Observing

Jupiter continues to delight and amaze observers during April

31 March 2016 Ade Ashford

The impact of a small comet or asteroid on Jupiter observed by European amateur astronomers on 17 March has heightened interest in the solar system’s largest planet. While such an event is uncommon, Jupiter and its family of four bright Galilean moons provide a wealth of other interesting phenomena to view with small telescopes during April.

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Map of rocky exoplanet reveals a lava world

31 March 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers, led by the University of Cambridge, has obtained the most detailed ‘fingerprint’ of a rocky planet outside our solar system to date, and found a planet of two halves: one that is almost completely molten, and the other which is almost completely solid. Exoplanet 55 Cancri e lies 40 light-years from the Sun.

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Trigger for Milky Way’s youngest supernova identified

31 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the VLA to determine the likely trigger for the most recent supernova in the Milky Way. They applied a new technique that could have implications for understanding other Type Ia supernovae, a class of stellar explosions that scientists use to determine the expansion rate of the universe.

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Earth-space telescope observations of quasar 3C 273’s hot heart

30 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using an orbiting radio telescope in conjunction with four ground-based radio telescopes have achieved the highest resolution, or ability to discern fine detail, of any astronomical observation ever made. The researchers were surprised when their Earth-space system revealed a core temperature hotter than 10 trillion degrees for quasar 3C 273.

Picture This

Herschel reveals a ribbon of future stars

30 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Star formation is taking place all around us. The Milky Way is laced with clouds of dust and gas that could become the nursery of the next generation of stars. Thanks to ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, we can now look inside these clouds and see what is truly going on. This image shows a cold cloud filament, known to astronomers as G82.65-2.00.

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Amateur astronomers video impact on Jupiter

30 March 2016 Ade Ashford

Unbeknown to two European amateur astronomers 1000 miles apart capturing video of Jupiter through their telescopes in the early hours of Thursday, 17 March, their digital footage would subsequently show confirmation of a totally unexpected phenomenon — the likely impact of a small comet or asteroid on the edge of the solar system’s largest planet.

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A highly eccentric “hot Jupiter” exoplanet

29 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have observed the extreme temperature variations of HD 80606 b, a Jupiter-sized exoplanet with a highly eccentric, comet-like orbit that brings it scorchingly close to its parent star every 111 days. The researchers also calculated the planet’s rotation rate — the first exoplanet rotation rate ever obtained.

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Possible signature of dark matter annihilation detected

29 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Atoms or their constituents account for a mere 4.9 percent of the universe. The rest is dark matter, so understanding this ubiquitous yet mysterious substance is a prime goal of modern astrophysics. By studying the spatial distribution of gamma-ray emission in the Milky Way, astronomers believe they have now identified a signature of dark matter annihilation.