NuSTAR probes black hole mystery

5 November 2017 Astronomy Now

Black holes are famous for being ravenous eaters, but they do not eat everything that falls toward them. A small portion of material gets shot back out in powerful jets of hot gas, called plasma, that can wreak havoc on their surroundings. Along the way, this plasma somehow gets energized enough to strongly radiate light, forming two bright columns along the black hole’s axis of rotation.


How black hole jets break out of their galaxies

18 June 2016 Astronomy Now

A computer simulation of the powerful jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centres of the largest galaxies explains why some burst forth as bright beacons visible across the universe, while others fall apart and never pierce the halo of the galaxy. A jet’s hot ionised gas is propelled by the twisting magnetic fields of the central rotating black hole.


Citizen scientists discover huge Matorny-Terentev galaxy cluster

14 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Two volunteer participants in an international citizen science project, T. Matorney and I. A. Terentev, have had a rare galaxy cluster that they found named after them. The pair pieced together the huge C-shaped structure of RGZ-CL J0823.2+0333 from much smaller images of cosmic radio waves shown to them as part of the web-based program Radio Galaxy Zoo.


Mysterious alignment of black holes discovered

12 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Deep radio imaging by researchers in the University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape, in South Africa, has revealed that supermassive black holes in a region of the distant universe are all spinning out radio jets in the same direction — most likely a result of primordial mass fluctuations in the early universe.


Earth-space telescope observations of quasar 3C 273’s hot heart

30 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using an orbiting radio telescope in conjunction with four ground-based radio telescopes have achieved the highest resolution, or ability to discern fine detail, of any astronomical observation ever made. The researchers were surprised when their Earth-space system revealed a core temperature hotter than 10 trillion degrees for quasar 3C 273.

Picture This

Giant radio jets from the wrong kind of galaxy

25 January 2016 Astronomy Now

The edge-on spiral galaxy captured in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image lies about one billion light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus. In 2003, the galaxy was discovered to possess giant jets of superheated gas emitting in the radio part of the spectrum. These jets have long been associated with the cores of giant elliptical galaxies, but are rare in spirals.


Unveiling the turbulent times of a dying star

1 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Astrophysicists have used the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters supercomputer to perform 3-D simulations of a mere 10 milliseconds in the collapse of a massive star into a neutron star, proving that these catastrophic events — often called hypernovae — can generate the enormous magnetic fields needed to explode the star and fire off bursts of gamma rays visible halfway across the universe.