Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Ceres' spots seen in more detail

11 June 2015 - 9:38am

The US space agency releases a new, higher-resolution picture of the brightest spots on the dwarf planet Ceres.

Sharpest View Ever of Star Formation in the Distant Universe

9 June 2015 - 10:13am
ALMA’s Long Baseline Campaign has produced a spectacular image of a distant galaxy being gravitationally lensed. The image shows a magnified view of the galaxy’s star-forming regions, the likes of which have never been seen before at this level of detail in a galaxy so remote. The new observations are far sharper than those made using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and reveal star-forming clumps in the galaxy equivalent to giant versions of the Orion Nebula in the Milky Way.

In so many words: How to ride the space-wind to the stars

5 June 2015 - 9:47am
If you want to go to another world, one of the biggest problems is how to power your space-car. One idea is to catch the light from the sun







Listening to meteorites hitting Mars will tell us what's inside

5 June 2015 - 9:46am

NASA's InSight mission may be able to use seismic waves from meteorite strikes to probe the Red Planet's interior







A new perspective on steady-state cosmology: from Einstein to Hoyle. (arXiv:1506.01651v1 [physics.hist-ph])

5 June 2015 - 9:44am

We recently reported the discovery of an unpublished manuscript by Albert Einstein in which he attempted a 'steady-state' model of the universe, i.e., a cosmic model in which the expanding universe remains essentially unchanged due to a continuous formation of matter from empty space. The manuscript was apparently written in early 1931, many years before the steady-state models of Fred Hoyle, Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold. We compare Einstein's steady-state cosmology with that of Hoyle, Bondi and Gold and consider the reasons Einstein abandoned his model. The relevance of steady-state models for today's cosmology is briefly reviewed.

Hubble studies Pluto's wobbly moons

5 June 2015 - 9:35am

Hubble reveals fascinating new details about Pluto's four smaller moons - Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra.

Three candidates for ESA's next medium-class science mission

4 June 2015 - 9:52am

Exoplanets, plasma physics and the X-ray Universe are the topics chosen by ESA to be considered for the fourth medium-class mission in its Cosmic Vision science programme, for launch in 2025.

ESA and Chinese Academy of Sciences to study SMILE as joint mission

4 June 2015 - 9:52am

European and Chinese scientists have recommended the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer as their candidate for a collaborative science mission for launch in 2021.

Hubble observes chaotic dance of Pluto's moons

4 June 2015 - 9:52am

In a new study, scientists have gathered all available NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope data on the four outer moons of Pluto to analyse the system in more depth than ever before. The observations show that at least two of Pluto's moons are not neatly rotating on their axes but are in chaotic rotation while orbiting around Pluto and its companion Charon. The study also hints that one of the moons has a mysterious jet-black colouring. These surprising results appear in the 4 June issue of the journal Nature.

Hubble Finds Two Chaotically Tumbling Pluto Moons

4 June 2015 - 9:51am

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Two of the most reliable changes in the sky are the daily rising of the sun in the east and setting of the sun in the west. But if you lived on a couple of Pluto's moons you wouldn't know when the day would begin, or even what direction the sun would rise. That's because, unlike Earth's moon, at least two of Pluto's small moons, Hydra and Nix, are tumbling chaotically through space. Why? Because they orbit inside a dynamically shifting gravitational field caused by the system's two central bodies, Pluto and Charon, that are whirling around each other. The moons are also football shaped, and this contributes to the chaotic rotation.

NASA’s Hubble Finds Pluto’s Moons Tumbling in Absolute Chaos

4 June 2015 - 9:50am
If you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.

Giant telescope in Hawaii gets go-ahead, if others shut down

4 June 2015 - 9:49am
Protests over the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea halted its progress. Now construction is back on, but three other scopes will have to close







Pluto's strange family of moons are locked in a mysterious waltz

4 June 2015 - 9:48am

Three of Pluto's four small moons are moving in step, and the fourth looks darker than the rest – creating a puzzle as to how they formed







Resonant interactions and chaotic rotation of Pluto’s small moons

4 June 2015 - 9:46am

Resonant interactions and chaotic rotation of Pluto’s small moons

Nature 522, 7554 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14469

Authors: M. R. Showalter & D. P. Hamilton

Four small moons—Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra—follow near-circular, near-equatorial orbits around the central ‘binary planet’ comprising Pluto and its large moon, Charon. New observational details of the system have emerged following the discoveries of Kerberos and Styx. Here we report that Styx, Nix and Hydra

Astronomy: Pluto leads the way in planet formation

4 June 2015 - 9:45am

Astronomy: Pluto leads the way in planet formation

Nature 522, 7554 (2015). doi:10.1038/522040a

Authors: Scott J. Kenyon

Images from the Hubble Space Telescope cast new light on the orbits, shapes and sizes of Pluto's small satellites. The analysis comes just before a planned reconnaissance by the first spacecraft to visit them. See Article p.45

Hawaii prunes Mauna Kea telescope hub

4 June 2015 - 9:41am

Hawaii prunes Mauna Kea telescope hub

Nature 522, 7554 (2015). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/522015a

Author: Alexandra Witze

Cultural fight over sacred mountain accelerates observatory closures.

To Pluto

4 June 2015 - 9:39am

To Pluto

Nature 522, 7554 (2015). doi:10.1038/522006b

The coming months promise to shed new light on the Solar System’s underworld.

Green light for Magellan super-scope

4 June 2015 - 9:28am

Construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope receives the go-ahead, leading to preliminary operations in 2021 or 2022.

Ultraviolet study reveals surprises in comet coma

3 June 2015 - 9:25am

Rosetta's continued close study of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has revealed an unexpected process at work, causing the rapid breakup of water and carbon dioxide molecules spewing from the comet’s surface.

What a Red Planet aurora might look like

2 June 2015 - 9:06am

Fancy seeing a blue light show? A simulation of the Martian atmosphere reveals what an aurora might look like to the naked eye