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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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New research shows quasars slowed pace of star formation

24 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Galaxies reached their busiest star-making pace about 11 billion years ago, then slowed down. Scientists have puzzled for years over the question of what happened. Now researchers have found evidence supporting the argument that the answer was energy feedback from quasars within the galaxies where stars are born.

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Clocking the rotation rate of a supermassive black hole

11 March 2016 Astronomy Now

A recent observational campaign involving more than two dozen optical telescopes and NASA’s space-based SWIFT X-ray telescope allowed a team of astronomers to measure very accurately the rotational rate of one of the most massive black holes in the universe. The black hole powers a quasar called OJ 287 which lies about 3.5 billion light-years away from Earth.

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The sleeping giant in elliptical galaxy NGC 4889

11 February 2016 Astronomy Now

The placid appearance of NGC 4889 can fool the unsuspecting observer. But the elliptical galaxy, pictured here in front of hundreds of background galaxies, and deeply embedded within the Coma galaxy cluster in this new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, harbours a dark secret. At its heart lurks one of the most massive black holes ever discovered.

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Noodle-shaped plasma lenses may lurk in the Milky Way

22 January 2016 Astronomy Now

According to a team of astronomers led by Dr. Keith Bannister of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science Division in Australia, invisible noodle- or shell-shaped plasma structures could be floating around in the Milky Way. These structures, which focus and defocus radio waves from distant sources such as quasars, could radically change our ideas about the Galaxy’s interstellar gas.

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ALMA reveals secrets of the most luminous known galaxy

15 January 2016 Astronomy Now

The most luminous galaxy known in the universe — the quasar W2246-0526, seen when the universe was less than 10 percent of its current age — is so turbulent that it is in the process of ejecting its entire supply of star-forming gas, according to new observations with the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA).

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Proof that some galaxies are LIERs

11 January 2016 Astronomy Now

You might think that astronomers could easily tell the difference between a black hole and a white dwarf — but nature can be deceptive. Astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have just announced the results of a new study that reveals the true origin of puzzling light from nearby galaxies.

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The case of the missing quasar

9 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers can’t find any sign of the black hole at the centre of the quasar SDSS J1011+5442, and they couldn’t be happier. The black hole is still there, of course, but over the past ten years, it appears to have swallowed all the gas in its vicinity. With the gas consumed, researchers were unable to detect the spectroscopic signature of the quasar, which now appears as an otherwise normal galaxy.

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Hubble finds that nearest quasar is powered by binary black hole

28 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found that Markarian 231, the nearest galaxy to Earth that hosts a quasar, is powered by two central black holes. The finding suggests that quasars — the brilliant cores of active galaxies — may commonly host two central supermassive black holes that fall into orbit about one another as a result of galactic mergers.