Astronomers using the unique ultraviolet capabilities of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have identified nine monster stars with masses over 100 times the mass of the Sun in the star cluster R136, located in the Tarantula Nebula within the Large Magellanic Cloud. This makes it the largest sample of very massive stars identified to date.
Two astronomy students from Leiden University have mapped the entire Milky Way Galaxy in dwarf stars for the first time. They show that there are a total of 58 billion dwarf stars, of which seven percent reside in the outer regions of our galaxy. This result is the most comprehensive model ever for the distribution of these stars.
On the largest scales, galaxies and everything they contain are concentrated into filaments that stretch around the edge of enormous voids. Data from the Illustris project, a large computer simulation of the evolution and formation of galaxies, suggests that the black holes at the centre of every galaxy are helping to send matter into the loneliest places in the universe.
An international research team has used sophisticated computer simulations to calculate a two-dimensional map of the dust chemistry in the solar nebula, the thin dusty disc that surrounded the young Sun and out of which the planets formed. The study has given new insights into the chemical composition of the dust grains that formed in the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
A team of astronomers in the UK, USA and Australia have found a planet, until now thought to be a free floating, in a huge, 900,000-year orbit around its star. Incredibly the object, designated as 2MASS J2126, is about 1 trillion (1 million million) kilometres from the star, or about 7,000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Researchers from Australia and the USA have discovered a distant, ancient cloud of gas that may contain the signature of the very first stars that formed in the universe. The gas cloud is many billions of light-years away from Earth, and is observed as it was just 1.8 billion years after the Big Bang.
Over the last two decades, the discovery of hundreds of giant comets, termed Centaurs, on unstable orbits in the outer planetary system means that these objects pose a much greater hazard to life than asteroids, according to a team of UK astronomers. Centaurs are typically 50 to 100 kilometres across, or larger, and a single such body contains more mass than the entire population of Earth-crossing asteroids found to date.
A star called KIC 8462852 has been in the news recently for unexplained and bizarre behaviour. NASA’s Kepler mission had monitored the star for four years, observing two unusual incidents, in 2011 and 2013, when the star’s light dimmed in dramatic, never-before-seen ways. Something had passed in front of the star and blocked its light, but what?
For more than 30 years, scientists have argued about a controversial hypothesis relating to periodic mass extinctions and impact craters on Earth caused by comet and asteroid showers. Now scientists conclude that these events show a cyclical pattern over the studied period, with both impacts and extinction events taking place every 26 million years.
On the final day of NAM2015, science writer Kulvinder Singh Chadha investigates a new model that generates accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun’s 11-year heartbeat, suggesting that solar activity could fall by 60 percent during the 2030s to ‘mini ice age’ conditions. Kulvinder also looks back at the lighter moments and highlights of a successful conference.