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Mystery solved: Martian moons formed by a giant impact

5 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Where did the two natural satellites of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, come from? For a long time, their shape suggested that they were captured asteroids. However, the shape and course of their orbits contradict this hypothesis. Two independent and complementary studies now provide an answer: these satellites formed from the debris of a gigantic collision between Mars and a protoplanet one-third its size.

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Ultra-sharp image uncovers the shocking lives of young stars

17 June 2016 Astronomy Now

An unprecedented view from the world’s most advanced adaptive optics system on the Gemini South telescope in Chile probes a swarm of young and forming stars that appear to have been triggered, or shocked, into existence. The group, known as N159W, is located some 158,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite to our Milky Way Galaxy.

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Virgo Cluster galaxy’s stunning gas tail

22 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have discovered a spectacular tail of gas more than 300,000 light-years across coming from a galaxy known as NGC 4569, 55 million light-years away in the Virgo Cluster. The plume is made up of hydrogen gas — the material new stars are made of — and is five times longer than the galaxy itself.

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UK scientists seal deal on European Extremely Large Telescope’s first-light spectrograph

23 September 2015 Astronomy Now

UK researchers have just signed an agreement to lead one of the first instruments for what will become the World’s largest visible and infrared telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The spectrograph, called HARMONI, will provide the European Southern Observatory’s telescope with a sensitivity that is up to hundreds of times better than any current telescope of its kind.