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Hubble team breaks cosmic distance record

4 March 2016 Astronomy Now

By pushing the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to its limits, astronomers have shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the distance to the most remote galaxy ever seen in the universe. The galaxy, named GN-z11, has a redshift of 11.1, which corresponds to 400 million years after the Big Bang when the universe was only three percent of its current age.

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New details on Ceres seen in Dawn images

13 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Features on dwarf planet Ceres that piqued the interest of scientists throughout 2015 stand out in exquisite detail in the latest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which recently reached its lowest-ever altitude at Ceres. Dawn took these images near its current altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers) between 19 and 23 December 2015.

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Dawn gets the lowdown on dwarf planet Ceres

27 December 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, cruising in its lowest and final orbit at dwarf planet Ceres, has delivered the first images from its best-ever viewpoint. The new images showcase details of the cratered and fractured surface. Dawn is now approximately 240 miles (385 kilometres) above Ceres, which is where it will remain for the rest of its mission.

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Gamma rays from distant blazar galaxy tell story of an epic escape

16 December 2015 Astronomy Now

In April 2015, after travelling for about half the age of the universe, a flood of powerful gamma rays from a distant galaxy slammed into Earth’s atmosphere. Observations of PKS 1441+25, a rare type of galaxy called a blazar, provide a look into the environment near a supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s centre and offer a glimpse into the state of the cosmos 7 billion years ago.

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Mystery of missing exoplanet water solved using NASA space telescopes

14 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A survey of ten hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets conducted with NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer telescopes has led a UK-US team to solve a long-standing mystery — why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected. The findings offer new insights into the wide range of planetary atmospheres in our galaxy and how planets are assembled.

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New clues to dwarf planet Ceres’ bright spots and origins

9 December 2015 Astronomy Now

The surface of Ceres, whose average diameter is 584 miles, is generally dark and similar in brightness to fresh asphalt. But the dwarf planet does possess 130 mysterious bright areas associated with impact craters that new research suggests are salt-rich areas left behind when briny water-ice from a subsurface layer sublimated in the past.

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Cassini finds global ocean under icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus

15 September 2015 Astronomy Now

A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission. Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.

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Extreme starburst in the core of a gargantuan galaxy cluster

11 September 2015 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers has discovered a prodigious galaxy cluster with a core bursting with new stars — an incredibly rare find. This surprising new discovery, the result of collaborative synergy from ground- and space-based observations, is the first to show that gigantic galaxies at the centres of massive clusters can grow significantly by feeding off gas stolen from other galaxies.

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Ceres’ mysterious bright spots and 4-mile-tall pyramidal mountain in 3-D

8 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Since its arrival at dwarf planet Ceres on 6 March this year, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been slowly spiralling closer to this enigmatic little world. Mission scientist are nearer finding explanations for the intriguing bright spots in a crater named Occator and why an isolated mountain — as high as any in North America — is sitting in the middle of nowhere.