An international team of astronomers has discovered a previously unknown major concentration of galaxies in the constellation Vela, which they have dubbed the Vela supercluster. The gravitational attraction from this large mass concentration in our cosmic neighbourhood may have an important effect on the motion of our Local Group of galaxies.
For a long time the formation of protostellar discs — a prerequisite to the formation of planetary systems — has defied theoretical astrophysicists. Now, researchers have made a breakthrough in our understanding of how protoplanetary discs form, demonstrating that chemistry and microphysics are crucial to the fundamental processes underlying star and planet formation.
A European team of astronomers have used the new GRAVITY instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain exciting observations of the centre of the Milky Way by combining light from all four of the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes for the first time. These results provide a taste of the groundbreaking science that GRAVITY will produce as it tests Einstein’s general relativity.
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.
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) have found the clearest indications yet that planets with masses several times that of Jupiter have recently formed in the discs of gas and dust around four young stars. Measurements of the gas around the stars also provide additional clues about the properties of those planets.
One of the most important but least understood processes in astronomy is accretion, where the mass of an object grows by gravitationally collecting material from nearby. Now an international team has discovered that that the process by which astronomical objects grow is fundamentally the same, regardless of the type, mass or size of the object.