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Grid computing to tackle the mystery of the dark universe

26 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Scientists from the University of Manchester working on the revolutionary Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project have harnessed the power of distributed computing from the UK’s GridPP collaboration to tackle one of the universe’s biggest mysteries — the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

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Chance microlensing events enable astronomers to probe distant quasars

1 July 2016 Astronomy Now

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.

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Distant world’s weather is mixed bag of hot dust and molten rain

4 November 2015 Astronomy Now

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.

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Large galaxies’ appetite for growth revealed in streams of stars

5 August 2015 Astronomy Now

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.