Scientists observe supermassive black hole in infant universe

A team of astronomers, including two from MIT, has detected the most distant supermassive black hole ever observed. The black hole sits in the center of an ultrabright quasar, the light of which was emitted just 690 million years after the Big Bang. That light has taken about 13 billion years to reach us — a span of time that is nearly equal to the age of the universe._MIT

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DECam Plane Survey Data Release: Catalogs and Images Now Available

A new publicly available data set offers a wealth of information on the structure of the disk of the Milky Way and its interstellar medium. _NOAO

Neutron star merger confirms decades of predictions by Princeton researchers

On Aug. 17, the Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected the fifth fingerprint of a massive disturbance in spacetime since LIGO began operations in September 2015. Unlike the first four sets of ripples, which reflected collisions between two black holes, the shape of these spacetime distortions suggested a collision between two neutron stars. _Princeton University

New evidence for dark matter makes it even more exotic

Looking at massive galaxy clusters, EPFL astronomers have observed that their brightest galaxies within them “wobble” — an unexpected phenomenon in current models. The discovery, published in MNRAS, adds to the body of evidence of dark matter beyond the Standard Cosmological Model (ΛCDM). _EPFL

Meteorites may have brought building blocks of life to Earth | McMaster Daily News

Life on Earth began somewhere between 3.7 and 4.5 billion years ago, after meteorites splashed down and leached essential elements into warm little ponds, say scientists at McMaster University and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

Their calculations suggest that wet and dry cycles bonded basic molecular building blocks in the ponds’ nutrient-rich broth into self-replicating RNA molecules that constituted the first genetic code for life on the planet.

McMaster University

Six galaxies from when the universe’s lights came back on

New work from a research team including the director of Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, Leopoldo Infante, has tripled the sample size of known galaxies that can teach scientists about a key period in the universe’s history, when the lights came back on after the so-called dark ages.

Gravitational waves

One hundred years after Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, scientists have finally spotted these elusive ripples in space-time. In a highly anticipated announcement, physicists with the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) revealed on 11 February that their twin detectors have heard the gravitational ‘ringing’ produced by the collision of two black holes about 400 megaparsecs (1.3 billion light-years) from Earth._nature

Number 9

Astronomers have announced evidence for a new ninth planet in the solar system: a giant nearly the size of Neptune that takes 15,000 years to orbit the sun. _Science AAAS

Hubble Reveals Diversity of Exoplanet Atmospheres

Astronomers have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to study the atmospheres of ten hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets in detail, the largest number of such planets ever studied. The team was able to discover why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected – a long-standing mystery._ESA

The birth of monsters

ESO’s VISTA survey telescope has spied a horde of previously hidden massive galaxies that existed when the Universe was in its infancy. By discovering and studying more of these galaxies than ever before, astronomers have, for the first time, found out exactly when such monster galaxies first appeared._ESO

Cosmography of OB stars in the solar neighbourhood

Scientific Article: We construct a 3D map of the spatial density of OB stars within 500 pc from the Sun using the Hipparcos  catalogue and find three large-scale stream-like structures that allow a new view on the solar neighbourhood. The spatial coherence of these blue streams and the monotonic age sequence over hundreds of parsecs suggest that they are made of young stars, similar to the young streams that are conspicuous in nearby spiral galaxies._ Astronomy & Astrophysics

Robot Discovers Two New Neighbors

A team of astronomers using ground-based telescopes in Hawaii, California, and Arizona recently discovered a planetary system orbiting a nearby star that is only 54 light-years away. All three planets orbit their star at a distance closer than Mercury orbits the sun, completing their orbits in just 5, 15, and 24 days. The paper is being published in the Astrophysical Journal.