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Breakthrough Listen searches new-found nearby planet Proxima b for signs of ET

8 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Breakthrough Listen, the 10-year, $100-million astronomical search for intelligent life beyond Earth launched in 2015 by Internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, has just announced its first observations of newly-discovered Earth-size planet Proxima b orbiting the nearest star to the Sun using the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

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ALMA witnesses the birth of a triple-star system

28 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A rare triple-star system surrounded by a disc with a spiral structure has been discovered by a global team of researchers. Recent observations from the Atacama Large Millimetre / submillimetre Array (ALMA) resulted in the discovery, lending support for evidence of disc fragmentation — a process leading to the formation of young binary and multiple star systems.

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Breakthrough Listen to search for intelligent life around weird star

27 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Tabby’s star, otherwise known as KIC 8462852, has provoked so much excitement over the past year, with speculation that it hosts a highly advanced civilisation capable of building orbiting megastructures, that UC Berkeley’s Breakthrough Listen project is devoting hours of time on the Green Bank radio telescope to see if it can detect any extraterrestrial signals.

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Astronomers confirm faintest early-universe galaxy ever detected

20 May 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of scientists has detected and confirmed the faintest early-universe galaxy ever using the ten-metre Keck II telescope on the summit on Maunakea, Hawaii. The team analysed three separate images of the object gravitationally lensed by a foreground galaxy cluster, revealing the distant galaxy as it was 13 billion years ago.

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ALMA measures mass of black hole with extreme precision

6 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), a team of astronomers has delved remarkably deep into the heart of a nearby elliptical galaxy to study the motion of a disc of gas encircling the supermassive black hole at its centre. These observations provide one of the most accurate mass measurements to date for a black hole outside of our galaxy.

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New Ceres images show bright craters

20 April 2016 Astronomy Now

Craters with bright material on dwarf planet Ceres shine in new images from NASA’s Dawn mission taken from its lowest-altitude mapping orbit. Young crater Haulani (diameter 21 miles) and 6-mile-wide Oxo Crater — the second-brightest feature on Ceres — provide scientists with insight into the dwarf planet’s materials and surface morphology.

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Supermassive black hole found in an unlikely place

7 April 2016 Astronomy Now

A near-record 17-billion-solar-mass black hole discovered in a sparse area of the local universe indicates that these monster objects may be more common than once thought. The newly discovered supermassive black hole is in NGC 1600, an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Eridanus some 149 million light-years away.

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Astronomers discover colossal ‘super spiral’ galaxies

18 March 2016 Astronomy Now

A strange new kind of galactic beast has been spotted in the cosmic wilderness. Dubbed “super spirals,” these unprecedented galaxies dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe. The galaxies have long hidden in plain sight by mimicking the appearance of typical spirals.

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Dark matter satellites trigger massive birth of stars

9 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have used computer simulations based on theoretical models to explain massive star formation observed in dwarf galaxies. Researchers in the US and the Netherlands found that during a dark matter satellite’s closest approach to a dwarf galaxy, through gravity it compresses the gas in the dwarf, triggering significant episodes of starbursts.

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Cosmochemists find evidence for rare element in early solar system

6 March 2016 Astronomy Now

University of Chicago scientists have discovered evidence in a meteorite that a rare element, curium, was present during the formation of the solar system. This finding ends a 35-year-old debate on the possible presence of curium in the early solar system, and plays a crucial role in reassessing models of stellar evolution and synthesis of elements in stars.