News

Magnified image of the faintest galaxy from the early universe

5 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers harnessing the combined power of NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have found the faintest object ever seen in the early universe. It existed about 400 million years after the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago. The new object is comparable in size to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a diminutive satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.

Picture This

New Horizons returns first, best images of Pluto

4 December 2015 Astronomy Now

It is almost five months since New Horizons’ epic encounter with Pluto, but the captured images and data will stream back to Earth across 3 billion miles of interplanetary space for a further 11 months. The first in a series of the best close-ups of the dwarf planet that humans may see for decades have been released, obtained when the spacecraft was just 15 minutes before closest approach during the 14 July flyby.

News

The Sun could release flares 1,000x greater than recorded

3 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A binary star known as KIC 9655129 observed by NASA’s Kepler space telescope is known to produce superflares, thousands of times more powerful than those ever recorded on the Sun. Research led by the University of Warwick suggests the underlying physics of KIC 9655129’s superflares and solar flares might be the same, supporting the idea that our Sun could also produce such phenomena.

Observing

See the Moon meet planet Jupiter on the morning of 4 December

2 December 2015 Ade Ashford

In the dawn twilight of Friday, 4 December observers in the British Isles and Western Europe can see the 23-day-old waning crescent Moon just 2.5 degrees (half a 10×50 binocular field of view) below largest planet Jupiter in the constellation Leo high in the southern sky. And if you have a telescope, Jupiter’s largest moon plays hide and seek.

News

Exiled exoplanet kicked out of star’s local neighbourhood?

1 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A planet discovered last year sitting at an unusually large distance from its star — 16 times farther than Pluto is from the Sun — may have been kicked out of its birthplace close to the star in a process similar to what may have happened early in our own solar system’s history. The planet’s 13-million-year-old parent star is known as HD 106906 and lies 300 light-years away.

News

Unveiling the turbulent times of a dying star

1 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Astrophysicists have used the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters supercomputer to perform 3-D simulations of a mere 10 milliseconds in the collapse of a massive star into a neutron star, proving that these catastrophic events — often called hypernovae — can generate the enormous magnetic fields needed to explode the star and fire off bursts of gamma rays visible halfway across the universe.