Although the night sky often seems so peaceful and still, a closer look reveals constant movement and change. The Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF) in California looks for ephemeral phenomena in the heavens, like stars that fluctuate in brightness, or planets passing in front of their stars.
Most galaxies in the universe have at least one thing in common: supermassive black holes tend to sit in their centers, silently gorging on interstellar gas and dust and obliterating anything that comes within range of their event horizon. But scientists know very little about the origin of these behemoths or how they got to be so supermassive.
Astronomers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Arizona State University are developing the most sensitive millimeter-wavelength polarimetric camera on Earth, called TolTEC. The camera will use 7,000 detectors across three different bands in the electromagnetic spectrum. When it's completed, it'll be coupled with the 164-foot diameter Large Millimeter Telescope, the world's largest single-dish steerable millimetre-wavelength telescope, which is located in Puebla, Mexico.
We know that there are multitudes of exoplanets scattered throughout the universe, but to date the only planets that we have been able to take a picture of are in our own cozy solar system. That might be about to change with a new initiative launched today that aims to send a telescope into low Earth orbit to take a picture of the binary Alpha Centauri system, which houses the two closest sun-like stars to our solar system