Astronomy / Astrophysics

Artistic concept of the quasar galaxy W2246-0526 (Image NRAO/AUI/NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

The ALMA radio telescope allowed us to study the extraordinary events taking place in the galaxy W2246-0526, the brightest we know. It’s a quasar because its core is powered by a supermassive black hole that has a considerable activity that generates enormous jets of particles and high-energy radiation. This one in particular is part of a special category of quasars because it’s full of dust that absorbs a lot of radiation. However, the consequence of this activity is a turbulent activity that is expelling the gas.

The galaxy that hosts ASASSN-15lh before its explosion taken by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) [Left], and the supernova by the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) 1-meter telescope network [Right] (Image courtesy The Dark Energy Survey, B. Shappee and the ASAS-SN team))

An article published in the journal “Science” describes the discovery of the supernova ASASSN-15lh, the brightest discovered so far. A team of astronomers led by Subo Dong, of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, China, studied this explosion that is extraordinary even by the standards of these events: it’s more than twice as bright as the one that held the record, about 200 times brighter than the average supernova, 570 billion times brighter than the Sun, and 20 times brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way put together.

Photos of the Imhotep region on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where water ice on the surface was confirmed (Image ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes research that led to the confirmation of the presence of water ice exposed on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The VIRTIS instrument on ESA’s Rosetta space probe recorded the data that were analyzed to determine the composition of the surface top layer, which is mainly a dark material, dried and rich in organic substances containing a small part of water ice. On the comet there’s a lot of ice but it’s interesting to examine that on the surface because it allows us to understand better some of its creation processes, even underground.

Image of the Crab nebula and pulsar obtained combining photos taken by the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes (Optical: NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al. X-Ray: NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al.)

An article published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” describes the discovery of the the most energetic pulses ever detected in a pulsar. An international team of scientists used the two MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov) telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma, Canary Islands, to observe the Crab pulsar.

Gamma ray map of the sky created using the new Fermi Space Telescope catalog (Image NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration)

At the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida there was a presentation of significant improvements that NASA obtained to the performance of its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The data collected by its Large Area Telescope (LAT) instrument were analyzed again in what was called Pass 8 with a new software. That allowed to discover new gamma ray sources that previously weren’t identified. At the same time it was possible to improve the ability of the LAT to determine the direction of the incoming gamma rays.