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Flying observatory SOFIA expanding frontiers in solar system and beyond

16 November 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope to study the universe at infrared wavelengths that cannot be detected from ground-based observatories. SOFIA’s Science Cycle 5, which runs from February 2017 through January 2018, spans the entire field of astronomy from planetary science to extragalactic investigations.

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Interacting galaxies produce eye-shaped “tsunami” of stars

5 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) have discovered a tsunami of stars and gas that is crashing midway through the disc of a spiral galaxy known as IC 2163. This colossal wave of material — which was triggered when IC 2163 recently sideswiped another spiral galaxy dubbed NGC 2207 — produced dazzling arcs of intense star formation that resemble a pair of eyelids.

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ALMA witnesses the birth of a triple-star system

28 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A rare triple-star system surrounded by a disc with a spiral structure has been discovered by a global team of researchers. Recent observations from the Atacama Large Millimetre / submillimetre Array (ALMA) resulted in the discovery, lending support for evidence of disc fragmentation — a process leading to the formation of young binary and multiple star systems.

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Giant ‘cannonballs’ seen shooting from binary-star system

7 October 2016 Astronomy Now

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has detected superhot blobs of gas, each twice as massive as the planet Mars, being ejected near a dying red giant star in the V Hydrae binary system. The plasma balls are zooming so fast through space it would take only 30 minutes for them to travel from Earth to the Moon.

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Protoplanetary disc’s spiral arms embrace young star

1 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Swirling around the young star Elias 2-27 is a stunning spiral-shape pinwheel of dust. This striking feature, seen with the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), is the product of density waves — gravitational perturbations in the star’s protoplanetary disc that produce sweeping arms reminiscent of a spiral galaxy, but on a much smaller scale.

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ALMA uncovers insights into “Golden Age” of galaxy formation

22 September 2016 Astronomy Now

International teams of astronomers have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to explore the distant corner of the universe first revealed in the iconic images of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). These new ALMA observations are significantly deeper and sharper than previous surveys at millimetre wavelengths.

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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.

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Record-breaking galaxy cluster discovered

31 August 2016 Astronomy Now

A new record for the most distant galaxy cluster has been set using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes. CL J1001+0220 is located about 11.1 billion light-years from Earth. The discovery of this object pushes back the formation time of galaxy clusters — the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity — by about 700 million years.

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ALMA detects most distant signs of oxygen in the universe

17 June 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers has used the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) to detect glowing oxygen in a distant galaxy seen just 700 million years after the Big Bang. This is the most distant galaxy in which oxygen has ever been unambiguously detected, and it is most likely being ionised by powerful radiation from young giant stars.