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Station-bound instrument to open new chapter in the story of cosmic rays

9 August 2017 Stephen Clark

Physicists are gearing up to send a re-engineered science instrument originally designed for lofty balloon flights high in Earth’s atmosphere to the International Space Station next week to broaden their knowledge of cosmic rays, subatomic particles traveling on intergalactic routes that could hold the key to unlocking mysteries about supernovas, black holes, pulsars and dark matter.

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Fermi satellite observes billionth gamma ray

16 May 2017 Astronomy Now

Imagine you had superhero vision and could see a whole new world of fascinating phenomena invisible to the human eye. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope gives astrophysicists analogous powers. It captures images of the universe in gamma rays, the most energetic form of light.

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Andromeda’s bright X-ray mystery solved by NuSTAR

24 March 2017 Astronomy Now

The Milky Way’s closest neighbor, Andromeda, features a dominant source of high-energy X-ray emission, but its identity was mysterious until now. As reported in a new study, NASA’s NuSTAR mission has pinpointed an object responsible for this high-energy radiation.

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How black hole jets break out of their galaxies

18 June 2016 Astronomy Now

A computer simulation of the powerful jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centres of the largest galaxies explains why some burst forth as bright beacons visible across the universe, while others fall apart and never pierce the halo of the galaxy. A jet’s hot ionised gas is propelled by the twisting magnetic fields of the central rotating black hole.

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Researchers find a new way to weigh pulsars

5 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Until now, scientists have determined the mass of stars, planets and moons by studying their motion in relation to others nearby, using the gravitational pull between the two as the basis for their calculations. However, in the case of young pulsars, mathematicians at the University of Southampton have now found a new way to measure their mass — even if a star exists on its own in space.

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Pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies may be rarer than previously thought

22 September 2015 Astronomy Now

There may be fewer pairs of supermassive black holes orbiting each other at the cores of giant galaxies than previously thought, according to a new study. When two massive galaxies harbouring supermassive black holes collide, their black holes ultimately combine — a process that could be the strongest source of elusive gravitational waves, still yet to be directly detected.