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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.

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NASA directly observes fundamental process of nature for first time

14 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Like sending sensors up into a hurricane, NASA has flown four spacecraft through an invisible maelstrom in space, called magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection is one of the prime drivers of space radiation and so it is a key factor in the quest to learn more about our space environment and protect our spacecraft and astronauts as we explore farther and farther from our home planet.

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VLA reveals dramatic new evidence about star and planet formation

5 January 2016 Astronomy Now

A detailed study of young stars and their surroundings has produced dramatic new evidence about how multiple-star systems form and how the dusty discs that are the raw material for planets grow around young stars. Scientists used the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope to study nearly 100 newborn stars in a cloud of gas and dust about 750 light-years from Earth.

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Ageing stars don’t spin down exactly as expected

5 January 2016 Astronomy Now

New information about the way mature stars spin indicates that one recently developed method for determining a star’s age needs to be recalibrated for stars that are older than our Sun, as spin rate is one of the few windows into stellar ages. This has implications for our own solar system, as our own Sun might be on the cusp of a transition in its magnetic field.

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A research milestone in helping predict solar flares

17 November 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of researchers, led by Queen’s University Belfast, has devised a high-precision method of examining magnetic fields in the Sun’s atmosphere, representing a significant leap forward in the investigation of solar flares and potentially catastrophic ‘space weather’.

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Asteroseismology reveals magnetic fields deep within stars

24 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have for the first time probed the magnetic fields in the mysterious inner regions of stars, finding they are strongly magnetised. Using a technique called asteroseismology, the scientists were able to calculate the magnetic field strengths in the fusion-powered hearts of dozens of red giants, stars that are evolved versions of our Sun.

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VLA reveals spectacular “haloes” of spiral galaxies

13 October 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to investigate 35 edge-on spiral galaxies at distances from 11 million to 137 million light-years from Earth. The study has revealed that “haloes” of cosmic rays and magnetic fields above and below the galaxies’ discs are much more common than previously thought.