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Station-bound instrument to open new chapter in the story of cosmic rays

9 August 2017 Stephen Clark

Physicists are gearing up to send a re-engineered science instrument originally designed for lofty balloon flights high in Earth’s atmosphere to the International Space Station next week to broaden their knowledge of cosmic rays, subatomic particles traveling on intergalactic routes that could hold the key to unlocking mysteries about supernovas, black holes, pulsars and dark matter.

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First signs of weird quantum property of empty space?

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

By studying the polarisation of light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, first predicted in the 1930s.

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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.

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Mystery of ultra-diffuse faint galaxies solved

29 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Over the last year, researchers have observed some very faint, diffuse galaxies. These so-called ultra-diffuse galaxies (UDGs) are as faint as dwarf galaxies but are distributed over an area just as large as the Milky Way. Now, a solution to the mystery of how such galaxies form has been found.

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Forming stars in the early universe

21 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The first stars appeared about 100 million years after the Big Bang. When the universe was about 3 billion years old, star formation activity peaked at rates about ten times above current levels. Why this happened, and whether the physical processes back then were different from those today, are among the most pressing questions in astronomy.

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Study confirms that novae are main source of lithium in the universe

3 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Lithium, like the majority of chemical elements, can trace its origins back to astrophysical phenomena, but its point of genesis was unclear. Recently, a group of researchers detected enormous quantities of beryllium-7 — an unstable element which decays into lithium — inside nova V5668 Sgr, which suggests that novae are the main source of lithium in the galaxy.