News

First signs of weird quantum property of empty space?

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

By studying the polarisation of light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, first predicted in the 1930s.

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Starvation diet for supermassive black hole dims brilliant galaxy

10 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers may have solved the mystery of the peculiar volatile behaviour of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy known as Markarian 1018 some 590 million light-years away. Combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other observatories suggest that the black hole is no longer being fed enough fuel to make its surroundings shine brightly.

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Unexpected gaseous haloes detected around distant quasars

26 October 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers has discovered glowing gas clouds surrounding distant quasars. The new survey of these active galaxies indicates that haloes around quasars are far more common than expected. The properties of the haloes in this surprising find are also in striking disagreement with currently accepted theories of galaxy formation in the early universe.

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Galactic fireworks illuminate giant hydrogen blob

21 September 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of researchers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) and other telescopes has discovered the power source illuminating a so-called Lyman-alpha Blob — a rare, brightly glowing, and enormous concentration of gas in the distant universe.

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Starving black hole returns brilliant galaxy to the shadows

19 September 2016 Astronomy Now

The mystery of a rare change in the behaviour of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy has been solved by an international team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope along with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. It seems that the black hole has fallen on hard times and is no longer being fed enough fuel to make its surroundings shine.

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Spectacular VLT images of Jupiter presented before Juno’s arrival

27 June 2016 Astronomy Now

In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter as part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet. These observations will help astronomers to better understand the gas giant ahead of Juno’s close encounter next month.

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VLC sees star birth in the Large Magellanic Cloud

20 May 2016 Astronomy Now

In this image from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), light from blazing blue stars energises the gas left over from the stars’ recent formation. The result is a strikingly colourful emission nebula, called LHA 120-N55, in which the stars are adorned with a mantle of glowing gas. LHA 120-N55 lies within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.