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Speeding binary star discovered approaching galactic escape velocity

14 April 2016 Astronomy Now

There are about two dozen so-called hypervelocity stars known to be escaping our Milky Way galaxy, but PB 3877 is the first wide binary star found to travel at such a high speed. The results of a new study challenge the commonly accepted scenario that hypervelocity stars are accelerated by the supermassive black hole at the galactic centre.

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First light for future black hole probe

13 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Zooming in on black holes is the main mission for the newly installed GRAVITY instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. During its first observations, GRAVITY successfully combined starlight using all four 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes. The first observations using GRAVITY with the four 8-metre VLT Unit Telescopes are planned for later in 2016.

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Ancient gas cloud may be a relic from the death of first stars

8 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers from Australia and the USA have discovered a distant, ancient cloud of gas that may contain the signature of the very first stars that formed in the universe. The gas cloud is many billions of light-years away from Earth, and is observed as it was just 1.8 billion years after the Big Bang.

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NASA’s Swift spots its thousandth gamma-ray burst

8 November 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Swift spacecraft has detected its 1,000th gamma-ray burst (GRB). A GRB is a fleeting blast of high-energy light, often lasting a minute or less, occurring somewhere in the sky every couple of days. GRBs are the most powerful explosions in the universe, typically associated with the collapse of a massive star and the birth of a black hole.

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Mysterious ripples found racing through planet-forming disc

7 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered never-before-seen moving features within the dusty disc surrounding the young, nearby star AU Microscopii. The fast-moving, wave-like structures are moving at 22,000 miles per hour — fast enough to escape the star’s gravitational pull.

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Pillars of Creation revealed in 3-D

3 May 2015 Astronomy Now

The iconic 20-year-old Hubble image of the Pillars of Creation is reinterpreted in three dimensions by the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, suggesting that the Pillars of Destruction might be an equally apt name.

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Colourful skies over ESO

21 April 2015 Keith Cooper

A kaleidoscope of colours hang above the giant structures of the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. The scene is a mixture of a red sunset, the hazy zodiacal light and the pearlescent pinks of star-forming regions in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

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Massive galaxies died from the inside out

16 April 2015 Keith Cooper

Some of the biggest galaxies in the Universe started to shut down their star-formation from the inside-out ten billion years ago, according to new observations made using the Very Large Telescope in Chile and the Hubble Space Telescope.