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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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Andromeda Galaxy scanned with high-energy X-ray vision

6 January 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured the best high-energy X-ray view yet of a portion of the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest large neighbouring spiral galaxy. The space observatory has observed 40 “X-ray binaries” — intense sources of X-rays comprising a black hole or neutron star that feeds off a stellar companion.

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Galactic merger reveals an unusual black hole that has shed its stars

5 January 2016 Astronomy Now

In this season of post-Christmas gym memberships, black holes have shown that they too can lose a lot of the weight of the stars that surround them. One unusually star-deprived black hole at the site of two merged galaxies could provide new insight into black hole evolution and behaviour, according to observations with the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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Chandra finds a remarkable galactic ribbon unfurled

25 December 2015 Astronomy Now

An extraordinary ribbon of hot gas trailing behind a galaxy like a tail has been discovered using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This ribbon, or X-ray tail, is likely due to gas stripped from the galaxy as it moves through a vast cloud of hot intergalactic gas. With a length of at least 250,000 light-years, it is likely the largest such tail ever detected.

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What spawned the Jellyfish Nebula?

11 December 2015 Astronomy Now

The Jellyfish Nebula, also known by its official name IC 443, is the remnant of a supernova lying 5,000 light-years from Earth. New observations from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory show that the explosion that created the Jellyfish Nebula may have also formed a peculiar object located on the southern edge of the remnant.

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Where Alice in Wonderland meets Albert Einstein

23 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The latest results from the “Cheshire Cat” group of galaxies 4.6 billion light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major show how manifestations of Einstein’s 100-year-old Theory of General Relativity can lead to new discoveries today. Astronomers have given the group this name because of its resemblance to the smiling feline from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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Astronomers catch a black hole shredding a star to pieces

22 October 2015 Astronomy Now

When a star comes too close to the intense gravity of black hole, the resulting tidal forces can rip the star apart. In these so-called tidal disruptions, some of the stellar debris is flung outward at high speeds, while the rest falls toward the black hole, causing a distinct X-ray flare that can last for years. A team of astronomers has observed a tidal disruption event in galaxy PGC 043234 that lies about 290 million light-years from Earth.

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Banking X-ray data for the future

10 October 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has collected data for over sixteen years on thousands of different objects throughout the universe. Once the data is processed, all of the data goes into an archive and is available to the public. To celebrate American Archive Month, a collection of new images from the Chandra archive has just been released.

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Hot, dense material surrounds O-type star with largest magnetic field known

23 September 2015 Astronomy Now

O-type stars are the hottest and brightest stars known. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed that the magnetic field at the surface of NGC 1624-2 is 20,000 times stronger than at the surface of our Sun. NGC 1624-2 contains a raging storm of extreme stellar winds and dense plasma that gobbles up X-rays before they can escape into space.