Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Laboratory confirmation of C60+ as the carrier of two diffuse interstellar bands

16 July 2015 - 9:20am

Laboratory confirmation of C60+ as the carrier of two diffuse interstellar bands

Nature 523, 7560 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14566

Authors: E. K. Campbell, M. Holz, D. Gerlich & J. P. Maier

The diffuse interstellar bands are absorption lines seen towards reddened stars. None of the molecules responsible for these bands have been conclusively identified. Two bands at 9,632 ångströms and 9,577 ångströms were reported in 1994, and were suggested to arise from C60+ molecules (ref. 3), on the basis of the proximity of these wavelengths to the absorption bands of C60+ measured in a neon matrix. Confirmation of this assignment requires the gas-phase spectrum of C60+. Here we report laboratory spectroscopy of C60+ in the gas phase, cooled to 5.8 kelvin. The absorption spectrum has maxima at 9,632.7 ± 0.1 ångströms and 9,577.5 ± 0.1 ångströms, and the full widths at half-maximum of these bands are 2.2 ± 0.2 ångströms and 2.5 ± 0.2 ångströms, respectively. We conclude that we have positively identified the diffuse interstellar bands at 9,632 ångströms and 9,577 ångströms as arising from C60+ in the interstellar medium.

Rapidly rotating second-generation progenitors for the ‘blue hook’ stars of ω Centauri

16 July 2015 - 9:20am

Rapidly rotating second-generation progenitors for the ‘blue hook’ stars of ω Centauri

Nature 523, 7560 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14516

Authors: Marco Tailo, Francesca D’Antona, Enrico Vesperini, Marcella Di Criscienzo, Paolo Ventura, Antonino P. Milone, Andrea Bellini, Aaron Dotter, Thibaut Decressin, Annibale D’Ercole, Vittoria Caloi & Roberto Capuzzo-Dolcetta

Horizontal branch stars belong to an advanced stage in the evolution of the oldest stellar galactic population, occurring either as field halo stars or grouped in globular clusters. The discovery of multiple populations in clusters that were previously believed to have single populations gave rise to the currently accepted theory that the hottest horizontal branch members (the ‘blue hook’ stars, which had late helium-core flash ignition, followed by deep mixing) are the progeny of a helium-rich ‘second generation’ of stars. It is not known why such a supposedly rare event (a late flash followed by mixing) is so common that the blue hook of ω Centauri contains approximately 30 per cent of the horizontal branch stars in the cluster, or why the blue hook luminosity range in this massive cluster cannot be reproduced by models. Here we report that the presence of helium core masses up to about 0.04 solar masses larger than the core mass resulting from evolution is required to solve the luminosity range problem. We model this by taking into account the dispersion in rotation rates achieved by the progenitors, whose pre-main-sequence accretion disk suffered an early disruption in the dense environment of the cluster’s central regions, where second-generation stars form. Rotation may also account for frequent late-flash–mixing events in massive globular clusters.

Astrochemistry: Fullerene solves an interstellar puzzle

16 July 2015 - 9:19am

Astrochemistry: Fullerene solves an interstellar puzzle

Nature 523, 7560 (2015). doi:10.1038/523296a

Authors: Pascale Ehrenfreund & Bernard Foing

Laboratory measurements confirm that a 'buckyball' ion is responsible for two near-infrared absorption features found in spectra of the interstellar medium, casting light on a century-old astrochemical mystery. See Letter p.322

VIDEO: Stephen Hawking on Pluto mission

16 July 2015 - 9:16am

Stephen Hawking has congratulated the New Horizons team and NASA for their successful mission to the dwarf planet Pluto.

Nasa releases historic Pluto images

16 July 2015 - 9:15am

Nasa has presented the first images acquired by the New Horizons probe during its historic flyby of Pluto.

VIDEO: What do new Pluto images reveal?

16 July 2015 - 9:14am

Pluto has mountains made of ice that are as high as those in the Rockies, images from the New Horizons probe have revealed.

VIDEO: Pluto revelations 'not what we expected'

16 July 2015 - 9:14am

Pluto has mountains made of ice that are as high as those in the Rockies, images from the New Horizons probe have revealed.

Cluster solves the mystery of equatorial noise

15 July 2015 - 10:10am

ESA's Cluster mission has solved a mystery which puzzled scientists for almost half a century. Data sent back by two of the spacecraft have revealed for the first time the physical mechanism behind the generation of "noisy" waves in near-Earth space.

NASA's Three-Billion-Mile Journey to Pluto Reaches Historic Encounter

15 July 2015 - 10:07am
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is at Pluto. After a decade-long journey through our solar system, New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto Tuesday, about 7,750 miles above the surface -- roughly the same distance from New York to Mumbai, India – making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth.

NASA's New Horizons ‘Phones Home’ Safe after Pluto Flyby

15 July 2015 - 10:04am
The call everyone was waiting for is in. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft phoned home just before 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday to tell the mission team and the world it had accomplished the historic first-ever flyby of Pluto.

Hadron Collider discovers new particle

15 July 2015 - 9:28am

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider have announced the discovery of a new particle called the pentaquark.

VIDEO: Probe's photo of dwarf planet Pluto

15 July 2015 - 9:28am

The New Horizons probe has reached Pluto after a 10 year journey of three billion miles (4.8 billion km).

VIDEO: Pluto probe makes contact

15 July 2015 - 9:28am

A signal has been received from the New Horizons probe, which soared past Pluto on Tuesday.

Space Coffee

13 July 2015 - 9:22am
Advances in the understanding of how fluids behave in low gravity is a key to an excellent cup of coffee in space.

Destination Pluto: Countdown to the historic New Horizons fly-by

13 July 2015 - 9:21am

The latest images of Pluto, a checklist of mysteries waiting to be solved. And New Scientist will be covering all the action – live from mission control

VIDEO: Why is Pluto not a planet?

13 July 2015 - 9:11am

As Nasa's New Horizons probe gets ready to flyby Pluto on Tuesday, the Royal Observatory's Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula looks at one of the most divisive issues in modern science - Pluto's reclassification to a "dwarf planet".

VIDEO: New Horizons on course for Pluto flyby

13 July 2015 - 9:11am

Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft is due to flyby Pluto on Tuesday and scientists are expecting it to send back the clearest ever images of the distant dwarf planet.

New Horizons set for Pluto flyby

13 July 2015 - 9:10am

Engineers say the New Horizons spacecraft is in great shape for its historic flyby of Pluto on Tuesday.

New Tool for Astronomers – Second Planck Catalogue of Compact Sources Released

10 July 2015 - 9:49am

ESA's Planck mission is the source for a new catalogue, eagerly awaited by the scientific community, and available online from today. The Second Planck Catalogue of Compact Sources uses data from the entire mission to identify tens of thousands of compact sources, as well as providing polarisation data for several hundred of them. The new catalogue surpasses its predecessors not only in the quantity of sources but also in the quality of data. It will be an asset to astronomers working in a wide range of fields.

Huge New Survey to Shine Light on Dark Matter

10 July 2015 - 9:47am
The first results have been released from a major new dark matter survey of the southern skies using ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The VST KiDS survey will allow astronomers to make precise measurements of dark matter, the structure of galaxy halos, and the evolution of galaxies and clusters. The first KiDS results show how the characteristics of the observed galaxies are determined by the invisible vast clumps of dark matter surrounding them.