Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

New alien world has longest year

22 July 2014 - 12:04pm
Astronomers in the US have discovered a distant world with the longest year of any planet outside our Solar System.

Hubble:Hubble traces the halo of a galaxy more accurately than ever before [heic1415]

21 July 2014 - 4:44pm
Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have probed the extreme outskirts of the stunning elliptical galaxy Centaurus A. The galaxy's halo of stars has been found to extend much further from the galaxy's centre than expected and the stars within this halo seem to be surprisingly rich in heavy elements. This is the most remote portion of an elliptical galaxy ever to have been explored.

Galaxy mapper's first discovery: surprise space debris

21 July 2014 - 3:57pm
The Gaia satellite is being hit by far more micrometeoroids than anticipated, which might spell trouble for spacecraft headed to the same orbital position

Velocity anti-correlation of diametrically opposed galaxy satellites in the low-redshift Universe

20 July 2014 - 1:00am

Velocity anti-correlation of diametrically opposed galaxy satellites in the low-redshift Universe

Nature 511, 7511 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13481

Authors: Neil G. Ibata, Rodrigo A. Ibata, Benoit Famaey & Geraint F. Lewis

Recent work has shown that the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies both possess the unexpected property that their dwarf satellite galaxies are aligned in thin and kinematically coherent planar structures. It is interesting to evaluate the incidence of such planar structures in the larger galactic population, because the Local Group may not be a representative environment. Here we report measurements of the velocities of pairs of diametrically opposed satellite galaxies. In the local Universe (redshift z < 0.05), we find that satellite pairs out to a distance of 150 kiloparsecs from the galactic centre are preferentially anti-correlated in their velocities (99.994 per cent confidence level), and that the distribution of galaxies in the larger-scale environment (out to distances of about 2 megaparsecs) is strongly clumped along the axis joining the inner satellite pair (>7σ confidence). This may indicate that planes of co-rotating satellites, similar to those seen around the Andromeda galaxy, are ubiquitous, and their coherent motion suggests that they represent a substantial repository of angular momentum on scales of about 100 kiloparsecs.

Rosetta Comet May Be a Contact Binary

17 July 2014 - 7:05pm
New images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the target of ESA's Rosetta probe, show that 67P is no ordinary comet.

UK space shot's tribute to Newton

17 July 2014 - 5:41pm
British astronaut Tim Peake has picked "Principia" to be the name of his mission into space next year.

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.