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Out of this World

News from space and astronomy communities around the world.

Searching Alpha Centauri for Earth-Like Planets

By David Reneke

Breakthrough Watch has announced “first light” on a newly built instrument idesigned to hunt for exoplanets in our neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri.

Breakthrough Watch, the global astronomy program looking for Earth-like planets around nearby stars, has announced “first light” on a newly built planet-finding instrument at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert, Chile. The instrument, called NEAR (Near Earths in the AlphaCen Region), is designed to hunt for exoplanets in our neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri, within the habitable zones of its two Sun-like stars, where water could potentially exist in liquid form.

Citizen Scientists Needed to Unlock Secrets of Universe

By David Reneke

AstroQuest is enlisting citizen scientists to check the data detailing how distant galaxies grow and evolve.

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is appealing to members of the public to climb onboard one of the biggest scientific projects of the next 10 years, AstroQuest. Volunteers will study images of distant galaxies and figure out which light is coming from which galaxy as part of the project.

Square Kilometre Array Nearing Completion

By David Reneke

Phase 1 of the Square Kilometre Array is nearing completion, and citizen scientists can help with one of the biggest astronomy projects of the next 10 years.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a multi-billion dollar international project to build the world’s largest radio telescope. Co-located primarily in South Africa and Western Australia, the SKA will be a collection of hundreds of thousands of radio antennas with a combined collecting area equivalent to approximately 1 km2.

New Theory to Explain “Alien Probe” Asteroid

By David Reneke

A new theory explains the true identity of an “alien probe” asteroid, and the development of Australia’s first space telescope is underway.

When is a mystery not a mystery? When the explanations for it reach absurd levels and common sense flies out the window. If there’s one story that left astronomers truly scratching their heads in 2018, it had to be the mysterious interstellar visitor known as Oumuamua.

Aussie Telescope Almost Doubles Known Number of Fast Radio Bursts

By David Reneke

The number of known fast radio bursts has doubled, and a patent has brought a space elevator one step closer.

Australian researchers using a CSIRO radio telescope in Western Australia have nearly doubled the known number of mysterious fast radio bursts – powerful flashes of radio waves from deep space. The team’s discoveries include the closest and brightest fast radio bursts ever detected.

Fast radio bursts come from all over the sky, and last for just milliseconds. Scientists don’t know what causes them but it must involve energy equivalent to the amount released by the Sun in 80 years.

Meet Icarus, the Most Distant Star Ever Seen

By David Reneke

Astronomers have spotted the most distant star ever seen as well as stunning auroras on Saturn.

More than halfway across the universe, an enormous blue star nicknamed Icarus is the most distant individual star ever seen. Normally it would be much too faint to view, even with the world’s largest telescopes, but through a quirk of nature that tremendously amplifies the star’s feeble glow, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope were able to pinpoint this faraway star and set a new distance record.

Humanity’s First Visit to a Star

Credit: John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the Sun. Credit: John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

By David Reneke

A probe will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, and astronomers have found the fastest-growing black hole known in the universe.

NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionise our understanding of the Sun. It will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions.

In order to unlock the mysteries of the Sun’s atmosphere, the probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven fly-bys over a 7-year period to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. It’ll fly through the Sun’s atmosphere, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

Planetary Formation Around a Binary Star

By David Reneke

Astronomers take a close look at planetary formation around a binary star and examine one of the biggest stars in our galaxy.

Credit: Andrea Isella/Rice University/B Saxton/NRAO/ AUI/NSF/ALMA/ESO

Massive Star’s Dying Blast Caught By Pure Chance!

By Dave Reneke

A massive star’s dying blast has been caught by pure chance, and how early moons collided to form today’s Moon.

On 25 June 2016, an international team of 31 astronomers caught a massive star as it died in a titanic explosion deep in space. The blast released in about 40 seconds as much energy as the Sun releases over its entire lifetime, all focused into a tight beam of gamma rays and fortuitously aimed directly toward Earth. The team’s findings provide strong evidence for one of two competing models for how gamma-ray bursters produce their energy.

The Explosion that Rocked the Universe

By David Reneke

The launch of a revolutionary Australian instrument will enable the fastest-ever survey of stars in our galaxy.

It was one of the most powerful explosions ever seen, and it echoed right across the visible universe. Recently, an international team of 31 astronomers, led by the University of Maryland’s Eleanora Troja and Nathaniel Butler from Arizona State University, caught a massive star as it died in a titanic explosion deep in space.