Articles about astronomy

Chandra's wandering black hole

Stripped of its galaxy, this black hole is wandering naked in the cosmos

Boffins analysing old Chandra x-ray telescope data have spotted a rarity indeed: an X-ray source that seems to be a black hole, but without a galaxy to surround it. At an estimated 100,000 times the mass of the sun, the black hole in question – at the edge of lenticular galaxy SDSS J141711.07+522540.8, about 4.5 billion light …
Giant Magellan Telescope

Top interview: Dr Patrick McCarthy – boss of the world's future largest optical telescope

Pics + vids Construction has now started on the Giant Magellan Telescope – which will be the world's largest optical viewing device mankind has ever built – using record-breaking mirrors and advanced electronics. Youtube Video The telescope, located high in the Chilean mountains, will be able to show us images with up to ten times the …
Iain Thomson, 30 Sep 2016
Pluto, visible and X-ray

Pluto's emitting X-rays, and NASA doesn't quite know how

The Chandra space telescope has spotted X-rays emanating from Pluto. What? That's “cold, dead, former planet Pluto with no magnetic field”, to most of us: orbiting between 4.4 billion km and 7.4 billion km from the sun out in the Kuiper belt, with no way to generate heat. That Pluto. Since we don't suppose the former-planet …
Gordon Stanley checks the sand telescope

Radio astronomy pioneer dies at 92

One of the pioneers of Australian radio astronomy, Owen Bruce Slee, has died in Australia aged 92. Once part of a team whose work brought conflict with famous British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, Slee had just been honoured by the International Astronomical Union, which named Minor Planet 9391 Slee after him. In the 1950s, …
The robotic proto-DESI

5,000 robots to build 3D map of the universe

Five thousand robots will get busy creating a 3D map of millions of galaxies in 2019. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) has received US Department of Energy (DoE) approval to move from the design phase to construction, which will start next year. That includes building the 5,000 10 cm-long, finger-width robots …
The Yutu lunar rover

China's moon rover dies of extreme old age, after two-and-a-half years

China never fails in its high-profile scientific endeavours, so news that its Yutu lunar rover has stopped functioning is being spun as a triumph for its space program. Yutu – aka Jade Rabbit – landed on Luna in December 2013 but by January 2014 was reported DOA. By February 2014 the vehicle was revived, but had become …
NASA image of Io

Jovian moon Io loses its atmosphere every day

If you've ever resented crunching frost underfoot on a cold morning, spare a thought for Jupiter's moon Io: when it's in eclipse, the frost on the ground is a big chunk of its atmosphere. That's the conclusion of research that looked at Io's atmosphere: when it passes behind Jupiter, Io cools down from a balmy -235°F (-148°C) …
MeerKAT

Africa's MeerKAT looks at the sky, surprises boffins with 1,300 galaxies

The operators of the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa have switched on its first 16 dishes and, pretty much immediately, spotted more than 1,200 new galaxies. If all goes to plan, by the end of next year the facility will have 64 antennae, and will eventually become part of the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA …
Dwarf planet 2015 RR245

Newly spotted distant dwarf planet orbits the Sun every 700 years

Astroboffins are excited about a newly-discovered dwarf planet, despite not knowing what it looks like. The discovery of 2015 RR245 comes from the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS), which back in March spotted alignments in Kuiper Belt Objects that fuelled the controversial “planet X” theory. The new object has so …
DSS 35 deep space telescope

SETI mulls reboot: Believing the strangest things, loving the alien

SETI (the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) is both exciting and disappointing: exciting because of peoples' eternal wish for someone else to be out there; and disappointing because life proves so hard to find. The SETI Institute's Nathalie Cabrol is wondering whether the whole idea needs something of a reboot, a …
Mars impact

Space prang of cosmic proportions blamed for giving Mars its moons

Vid A new study suggests the early history of Mars was incredibly violent and the planet's two small moons are the sole surviving remnants of what was once a shimmering halo. Mars has two moons – Phobos and Deimos (from the Greek words for fear and dread respectively) – but they are tiny, misshapen planetoids, just 22 and 13km (14 …
Iain Thomson, 6 Jul 2016
Gaia's camera under construction

BEELION-star dataset to land in September

It's time for astroboffins and enthusiasts to start clearing space on their hard drives: the European Space Agency has scheduled its first Gaia mission data drop for September 14, 2016. The ESA says data in the release will include a billion stars' positions and G magnitude, the product of observations from July 2014 and …
FAST's last panel is lowered into place

Last panel in place, China ready to boot up giant telescope

China's bolted down the last mirror of its Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), put away the hex key, and is about to start trial observations with the instrument. Xinhua has announced the last of its 4,450 panels was hoisted into place over the weekend, meaning it's time for the Chinese astroboffins to …

Cosmo study: Middle-aged galaxies are rarer than you'd think

Physicists have created a novel simulation which allows users to watch how the colour of a galaxy changes over time as it evolves. The results will be presented later today at the Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting 2016, and are based on a preliminary paper led by researchers at Durham University. The …
Katyanna Quach, 30 Jun 2016
NASA image of the covert black hole

Mystery black hole hides by curbing its appetite

A well-known radio source has turned out not to be the galaxy it's been classified as for 20 years, but a surprisingly quiet black hole. The discovery is causing a bit of buzz among astrophysicists because it suggests there could be thousands or millions more “covert” black holes out there waiting to be discovered. It took …
Chiral propylene oxide

Astroboffins' discovery gives search for early life a left hand. Or right

For the first time, astronomers have made an interstellar observation of a molecule that can exist in left- and right-handed versions – which could help unravel how life can come to exist. The discovery was made using two radio telescopes: Green Bank in the USA, and Parkes in Australia. What Brett McGuire (US National Radio …
The robotic proto-DESI

I spy with my little fibre, ten million or so galaxies

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory boffins are getting ready to point thousands of optical fibres at the night sky, starting with a 10-robot system proof-of-concept. The ProtoDESI the boffins are wiring up will use robots to aim optical fibres at distant galaxies, a light-gathering trick the DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic …
Lisa Harvey-Smith at ASKAP

One black hole, three galaxies, four BEELION solar masses – found by accident

Astro-boffins commissioning part of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) array have incidentally spotted a monster 3.8-billion-solar-masses black hole created in a three-way galactic collision. In a paper accepted for publication at the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the CSIRO boffins, …

Create a news alert about astronomy, or find more stories about astronomy.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018