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NOAO News & Reports


December 6, 2017

Gargantua in the Mist: A Precocious Black Hole Behemoth at the Edge of Cosmic Dawn

The new super-massive black hole J1342+0928 (yellow star), which resides in a mostly neutral universe at the edge of cosmic dawn, is more distant than any other found to date (yellow dots). Image Credit: Jinyi Yang, University of Arizona; Reidar Hahn, Fermilab; M. Newhouse NOAO/AURA/NSF

Peering back in time, to an era when the Universe was only 5% of its current age, astronomers have spotted the most distant supermassive black hole discovered to date. The young black hole, which is rapidly feeding and growing, is already as massive as present-day black holes that reside at the centers of galaxies. The discovery, published in Nature, was made with data from the DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS) that is being carried out with the CTIO Blanco telescope.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-07.


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November 15, 2017

A Familiar-Looking Messenger from Another Solar System

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest stars visible with the naked eye. Credit: R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

The visit of the interstellar interloper U1, recently spotted streaking through the Solar System, gives the people of Earth their first chance to study up close an object from another planetary system. Observations with the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak reveal that despite its foreign origins, U1 appears similar to asteroids in our Solar System. The result supports the long-held view that our Solar System once ejected its own flotilla of messengers like U1 out into interstellar space.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-06.


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October 16, 2017

That Gold on Your Finger May Be Dust from a Neutron Star

Discovery of the optical counterpart to GW170817 (left) and the same area two weeks later (right). Credit: The Dark Energy Camera GW-EM Collaboration and the DES Collaboration / PI: Berger.

Telescopes pinpoint optical glow of a binary neutron star merger detected in gravitational waves

The precious elements in our Earth-bound bling are thought to have been forged in ancient fiery cataclysms, when pairs of neutron stars spiraled together and merged into black holes. Telescopes at CTIO recently pinpointed and studied the light from such a merger. The first optical counterpart to a gravitational wave detection, the discovery confirms that merging neutron star binaries are indeed major cosmic production sites of rare heavy elements.

View & Share the Trailer Video
Read more in the NOAO Press Release: Cosmic Forge of Rare Heavy Elements Discovered.


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August 30, 2017

House-Sized Near Earth Objects Rarer Than We Thought

In 2013 a house-sized meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. How many similar-sized rocks have orbits that bring them close to the Earth? A new study answers that question using the Dark Energy Camera on the CTIO Blanco telescope. The result — by a research team that includes NOAO astronomers Lori Allen, Frank Valdes, David Herrera, and Jayadev Rajagopal — lends new insights into the nature and origin of small meteors.

View & share the trailer and read NOAO Press Release 17-04.


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July 11, 2017

Distant Galaxies ‘Lift the Veil’ on the End of the Cosmic Dark Ages

False color image of a 2 square degree region of the LAGER survey field, created from images taken in the optical at 500 nm (blue), in the near-infrared at 920 nm (red), and in a narrow-band filter centered at 964 nm (green). The last is sensitive to hydrogen Lyman alpha emission at z ~ 7. The small white boxes indicate the positions of the 23 LAEs discovered in the survey. The detailed insets (yellow) show two of the brightest LAEs; they are 0.5 arcminutes on a side, and the white circles are 5 arcseconds in diameter. Image Credit: Zhen-Ya Zheng (SHAO) & Junxian Wang (USTC).

A study of the distant Universe finds that small star-forming galaxies were abundant when the Universe was only only 800 million years old, a few percent of its present age. The results suggest that the earliest galaxies, which illuminated and ionized the Universe, formed at even earlier times. The study was carried out by an international team, including NOAO astronomer Alistair Walker, using the Dark Energy Camera on the CTIO Blanco telescope.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-03.


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June 5, 2017

Blowing the Cover of a Hidden Black Hole

Color image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 7582 which hosts a hidden black hole. MUSE observations (inset) reveal emission from a hot gaseous wind (in green) that is ionized and launched by the black hole. Image Credits: Stefan Binnewies and Josef Pöpsel of Capella Observatory (background image); Stephanie Juneau of NOAO and CEA-Saclay (inset).

The nearby galaxy NGC 7582 is an extreme example of an “obscured AGN”, a galaxy with an accreting supermassive black hole that is deeply enshrouded in gas and dust. New observations show that the black hole launches a powerful wind, which is confined by a rotating ring of gas and dust 2000 light years in diameter. The ring also contributes to the extreme obscuration of the black hole. The results, reported by a team led by NOAO astronomer Stephanie Juneau, lend new insights into the interaction between black holes and their host galaxies.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-02.


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May 17, 2017

Punching Above Its Weight, a Brown Dwarf Launches a Parsec-Scale Jet

The HH 1165 jet launched by a brown dwarf in the outer periphery of the sigma Ori cluster. Traced by emission from singly ionized sulfur, which appears green in the image, the jet extends 0.7 light years (equivalent to 0.2 parsecs) northwest of the brown dwarf.

Astronomers using the SOAR telescope at CTIO have discovered a spectacular extended jet from a young brown dwarf. While young stars are known to launch jets that extend over a light year or more, this is the first such jet from a brown dwarf. The discovery, made by a team that includes NOAO astronomers Cesar Briceno and Steve Heathcote, lends new insight into how substellar objects form.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 17-01.


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