Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Probing the past - Most reliable remote distance measurement yet [heic1423]

16 October 2014 - 6:00pm
Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have made what may be the most reliable distance measurement yet of an object that existed in the Universe's formative years. The galaxy is one of the faintest, smallest and most distant galaxies ever seen and measuring its distance with this accuracy was possible due only to the incredibly detailed mapping of how giant galaxy clusters warp the space-time around them.

NASA’s Hubble Finds Extremely Distant Galaxy through Cosmic Magnifying Glass

16 October 2014 - 5:00pm
Peering through a giant cosmic magnifying glass, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a tiny, faint galaxy -- one of the farthest galaxies ever seen. The diminutive object is estimated to be more than 13 billion light-years away.

Spacecraft seek geysers without human help

16 October 2014 - 4:46pm
Software that can identify plumes emanating from comet and moon surfaces is the next step toward landers that can explore planets autonomously

Mercury's hidden water-ice revealed

16 October 2014 - 4:14pm
A Nasa spacecraft has provided the first optical images of ice within permanently shadowed craters on the planet Mercury.

Cassini caught in Hyperion's electron beam

16 October 2014 - 2:00pm
Static electricity is known to play an important role on the airless, dusty Moon, but evidence of surface charging on other objects in the Solar System has been elusive. However, a new analysis of data from the international Cassini mission has revealed that the orbiter was briefly bathed in a beam of electrons coming from the electrostatically charged surface of Saturn's moon, Hyperion.

Name Rosetta mission's landing site

16 October 2014 - 12:17pm
ESA and its Rosetta mission partners are inviting you to suggest a name for the site where lander Philae will touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November.

Curious signal hints at dark matter – first evidence of axions? Astronomers use...

16 October 2014 - 12:13pm
Curious signal hints at dark matter – first evidence of axions?

Astronomers use X-ray observations to detect evidence of an exotic type of particle, providing a tantalising insight into the nature of mysterious 'dark matter'. New #MNRAS paper by Fraser et al.

Curious signal hints at dark matter – first evidence of axions?
Space scientists at the University of Leicester have detected a curious signal in the X-ray sky – one that provides a tantalising insight into the nature of mysterious 'dark matter'.The Leicester team has found what appears to be a signature of 'ax

NASA's Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission

15 October 2014 - 6:00pm

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The Kuiper Belt is a vast disk of icy debris left over from our Sun's formation 4.6 billion years ago. Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) are a unique class of solar-system body that has never been visited by interplanetary spacecraft. They contain well-preserved clues to the origin of our solar system. NASA's New Horizons probe will fly by Pluto in mid-2015 and then continue across the Kuiper Belt on its way toward interstellar space. The Hubble Space Telescope was used to do a deep sky survey to identify KBOs that the New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit on its outbound trajectory. The deep sky survey was successful, and Hubble found targetable KBOs for New Horizons.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission

15 October 2014 - 5:00pm
Peering out to the dim, outer reaches of our solar system, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered three Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) the agency’s New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit after it flies by Pluto in July 2015.

ESA confirms the primary landing site for Rosetta

15 October 2014 - 2:19pm
ESA has given the green light for its Rosetta mission to deliver its lander, Philae, to the primary site on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November, in the first-ever attempt at a soft touchdown on a comet.

Construction Secrets of a Galactic Metropolis

15 October 2014 - 11:00am
Astronomers have used the APEX telescope to probe a huge galaxy cluster that is forming in the early Universe and revealed that much of the star formation taking place is not only hidden by dust, but also occurring in unexpected places. This is the first time that a full census of the star formation in such an object has been possible.

Astrophysics: How tiny galaxies form stars

15 October 2014 - 1:00am

Astrophysics: How tiny galaxies form stars

Nature 514, 7522 (2014). doi:10.1038/514310a

Authors: Bruce Elmegreen

Observations of two faint galaxies with a low abundance of elements heavier than helium show that the galaxies have an efficiency of star formation less than one-tenth of that of the Milky Way and similar galaxies. See Letter p.335

Inefficient star formation in extremely metal poor galaxies

15 October 2014 - 1:00am

Inefficient star formation in extremely metal poor galaxies

Nature 514, 7522 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13820

Authors: Yong Shi, Lee Armus, George Helou, Sabrina Stierwalt, Yu Gao, Junzhi Wang, Zhi-Yu Zhang & Qiusheng Gu

The first galaxies contain stars born out of gas with few or no ‘metals’ (that is, elements heavier than helium). The lack of metals is expected to inhibit efficient gas cooling and star formation, but this effect has yet to be observed in galaxies with an oxygen abundance (relative to hydrogen) below a tenth of that of the Sun. Extremely metal poor nearby galaxies may be our best local laboratories for studying in detail the conditions that prevailed in low metallicity galaxies at early epochs. Carbon monoxide emission is unreliable as a tracer of gas at low metallicities, and while dust has been used to trace gas in low-metallicity galaxies, low spatial resolution in the far-infrared has typically led to large uncertainties. Here we report spatially resolved infrared observations of two galaxies with oxygen abundances below ten per cent of the solar value, and show that stars formed very inefficiently in seven star-forming clumps in these galaxies. The efficiencies are less than a tenth of those found in normal, metal rich galaxies today, suggesting that star formation may have been very inefficient in the early Universe.

NASA Mission Provides Its First Look at Martian Upper Atmosphere

14 October 2014 - 5:00pm
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at Mars, produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, and yielded a comprehensive map of highly-variable ozone in the atmosphere underlying the coronas.

Dust to dust

14 October 2014 - 1:00am

Dust to dust

Nature 514, 7522 (2014). doi:10.1038/514273b

What lessons can be learned from the presentation of the gravitational-waves story?

Evidence for Young Lunar Volcanism

13 October 2014 - 6:15am
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has found strong evidence of geologically young volcanic activity on the moon. Some deposits appear to be less than 100 million years old, corresponding to Earth's Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs.

Lunar volcanoes suggest the moon may still be warm

12 October 2014 - 6:00pm
Newly found patches on the moon suggest lunar volcanism lasted far longer than thought - and that radioactive elements may keep the interior warm today

'IMPs' on moon point to recent lava flows

12 October 2014 - 6:00pm
Newly found "irregular mare patches" suggest lunar volcanism lasted nearly a billion years longer than thought

Desktop sonic black hole emits Hawking radiation

12 October 2014 - 6:00pm
A model black hole that traps sound instead of light has been caught emitting quantum particles - it could be the first time theoretical Hawking radiation has been seen

Explosive meteors may have seasonal peaks

10 October 2014 - 3:02pm
Powerful incoming meteors like the rock responsible for last year's explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, may not be completely random after all