What happened after the lights came on in the universe?

15 September 2016 Astronomy Now

The National Science Foundation has approved funding to expand the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array (HERA) in South Africa. Upgrading the number of antennas from 19 to 240 by the year 2018 will enable HERA to study more clearly the impact of cosmic dawn, the moment a few hundred million years after the Big Bang when the first stars and galaxies blazed awake.


Astronomers find a rare supernova ‘impostor’ in a nearby galaxy

13 February 2016 Astronomy Now

In May 2010, a South African amateur astronomer pointed his telescope toward nearby galaxy NGC 300 and discovered what appeared to be a supernova — a massive star ending its life in a blaze of glory. However, SN 2010da is what we call a ‘supernova impostor’ — something initially thought to be a supernova, but later releaved as a massive star showing an enormous flare of activity.


Phase of the Moon affects amount of rainfall

30 January 2016 Astronomy Now

When the Moon is high in the sky, it produces bulges in the Earth’s atmosphere that create measurable changes in the amount of rain that falls below, according to new research. But no-one should carry an umbrella just because the Moon is rising — even in the tropics, average rainfall rates are only increased by 1/10,000 of an inch per hour.


The case of the missing quasar

9 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers can’t find any sign of the black hole at the centre of the quasar SDSS J1011+5442, and they couldn’t be happier. The black hole is still there, of course, but over the past ten years, it appears to have swallowed all the gas in its vicinity. With the gas consumed, researchers were unable to detect the spectroscopic signature of the quasar, which now appears as an otherwise normal galaxy.


Hubble’s Andromeda Galaxy survey unlocks clues to star birth

5 September 2015 Astronomy Now

In a Hubble Space Telescope survey of 2,753 young, blue star clusters in the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy (M31), astronomers have found that M31 and our own galaxy have a similar percentage of newborn stars based on mass. The intensive survey was a unique collaboration between astronomers and “citizen scientists,” volunteers who provided invaluable help in analysing the mountain of data from Hubble.