The Sun isn’t the only star in this galactic neighbourhood. Other stars also call this neighbourhood home. But what’s the neighbourhood’s history? What triggered the birth of all those stars?
A team of astronomers say they’ve pieced the history together and identified the trigger: a series of supernovae explosions that began about 14 million years ago.
Continue reading “Nearby Supernovae Exploded Just a few Million Years Ago, Leading to a Wave of Star Formation Around the Sun”
The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is over 200,000 light-years away, yet it’s still one of our galaxy’s closest neighbours in space. Ancient astronomers knew of it, and modern astronomers have studied it intensely. But the SMC still holds secrets.
By studying it and revealing its structure in more detail, astronomers at The Australian National University hope to grow our understanding of the SMC and galaxies in general.
Continue reading “An Incredible View Into the Heart of the Small Magellanic Cloud”
It all began with the discovery of Sagittarius A*, a persistent radio source located at the Galactic Center of the Milky Way that turned out to be a supermassive black hole (SMBH). This discovery was accompanied by the realization that SMBHs exist at the heart of most galaxies, which account for their energetic nature and the hypervelocity jets extending from their center. Since then, scientists have been trying to get a better look at Sag A* and its surroundings to learn more about the role SMBHs play in the formation and evolution of our galaxy.
This has been the goal of the GRAVITY collaboration, an international team of astronomers and astrophysicists that have been studying the core of the Milky Way for the past thirty years. Using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), this team obtained the deepest and sharpest images to date of the region around Sag A*. These observations led to the most precise measurement yet of the black hole’s mass and revealed a never-before-seen star that orbits close to it.
Continue reading “Best Image Ever Taken of Stars Buzzing Around the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole”
The New Horizons spacecraft has been speeding away from Earth since it launched in 2006. Scientists using the Alice UV imaging spectrograph on board New Horizons, have been patiently but sporadically gathering data during those 15 years, but also waiting to get far enough away from the Sun to make a specific measurement: the brightness of the Lyman-alpha background of the Milky Way. Until now, this had never been measured accurately.
Continue reading “Once New Horizons was out Beyond Pluto, it Could Finally Measure the Brightness of the Milky Way”
Astronomers have found a smaller, stellar-mass black hole lurking in a nearby satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. The black hole has been hiding in a star cluster named NGC 1850, which is one of the brightest star clusters in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The black hole is 160,000 light-years away from Earth, and is estimated to be about 11 times the mass of our Sun.
Continue reading “A Black Hole has been Found Lurking Just Outside the Milky Way”
Astronomers have known for years that galaxies are cannibalistic. Massive galaxies like our own Milky Way have gained mass by absorbing smaller neighbours.
Now it looks like smaller galaxies like the Large Magellanic Cloud have also feasted on smaller neighbours.
Continue reading “The Large Magellanic Cloud Stole one of its Globular Clusters”
The center of the Milky Way is a mysterious place. Astronomers think there’s a supermassive black hole there, though it could be dark matter instead. The region is densely packed with stars, dominated by red giants. And because of all the dust between Earth and the galactic center, we can’t see anything with visible light, ultraviolet light, or low-energy x-rays.
But we can detect radio waves, and there are some unexplained ones coming from the center of the galaxy, and adding to the mystery.
Continue reading “What’s Causing the Mysterious Radio Waves Coming From the Center of the Milky Way?”
What if our eyes could see radio waves?
If we could, we might be able to look up into the sky and see a tunnel of rope-like filaments made of radio waves. The structure would be about 1,000 light-years long and would be about 350 light-years away.
This tunnel explains two of the brightest radio features in the sky.
Continue reading “A Magnetic Tunnel Surrounds the Earth”
Gas from the intergalactic medium constantly rains down on galaxies, fueling continued star formation. New research has shown that this gas is not evenly mixed, and stars are not equal across the galaxy. This result means that solar systems are not the same within the Milky Way.
Continue reading “The Milky Way Hasn’t Been Evenly Mixed”
If it were’t for an enormous halo of dark matter enveloping our galaxy, the spin-rate of our central bar should stay pretty constant. But researchers have recently inferred that it has slowed down by almost 25% since its formation, a clear sign of the presence of dark matter.
Continue reading “The Milky Way’s Central bar Spin-Rate is Slowing Down Thanks to Dark Matter”