Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Rosetta heads for 'space duck'

17 July 2014 - 2:14pm
Europe's mission to land on a comet was always going to be difficult, but the pictures released this week of the giant ice ball illustrate just how daunting the task will be.

Rosetta:The dual personality of comet 67P/C-G

17 July 2014 - 1:56pm
This week's images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko reveal an extraordinarily irregular shape. We had hints of that in last week's images and in the unscheduled previews that were seen a few days ago, and in that short time it has become clear that this is no ordinary comet. Like its name, it seems that comet 67P/C-G is in two parts.

Strange dark stuff is making the universe too bright

17 July 2014 - 10:00am
Sky surveys suggest that dark matter or some other mysterious dark material may be lighting up the universe with too much ultraviolet radiation

Epic map reveals Mars's geography in unrivalled detail

16 July 2014 - 5:00pm
It took four spacecraft, billions of dollars and 16 years to gather the data for this glorious map of the Red Planet – now you can have it on your wall

SOHO:Comet ISON's dramatic final hours

16 July 2014 - 2:00pm
A new analysis of data from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft has revealed that comet 2012/S1 (ISON) stopped producing dust and gas shortly before it raced past the Sun and disintegrated.

Rosetta's target comet is a surprise double space rock

16 July 2014 - 12:53pm
Pictures from the European Rosetta probe suggest the comet selected for an attempted landing, Churyumov-Gerasimenko, is actually two icy rocks stuck together

VIDEO: Europa and the hunt for alien life

16 July 2014 - 1:35am
The search for life on other planets has long inspired science fiction novelists and Nasa missions but could one of Jupiter's moons, Europa, provide proof?

Planetary science: Titan's sea is super salty

16 July 2014 - 1:00am

Planetary science: Titan's sea is super salty

Nature 511, 7509 (2014). doi:10.1038/511266b

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has a buried ocean that is saltier than many seas on Earth.Titan, with its thick atmosphere and bodies of surface liquid, is of great interest to scientists looking for life beyond Earth. A team led by Giuseppe Mitri, of the

A deep crust–mantle boundary in the asteroid 4 Vesta

16 July 2014 - 1:00am

A deep crust–mantle boundary in the asteroid 4 Vesta

Nature 511, 7509 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13499

Authors: Harold Clenet, Martin Jutzi, Jean-Alix Barrat, Erik I. Asphaug, Willy Benz & Philippe Gillet

The asteroid 4 Vesta was recently found to have two large impact craters near its south pole, exposing subsurface material. Modelling suggested that surface material in the northern hemisphere of Vesta came from a depth of about 20 kilometres, whereas the exposed southern material comes from a depth of 60 to 100 kilometres. Large amounts of olivine from the mantle were not seen, suggesting that the outer 100 kilometres or so is mainly igneous crust. Here we analyse the data on Vesta and conclude that the crust–mantle boundary (or Moho) is deeper than 80 kilometres.

Rosetta's target is 'double' comet

15 July 2014 - 6:35pm
Europe's Rosetta probe acquires some sensational new images of its comet quarry, showing what appears to be two distinct parts in contact with each other.

New Horizons Only One Year from Pluto

15 July 2014 - 12:42am
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is only a year away from Pluto. Researchers are buzzing with anticipation as NASA prepares to encounter a new world for the first time in decades.

Venus Express:Venus Express rises again

11 July 2014 - 2:22pm
After a month surfing in and out of the atmosphere of Venus down to just 130 km from the planet's surface, ESA's Venus Express is about to embark on a 15 day climb up to the lofty heights of 460 km.

CHEOPS:CHEOPS exoplanet mission meets key milestones en route to 2017 launch

11 July 2014 - 11:59am
ESA’s first small Science Programme mission is ready for construction. The implementation phase has started, meaning that the spacecraft has gone from selection to implementation in less than 18 months.

XMM-Newton:Bizarre nearby blast mimics Universe's most ancient stars

11 July 2014 - 8:57am
ESA's XMM-Newton observatory has helped to uncover how the Universe's first stars ended their lives in giant explosions.

NASA Spacecraft Observes Further Evidence of Dry Ice Gullies on Mars

10 July 2014 - 5:00pm
Repeated high-resolution observations made by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) indicate the gullies on Mars’ surface are primarily formed by the seasonal freezing of carbon dioxide, not liquid water.

Leading Space Experts to Discuss the Search for Life Beyond Earth

10 July 2014 - 5:00pm
NASA Television will air a panel discussion of leading science and engineering experts on Monday, July 14, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EDT, who will describe the scientific and technological roadmap that will lead to the discovery of potentially habitable worlds among the stars.

Hubble Spots Spiral Bridge of Young Stars Linking Two Ancient Galaxies

10 July 2014 - 3:30pm
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed an unusual structure 100,000 light years long, which resembles a corkscrew-shaped string of pearls and winds around the cores of two colliding galaxies.

Hubble:Merging galaxies and droplets of starbirth [heic1414]

10 July 2014 - 3:00pm
The Universe is filled with objects springing to life, evolving and dying explosive deaths. This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures a snapshot of some of this cosmic movement. Embedded within the egg-shaped blue ring at the centre of the frame are two galaxies. These galaxies have been found to be merging into one and a "chain" of young stellar superclusters are seen winding around the galaxies' nuclei.

Hubble Sees Spiral Bridge of Young Stars Between Two Ancient Galaxies

10 July 2014 - 2:50pm

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It seems like our compulsive universe can be downright capricious when it comes to making oddball-looking things in the cosmos. The latest surprise to Hubble astronomers is a 100,000-light-year-long structure that looks like a string of pearls twisted into a corkscrew shape. This Slinky-like structure forms a bridge between two giant elliptical galaxies that are colliding. The "pearls" on the Slinky are superclusters of blazing, blue-white, newly born stars. The whole assembly, which looks like a tug-of-war, must result from the gravitational tidal forces present in the collision.

Rosetta: 'Spuds in space'

10 July 2014 - 2:14pm
Rosetta's comet quarry shapes up