Institute of Astronomy

Feed aggregator

Mars Trojans may be part of a planet that was destroyed long ago

Astronomy News - 26 April 2017 - 9:16am

Nine asteroids that trail the Red Planet contain a material usually only formed in the mantle of rocky planets

ALMA Residencia Handed Over

Astronomy News - 26 April 2017 - 9:15am
The new ALMA Residencia at the ALMA Operations Support Facility has just been handed over to the Joint ALMA Observatory. The celebration event was attended by the ALMA Board and the directors of the three executives — ESO, NAOJ and NRAO. The architects who designed the building were also present. The ALMA Residencia is the last major construction item to be delivered to the ALMA project by ESO.

Countdown to Cassini's Grand Finale

Astronomy News - 26 April 2017 - 9:14am

After nearly 13 years in orbit around Saturn, the international Cassini-Huygens mission is about to begin its final chapter: the spacecraft will perform a series of daring dives between the planet and its rings, leading to a dramatic final plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on 15 September.

Icy Enceladus’s tiger stripes are a window on its watery depths

Astronomy News - 25 April 2017 - 9:18am

The moon of Saturn is best known for its watery plumes, which make it a good place to seek life – and the cracks that release the plumes may tell us more

NASA and ESA join forces to build life-seeking Europa lander

Astronomy News - 25 April 2017 - 9:17am

The space agencies just announced a bold proposal to search for aliens on Jupiter’s icy moon through a possible joint American-European mission

ESA identifies new science ideas for future space missions

Astronomy News - 24 April 2017 - 9:06am
Last year, ESA called on the scientific community to propose new and innovative science ideas that could be relevant for future space missions within the Science Programme. From the proposals that were received three key areas of interest have been selected for further investigation.

Quickest we could visit another star is 69 years – here’s how

Astronomy News - 24 April 2017 - 9:04am

It may be faster to send a spacecraft to Sirius than our closest star, thanks to a trick using starlight to slow it down

Close Approach Comets

Astronomy News - 24 April 2017 - 9:02am
Video Length: 3:32

In 2017 and 2018, three comets will pass near the Earth providing the opportunity to observe and study these icy interlopers.

Read this story

Downloadable Link: Close Approach Comets - mp4YouTubeVimeo

Hubble celebrates 27 years with two close friends [heic1709]

Astronomy News - 21 April 2017 - 8:57am

This stunning cosmic pairing of the two very different looking spiral galaxies NGC 4302 and NGC 4298 was imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The image brilliantly captures their warm stellar glow and brown, mottled patterns of dust. As a perfect demonstration of Hubble's capabilities, this spectacular view has been released as part of the telescope's 27th anniversary celebrations.

Gaia’s snapshot of another galaxy

Astronomy News - 21 April 2017 - 8:57am

While compiling an unprecedented census of one billion stars in our Galaxy, ESA's Gaia mission is also surveying stars beyond our Milky Way. A new image of M33, also known as the Triangulum galaxy, shows tens of thousands of stars detected by Gaia, including a small stellar census in its star-forming region NGC 604. This is a striking example of the mission's potential to detect and characterise stars in nearby galaxies.

Hubble observes first multiple images of explosive distance indicator [heic1710]

Astronomy News - 21 April 2017 - 8:56am

A Swedish-led team of astronomers used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to analyse the multiple images of a gravitationally lensed type Ia supernova for the first time. The four images of the exploding star will be used to measure the expansion of the Universe. This can be done without any theoretical assumptions about the cosmological model, giving further clues about how fast the Universe is really expanding. The results are published in the journal Science.

A temperate rocky super-Earth transiting a nearby cool star

Astronomy News - 20 April 2017 - 9:27am

A temperate rocky super-Earth transiting a nearby cool star

Nature 544, 7650 (2017). doi:10.1038/nature22055

Authors: Jason A. Dittmann, Jonathan M. Irwin, David Charbonneau, Xavier Bonfils, Nicola Astudillo-Defru, Raphaëlle D. Haywood, Zachory K. Berta-Thompson, Elisabeth R. Newton, Joseph E. Rodriguez, Jennifer G. Winters, Thiam-Guan Tan, Jose-Manuel Almenara, François Bouchy, Xavier Delfosse, Thierry Forveille, Christophe Lovis, Felipe Murgas, Francesco Pepe, Nuno C. Santos, Stephane Udry, Anaël Wünsche, Gilbert A. Esquerdo, David W. Latham & Courtney D. Dressing

M dwarf stars, which have masses less than 60 per cent that of the Sun, make up 75 per cent of the population of the stars in the Galaxy. The atmospheres of orbiting Earth-sized planets are observationally accessible via transmission spectroscopy when the planets pass in front of these stars. Statistical results suggest that the nearest transiting Earth-sized planet in the liquid-water, habitable zone of an M dwarf star is probably around 10.5 parsecs away. A temperate planet has been discovered orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest M dwarf, but it probably does not transit and its true mass is unknown. Seven Earth-sized planets transit the very low-mass star TRAPPIST-1, which is 12 parsecs away, but their masses and, particularly, their densities are poorly constrained. Here we report observations of LHS 1140b, a planet with a radius of 1.4 Earth radii transiting a small, cool star (LHS 1140) 12 parsecs away. We measure the mass of the planet to be 6.6 times that of Earth, consistent with a rocky bulk composition. LHS 1140b receives an insolation of 0.46 times that of Earth, placing it within the liquid-water, habitable zone. With 90 per cent confidence, we place an upper limit on the orbital eccentricity of 0.29. The circular orbit is unlikely to be the result of tides and therefore was probably present at formation. Given its large surface gravity and cool insolation, the planet may have retained its atmosphere despite the greater luminosity (compared to the present-day) of its host star in its youth. Because LHS 1140 is nearby, telescopes currently under construction might be able to search for specific atmospheric gases in the future.

Ronald Drever (1931–2017)

Astronomy News - 20 April 2017 - 9:26am

Ronald Drever (1931–2017)

Nature 544, 7650 (2017). doi:10.1038/544298a

Author: Rainer Weiss

Experimental physicist key to the detection of gravitational waves.

The five best exoplanets in the galaxy to check for alien life

Astronomy News - 20 April 2017 - 9:21am

The announcement of a new habitable, “Earth-like” planet made us wonder – where should we look first?

NASA Scientists to Discuss Search for Habitable Planets, Signs of Life off Earth

Astronomy News - 20 April 2017 - 9:20am
NASA scientists from across the agency will present their latest findings and perspectives on topics ranging from the origins and evolution of life on Earth to the search for habitable environments and life in our solar system and beyond during the 2017 Astrobiology Science Conference, April 24-28 in Mesa, Arizona.

Newly Discovered Exoplanet May be Best Candidate in Search for Signs of Life

Astronomy News - 20 April 2017 - 9:18am
An exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth may be the new holder of the title “best place to look for signs of life beyond the Solar System”. Using ESO’s HARPS instrument at La Silla, and other telescopes around the world, an international team of astronomers discovered a “super-Earth” orbiting in the habitable zone around the faint star LHS 1140. This world is a little larger and much more massive than the Earth and has likely retained most of its atmosphere. This, along with the fact that it passes in front of its parent star as it orbits, makes it one of the most exciting future targets for atmospheric studies. The results will appear in the 20 April 2017 issue of the journal Nature.

Physicists observe 'negative mass'

Astronomy News - 20 April 2017 - 9:18am

Physicists have created a fluid with "negative mass", which accelerates towards you when pushed.

Saturn’s flying saucer moon Atlas has a smooth fluffy edge

Astronomy News - 18 April 2017 - 9:09am

The Cassini spacecraft just made its final flyby of the small moon Atlas, grabbing the best pictures yet and showing a surprising softness

Many tiny galaxies could host mammoth black holes

Astronomy News - 18 April 2017 - 9:08am

The discovery of the second and third known ultra-compact dwarf galaxies with gargantuan black holes at their cores suggests such a mass mismatch may be common

NASA Missions Provide New Insights into 'Ocean Worlds' in Our Solar System

Astronomy News - 18 April 2017 - 9:06am
Portal origin URL: NASA Missions Provide New Insights into 'Ocean Worlds' in Our Solar SystemPortal origin nid: 400039Published: Thursday, April 13, 2017 - 14:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other "ocean worlds" in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space TelescopPortal image: This illustration shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015.Science Categories: Universe