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Do stars fall quietly into black holes?

30 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Astronomers at the University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University have put a basic principle of black holes to the test, showing that matter completely vanishes when pulled in. Their results constitute another successful test for Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

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Newly discovered fast-growing galaxies could solve cosmic riddle

29 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have discovered a new kind of galaxy in the early universe, less than a billion years after the Big Bang. These galaxies are forming stars more than a hundred times faster than our own Milky Way. The discovery could explain an earlier finding: a population of surprisingly massive galaxies at a time 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang, which would require such hyper-productive precursors to grow their hundreds of billions of stars.

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VLA reveals new object near supermassive black hole in famous galaxy

23 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Pointing the Very Large Array at a famous galaxy for the first time in two decades, a team of astronomers got a big surprise, finding that a bright new object had appeared near the galaxy’s core. The object, the scientists concluded, is either a very rare type of supernova explosion or, more likely, an outburst from a second supermassive black hole closely orbiting the galaxy’s primary, central supermassive black hole.

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Astronomers make the largest map of the Universe yet

22 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey have created the first map of the large-scale structure of the Universe based entirely on the positions of quasars. Quasars are the incredibly bright and distant points of light powered by supermassive black holes.

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Icy ring around Fomalhaut observed in new wavelength

19 May 2017 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array has made the first complete millimeter-wavelength image of the ring of dusty debris surrounding the young star Fomalhaut. This remarkably well-defined band of rubble and gas is likely the result of exocomets smashing together near the outer edges of a planetary system 25 light-years from Earth.

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Hubble spots moon around third largest dwarf planet

18 May 2017 Astronomy Now

The combined power of three space observatories, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, has helped astronomers uncover a moon orbiting the third largest dwarf planet, catalogued as 2007 OR10. The pair resides in the frigid outskirts of our solar system called the Kuiper Belt, a realm of icy debris left over from our solar system’s formation 4.6 billion years ago.

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Movie shows Ceres at opposition from Sun

17 May 2017 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft successfully observed Ceres at opposition on April 29, taking images from a position exactly between the Sun and Ceres’ surface. Mission specialists had carefully maneuvered Dawn into a special orbit so that the spacecraft could view Occator Crater, which contains the brightest area of Ceres, from this new perspective.

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Fermi satellite observes billionth gamma ray

16 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Imagine you had superhero vision and could see a whole new world of fascinating phenomena invisible to the human eye. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope gives astrophysicists analogous powers. It captures images of the universe in gamma rays, the most energetic form of light.

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‘Warm Neptune’ has unexpectedly primitive atmosphere

15 May 2017 Astronomy Now

A study combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes reveals that the distant planet HAT-P-26b has a primitive atmosphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Located about 437 light-years away, HAT-P-26b orbits a star roughly twice as old as the Sun.

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Astronomers pursue renegade supermassive black hole

12 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Supermassive holes are generally stationary objects, sitting at the centers of most galaxies. However, using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes, astronomers recently hunted down what could be a supermassive black hole that may be on the move.