Sunday, July 23, 2017

Superluminous Supernova Marks the Death of a Star at Cosmic High Noon

The yellow arrow marks the superluminous supernova DES15E2mlf in this false-color image of the surrounding field. This image was observed with the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) gri-band filters mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope on December 28, 2015, around the time when the supernova reached its peak luminosity. (Observers: D. Gerdes and S. Jouvel)

The death of a massive star in a distant galaxy 10 billion years ago created a rare superluminous supernova that astronomers say is one of the most distant ever discovered. The brilliant explosion, more than three times as bright as the 100 billion stars of our Milky Way galaxy combined, occurred about 3.5 billion years after the big bang at a period known as "cosmic high noon," when the rate of star formation in the universe reached its peak.

Hunting Molecules with the MWA

This image shows the centre of the Milky Way as seen by the Galactic Centre Molecular Line Survey. Credit: Chenoa Tremblay (ICRAR-Curtin)

Astronomers have used an Australian radio telescope to observe molecular signatures from stars, gas and dust in our galaxy, which could lead to the detection of complex molecules that are precursors to life. Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a radio telescope located in the Murchison region of Western Australia, the team successfully detected two molecules called the mercapto radical (SH) and nitric oxide (NO).

Flashes of Light on the Dark Matter

On the left side the cosmic web in the standard cold scenario, on the right side how it would look like in the Fuzzy Dark Matter model. The curved lines in both panels show how the absorption by the neutral hydrogen in the cosmic web behaves in the two models. The right curve does not agree with the data, while the left one does. Credit: Matteo Viel

A web that passes through infinite intergalactic spaces, a dense cosmic forest illuminated by very distant lights and a huge enigma to solve. These are the picturesque ingredients of a scientific research - carried out by an international team composed of researchers from the International School for Adavnced Studies (SISSA) and the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, the Institute of Astronomy of Cambridge and the University of Washington - that adds an important element for understanding one of the fundamental components of our Universe: the dark matter.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Holographic Imaging Could Be Used to Detect Signs of Life in Space

Plumes water ice and vapor spray from many locations near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus, as documented by the Cassini-Huygens mission. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

We may be capable of finding microbes in space—but if we did, could we tell what they were, and that they were alive? This month the journal Astrobiology is publishing a special issue dedicated to the search for signs of life on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus. Included is a paper from Caltech's Jay Nadeau and colleagues offering evidence that a technique called digital holographic microscopy, which uses lasers to record 3-D images, may be our best bet for spotting extraterrestrial microbes.

Astronomer Develops New Ways to See the Formation of Stars and Discovers Never-Before Seen Areas in Our Milky Way Galaxy

A representative color image of infrared light from an infant star cluster: Young stars predominantly show up as orange. Regions where gas is being heated by intense radiation from luminous young stars show up as white. Newly discovered jets from the young stars show up as blue in the image. Credit: Adler Planetarium

A research team led by Adler Planetarium astronomer Dr. Grace Wolf-Chase has discovered new evidence of stars forming in our Milky Way Galaxy. By using a telescope equipped to detect infrared light invisible to our eyes, this exciting new science is revealing how stars, including our very own Sun, grow up within clusters and groups. The Astrophysical Journal has published a paper on the subject titled, “MHOs toward HMOs: A Search for Molecular Hydrogen Emission-Line Objects toward High-Mass Outflows.”

Scientists Get Best Measure of Star-forming Material in Galaxy Clusters in Early Universe

The Tadpole Galaxy is a disrupted spiral galaxy showing streams of gas stripped by gravitational interaction with another galaxy. Molecular gas is the required ingredient to form stars in galaxies in the early universe. Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA and Bill Snyder.

The international Spitzer Adaptation of the Red-sequence Cluster Survey (SpARCS) collaboration based at the University of California, Riverside has combined observations from several of the world’s most powerful telescopes to carry out one of the largest studies yet of molecular gas – the raw material which fuels star formation throughout the universe – in three of the most distant clusters of galaxies ever found, detected as they appeared when the universe was only four billion years old.

Spiral Arms Allow School Children to Weigh Black Holes

Artistic rendering of a black hole accumulating matter at the centre of a galaxy. Credit: James Josephides.

Astronomers from Swinburne University of Technology, Australia, and the University of Minnesota Duluth, USA, have provided a way for armchair astronomers, and even primary school children, to merely look at a spiral galaxy and estimate the mass of its hidden, central black hole. The research was supported by the Australian Research Council and has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society​.