Heavens

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A bit of serendipity has given astronomers a surprise view of a never-before-observed event in the birth of a galaxy.

Gum 29 is a huge region of hydrogen gas that has been stripped of its electrons (ionised) by the intense radiation of the hot young stars located at its centre. Astronomers call this an HII (pronounced "H-two") region, and this particularly stunning example stretches out across space for over 200 light-years. The name stems from the fact that it is the 29th entry in the catalogue published by Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum in 1955.

By cleverly unraveling the workings of a natural cosmic lens, astronomers have gained a rare glimpse of the violent assembly of a young galaxy in the early Universe. Their new picture suggests that the galaxy has collided with another, feeding a supermassive black hole and triggering a tremendous burst of star formation.

WASHINGTON -- About three times a second, a 10,000-year-old stellar corpse sweeps a beam of gamma-rays toward Earth. Discovered by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the object, called a pulsar, is the first one known that only "blinks" in gamma rays.

"This is the first example of a new class of pulsars that will give us fundamental insights into how these collapsed stars work," said Stanford University's Peter Michelson, principal investigator for Fermi's Large Area Telescope in Palo Alto, Calif.

About three times a second, a 10,000-year-old stellar corpse sweeps a beam of gamma-rays toward Earth. This object, known as a pulsar, is the first one known to "blink" only in gamma rays, and was discovered by the Large Area Telescope (LAT) onboard NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and international partners.

Astronomers think that many - perhaps all - galaxies in the universe contain massive black holes at their centers. New observations with the Submillimeter Array now suggest that such colossal black holes were common even 12 billion years ago, when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old and galaxies were just beginning to form. The new conclusion comes from the discovery of two distant galaxies, both with black holes at their heart, which are involved in a spectacular collision.

A team of researchers in Canada have made a bold stride in the struggle to detect dark matter. The PICASSO collaboration has documented the discovery of a significant difference between the acoustic signals induced by neutrons and alpha particles in a detector based on superheated liquids.

Since neutron induced signals are very similar to dark matter induced signals, this new discovery, published today, Thursday, 16 October, in the New Journal of Physics, could lead to improved background suppression in dark matter searches with this type of detector.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Hot, young planets may be easier to spot because they stay that way longer than astronomers have thought, according to new work by MIT planetary scientist Linda Elkins-Tanton.

Schoolchildren, families and citizen scientists around the world will gaze skyward after dark from Oct. 20 to Nov.3, 2008, looking for specific constellations and then sharing their observations through the Internet.

The Great World Wide Star Count, now in its second year, helps scientists map light pollution globally while educating participants about the stars.

Unique observations of the flickering light from the surroundings of two black holes provide new insights into the colossal energy that flows at their hearts. By mapping out how well the variations in visible light match those in X-rays on very short timescales, astronomers have shown that magnetic fields must play a crucial role in the way black holes swallow matter.

Rob Cardinal was looking for an asteroid, but ended up finding a comet. It is the first time a comet has been discovered at the University of Calgary's Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, which is located about 35 kilometres southwest of Calgary, and only the second Canadian discovery of a comet using a Canadian telescope in nearly a decade.

GREENBELT, Md. -- Supercomputer simulations of dusty disks around sunlike stars show that planets nearly as small as Mars can create patterns that future telescopes may be able to detect. The research points to a new avenue in the search for habitable planets.

"It may be a while before we can directly image earthlike planets around other stars but, before then, we'll be able to detect the ornate and beautiful rings they carve in interplanetary dust," says Christopher Stark, the study's lead researcher at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Astronomers have used ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer to conduct the first high resolution survey that combines spectroscopy and interferometry on intermediate-mass infant stars. They obtained a very precise view of the processes acting in the discs that feed stars as they form. These mechanisms include material infalling onto the star as well as gas being ejected, probably as a wind from the disc.

This week, Astronomy & Astrophysics is publishing new observations with AMBER/VLTI of the gas component in the vicinity of young stars. An international team of astronomers led by E. Tatulli (Grenoble, France) and S. Kraus (Bonn, Germany) [1] used the unique capability of the VLT near-infrared interferometer, coupled with spectroscopy, to probe the gaseous environment of Herbig Ae/Be stars. These are young stars of intermediate mass (approximately 2 to 10 solar masses), which are still contracting and often show strong line emissions.

PASADENA, Calif.--Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and their colleagues have provided unique insight into the nature of a young star-forming galaxy as it appeared only two billion years after the Big Bang and determined how the galaxy may eventually evolve to become a system like our own Milky Way.