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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.

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The Milky Way’s tumultuous heart revealed in X-rays

21 August 2015 Astronomy Now

A newly released image from the ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray satellite observatory gives us a unprecedented look at the intense processes taking place at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. The new study, which spans a thousand light-years, is a compilation of one and a half months of monitoring, revealing the powerful remnants of dead stars and their mighty action on the surrounding gas.

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Vagabond supernovae flung into space by binary black-hole slingshots?

16 August 2015 Astronomy Now

A new analysis of 13 supernovae — including archived data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope — is helping astronomers explain how some young stars exploded sooner than expected, hurling them to a lonely place far from their host galaxies. It’s a complicated mystery of double-star systems, merging galaxies, and twin black holes.

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ALMA’s detailed view of star formation in the distant universe

8 June 2015 Astronomy Now

The Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array has produced a spectacularly detailed image of a distant galaxy known as SDP.81 that is being gravitationally lensed. The image shows a magnified view of the galaxy’s star-forming regions, the likes of which have never been seen before at this level of detail in a galaxy so remote.

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Merging galaxies break radio silence

29 May 2015 Astronomy Now

A large Hubble survey confirms an unambiguous link between the presence of supermassive black holes that power high-speed, radio-signal-emitting jets and the merger history of their host galaxies. The results lend significant weight to the case for jets being the result of merging black holes.

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WISE discovery of the most luminous galaxy in the universe

22 May 2015 Astronomy Now

A remote galaxy shining with the light of more than 300 trillion suns has been discovered using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). It is the most luminous galaxy found to date and belongs to a new class of objects — extremely luminous infrared galaxies, or ELIRGs.

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Magnetar near Galactic Centre supermassive black hole delivers surprises

16 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Magnetars are dense, collapsed stars that possess enormously powerful magnetic fields. At a distance that could be as small as 0.3 light-years from the 4-million-solar mass black hole in the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, magnetar SGR 1745-2900 is by far the closest neutron star to a supermassive black hole ever discovered and is likely in its gravitational grip.

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Astronomers baffled by discovery of rare quasar quartet

15 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Hitting the jackpot is one thing, but if you hit the jackpot four times in a row you might wonder if the odds were somehow stacked in your favour. A group of astronomers led by Joseph Hennawi of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have found themselves in exactly this situation. They discovered the first known quasar quartet: four quasars, each one a rare object in its own right, in close physical proximity to each other.