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.
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.
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.
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.
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.