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Green Bank Observatory: the making of an American astronomy icon

10 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have just celebrated the inauguration of the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, home to the 100-metre Green Bank Telescope, one of the world’s most powerful astronomical instruments. During its 60-year history, Green Bank has been home to some of the world’s most innovative and productive radio telescopes.

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What happened after the lights came on in the universe?

15 September 2016 Astronomy Now

The National Science Foundation has approved funding to expand the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array (HERA) in South Africa. Upgrading the number of antennas from 19 to 240 by the year 2018 will enable HERA to study more clearly the impact of cosmic dawn, the moment a few hundred million years after the Big Bang when the first stars and galaxies blazed awake.

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Chandra X-ray Observatory finds evidence for violent stellar merger

16 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs, are some of the most violent and energetic events in the universe. Although these events are the most luminous explosions astronomers can observe, a new study using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA’s Swift satellite and other Earth-based telescopes suggests that scientists may be missing a majority of these powerful cosmic detonations.

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Supermassive black hole fed by cold intergalactic downpour

9 June 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) has witnessed a cosmic weather event that has never been seen before — a cluster of towering intergalactic gas clouds raining in on the supermassive black hole at the centre of a huge galaxy one billion light-years from Earth.

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Dwarf dark galaxy hidden in ALMA gravitational lens image

14 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Subtle distortions hidden in a stunning Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) image of the gravitational lens SDP.81 are telltale signs that a dwarf dark galaxy is lurking in the halo of a much larger galaxy nearly 4 billion light-years away. This discovery could help astronomers address important questions on the nature of dark matter.

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Supermassive black hole found in an unlikely place

7 April 2016 Astronomy Now

A near-record 17-billion-solar-mass black hole discovered in a sparse area of the local universe indicates that these monster objects may be more common than once thought. The newly discovered supermassive black hole is in NGC 1600, an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Eridanus some 149 million light-years away.

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Gravitational wave search provides insights into galaxy mergers

6 April 2016 Astronomy Now

New results from NANOGrav — the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves — establish astrophysically significant limits in the search for low-frequency gravitational waves. This result provides insight into how often galaxies merge and how those merging galaxies evolve over time.

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Trigger for Milky Way’s youngest supernova identified

31 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the VLA to determine the likely trigger for the most recent supernova in the Milky Way. They applied a new technique that could have implications for understanding other Type Ia supernovae, a class of stellar explosions that scientists use to determine the expansion rate of the universe.

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Telescopes combine to push frontier on galaxy clusters

12 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Galaxy clusters are enormous collections of hundreds or even thousands of galaxies and vast reservoirs of hot gas embedded in massive clouds of dark matter. To learn more about clusters, including how they grow via collisions, astronomers have used some of the world’s most powerful X-ray, optical and radio telescopes. The name for this galaxy cluster project is the “Frontier Fields”.