Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

NASA’s Hubble Finds Supernova Star System Linked to Potential “Zombie Star”

6 August 2014 - 5:00pm
Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers has spotted a star system that could have left behind a “zombie star” after an unusually weak supernova explosion.

Saturn moon may host its own Dead Sea

6 August 2014 - 3:27pm
A lab model of hydrocarbon lakes on Titan shows the liquids may be saturated with benzene, with underground cave networks carved out of its deposits

Rosetta:Rosetta arrives at comet destination

6 August 2014 - 2:34pm
After a decade-long journey chasing its target, ESA’s Rosetta has today become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, opening a new chapter in Solar System exploration.

Rosetta arrives – and sends images of 'superstar comet'

6 August 2014 - 2:02pm
After a 10-year journey, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe has reached comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and sent back tantalising photos

Triangulum Galaxy Snapped by VST

6 August 2014 - 11:00am
The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has captured a beautifully detailed image of the galaxy Messier 33. This nearby spiral, the second closest large galaxy to our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is packed with bright star clusters, and clouds of gas and dust. The new picture is amongst the most detailed wide-field views of this object ever taken and shows the many glowing red gas clouds in the spiral arms with particular clarity.

Can we overcome our dread of comets?

6 August 2014 - 1:41am
Will the Rosetta mission finally end our fear of comets?

Astronomy: Fresh look at Galactic rim

6 August 2014 - 1:00am

Astronomy: Fresh look at Galactic rim

Nature 512, 7512 (2014). doi:10.1038/512008b

A survey has provided the most detailed look yet at a mysterious ring of stars at the fringes of the Milky Way.Using data from the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii, Colin Slater and Eric Bell at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and their

Astrophysics: Best gauge of exoplanet size

6 August 2014 - 1:00am

Astrophysics: Best gauge of exoplanet size

Nature 512, 7512 (2014). doi:10.1038/512009b

Astronomers have made the most precise measurement so far of an exoplanet's size — for Kepler-93b, which orbits a star around 100 parsecs away.Sarah Ballard at the University of Washington in Seattle and her colleagues estimated the planet's diameter at about 18,800 kilometres (1.48

Astrophysics: Novae join the γ-ray generators

6 August 2014 - 1:00am

Astrophysics: Novae join the γ-ray generators

Nature 512, 7512 (2014). doi:10.1038/512009c

Astronomers have identified a previously unknown source of cosmic γ-radiation.High-energy γ-rays are released in extremely energetic events such as pulsars and supernovae. But they were thought to be unlikely products of classical novae: explosions that occur on the surfaces of compact, burnt-out stars called

Astrophysics: Portrait of a doomed star

6 August 2014 - 1:00am

Astrophysics: Portrait of a doomed star

Nature 512, 7512 (2014). doi:10.1038/512034a

Authors: Stephen Justham

Some stars explode in thermonuclear supernovae, but understanding of why this occurs comes mainly from indirect clues. Now, the progenitor of a member of a strange class of such explosions may have been detected directly. See Letterp.54

A luminous, blue progenitor system for the type Iax supernova 2012Z

6 August 2014 - 1:00am

A luminous, blue progenitor system for the type Iax supernova 2012Z

Nature 512, 7512 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13615

Authors: Curtis McCully, Saurabh W. Jha, Ryan J. Foley, Lars Bildsten, Wen-fai Fong, Robert P. Kirshner, G. H. Marion, Adam G. Riess & Maximilian D. Stritzinger

Type Iax supernovae are stellar explosions that are spectroscopically similar to some type Ia supernovae at the time of maximum light emission, except with lower ejecta velocities. They are also distinguished by lower luminosities. At late times, their spectroscopic properties diverge from those of other supernovae, but their composition (dominated by iron-group and intermediate-mass elements) suggests a physical connection to normal type Ia supernovae. Supernovae of type Iax are not rare; they occur at a rate between 5 and 30 per cent of the normal type Ia rate. The leading models for type Iax supernovae are thermonuclear explosions of accreting carbon–oxygen white dwarfs that do not completely unbind the star, implying that they are ‘less successful’ versions of normal type Ia supernovae, where complete stellar disruption is observed. Here we report the detection of the luminous, blue progenitor system of the type Iax SN 2012Z in deep pre-explosion imaging. The progenitor system's luminosity, colours, environment and similarity to the progenitor of the Galactic helium nova V445 Puppis suggest that SN 2012Z was the explosion of a white dwarf accreting material from a helium-star companion. Observations over the next few years, after SN 2012Z has faded, will either confirm this hypothesis or perhaps show that this supernova was actually the explosive death of a massive star.

Comets up close

5 August 2014 - 6:08pm
Rosetta's visit to comet 67P breaks new ground, but we have seen five others from close range in the past

Rosetta probe set to catch comet

5 August 2014 - 6:04pm
Europe's long travelling satellite is set to rendezvous with one of the strangest objects in the solar system.

Binary star to spill celestial secrets

5 August 2014 - 1:00am

Binary star to spill celestial secrets

Nature 512, 7512 (2014).

Author: Alexandra Witze

Close approach and violent interaction of stars in η Carinae system will provide rare insight into stellar enigma.

Rosetta:Rosetta arrives at comet 67P/C-G - follow the event live

4 August 2014 - 4:26pm
On 6 August, after a decade-long journey through space, ESA’s Rosetta will become the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet. Follow the event marking this momentous occasion at ESA's Spacecraft Operations Centre at Darmstadt, Germany.

Amazing New Photo of Rosetta Comet

2 August 2014 - 8:52pm
As the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft closes to within 1000 km of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the Rosetta science team has released a new image and made the first temperature measurements of the comet's core. The temperature data show that 67P is too hot to be covered in ice and must instead have a dark, dusty crust.

Rosetta:Rosetta takes comet's temperature

1 August 2014 - 1:33pm
ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has made its first temperature measurements of its target comet, finding that it is too hot to be covered in ice and must instead have a dark, dusty crust.

Comet mission must not keep space fans in the dark

31 July 2014 - 5:57pm
The European Space Agency should change tack and not sit on pictures from a pioneering mission to a comet, says space science writer Daniel Fischer

NASA's Fermi Space Telescope Reveals New Source of Gamma Rays

31 July 2014 - 5:00pm
Observations by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope of several stellar eruptions, called novae, firmly establish these relatively common outbursts almost always produce gamma rays, the most energetic form of light.

Hubble Shows Farthest Lensing Galaxy Yields Clues to Early Universe

31 July 2014 - 5:00pm
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have unexpectedly discovered the most distant galaxy that acts as a cosmic magnifying glass.