Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Big year ahead for James Webb telescope

31 July 2015 - 9:30am

It's been a long time coming, but Nasa is now at the business end of building its giant successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

VIDEO: New science for James Webb Telescope

31 July 2015 - 9:29am

Mark Clampin from Nasa explains how the James Webb Space Telescope will help us to see even deeper into the Universe.

First Detection of Lithium from an Exploding Star

30 July 2015 - 9:41am
The chemical element lithium has been found for the first time in material ejected by a nova. Observations of Nova Centauri 2013 made using telescopes at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, and near Santiago in Chile, help to explain the mystery of why many young stars seem to have more of this chemical element than expected. This new finding fills in a long-missing piece in the puzzle representing our galaxy’s chemical evolution, and is a big step forward for astronomers trying to understand the amounts of different chemical elements in stars in the Milky Way.

Rosetta shows how comet interacts with the solar wind

30 July 2015 - 9:39am
Rosetta is making good progress in one of its key investigations, which concerns the interaction between the comet and the solar wind.

NASA spies Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting Sun-like star

30 July 2015 - 9:39am

NASA spies Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting Sun-like star

Nature 523, 7562 (2015).

Author: Alexandra Witze

Potentially rocky world spotted by Kepler spacecraft offers glimpse at Earth's future.

‘Half-pipe’ telescope will probe dark energy in teen Universe

30 July 2015 - 9:29am

‘Half-pipe’ telescope will probe dark energy in teen Universe

Nature 523, 7562 (2015).

Author: Davide Castelvecchi

Canadian observatory aims to chart cosmic expansion rate between 10 billion and 8 billion years ago.

Astronomy: Telescope spies early galaxy's birth

30 July 2015 - 9:27am

Astronomy: Telescope spies early galaxy's birth

Nature 523, 7562 (2015). doi:10.1038/523505a

Astronomers have spotted the glow from one of the most distant galaxies ever seen in the early Universe.Roberto Maiolino at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues used the high-resolution Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile to observe three faint galaxies

Magnetospherically driven optical and radio aurorae at the end of the stellar main sequence

30 July 2015 - 9:26am

Magnetospherically driven optical and radio aurorae at the end of the stellar main sequence

Nature 523, 7562 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14619

Authors: G. Hallinan, S. P. Littlefair, G. Cotter, S. Bourke, L. K. Harding, J. S. Pineda, R. P. Butler, A. Golden, G. Basri, J. G. Doyle, M. M. Kao, S. V. Berdyugina, A. Kuznetsov, M. P. Rupen & A. Antonova

Aurorae are detected from all the magnetized planets in our Solar System, including Earth. They are powered by magnetospheric current systems that lead to the precipitation of energetic electrons into the high-latitude regions of the upper atmosphere. In the case of the gas-giant planets, these aurorae include highly polarized radio emission at kilohertz and megahertz frequencies produced by the precipitating electrons, as well as continuum and line emission in the infrared, optical, ultraviolet and X-ray parts of the spectrum, associated with the collisional excitation and heating of the hydrogen-dominated atmosphere. Here we report simultaneous radio and optical spectroscopic observations of an object at the end of the stellar main sequence, located right at the boundary between stars and brown dwarfs, from which we have detected radio and optical auroral emissions both powered by magnetospheric currents. Whereas the magnetic activity of stars like our Sun is powered by processes that occur in their lower atmospheres, these aurorae are powered by processes originating much further out in the magnetosphere of the dwarf star that couple energy into the lower atmosphere. The dissipated power is at least four orders of magnitude larger than what is produced in the Jovian magnetosphere, revealing aurorae to be a potentially ubiquitous signature of large-scale magnetospheres that can scale to luminosities far greater than those observed in our Solar System. These magnetospheric current systems may also play a part in powering some of the weather phenomena reported on brown dwarfs.

Clusters of living worlds would hint life came from outer space

30 July 2015 - 9:24am

Using future telescopes to map exoplanets where life may exist could help test the panspermia theory - that life can cross space and take root on new worlds

Neptune’s sudden jolt could explain weird ring in Kuiper belt

30 July 2015 - 9:24am

A band of strangely tight-knit icy objects in the Kuiper belt has defied explanation. Now a simulation rewinding the solar system to its babyhood has an answer

Aurora found beyond our Solar System

30 July 2015 - 9:15am

An aurora has been spotted around a brown dwarf more than 18 light years away, scientists report.

What would happen if a massive comet crashed into the sun?

27 July 2015 - 9:50am

Most comets that brush past the sun end with a whimper, but if a big one plunges into the sun it could go out with a bang

NASA’s New Horizons Team Finds Haze, Flowing Ice on Pluto

27 July 2015 - 9:49am
Flowing ice and a surprising extended haze are among the newest discoveries from NASA’s New Horizons mission, which reveal distant Pluto to be an icy world of wonders.

Australia's role in search for alien life

27 July 2015 - 9:44am

Searching for alien life with a telescope down under

VIDEO: All the Pluto pictures in 60 seconds

27 July 2015 - 9:43am

It's the dwarf planet that keeps on giving. Now Newsround has compiled all the pictures of Pluto so far into one manageable minute.

Pluto may have 'nitrogen glaciers'

27 July 2015 - 9:42am

Pluto would appear to have glaciers of nitrogen ice, the latest pictures from the New Horizons probe suggest.

Earth-like alien world looms into view through Kepler telescope

24 July 2015 - 9:15am

The alien planet is a rocky world circling a sun-like star at a distance that should allow it to carry liquid water

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth

24 July 2015 - 9:15am
NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”

Earth-like world in Kepler haul

24 July 2015 - 9:14am

A haul of planets from Nasa's Kepler telescope includes a world sharing many characteristics with Earth.

ALMA Witnesses Assembly of Galaxies in the Early Universe for the First Time

23 July 2015 - 9:33am
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has been used to detect the most distant clouds of star-forming gas yet found in normal galaxies in the early Universe. The new observations allow astronomers to start to see how the first galaxies were built up and how they cleared the cosmic fog during the era of reionisation. This is the first time that such galaxies are seen as more than just faint blobs.