Institute of Astronomy

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Uranus’s crooked, messy magnetic field might open and shut daily

Astronomy News - 26 June 2017 - 9:28am

The off-kilter tumbling of the magnetic bubble around Uranus may regularly let a barrage of charged particles from the solar wind flow in

A massive, dead disk galaxy in the early Universe

Astronomy News - 23 June 2017 - 9:41am
At redshift z = 2, when the Universe was just three billion years old, half of the most massive galaxies were extremely compact and had already exhausted their fuel for star formation. It is believed that they were formed in intense nuclear starbursts and that they ultimately grew into the most massive local elliptical galaxies seen today, through mergers with minor companions, but validating this picture requires higher-resolution observations of their centres than is currently possible. Magnification from gravitational lensing offers an opportunity to resolve the inner regions of galaxies. Here we report an analysis of the stellar populations and kinematics of a lensed z = 2.1478 compact galaxy, which—surprisingly—turns out to be a fast-spinning, rotationally supported disk galaxy. Its stars must have formed in a disk, rather than in a merger-driven nuclear starburst. The galaxy was probably fed by streams of cold gas, which were able to penetrate the hot halo gas until they were cut off by shock heating from the dark matter halo. This result confirms previous indirect indications that the first galaxies to cease star formation must have gone through major changes not just in their structure, but also in their kinematics, to evolve into present-day elliptical galaxies.

ESA approves gravitational-wave hunting spacecraft for 2034

Astronomy News - 23 June 2017 - 9:38am

The triplet LISA spacecraft, which will use powerful lasers to measure ripples in space-time from supermassive black holes, have been green-lit

Weird orbits hint ‘Planet Ten’ might lurk at solar system edge

Astronomy News - 23 June 2017 - 9:37am

Astronomers studying icy objects in a distant region called the Kuiper belt say an unconfirmed planet with similar mass to Mars could be responsible for tugging them out of alignment

New catalogues for Herschel legacy archive

Astronomy News - 23 June 2017 - 9:35am

Two new catalogues, based on data from ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, have been released to the scientific community. The point source catalogues are examples of a new type of data product from two of Herschel's instruments, SPIRE and PACS. These catalogues are part of the lasting legacy of the Herschel mission, and will further facilitate data exploitation and drive ongoing research.

Kepler finds 219 new exoplanets and 10 are rocky and Earth-like

Astronomy News - 21 June 2017 - 9:52am

NASA’s Kepler team has released its latest batch of planet candidates and they fall into two kinds: ones like Earth and those like mini-Neptunes

LISA Pathfinder to conclude trailblazing mission

Astronomy News - 21 June 2017 - 9:51am

After sixteen months of science operations, LISA Pathfinder will complete its mission on 30 June, having successfully demonstrated the technology to build ESA's future space observatory of gravitational waves.

Gravitational wave mission selected, planet-hunting mission moves forward

Astronomy News - 21 June 2017 - 9:51am

The LISA trio of satellites to detect gravitational waves from space has been selected as the third large-class mission in ESA's Science programme, while the PLATO exoplanet hunter moves into development.

Europe selects grand gravity mission

Astronomy News - 21 June 2017 - 9:49am

After decades in the planning, a space mission to detect gravitational waves finally gets the go-ahead.

Buckyballs mysteriously show up in cold space and warp starlight

Astronomy News - 20 June 2017 - 9:17am

These molecular carbon cages could be used as tracers to understand how prebiotic molecules form in space

NASA Releases Kepler Survey Catalog with Hundreds of New Planet Candidates

Astronomy News - 20 June 2017 - 9:15am
NASA’s Kepler space telescope team has released a mission catalog of planet candidates that introduces 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star's habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

Time to embrace our odd place in the cosmos, inside a huge void?

Astronomy News - 19 June 2017 - 9:13am

Evidence is growing that our neck of the universe is a whole lot of nothing. This alluring idea could settle a cosmological bun fight, says Geraint Lewis

NASA eyes Neptune and Uranus for missions in the 2030s

Astronomy News - 19 June 2017 - 9:12am

Four possible missions to the ice giants are being proposed, including orbiters and a fly-by, to tell us what they’re made of and how such planets form

Mistaken brown dwarf is actually two planets orbiting each other

Astronomy News - 16 June 2017 - 9:11am

New observations reveal a rare binary planet system made of two gas giants four times as massive as Jupiter that likely formed in the breakup of a protostar 10 million years ago

VST Captures Three-In-One

Astronomy News - 15 June 2017 - 10:37am
Two of the sky’s more famous residents share the stage with a lesser-known neighbour in this enormous new three gigapixel image from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST). On the right lies the faint, glowing cloud of gas called Sharpless 2-54, the iconic Eagle Nebula is in the centre, and the Omega Nebula to the left. This cosmic trio makes up just a portion of a vast complex of gas and dust within which new stars are springing to life and illuminating their surroundings.

Call for media: Last chance to view ESA's Mercury Explorer BepiColombo

Astronomy News - 15 June 2017 - 10:37am

Media representatives are invited to a briefing on BepiColombo, ESA and JAXA's joint mission to Mercury, and to view the spacecraft before it leaves for Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, for launch next year.

SOFIA Finds Cool Dust Around Energetic Active Black Holes

Astronomy News - 14 June 2017 - 8:56am
Portal origin URL: SOFIA Finds Cool Dust Around Energetic Active Black HolesPortal origin nid: 403531Published: Tuesday, June 13, 2017 - 10:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio using observations from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, found that the dust surrounding active, ravenous black holes are much more compact than previously thought.Portal image: Illustration of the ring of dust that can obscure the energetic processes near the black hole of an active galactic nuclei. Science Categories: Universe

Messages from fake aliens decoded quickly in online SETI contest

Astronomy News - 13 June 2017 - 9:17am

The general public were challenged to decrypt a pretend message from outer space consisting of nearly 2 million binary digits. They took less than a month to solve it

How Jupiter split the asteroid belt in two shows its great age

Astronomy News - 13 June 2017 - 9:16am

An analysis of meteorites shows that Jupiter divided the rocks of the asteroid belt into two families within the first million years of the solar system

NASA Hosts Briefing on Latest Results of Exoplanet-Hunting Mission

Astronomy News - 13 June 2017 - 9:15am
NASA will hold a media briefing at 11 a.m. EDT Monday, June 19, to announce the latest planet candidate results from the agency's exoplanet-hunting Kepler mission. The briefing, taking place during the Kepler Science Conference, will be held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.