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Using drones to keep tabs on light pollution

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers at Nottingham Trent University have developed a light, low cost system, deployable on a drone, that could help everyone monitor and control light pollution. The team, led by undergraduate student Ashley Fuller, present their work at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting at the University of Nottingham.

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Minor galaxy mergers are major drivers of star formation

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Around half of the star formation in the local universe arises from minor mergers between galaxies, according to data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Disruptions to the shapes of spiral galaxies, caused by interactions with their smallest neighbours, points to increased star formation. Evidence suggests that minor galactic mergers are therefore important drivers of galaxy evolution.

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A team of super bright galaxies in the early universe

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

In 2015, Dr. David Sobral of Lancaster University led a team that found the first example of a spectacularly bright galaxy in the young universe named CR7 which may harbour first generation stars. Now, astronomers have identified a family of incredible galaxies that could shed further light on the transformation of the early universe known as the “epoch of reionisation.”

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Meteorites delivered water ice to asteroids in early solar system

28 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Planetary scientists have discovered pieces of opal in a meteorite found in Antarctica, a result that demonstrates that meteorites delivered water ice to asteroids early in the history of the solar system. Opal, familiar on Earth as a precious stone used in jewellery, is made up of silica (the major component of sand) with up to 30 percent water in its structure.

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Seeds of supermassive black holes could be revealed by gravitational waves

27 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Gravitational waves captured by space-based detectors could help identify the origins of supermassive black holes, according to new computer simulations. Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology ran the huge cosmological simulations that can be used to predict the rate at which gravitational waves caused by collisions between the monster black holes might be detected.

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Stifling atmospheres could limit number of habitable exoplanets

26 May 2016 Astronomy Now

New research reveals that fewer than predicted planets may be capable of harbouring life because their atmospheres keep them too hot. Computer simulations show that planets similar to or larger in mass than the Earth that are born with thick envelopes of hydrogen and helium are likely to retain their stifling atmospheres.

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Astronomers detect double ‘peanut shell’ galaxies

8 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, have discovered an unusually shaped structure in two nearby disc galaxies. The Swinburne team recently developed new imaging software, making it possible to observe the double “peanut shell shape” formed by the distribution of stars bulging from the centres of these galaxies.

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Where to view the transit of Mercury on 9 May

7 May 2016 Astronomy Now

With the transit of Mercury just two days away, interest in this comparatively rare event is growing fast. Given the favourable timing of this 7½-hour phenomenon for the UK, many will be able to view it at lunchtime or after work. If you don’t have suitably equipped telescope, join one of the many transit-viewing activities hosted by astronomical organisations nationwide.

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Rare transit of Mercury to take place on 9 May

1 May 2016 Astronomy Now

On Monday, 9 May there will be a rare transit of Mercury, when the innermost planet in our solar system will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun. The last time this happened was in 2006. With a properly filtered telescope and fine weather, the entire 7½-hour event can be seen from the British Isles.

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Mysterious alignment of black holes discovered

12 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Deep radio imaging by researchers in the University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape, in South Africa, has revealed that supermassive black holes in a region of the distant universe are all spinning out radio jets in the same direction — most likely a result of primordial mass fluctuations in the early universe.