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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.

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Unveiling the turbulent times of a dying star

1 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Astrophysicists have used the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters supercomputer to perform 3-D simulations of a mere 10 milliseconds in the collapse of a massive star into a neutron star, proving that these catastrophic events — often called hypernovae — can generate the enormous magnetic fields needed to explode the star and fire off bursts of gamma rays visible halfway across the universe.

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Ageing hypergiant star’s weight loss secret revealed

25 November 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured the most detailed images ever of the hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris. These observations show how the unexpectedly large size of the particles of dust surrounding the star enable it to lose an enormous amount of mass as it begins to die. This process, understood now for the first time, is necessary to prepare such gigantic stars to meet explosive demises as supernovae.

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Searching for the most habitable galaxies

3 September 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of UK scientists is attempting to build the first cosmobiological model to explore the habitability of the universe. Using a survey of more than 140,000 galaxies nearest to Earth, the team found that elliptical galaxies — rather than spirals like our Milky Way — could be the most probable “cradles of life”.

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Neutron star takes on black holes in jet contest

5 August 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of scientists in Australia and the Netherlands has discovered powerful jets blasting out of a star system known as PSR J1023+0038 that consists of a super-dense neutron star in a close orbit with another, more normal star. It was previously thought that the only objects in the universe capable of forming such powerful jets were black holes.