Supernova heroes

In 2011, ANU Professor Brian Schmidt won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work using supernovas to calculate the expansion of the galaxy. A decade on, the field has accelerated at a similarly amazing rate. Astronomers estimate there are between 300 billion and two trillion galaxies in the universe, each containing about 100 billion … Continue reading Supernova heroes

Exoplanets dodge bombardment in their infancy

In 2017, NASA announced the discovery of seven rocky, Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zone of a star called TRAPPIST-1. Now, new research has used their harmonious orbits to determine just how much bombardment the planets could have withstood in their infancy. “After rocky planets form, things bash into them,” says astrophysicist Sean Raymond … Continue reading Exoplanets dodge bombardment in their infancy

The Kessler syndrome

In Neal Stephenson’s 2015 novel Seveneves, he imagines that the Earth’s moon breaking into seven pieces. This being a work of science fiction, the event of course has dire consequences for everyone on the planet. But if the idea of a cloud of space debris left over from the shattering of the Moon seems fanciful, … Continue reading The Kessler syndrome

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

Dark energy will almost certainly destroy the universe and everything in it.

Dark energy is without a doubt the weirdest thing in the universe. Despite being present in every corner of the cosmos and dominating its evolution, dark energy is so far outside our best existing theories of physics that we’re still trying to figure out if it’s something in the universe or just a basic property … Continue reading Dark energy will almost certainly destroy the universe and everything in it.

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

Millimetre-mountains on neutron stars

Computational modelling suggests that neutron stars are even weirder than we thought. According to researchers from the University of Southampton in the UK, the tallest mountains on these stars could be just fractions of millimetres high. Neutron stars are among the densest objects in the universe. They are one potential end point in the process … Continue reading Millimetre-mountains on neutron stars

Colossal cataclysm may explain mystery star

Australian-led researchers believe they have found evidence for a new type of stellar explosion – a magneto-rotational hypernova – that may solve the mystery of why some of the earliest stars in the universe contain more heavy metals than others. More than 13 billion years ago, the first generations of stars were made almost entirely … Continue reading Colossal cataclysm may explain mystery star

Cosmic cloud in galactic ‘no-man’s land’

In a first-of-its-kind discovery, US researchers have spotted a cosmic cloud bigger than our own Milky Way, floating alone in a cluster of galaxies tenuously bound together by gravity. This ‘orphan’ cloud has a mass 10 billion times greater than our own Sun and is made up of searing-hot gas with temperatures up to 10 … Continue reading Cosmic cloud in galactic ‘no-man’s land’

The surface of Venus is geologically active

Venus’ surface is not a single, solid “lithosphere”, as once thought, but a patchwork of tectonic plates with similar activity to – but not the same as – those here on Earth, according to a new study out today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The study shows that these tectonic plates jostle and … Continue reading The surface of Venus is geologically active