Protoplanetary discs are ‘doughnuts’ of gas and dust surrounding young stars, the sites where planets form over the course of millions of years. Researchers studying the one-million-year-old infant star YLW 16B, some 400 light-years from Earth, were able to determine the distance from the star to the inner rim of its surrounding protoplanetary disc by observing its light echo.
Astronomers using an orbiting radio telescope in conjunction with four ground-based radio telescopes have achieved the highest resolution, or ability to discern fine detail, of any astronomical observation ever made. The researchers were surprised when their Earth-space system revealed a core temperature hotter than 10 trillion degrees for quasar 3C 273.
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 team of astronomers led by Ivan Zolotukhin from Lomonosov Moscow State University is close to understanding one of the most important mysteries of modern astronomy — so-called intermediate-mass black holes. The researchers acknowledge the invaluable assistance of volunteer Russian computer programmers in the search.
ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory has found a wind of high-speed gas streaming from the centre of a bright spiral galaxy like our own that may be reducing its ability to produce new stars. The Seyfert galaxy, known as IRAS17020+4544 and located 800 million light-years from Earth, has a supermassive black hole at its core with a mass of nearly six million Suns.
A team of astronomers has found an enigmatic gas cloud, called CO-0.40-0.22, only 200 light-years away from the centre of the Milky Way. The cloud contains gas with a very wide range of speeds. The so-called velocity dispersion is best explained by the gravitational attraction of an intermediate mass black hole. If that is the case, then this is the first detection of such a body.
In this season of post-Christmas gym memberships, black holes have shown that they too can lose a lot of the weight of the stars that surround them. One unusually star-deprived black hole at the site of two merged galaxies could provide new insight into black hole evolution and behaviour, according to observations with the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies can spawn tremendous bipolar jets extending over hundreds of thousands of light-years. A CfA study of the bright radio jet galaxy Pictoris suggests that bright X-ray emission from the jets is produced by rapidly moving charged particles in magnetic fields.
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.