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First light achieved for next-generation planet-hunter

6 December 2017 Astronomy Now

A new planet-seeking instrument installed on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has made its first observations, beginning a search for exoplanets with unprecedented precision by looking at the minuscule changes in the light of their host stars.

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Cosmic snake pregnant with stars

3 December 2017 Astronomy Now

This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the Cosmic Snake, a distant galaxy peppered with clumpy regions of intense star formation that appear warped by the effect of gravitational lensing. This giant arc-like galaxy is actually behind the huge galaxy cluster MACSJ1206.2-0847, but thanks to the cluster’s gravity, we can see it from Earth.

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Giant black hole pair photobombs Andromeda galaxy

1 December 2017 Astronomy Now

It seems like even black holes can’t resist the temptation to insert themselves unannounced into photographs. A cosmic photobomb found as a background object in images of the nearby Andromeda galaxy has revealed what could be the most tightly coupled pair of supermassive black holes ever seen.

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Infant stars discovered surprisingly near galaxy’s supermassive black hole

28 November 2017 Astronomy Now

At the centre of our galaxy, in the immediate vicinity of its supermassive black hole, is a region wracked by powerful tidal forces and bathed in intense ultraviolet light and X-ray radiation. These harsh conditions, astronomers surmise, do not favour star formation, especially low-mass stars like our Sun. Surprisingly, new observations suggest otherwise.