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AutoLens steps up for Euclid satellite’s 100,000 gravitational lens challenge

3 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Due for launch in 2020, ESA’s Euclid satellite will set astronomers a huge challenge: to analyse 100,000 strong gravitational lenses. The gravitational deflection of light from distant astronomical sources by interposing massive galaxies can create multiple images of the source that are not just visually stunning, but are also valuable tools for probing our universe.

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Chance microlensing events enable astronomers to probe distant quasars

1 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Some galaxies pump out vast amounts of energy from a very small volume of space, typically not much bigger than our own solar system. The cores of so-called active galactic nuclei (AGNs) can be billions of light-years away, so are difficult to study in any detail. However, natural gravitational ‘microlenses’ can provide a way to probe these objects.

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A 6,000-year-old telescope without a lens

30 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers are exploring what might be described as the first astronomical observing tool, potentially used by prehistoric humans 6,000 years ago. They suggest that the long, narrow entrance passages to ancient stone tombs may have enhanced their view of the night sky, enabling them to detect the first appearance of seasonal stars during twilight.

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ACT system tracks solar eruptions in 3-D

29 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Scientists at Aberystwyth University have developed an automated method for three-dimensional tracking of massive eruptions from the Sun, called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). The Automated CME Triangulation (ACT) system uses data from three space-based observatories that orbit the Sun at different locations, allowing scientists to view the Sun and CMEs from different angles.

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Astronomers release spectacular infrared survey of the distant universe

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers today (28 June) released spectacular new infrared images of the distant universe, providing the deepest view ever obtained over a large area of sky. The release of the Ultra-Deep Survey (UDS) represents the culmination of a project using the 3.8-metre United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on Hawaii, building up more than 1,000 hours of exposure time.

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Using drones to keep tabs on light pollution

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers at Nottingham Trent University have developed a light, low cost system, deployable on a drone, that could help everyone monitor and control light pollution. The team, led by undergraduate student Ashley Fuller, present their work at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting at the University of Nottingham.

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Minor galaxy mergers are major drivers of star formation

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Around half of the star formation in the local universe arises from minor mergers between galaxies, according to data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Disruptions to the shapes of spiral galaxies, caused by interactions with their smallest neighbours, points to increased star formation. Evidence suggests that minor galactic mergers are therefore important drivers of galaxy evolution.

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A team of super bright galaxies in the early universe

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

In 2015, Dr. David Sobral of Lancaster University led a team that found the first example of a spectacularly bright galaxy in the young universe named CR7 which may harbour first generation stars. Now, astronomers have identified a family of incredible galaxies that could shed further light on the transformation of the early universe known as the “epoch of reionisation.”

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Meteorites delivered water ice to asteroids in early solar system

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Planetary scientists have discovered pieces of opal in a meteorite found in Antarctica, a result that demonstrates that meteorites delivered water ice to asteroids early in the history of the solar system. Opal, familiar on Earth as a precious stone used in jewellery, is made up of silica (the major component of sand) with up to 30 percent water in its structure.

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Seeds of supermassive black holes could be revealed by gravitational waves

27 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Gravitational waves captured by space-based detectors could help identify the origins of supermassive black holes, according to new computer simulations. Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology ran the huge cosmological simulations that can be used to predict the rate at which gravitational waves caused by collisions between the monster black holes might be detected.