News

ATLASGAL survey of southern Milky Way completed

24 February 2016 Astronomy Now

A spectacular new image of the Milky Way has been released to mark the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL). The APEX telescope in Chile has mapped the full area of the galactic plane visible from the Southern Hemisphere for the first time at submillimetre wavelengths — between infrared light and radio waves.

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LIGO’s twin black holes might have been born inside a single star

24 February 2016 Astronomy Now

On 14 September 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes 29 and 36 times the mass of the Sun. New research suggests that the two black holes might have resided inside a single, massive star whose death generated a gamma-ray burst detected by the Fermi Space Telescope.

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A trio of Saturnian moons

23 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Three of Saturn’s moons — Tethys, Enceladus and Mimas — are captured in this group photo from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Tethys appears above the rings, while Enceladus sits just below centre and Mimas hangs below and to the left of Enceladus. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from narrowly above the ring plane.

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Taking Titan’s temperature 2004-2016

23 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Based on measurements made by the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) instrument on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists have produced a sequence of maps showing the varying surface temperatures on Saturn’s moon Titan at two-year intervals, from 2004 to 2016.

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Virgo Cluster galaxy’s stunning gas tail

22 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have discovered a spectacular tail of gas more than 300,000 light-years across coming from a galaxy known as NGC 4569, 55 million light-years away in the Virgo Cluster. The plume is made up of hydrogen gas — the material new stars are made of — and is five times longer than the galaxy itself.

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Hubble’s blue bubble in Carina

22 February 2016 Astronomy Now

At the centre of this beautiful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a Wolf–Rayet star known as WR 31a, located about 30,000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. The distinctive blue bubble is a Wolf–Rayet nebula — an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases expanding at a rate of around 137,000 miles per hour.

Equipment

Helios Stellar II series 70mm binoculars

21 February 2016 Steve Ringwood

Steve Ringwood reviews a pair of waterproof, nitrogen-filled 70mm aperture binoculars designed for medium-to-long-range terrestrial and astronomical observations. The Helios Stellar-II range is available in 10.5x and 15x magnifications and boasts 85 percent light transmission — all in a shockproof magnesium alloy body weighing just 1.75kg.

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Introducing WFIRST — NASA’s wider set of eyes on the universe

21 February 2016 Astronomy Now

With a view 100 times bigger than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will aid researchers in their efforts to unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos. It also will discover new worlds outside our solar system and advance the search for worlds that could be suitable for life.

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Ices and shadows at Saturn

20 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Saturn’s moon Tethys appears to float between two sets of rings in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, but it’s just a trick of geometry.

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Five-dimensional black hole could ‘break’ general relativity

20 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London have shown how a bizarrely shaped black hole could cause Einstein’s general theory of relativity, a foundation of modern physics, to break down. However, such an object could only exist in a universe with five or more dimensions.