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Eta Carinae star system revealed in unprecedented detail

19 October 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers have used the Very Large Telescope Interferometer to image the Eta Carinae star system in the greatest detail ever achieved. They found new and unexpected structures within the binary system, including in the area between the two stars where extremely high velocity stellar winds are colliding.

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Astronomers use cosmic voids to study the universe

12 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers who are looking for new ways to probe the nature of gravity and dark energy in the universe have adopted a new strategy: looking at what’s not there. An international team of astronomers were able to achieve four times better precision in measurements of how the universe’s visible matter is clustered together by studying the empty spaces in between.

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Minor galaxy mergers are major drivers of star formation

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Around half of the star formation in the local universe arises from minor mergers between galaxies, according to data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Disruptions to the shapes of spiral galaxies, caused by interactions with their smallest neighbours, points to increased star formation. Evidence suggests that minor galactic mergers are therefore important drivers of galaxy evolution.

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First light for future black hole probe

13 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Zooming in on black holes is the main mission for the newly installed GRAVITY instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. During its first observations, GRAVITY successfully combined starlight using all four 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes. The first observations using GRAVITY with the four 8-metre VLT Unit Telescopes are planned for later in 2016.

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Measuring the pull of gravity at the surface of distant stars

1 January 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of researchers have found a new way to measure the pull of gravity at the surface of a star. The new method allows scientists to measure surface gravity with an accuracy of about four percent, for stars too distant and too faint to apply current techniques. For remote stars with planets orbiting them, this information is key in determining whether any of those planets can harbour life.

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First signs of self-interacting dark matter found?

16 April 2015 Astronomy Now

Observations of colliding galaxies made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope may, for the first time, have detected dark matter interacting with other dark matter in a way other than through the force of gravity.

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Gravity saved the universe after the Big Bang?

19 November 2014 Astronomy Now

Recent theories suggest that the production of Higgs particles in the inflationary phase of the early universe should have led to instability and collapse. Now a European team offers an explanation why this didn’t happen, answering fundamental questions about how we are all here.