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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.

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Hubble nets a cosmic tadpole

29 June 2016 Astronomy Now

This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a cosmic tadpole, with its bright head and elongated tail, wriggling through the inky black pool of space. Tadpole galaxies are rare and difficult to find in the local universe. This striking example, named LEDA 36252, was explored as part of a Hubble study into their mysterious properties — with interesting results.

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Understanding stellar adolescence through T-Tauri stars

13 June 2016 Astronomy Now

A newborn star typically goes through four stages of adolescence. It begins life as a protostar, accreting material and developing a proto-planetary disc. Slowly, stellar winds and radiation blow away the surrounding shell of gas and dust. Next, when the surrounding envelope has cleared, is called the T-Tauri phase. Finally, accretion stops and the source’s radiation comes from the star’s photosphere.

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Supermassive black hole fed by cold intergalactic downpour

9 June 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) has witnessed a cosmic weather event that has never been seen before — a cluster of towering intergalactic gas clouds raining in on the supermassive black hole at the centre of a huge galaxy one billion light-years from Earth.

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Hubble directly measures rotation of cloudy ‘super-Jupiter’ exoplanet

19 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have measured the rotation rate of an extreme exoplanet by observing the varied brightness in its atmosphere. The planet, called 2M1207b, is about four times more massive than Jupiter and is dubbed a “super-Jupiter.” This is the first measurement of the rotation of a massive exoplanet using direct imaging.

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Scientists predict that rocky planets formed from ‘pebbles’

27 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Using a new process in planetary formation modelling, where planets grow from tiny bodies called “pebbles,” Southwest Research Institute scientists can explain why Mars is so much smaller than Earth. This same process also explains the rapid formation of the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, as reported earlier this year.

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Accretion process same for growth of stars and black holes

19 October 2015 Astronomy Now

One of the most important but least understood processes in astronomy is accretion, where the mass of an object grows by gravitationally collecting material from nearby. Now an international team has discovered that that the process by which astronomical objects grow is fundamentally the same, regardless of the type, mass or size of the object.

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Largest planets likely formed first from icy “planetary pebbles”

20 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Researchers at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and Queen’s University in Canada have unravelled the mystery of how Jupiter and Saturn likely formed using computer simulations. The discovery, which changes our view of how all planets might have formed, also suggests that the gas giants in the solar system probably formed before the terrestrial planets.