Some galaxies pump out vast amounts of energy from a very small volume of space, typically not much bigger than our own solar system. The cores of so-called active galactic nuclei (AGNs) can be billions of light-years away, so are difficult to study in any detail. However, natural gravitational ‘microlenses’ can provide a way to probe these objects.
A team led by the University of Edinburgh used a telescope in Chile to study weather systems in the distant world known as PSO J318.5-22 which is estimated to be around 20 million years old. Layers of clouds, made up of hot dust and droplets of molten iron, have been detected on the planet-like object found 75 light-years from Earth, researchers say.
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.