The dawn of a new era for Supernova 1987A

24 February 2017 Stephen Clark

Three decades ago, astronomers spotted one of the brightest exploding stars in more than 400 years. The titanic supernova, called Supernova 1987A, blazed with the power of 100 million suns for several months following its discovery on Feb. 23, 1987.


NuSTAR finds new clues to ‘chameleon supernova’

25 January 2017 Stephen Clark

“We’re made of star stuff,” astronomer Carl Sagan famously said. Nuclear reactions that happened in ancient stars generated much of the material that makes up our bodies, our planet and our solar system. When stars explode in violent deaths called supernovae, those newly formed elements escape and spread out in the universe.


Did a low-mass supernova trigger formation of solar system?

29 November 2016 Astronomy Now

About 4.6 billion years ago, a cloud of gas and dust that eventually formed our solar system was disturbed. The ensuing gravitational collapse formed the proto-Sun with a surrounding disc where the planets were born. Now, forensic evidence from meteorites provides conclusive evidence that a low-mass supernova was the trigger.

Picture This

A death star’s ghostly glow

28 October 2016 Astronomy Now

The eerie glow of a dead star, which exploded long ago as a supernova, reveals itself in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula in the constellation of Taurus. But don’t be fooled. The ghoulish-looking object still has a pulse. Buried at its centre is the star’s telltale heart — a neutron star which beats with rhythmic precision.


Millisecond pulsars in globular cluster 47 Tucanae

3 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit electromagnetic radiation in a sweeping, lighthouse-like beam. They are dramatic, powerful probes of supernovae, their progenitor stars. Astronomers have measured the orbital parameters of four millisecond pulsars in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae and modelled their possible formation and evolution paths.


Record-breaking extragalactic gamma-ray binary found

30 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Using data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and other facilities, an international team has found the first gamma-ray binary in another galaxy and the most luminous one ever seen. The dual-star system, dubbed LMC P3, contains a massive star and a crushed stellar core that interact to produce a cyclic flood of gamma rays.


New research reveals hundreds of undiscovered black holes

8 September 2016 Astronomy Now

It is only as recently as 2013 that astrophysicists found individual black holes in globular clusters via rare phenomena in which a companion star donates material to the black hole. New research by the University of Surrey on a globular cluster known as NGC 6101 shows that it could host several hundred black holes — a phenomenon that until recently was thought impossible.


Keck Observatory measures oxygen in galaxy 12 billion years ago

4 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have made the first accurate measurement of the abundance of oxygen in a distant galaxy. Oxygen is created inside stars and released into interstellar gas when stars die. Quantifying the amount of oxygen, the third-most abundant chemical element in the universe, is key to understanding how matter cycles in and out of galaxies.