News

Galactic fireworks illuminate giant hydrogen blob

21 September 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of researchers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) and other telescopes has discovered the power source illuminating a so-called Lyman-alpha Blob — a rare, brightly glowing, and enormous concentration of gas in the distant universe.

News

Shedding light on Pluto’s glaciers

20 September 2016 Astronomy Now

What is the origin of the large heart-shaped nitrogen glacier on Pluto revealed by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in 2015? Two French researchers show that Pluto’s peculiar insolation and atmosphere favour nitrogen condensation near the equator, in the lower altitude regions, leading to an accumulation of ice at the bottom of Sputnik Planum, a vast topographic basin.

News

Starving black hole returns brilliant galaxy to the shadows

19 September 2016 Astronomy Now

The mystery of a rare change in the behaviour of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy has been solved by an international team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope along with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. It seems that the black hole has fallen on hard times and is no longer being fed enough fuel to make its surroundings shine.

News

Origin of minor planets’ rings revealed

19 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Chariklo is the largest confirmed centaur, a minor planet orbiting the Sun between Saturn and Uranus. In 2014, two rings were discovered around Chariklo. Soon after, scientists discovered that rings likely exist around another centaur, Chiron, but the origin of these rings remained a mystery — until now.

Picture This

Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Our Moon

18 September 2016 Astronomy Now

The award winning entries in the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 competition in the category ‘Our Moon’. The winners of the competition’s nine categories and two special prizes were announced at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

News

Light echoes reveal supermassive black holes eating stars

17 September 2016 Astronomy Now

When a star passes within a certain distance of a black hole, the stellar material gets stretched and compressed as the black hole swallows it, briefly releasing an enormous amount of energy as a flare. Astronomers have now observed infrared light echoes from these “stellar tidal disruption” events reflected by dust encircling a black hole.

News

Countdown begins for Cassini’s final plunge into Saturn

16 September 2016 Astronomy Now

After more than 12 years studying Saturn, its rings and moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage. The Grand Finale will come on 15 September 2017 as Cassini dives into Saturn’s cloud tops, where friction with the atmosphere will cause the spacecraft to burn up like a meteor.

Observing

A very subtle eclipse of the Moon

16 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Watch out for a Moonrise with a subtle difference this evening as our satellite undergoes a penumbral eclipse. This observation sees the Moon enter Earth’s outer shadow, sadly missing the deeper umbra and denying us a total or even partial lunar eclipse.