Fossilised stardust found in meteorites

Like rocks on Earth preserving records of prehistoric times, some pristine meteorites hold records of ancient grains of stardust, and astronomers are now trying to trace these grains back to their stellar origins. These specks of stardust were forged in dying stars billions of years ago, becoming part of the debris that helped to form … Continue reading Fossilised stardust found in meteorites

Strange radio waves from the centre of the galaxy

In the West Australian desert, an array of radio telescopes has spotted strange radio signals emanating from somewhere near the heart of the Milky Way. These signals don’t fit any known patterns produced by familiar radio sources such as pulsars, quasars or radio galaxies. Instead, astronomers think they could come from a new type of … Continue reading Strange radio waves from the centre of the galaxy

Mapping the southern skies

In 2022, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder Telescope in WA will embark on a massive project to map the southern skies in radio waves. This survey, the Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU), will help us understand how the first stars and galaxies formed and evolved. Cosmos spoke to Dr Michael Cowley, an astrophysicist … Continue reading Mapping the southern skies

Fast and furious floods shaped Martian surface

US scientists have discovered that overflowing lakes on Mars caused floods that carved out a quarter of the planet’s river valleys, creating deep chasms and shifting vast amounts of sediment. Today, the Red Planet is a cold and dry desert, but in its early days it had an active water cycle. Before about 3.5 billion … Continue reading Fast and furious floods shaped Martian surface

Black holes exert ‘quantum pressure’ on their environment

Black holes aren’t as single-minded as we thought. It turns out their quantum behaviour adds a new, recalcitrant dimension to their monstrous character. In a first-of-its-kind discovery, UK physicists have found that black holes exert quantum pressure on their environment. We know black holes are voracious cosmic monsters that operate at nature’s very extremes. They … Continue reading Black holes exert ‘quantum pressure’ on their environment

Move over Dr Who: We can travel the (virtual) universe too

An international team of researchers has generated an entire virtual universe and uploaded it to the “cloud”. They then made it freely available to anyone who wants to explore the cosmos without the pesky laws of physics (and economics) getting in their way. Uchuu (meaning “outer space” in Japanese) is the largest and most realistic … Continue reading Move over Dr Who: We can travel the (virtual) universe too

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Rare space object captured by Hubble The Hubble Space Telescope has snapped a picture of a rare phenomenon: bright blue jets of gas blasting out from a dust cloud. Known as a Herbig-Haro object, this image shows the genesis of a star system. In the centre, a baby star is being born, spinning as it … Continue reading You may have missed…

Galaxies expel murkier gas than they take in

Credit: James Josephides, Swinburne Astronomical Productions. The outflow of galaxies is much dirtier than the gas that goes into them, according to research by an international team of astronomers. The research, published in The Astrophysical Journal, examines the ‘accretion’ and ‘outflow’ of galaxies – the atoms that flow in, and the atoms that are eventually … Continue reading Galaxies expel murkier gas than they take in

Could black holes power alien civilisations?

For centuries, humans have gazed up and wondered if we are alone in the universe. In 1960, physicist Freeman Dyson changed the conversation by suggesting some cool celestial tech that would allow us to more easily detect signs of alien civilisations. Dyson suggested that if an alien society’s energy needs outstripped the supply of its … Continue reading Could black holes power alien civilisations?

How big is a black hole? Watch how it eats

A new study in Science has revealed that the feeding patterns of a black hole can tell us about its size. Supermassive black holes (SMBH) are voracious, using their powerful gravitational pull to gobble up immense amounts of gas, dust and stars. When actively consuming matter, they release dazzling bursts of radiation-like burps, in flickering … Continue reading How big is a black hole? Watch how it eats

Dancing ghosts

By Ray Norris, Western Sydney University Scanning through data fresh off the telescope, we saw two ghosts dancing deep in the cosmos. We had never seen anything like it before, and we had no idea what they were. Several weeks later, we had figured out we were seeing two radio galaxies, about a billion light-years … Continue reading Dancing ghosts