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Astrophysicists release new study of one of the first stars

19 June 2016 Astronomy Now

A research team has used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph to study a body known as BD+44°493, the brightest known second-generation star in the sky. BD+44°493 is thought to have been enriched by elements from one of the first generation of stars and the researchers detected several elements that had never been seen before in such a star.

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Radioactive fuel boosts supernovae explosions

22 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Some supernovae have a reserve tank of radioactive cobalt-57 fuel that cuts in and powers their explosions for three times longer than astronomers had previously thought. The discovery by Australian and US researchers gives important new clues about the causes of Type Ia supernovae, which astronomers use to measure vast distances across the universe.

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Radioactive ‘timers’ reveal likely source of galactic cosmic rays

22 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Most of the cosmic rays arriving at Earth from our galaxy come from nearby clusters of massive stars, according to new observations from NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft. But the detection of a few radioactive cosmic-ray iron nuclei also indicates that there has been a supernova in our galactic neighbourhood within the last few million years.

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Gravitational wave search provides insights into galaxy mergers

6 April 2016 Astronomy Now

New results from NANOGrav — the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves — establish astrophysically significant limits in the search for low-frequency gravitational waves. This result provides insight into how often galaxies merge and how those merging galaxies evolve over time.

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Ancient dwarf galaxy preserves record of catastrophic event

22 March 2016 Astronomy Now

The lightest few chemical elements formed minutes after the Big Bang. Most heavier elements in the periodic table are created by stars, either from internal nuclear fusion or in catastrophic explosions. New observations of a dwarf galaxy discovered last year show that the heaviest elements, such as gold and lead, are likely left over from rare collisions between two neutron stars.

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Astronomers glimpse supernova shockwave for the first time

22 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have captured the earliest minutes of two exploding stars and for the first time seen a shockwave generated by a star’s collapsing core. The international team found a shockwave only in the smaller supernova — a finding that will help them understand these complex explosions that create many of the elements that make up the Earth and solar system.

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Repeat fast radio bursts detected from same sky location

3 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers for the first time have detected repeating short bursts of radio waves from an enigmatic source that is likely located well beyond the edge of our Milky Way galaxy. The findings indicate that these “fast radio bursts” come from an extremely powerful object which occasionally produces multiple bursts in under a minute.

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Hubble’s blue bubble in Carina

22 February 2016 Astronomy Now

At the centre of this beautiful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a Wolf–Rayet star known as WR 31a, located about 30,000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. The distinctive blue bubble is a Wolf–Rayet nebula — an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases expanding at a rate of around 137,000 miles per hour.

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Runaway stars leave infrared waves in space

6 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers are finding dozens of massive, so-called ‘runaway stars’ in our galaxy with the help of images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. When these speedy, massive stars plow through space, they can cause material to stack up in front of them, creating dramatic arc-shaped features called bow shocks.