Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

A fine-tuned universe may be controversial but can’t be ignored

5 hours 50 min ago

The suggestion that our universe has physical laws and constants inexplicably just right for life is in the ascendant. Expect a heated debate, says Geraint Lewis

Planets in other star systems fit a puzzling pattern

5 hours 51 min ago

Data from the Kepler space telescope show that exoplanets tend to be similar in size to their neighbours and regularly spaced, no matter the size of their star

Success of gravity-wave satellite paves way for three-craft mission

5 hours 53 min ago
Technology far exceeded expectations in LISA Pathfinder test.

Gender bias: Citation lag in astronomy

5 hours 55 min ago
Female first authors' work is cited less often.

Astrobiology: Hunting aliens

5 hours 55 min ago
Ramin Skibba enjoys a profile of the woman heading the search for life off Earth.

Solar Minimum is Coming

28 June 2017 - 9:09am
Video Length: 3:46

Intense solar activity such as sunspots and solar flares subsides during solar minimum, but that doesn’t mean the sun becomes dull. Solar activity simply changes form.

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Video Links: Solar Minimum is Coming - mp4YouTubeVimeo

NASA Celebrates International Asteroid Day with Special Broadcast

28 June 2017 - 9:09am
NASA will mark the worldwide observance of International Asteroid Day at noon EDT Friday, June 30, with a special television program featuring the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and other projects working to find and study near-Earth objects (NEOs). The program will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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