By tying together the observational power of three radio telescopes, astronomers have made the sharpest observation of a distant galaxy, some two million times sharper than human vision. That’s big news in an of itself, but it’s even bigger news for astronomers pursuing next-level Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). The observation demonstrates a kind of telescopic collaboration that’s never been seen before, hinting at the future of astronomical observation.
Lurking in a distant supermassive black hole there exists a reservoir of water as big as 140 trillion oceans, the largest repository of water in the universe and 4,000 times more than exists in the Milky Way. Two teams of astronomers discovered this mass of water 12 billion light years away, where it manifests as vapor spread across hundreds of light years.
It sounds like something out of one of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s novels: a giant green cloud of gas known as Hanny’s Voorwerp that, by all appearances, is about to devour a nearby galaxy. So what is it?
The more we learn, the more we realize we don't know. Radio astronomers at the University of Manchester in the UK have discovered a baffling new object in a nearby galaxy that's unlike anything we've ever seen in the Milky Way. It could be the first-ever detection of a micro-quasar, or a young supernova, or even an offshoot of the massive black hole that is believed to anchor M82. But the nature of the object has rendered each of those theories somewhat unlikely, leaving researchers casting about for answers.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.