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New algorithm could construct first images of black holes

7 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers from MIT and Harvard University have developed a new algorithm that could help astronomers produce the first image of a black hole. The algorithm would stitch together data collected from radio telescopes scattered around the globe in an international collaboration called the Event Horizon Telescope. The project seeks, essentially, to turn the entire planet into a large radio telescope dish.

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A highly eccentric “hot Jupiter” exoplanet

29 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have observed the extreme temperature variations of HD 80606 b, a Jupiter-sized exoplanet with a highly eccentric, comet-like orbit that brings it scorchingly close to its parent star every 111 days. The researchers also calculated the planet’s rotation rate — the first exoplanet rotation rate ever obtained.

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Ancient dwarf galaxy preserves record of catastrophic event

22 March 2016 Astronomy Now

The lightest few chemical elements formed minutes after the Big Bang. Most heavier elements in the periodic table are created by stars, either from internal nuclear fusion or in catastrophic explosions. New observations of a dwarf galaxy discovered last year show that the heaviest elements, such as gold and lead, are likely left over from rare collisions between two neutron stars.

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A ‘tail’ of cometary twins buzzing Earth on 21-22 March

19 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Comet 252P/LINEAR will zip past Earth on Monday, 21 March at a range of about 3.3 million miles. The following day, comet P/2016 BA14 will safely fly by our planet at a distance of about 2.2 million miles, or nine times the distance to the Moon. This will be the second closest flyby of a comet in recorded history next to comet D/1770 L1 (Lexell) in 1770.

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Cosmochemists find evidence for rare element in early solar system

6 March 2016 Astronomy Now

University of Chicago scientists have discovered evidence in a meteorite that a rare element, curium, was present during the formation of the solar system. This finding ends a 35-year-old debate on the possible presence of curium in the early solar system, and plays a crucial role in reassessing models of stellar evolution and synthesis of elements in stars.

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Scientists to provide update on the search for gravitational waves

10 February 2016 Astronomy Now

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Albert Einstein’s prediction of the existence of gravitational waves. With interest in this topic piqued by the centennial, researchers from UK universities in Glasgow, Birmingham, and Cardiff will discuss their ongoing efforts to observe and measure cosmic gravitational waves for scientific research in London on Thursday, 11 February.

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Most distant massive galaxy cluster identified

8 January 2016 Astronomy Now

The early universe was a chaotic mess of gas and matter that only began to coalesce into distinct galaxies hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang. It would take several billion more years for such galaxies to assemble into massive galaxy clusters — or so scientists had thought. Now astronomers have detected a massive, sprawling, churning galaxy cluster that formed only 3.8 billion years after the Big Bang, some 10 billion light years from Earth.

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Earth-sized rocky planet found orbiting a nearby star

12 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The collection of rocky planets orbiting distant stars has just grown by one, and the latest discovery is the most intriguing yet. Known as GJ 1132b, the newfound world lies just 39 light-years away. Although hot as an oven, the 9,200 mile-wide planet is cool enough to potentially host an atmosphere. If it does, we could study that atmosphere in detail with the Hubble Space Telescope and future observatories like the Giant Magellan Telescope.