes the task much easier. Steve Ringwood investigates Howie Glatter’s Blug™ — a charming contraction of ‘Barlowed collimation plug’.

News

Hubble survey reveals early galaxies were more efficient at making stars

21 November 2015 Astronomy Now

A study just published by University of Texas at Austin assistant professor Steven Finkelstein and colleagues reveals that galaxies were more efficient at making stars when the universe was younger. The announcement explains the team’s discovery that there are a lot more bright, highly star-forming galaxies in the early universe than scientists previously thought.