Shocks in a distant gamma-ray burst

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) — flashes of high-energy light occurring about once a day, randomly, from around the sky — are the brightest events in the known universe. While a burst is underway, it is many millions of times brighter than an entire galaxy. Astronomers are anxious to decipher their nature as their tremendous brightness opens windows into the young universe.


Neutron star takes on black holes in jet contest

A team of scientists in Australia and the Netherlands has discovered powerful jets blasting out of a star system known as PSR J1023+0038 that consists of a super-dense neutron star in a close orbit with another, more normal star. It was previously thought that the only objects in the universe capable of forming such powerful jets were black holes.


ALMA witnesses assembly of galaxies in early universe

The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) has been used to detect the most distant clouds of star-forming gas yet found in normal galaxies in the early universe. The new observations allow astronomers to start to see how the first galaxies were built up and how they cleared the cosmic fog during the era of reionisation.

Picture This

Hubble revisits tangled galaxy NGC 6240

Not all galaxies are neatly shaped, as this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 6240 clearly demonstrates. Hubble previously released an image of this galaxy in 2008, but the knotted region was only revealed in these new observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Book Reviews

The Science of Interstellar

It is not often that a major Hollywood science fiction film uses hard science as one of its primary drivers. In Interstellar, this is thanks primarily to the involvement of Professor Kip Thorne of Caltech, writes reviewer Keith Cooper.


Race to detect gravitational waves intensifies

One of the great challenges in astrophysics is the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves — elusive ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by extremely energetic and large-scale cosmic events. To this end, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves $14.5 million over 5 years.