Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

NASA Selects Proposals to Study Sun, Space Environment

31 July 2017 - 9:12am
NASA has selected nine proposals under its Explorers Program that will return transformational science about the Sun and space environment and fill science gaps between the agency’s larger missions; eight for focused scientific investigations and one for technological development of instrumentation.

First exomoon might have been spotted 4000 light years away

28 July 2017 - 9:15am

Astronomers may have found the first exomoon around a distant planet, and have asked to use Hubble to confirm whether the tantalising hints are a real discovery

A Tale of Three Stellar Cities

28 July 2017 - 9:11am
Using new observations from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope, astronomers have discovered three different populations of young stars within the Orion Nebula Cluster. This unexpected discovery adds very valuable new insights for the understanding of how such clusters form. It suggests that star formation might proceed in bursts, where each burst occurs on a much faster time-scale than previously thought.

Galactic David and Goliath [heic1712]

28 July 2017 - 9:03am

The gravitational dance between two galaxies in our local neighbourhood has led to intriguing visual features in both as witnessed in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image. The tiny NGC 1510 and its colossal neighbour NGC 1512 are at the beginning of a lengthy merger, a crucial process in galaxy evolution. Despite its diminutive size, NGC 1510 has had a significant effect on NGC 1512's structure and amount of star formation.

Signal may be from first 'exomoon'

28 July 2017 - 9:02am

A team of astronomers has potentially discovered the first known moon located beyond the Solar System.

Significant and variable linear polarization during the prompt optical flash of GRB 160625B

27 July 2017 - 9:35am
Newly formed black holes of stellar mass launch collimated outflows (jets) of ionized matter that approach the speed of light. These outflows power prompt, brief and intense flashes of γ-rays known as γ-ray bursts (GRBs), followed by longer-lived afterglow radiation that is detected across the electromagnetic spectrum. Measuring the polarization of the observed GRB radiation provides a direct probe of the magnetic fields in the collimated jets. Rapid-response polarimetric observations of newly discovered bursts have probed the initial afterglow phase, and show that, minutes after the prompt emission has ended, the degree of linear polarization can be as high as 30 per cent—consistent with the idea that a stable, globally ordered magnetic field permeates the jet at large distances from the central source. By contrast, optical and γ-ray observations during the prompt phase have led to discordant and often controversial results, and no definitive conclusions have been reached regarding the origin of the prompt radiation or the configuration of the magnetic field. Here we report the detection of substantial (8.3 ± 0.8 per cent from our most conservative simulation), variable linear polarization of a prompt optical flash that accompanied the extremely energetic and long-lived prompt γ-ray emission from GRB 160625B. Our measurements probe the structure of the magnetic field at an early stage of the jet, closer to its central black hole, and show that the prompt phase is produced via fast-cooling synchrotron radiation in a large-scale magnetic field that is advected from the black hole and distorted by dissipation processes within the jet.

Thirty Meter Telescope: Alternative telescope site is a good back-up

27 July 2017 - 9:35am
Your report on discussions about a possible location for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) calls for some clarification ( (2017); see also; 2016). Although the TMT board's preferred site is Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the alternative

Giant radio telescope scaled back to contain costs

27 July 2017 - 9:33am
Crowding antennas closer together may affect the Square Kilometre Array's ability to observe the early Universe.

Smallest satellite ever paves way for planned interstellar fleet

27 July 2017 - 9:29am

Breakthrough Starshot, the $100 million project to send tiny spacecraft to Alpha Centauri, successfully operated a mini-satellite in orbit for the first time

Half the atoms inside your body came from across the universe

27 July 2017 - 9:28am

Intergalactic winds carry gas and dust from one galaxy to the next, bringing half of the matter in our galaxy from up to a million light years away

NASA’s Webbcam Shows Webb Telescope Chilling in Chamber A

27 July 2017 - 9:28am

The temperature of Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston is steadily dropping, creating a frigid environment for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope that is in stark contrast to the heat of the city.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 - 17:19

Has Cassini found a universal driver for prebiotic chemistry at Titan?

27 July 2017 - 9:25am

The international Cassini-Huygens mission has made a surprising detection of a molecule that is instrumental in the production of complex organics within the hazy atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan.

NASA: No cost crisis for space telescope

20 July 2017 - 9:32am
Your report on NASA's next large space telescope, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), misleadingly implies that NASA's dark-energy probe faces a cost crisis (Nature546, 195;10.1038/546195a2017). NASA has not yet completed the work of estimating the costs of

Gravitational waves: Stellar palaeontology

20 July 2017 - 9:31am
A third gravitational-wave signal has been detected with confidence, produced again by the merger of two black holes. The combined data from these detections help to reveal the histories of the stars that left these black holes behind.

We could build a galactic internet but it may take 300,000 years

20 July 2017 - 9:30am

By using the timing of planets’ orbits around their stars, all the advanced civilizations that may exist in the Milky Way could communicate

Earth’s underwater dunes help explain Venus’s weird surface

20 July 2017 - 9:30am

Some of the properties of wind and dust on Venus may be similar to those of water and sediment at the bottom of our oceans

Eyes Wide Open for MASCARA in Chile

20 July 2017 - 9:27am
The MASCARA (Multi-site All-Sky CAmeRA) station at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has achieved first light. This new facility will seek out transiting exoplanets as they pass in front of their bright parent stars and create a catalogue of targets for future exoplanet characterisation observations.

LISA Pathfinder: Time called on Europe's gravity probe

19 July 2017 - 9:14am

The European Space Agency turns off one of its most successful ever missions - LISA Pathfinder.

Asteroids may have been giant mudballs in the early solar system

18 July 2017 - 8:47am

Asteroids could have started life as sludgy balls of mud instead of tough rocks, which may explain how rocky planets came to be

The cosmic dance of three dead stars could break relativity

18 July 2017 - 8:46am

Do we have the first hints that Einstein is about to be proven wrong? A stellar system discovered in 2012 looks like the ideal experiment to tell us