ESA’s Planck satellite has revealed that the first stars in the universe started forming later than previous observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background indicated. This new analysis also shows that these stars were the only sources needed to account for reionising atoms in the cosmos, having completed half of this process when the universe had reached an age of 700 million years.
Astrophysicists have taken a major step forward in understanding how supermassive black holes formed. Using data from three of NASA’s space telescopes, Italian researchers have found the best evidence to date that the direct collapse of a gas cloud produced supermassive black holes in the early universe.
Astronomers have discovered three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star.
An international team of astronomers, led by the University of Cambridge, has obtained the most detailed ‘fingerprint’ of a rocky planet outside our solar system to date, and found a planet of two halves: one that is almost completely molten, and the other which is almost completely solid. Exoplanet 55 Cancri e lies 40 light-years from the Sun.
By pushing the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to its limits, astronomers have shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the distance to the most remote galaxy ever seen in the universe. The galaxy, named GN-z11, has a redshift of 11.1, which corresponds to 400 million years after the Big Bang when the universe was only three percent of its current age.
Inside NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s massive clean room in Greenbelt, Maryland, the ninth flight mirror was installed onto the James Webb Space Telescope’s structure with a robotic arm. After being pieced together, all 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 6.5-metre mirror. The full installation is expected to be complete early in 2016.
A survey of ten hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets conducted with NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescopes has led a UK-US team to solve a long-standing mystery — why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected. The findings offer new insights into the wide range of planetary atmospheres in our galaxy and how planets are assembled.