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Record-breaking dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milky Way discovered

21 November 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team has found an extremely faint dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milky Way using the Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) on the 8.2-metre Subaru Telescope located at the Mauna Kea Observatory on Hawaii. Named Virgo I, the galaxy lies 280,000 light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. The galaxy may well be the faintest satellite galaxy yet found.

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Forming stars in the early universe

21 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The first stars appeared about 100 million years after the Big Bang. When the universe was about 3 billion years old, star formation activity peaked at rates about ten times above current levels. Why this happened, and whether the physical processes back then were different from those today, are among the most pressing questions in astronomy.

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Mapping the cosmic web with fast radio bursts

21 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are mysterious flashes of radio waves originating outside our Milky Way galaxy. A team of scientists, jointly led by Caltech postdoctoral scholar Vikram Ravi and Curtin University research fellow Ryan Shannon, has now observed the most luminous FRB to date, called FRB 150807.

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Hubble’s multispectral view of spiral galaxy NGC 3274

21 November 2016 Astronomy Now

This image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3274 comes courtesy of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Hubble’s WFC3 vision spreads from the ultraviolet light through to the near infrared, allowing astronomers to study a wide range of targets, from nearby star formation through to galaxies in the most remote regions of the cosmos.

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New views of dwarf planet Ceres as Dawn moves higher

19 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The brightest area on Ceres stands out amid shadowy, cratered terrain in a dramatic new view from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, taken as it looked off to the side of the dwarf planet. Dawn snapped this image from about 920 miles (1,480 kilometres) above Ceres in its fifth science orbit, in which the angle of the Sun was different from that in previous orbits.

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Waning crescent Moon joins Jupiter in the dawn sky of 25 November

18 November 2016 Ade Ashford

Around 6:30am GMT on Friday 25 November, as nautical twilight starts for the centre of the UK, the 25-day-old waning crescent Moon lies just 2½ degrees away from largest planet Jupiter low in the southeastern sky. This juxtaposition of the two brightest objects in the dawn sky will be nicely framed in a typical binocular.

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Undergraduate devises strategy for defending Earth from cometary impacts

18 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Qicheng Zhang is an undergraduate astrophysics major at UC Santa Barbara. A recipient of a Thomas R. McGetchin Memorial Scholarship from the Universities Space Research Association, Zhang’s award-winning work demonstrates that a comet could be manipulated to mitigate a potential impact with Earth by heating it with a high-powered laser array.

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MESSENGER data reveals great valley on Mercury

18 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Scientists have discovered a 600-mile-long valley on Mercury that may be the first evidence of buckling of the planet’s outer silicate shell in response to global contraction. The researchers discovered the valley using a new high-resolution topographic map of part of Mercury’s southern hemisphere created by stereo images from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft.

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Major supercluster of galaxies found hidden by the Milky Way

17 November 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers has discovered a previously unknown major concentration of galaxies in the constellation Vela, which they have dubbed the Vela supercluster. The gravitational attraction from this large mass concentration in our cosmic neighbourhood may have an important effect on the motion of our Local Group of galaxies.

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Distant star Kepler 11145123 is roundest object ever observed in nature

17 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of German researchers has succeeded in measuring the oblateness of a slowly rotating star with unprecedented precision using asteroseismology — the study of the oscillations of stars. The technique was applied to a hot and luminous star called Kepler 11145123 some 5,000 light-years away that is spherical to one part in 500,000.