Astronomers have developed a new, highly accurate method of measuring the distances between stars using a technique which searches out stellar ‘twins’. The method could be a valuable complement to the Gaia satellite which is creating a 3-D map of the sky over five years, measuring the size of the Milky Way and enabling a greater understanding of how it evolved.
Scientists on the Dark Energy Survey, using one of the world’s most powerful digital cameras, have discovered eight more faint celestial objects hovering near our Milky Way galaxy. Signs indicate that they, like the objects found by the same team earlier this year, are likely dwarf satellite galaxies — the smallest and closest known form of galaxies.
An international team of astronomers has used a highly sensitive instrument on one of the world’s largest telescopes to witness a dominant galaxy, Messier 81 in Ursa Major, ingesting the stars of its near neighbours. The gravitational pull of M81 was shown to distort the shapes of adjacent galaxies, pulling their stars into long tails in a process called tidal stripping.
The Breakthrough Prize Foundation announced a $100 million initiative to dramatically reinvigorate the search for intelligent life in the universe over the next ten years. Lick Observatory’s Automated Planet Finder (APF) Telescope will undertake a new deep and broad search for optical laser transmissions from nearby civilisations, if any exist.
Astronomers have detected wildly changing temperatures on a super-Earth — the first time any atmospheric variability has been observed on a rocky planet outside the Solar System — and believe it could be due to huge amounts of volcanic activity, further adding to the mystery of what had been nicknamed the ‘diamond planet.’