Articles about astronomy


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 MEELLION 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, …
Ninth planet from the Sun

'Planet nine' theory boosted by Kuiper Belt Object with odd orbit

The long-controversial notion that there's an as-yet-undiscovered “ninth planet*” has had a boost from the best kind of science: a prediction of its effects, borne out by observation. The boffins that re-opened the debate in January this year, Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, are feeling vindicated after a …
Galaxy GN-z11

Good eye, Hubble! Space 'scope spots furthest-ever object

The Hubble Space Telescope may be old enough to rent a car, but the aging orbital lab is still making new discoveries, the latest being the furthest-recorded object ever spotted. Scientists with the European Space Agency (ESA) said that they have detected the light from GN-z11, which had been an infant galaxy when its light …
Shaun Nichols, 3 Mar 2016

Regular Fast Radio Burst detected outside our galaxy

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) have gone from mysterious to intriguing, intriguing to exciting, exciting to maybe-explained, and just took a jump back to mysterious. That's because the latest observations of the Fast Radio Burst (FRB) phenomenon, published in Nature, has turned up an FRB that repeats. That suggests either that the …
Artist’s impression of deep blue planet HD 189733b

We're doing SETI the wrong and long way around, say boffins

If there are other civilisations out there on Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars, we're likely to waste a lot of time filtering out billions of prospects. That's led McMaster University (located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) boffins to suggest we thin out the field, by looking at planets that are in a position to …
Pulsar, image via Shutterstock

The field at the centre of the universe: Cambridge's outdoor pulsar pusher

Geek's Guide to Britain A field full of bits of old wire and an abandoned garden shed: it doesn't look like the place where Nobel prize-wining research was conducted, pushing the frontier of radio astronomy. But it was. This is the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, at Lords Bridge – site of a disused railway station just outside Cambridge – which …
Simon Rockman, 12 Feb 2016
ICRAR visualisation of the hidden galaxies

Australian astroboffins reveal hundreds of hidden galaxies

Data collected by Australia's Parkes radio telescope from as far back as 1997 has led astronomers to declare they've discovered hundreds of galaxies hidden from telescopes by the Milky Way. The result is exciting for astro-boffins, because the mass of the 300 newly-spotted galaxies, plus new and better information about 500 …
Telescope by  CC2.0 attribution generic

The planets really will be in alignment for the next month

Go buy a lottery ticket, dear readers, because for the next month the planets really will be in alignment. By an accident of celestial mechanics, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will all be visible from Earth for the next month and it will be just-about-possible to draw a straight line intersecting all five. …
Simon Sharwood, 20 Jan 2016

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