Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Star snapped before and after nova explosion

18 August 2016 - 9:18am

Astronomers capture rare images of a white dwarf - before, during and after it exploded as a "classical nova".

Gaia's second anniversary marked by successes and challenges

17 August 2016 - 9:08am

Operating in the depths of space, far beyond the Moon's orbit, ESA's Gaia spacecraft has now completed two years of a planned five-year survey of the sky. Despite a series of unexpected technical challenges, the mission is on track to complete the most detailed and complex mapping of the heavens ever undertaken.

NASA urged to rejoin the hunt for gravitational waves

17 August 2016 - 9:06am

US National Academies has assessed US astrophysics schemes and is calling for NASA to rejoin a gravitational wave hunting mission, despite budget problems

Simulated black hole test backs Hawking prediction

17 August 2016 - 8:56am

Results from a lab experiment have lent support to one of Stephen Hawking's most important predictions about black holes.

The brightest stellar wildfire hosts impossibly huge stars

16 August 2016 - 8:56am

The 30 Doradus nebula is forming stars in a flat-out sprint, outpacing the local Milky Way by four orders of magnitude. Bring sunblock

Black hole made in the lab shows signs of quantum entanglement

16 August 2016 - 8:56am

Efforts to study black holes in the lab with versions that trap sound instead of light may have revealed a key prediction made by Stephen Hawking

Mating stars hide their modesty behind a thick veil of dust

16 August 2016 - 8:55am

Astronomers got their best ever look at merging stars when a pair called V1309 Scorpii got together in 2008, but now they have gone into hiding

Canadian meteorite may be first visitor from the Kuiper belt

15 August 2016 - 9:12am

Most meteorites come from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, but an extraterrestrial visitor that landed in 2000 may hail from further afield

Stunning images of Perseid meteor shower

15 August 2016 - 9:10am

Photographs and footage capture the annual Perseid meteor shower, which is more active than usual this year.

Here’s how to watch the great Perseid meteor shower tonight

12 August 2016 - 9:21am

Over the next few evenings the annual Perseid meteor shower will be reaching its peak, and putting on a great show

Hubble Uncovers a Galaxy Pair Coming in from the Wilderness

12 August 2016 - 9:20am

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The galaxies in the early universe were much smaller than our Milky Way and churned out stars at a rapid pace. They grew larger through mergers with other dwarf galaxies to eventually build the magnificent spiral and elliptical galaxies we see around us today. But astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have looked at two small galaxies that were left off the star party list. For many billions of years Pisces A and Pisces B lived in a vast intergalactic wilderness that was devoid of gas, which fuels star formation. They got left out in the cold.

'Spectacular fireballs' accompany annual meteor show

12 August 2016 - 9:19am

Observers say the annual astronomical event was marked with "spectacular fireballs" in the early hours of Friday.

Heating of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere above the Great Red Spot

11 August 2016 - 9:16am

Heating of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere above the Great Red Spot

Nature 536, 7615 (2016). doi:10.1038/nature18940

Authors: J. O’Donoghue, L. Moore, T. S. Stallard & H. Melin

The temperatures of giant-planet upper atmospheres at mid- to low latitudes are measured to be hundreds of degrees warmer than simulations based on solar heating alone can explain. Modelling studies that focus on additional sources of heating have been unable to resolve this major discrepancy. Equatorward transport of energy from the hot auroral regions was expected to heat the low latitudes, but models have demonstrated that auroral energy is trapped at high latitudes, a consequence of the strong Coriolis forces on rapidly rotating planets. Wave heating, driven from below, represents another potential source of upper-atmospheric heating, though initial calculations have proven inconclusive for Jupiter, largely owing to a lack of observational constraints on wave parameters. Here we report that the upper atmosphere above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot—the largest storm in the Solar System—is hundreds of degrees hotter than anywhere else on the planet. This hotspot, by process of elimination, must be heated from below, and this detection is therefore strong evidence for coupling between Jupiter’s lower and upper atmospheres, probably the result of upwardly propagating acoustic or gravity waves.

Astronomy: Gentle birth of a comet

11 August 2016 - 9:14am

Astronomy: Gentle birth of a comet

Nature 536, 7615 (2016). doi:10.1038/536128a

The comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (pictured), which has been orbited by the Rosetta spacecraft since 2014, might date back to the primordial Solar System billions of years ago.A team led by Björn Davidsson at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used instruments on the European

Mystery object in weird orbit beyond Neptune cannot be explained

11 August 2016 - 9:12am

A new-found object orbiting at extreme angles to the planets hints at new puzzle in the outer solar system - in addition to Planet Nine

Stellar Lab in Sagittarius

11 August 2016 - 9:09am
The small smattering of bright blue stars in the upper left of this vast new 615 megapixel ESO image is the perfect cosmic laboratory in which to study the life and death of stars. Known as Messier 18 this star cluster contains stars that formed together from the same massive cloud of gas and dust. This image, which also features red clouds of glowing hydrogen and dark filaments of dust, was captured by the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) located at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

IceCube telescope in Antarctica rules out sterile neutrinos

10 August 2016 - 8:52am

A search for a fourth kind of neutrino, a ghostly particle that could explain dark matter, has turned up empty

Triple signal of ‘alien megastructure’ star baffles astronomers

9 August 2016 - 9:27am

A new dimming signal makes the famous star even more challenging to explain, but astronomers aren’t claiming that it’s aliens… yet

Venus could have been habitable while life evolved on Earth

8 August 2016 - 9:11am

Turning back the clock on Venus with computer simulations suggests it might have once looked like early Earth and even been hospitable to life

Fleet of robots could hunt for life on icy moon Enceladus

4 August 2016 - 9:30am

NASA's Cassini orbiter is preparing for its death dive into Saturn, leaving behind questions about whether its watery moon is inhabited. Here's how we'll answer them