What’s New – September, 2015

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Hubble finds double black hole in nearby galaxy

Hubble Space Telescope astronomers set their sights on the nearest quasar to Earth, Markarian 231, located 581 million light-years away. Black holes — even supermassive ones — are too compact to be resolved by any present-day telescope. So, astronomers did the next best thing, measure all the light from a disk of infalling material around the black hole. The ultraviolet radiation — only measurable by Hubble — revealed evidence for a curious gap in the disk. Instead of being pancake shaped, it looks more like it has a big donut hole. The best explanation for the gap is that two black holes are orbiting each other in a dizzying dance that powers the quasar fireworks. This carves out the gap. The second black hole must have come from a smaller galaxy that merged with Markarian 231 to ignite the quasar about 1 million years ago.

See the full story from: Hubble Space Telescope News Centre


Hubble image of Markarian 231, the host to a double black hole quasar. Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

Smallest supermassive black hole ever detected

Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the 6.5-meter Clay Telescope in Chile have identified the smallest supermassive black hole ever detected in the center of a galaxy. This oxymoronic object could provide clues to how larger black holes formed along with their host galaxies 13 billion years or more in the past.

See the full story from: Chandra X-Ray Observatory

The smallest supermassive black hole ever detected in the center of a galaxy has been identified using observations with Chandra and the 6.5-meter Clay Telescope. The host galaxy for the tiny heavyweight black hole is a dwarf disk galaxy called RGG 118, shown in an image from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The inset is a Chandra image of the galaxy's center, showing hot gas near the black hole. This oxymoronic object could provide clues to how much larger black holes formed along with their host galaxies 13 billion years or more in the past.

RGG 118: Home to the smallest supermassive black hole ever detected Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ of Michigan/V.F.Baldassare, et al; Optical: SDSS

First ever aurora beyond our solar system

Astronomers have discovered the first aurora ever seen in an object beyond our Solar System. The aurora — similar to the famous “Northern Lights” on Earth — is 10,000 times more powerful than any previously seen. They found the aurora not from a planet, but from a low-mass star at the boundary between stars and brown dwarfs.

See the full story from: National Radio Astronomy Observatory


Artist conception of an aurora over the polar region of a brown dwarf. Credit: Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan, Caltech.

Diminutive dwarf galaxy unexpectedly a star forming powerhouse

A nearby dwarf galaxy poses an intriguing mystery: How is it able to form brilliant star clusters without the dusty, gas-rich environments found in larger galaxies? The answer, astronomers believe, lies in densely packed and previously unrecognized nuggets of star-forming material sprinkled throughout the galaxy.

See the full story at: National Radio Astronomy Observatory

ALMA discovers an unexpected population of compact interstellar clouds inside the dwarf irregular galaxy WLM. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); M. Rubio et al., Universidad de Chile, ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); D. Hunter and A. Schruba, VLA (NRAO/AUI/NSF); P. Massey/Lowell Observatory and K. Olsen (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

New detailed images of Ceres bright spots

Early in 2015, mysterious bright spots were discovered on the dwarf planet Ceres by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Now those spots have been observed with the closest-yet views of Occator crater, with a resolution of 450 feet (140 meters) per pixel, give scientists a deeper perspective on these very unusual features. “Soon, the scientific analysis will reveal the geological and chemical nature of this mysterious and mesmerizing extraterrestrial scenery,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

See the full story from: Jet Propulsion Laboratory


This image, made using images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, shows Occator crater on Ceres, home to a collection of intriguing bright spots. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

New Pluto images from New Horizons

Some amazing new images have just been released!

See the full story from: New Horizons


Amazing image of Pluto’s Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes: Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI