When the poet Horace said “We are but dust and shadow”, he probably didn’t think that dust itself could create a shadow. But it can, and that shadow can obscure even some of the most powerful explosions in the universe. At least that’s the finding from new research from an international team using data from the recently retired Spitzer telescope. It turns out dust in far away galaxies can obscure supernovas.Continue reading “It Turns out There Were Supernovae Exploding all Over, we Just Couldn’t see Them”
We’ve known for a while about the large-scale structure of the Universe. Galaxies reside in filaments hundreds of millions of light-years long, on a backbone of dark matter. And, where those filaments meet, there are galaxy clusters. Between them are massive voids, where galaxies are sparse. Now a team of astronomers in Germany and their colleagues in China and Estonia have made an intriguing discovery.
These massive filaments are rotating, and this kind of rotation on such a massive scale has never been seen before.Continue reading “The Largest Rotating Objects in the Universe: Galactic Filaments Hundreds of Millions of Light-Years Long”
A galaxy’s main business is star formation. And when they’re young, like youth everywhere, they keep themselves busy with it. But galaxies age, evolve, and experience a slow-down in their rate of star formation. Eventually, galaxies cease forming new stars altogether, and astronomers call that quenching. They’ve been studying quenching for decades, yet much about it remains a mystery.
A new study based on the IllustrisTNG simulations has found a link between a galaxy’s quenching and its stellar size.Continue reading “Astronomers Can Predict When a Galaxy’s Star Formation Ends Based on the Shape and Size of its Disk”
Galaxy mergers are beautiful sights, but ultimately deadly. In the midst of the collision, the combined galaxy will shine brighter than it ever has before. But that glory comes with a price: all those new stars use up all the available fuel, and star formation grinds to a halt.Continue reading “Galaxy Mergers can Boost Star Formation, and it can Also Shut it Down”
Computers are known for their ability to spot patterns. It’s what they are good at, and over the last 50+ years they have continued to improve. But they only know how to spot patterns if they know where to look for them in data. So sometimes, it falls to a human to truly see a pattern that no one expected to be there.
That is exactly what happened in the case of the discovery of the most consistent active galaxy yet discovered. Anna Payne, a graduate student at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, was looking into data collected by the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN), and notice a strange feature about one of its galaxies, known as ESO 253-3: it was getting significantly brighter every 114 days.Continue reading “An Active Galaxy That Erupts Predictably Every 114 Days Or So”
Audio narration by the author is available above
10 billion years ago, galaxies of the Universe were ablaze with the light of newly forming stars. This epic phase of history is known as “Cosmic Noon” – the height of all star creation. Galaxies like our Milky Way aren’t creating stars at nearly the rates they were in the ancient past. However, there is a time when galaxies in the present can explode with star formation – when they collide with each other. This recently published collage of merging galaxies by the Hubble HiPEEC survey (Hubble imaging Probe of Extreme Environments and Clusters) highlights six of these collisions which help us understand star formation in the early Universe.Continue reading “The Universe in Formation. Hubble Sees 6 Examples of Merging Galaxies”
Say hello to NGC 6946, otherwise known as the Fireworks Galaxy. This little galaxy is the most prolific producer of supernovae in the known universe, popping off those incredible explosions roughly once a decade. It’s secret? An incredibly high rate of star formation.Continue reading “This is the Fireworks Galaxy. It’s had ten Supernovae in the Last Century Alone”
The galaxy NGC 1052-DF4 surprised scientists by having almost no dark matter to complement its stellar population. Recently a team of astronomers has provided an explanation: a nearby galaxy has stripped NGC 1052-DF4 of its dark matter, and is currently in the process of destroying the rest of it too.Continue reading “Astronomers find a galaxy that had its dark matter siphoned away”
Galaxies build themselves up slowly over time by cannibalizing their neighbors. Using an advanced suite of computer simulations, researchers have now traced back the evolutionary history of our own Milky Way.Continue reading “The family tree of the Milky Way. The mergers that gave us the galaxy we see today”
In July of 2015, NASA’s New Horizons probe made history when it became the first mission ever to conduct a close flyby of Pluto. This was followed by the spacecraft making the first-ever encounter with a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) – known as Arrokoth (aka. 2014 MU69) – on Dec.31st, 2018. In addition, its unique position in the outer Solar System has allowed astronomers to conduct rare and lucrative science operations.
This has included parallax measurements of Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, the two closest stars to the Solar System. In addition, a team of astronomers led by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) used archival data from the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) to conduct measurements of the Cosmic Optical Background (COB).Continue reading “New Horizons Saw the Universe With Even Less Light Pollution than Hubble’s View”