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Supermassive black holes feed on cosmic jellyfish

26 August 2017 Astronomy Now

Observations of “Jellyfish galaxies” with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed a previously unknown way to fuel supermassive black holes. It seems the mechanism that produces the tentacles of gas and newborn stars that give these galaxies their nickname also makes it possible for the gas to reach the central regions of the galaxies, feeding the black hole that lurks in each of them and causing it to shine brilliantly.

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First signs of weird quantum property of empty space?

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

By studying the polarisation of light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, first predicted in the 1930s.

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CaSSIS sends first images from Mars orbit

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The Mars Camera, CaSSIS (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System), on ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter captured its first high-resolution images of the Red Planet last week. Developed by a team at the University of Bern in Switzerland, CaSSIS is providing spectacular views, including the Hebes Chasma region at a resolution of 2.8 metres per pixel.

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Young magnetar likely slowest pulsar ever detected

9 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Using X-ray observatories, astronomers have found evidence for what is likely one of the most extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected. The source exhibits properties of a highly magnetised neutron star, or magnetar, yet its deduced spin period of 6⅔ hours is thousands of times longer than any pulsar ever observed.

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Rare fossil relic of early Milky Way discovered

7 September 2016 Astronomy Now

A fossilised remnant of the early Milky Way harbouring stars of hugely different ages has been revealed by an international team of astronomers. Terzan 5 resembles a globular cluster, but is unlike any other cluster known. It contains stars remarkably similar to the most ancient stars in the Milky Way and bridges the gap in understanding between our galaxy’s past and its present.

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Gazing into the furnace: VST captures the Fornax Cluster

13 April 2016 Astronomy Now

This new image from the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile captures a spectacular concentration of galaxies known as the Fornax Cluster, which can be found in the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Fornax (The Furnace). The cluster plays host to a menagerie of galaxies of all shapes and sizes, some of which are hiding secrets.

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‘Birthplace’ of a fast radio burst located for the first time

25 February 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of scientists led by a Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project scientist has for the first time managed to identify the location of a fast radio burst using a combination of radio and optical telescopes, allowing them to confirm the current cosmological model of the distribution of matter in the universe.