Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Planetary science: Prebiotic chemistry on the rocks

9 April 2015 - 9:39am

Planetary science: Prebiotic chemistry on the rocks

Nature 520, 7546 (2015). doi:10.1038/520161a

Authors: Geoffrey A. Blake & Edwin A. Bergin

Organic compounds called nitriles have been detected in material surrounding a young star. The finding hints at a vast reservoir of ice and volatile species that can seed the surfaces of young rocky planets or moons. See Letter p.198

Lunar affairs

9 April 2015 - 9:32am

Lunar affairs

Nature 520, 7546 (2015). doi:10.1038/520132a

A study in Nature adds a dramatic twist to the backstory of a neighbour we thought we knew.

Riddles of Moon's origin resolved

9 April 2015 - 9:15am

Three new studies resolve some of the inconsistencies in our understanding of the Moon's birth, including the violent impact that started the process.

Einstein puts a ring on distant galaxy

8 April 2015 - 9:13am

The effects of general relativity, which celebrates its centenary this year, distorted light to create this beautiful ring-like image of a distant galaxy

NASA Extends Campaign for Public to Name Features on Pluto

7 April 2015 - 9:51am

The public has until Friday, April 24 to help name new features on Pluto and its orbiting satellites as they are discovered by NASA’s New Horizons mission.

Hubble Finds Phantom Objects Near Dead Quasars

3 April 2015 - 8:12am

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In 2007, Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel discovered a never-before-seen ghostly structure near a galaxy, while she was participating in an online amateur scientist project called Galaxy Zoo. The galaxy hosts a bright quasar that may have illuminated the apparition by hitting it with a beam of light from hot gas around a central black hole. Astronomers eagerly used the Hubble Space Telescope to do follow-up observations, which revealed knots of dust and gas in the "greenish blob." Assuming that this feature could offer insights into the puzzling behavior of active galaxies, Bill Keel of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, initiated a search for other similar phenomenon. After all, where there's one strange blob there could be more. Keel had 200 volunteers look at archival data of 15,000 galaxies hosting quasars. In the end, he found eight other galaxies with bright active nuclei that have illuminated material far outside the radius of the galaxy. The eerie structures have looping, spiral, and braided shapes. Hubble's images show that they are like the remnants of galaxy collisions.

Join Hubble scientists for a live Hubble Hangout discussion at 3pm EDT on Thurs., April 2, to learn even more. Visit: .

Hubble finds ghosts of quasars past [heic1507]

3 April 2015 - 8:09am

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has imaged a set of enigmatic quasar ghosts – ethereal green objects which mark the graves of these objects that flickered to life and then faded. The eight unusual looped structures orbit their host galaxies and glow in a bright and eerie goblin-green hue. They offer new insights into the turbulent pasts of these galaxies.

Mars beckons for European satellite

3 April 2015 - 8:02am

The satellite Europe will be sending to Mars early next year enters its final test programme.

Star's birth glimpsed 'in real time'

3 April 2015 - 8:00am

Astronomers witness a key stage in the birth of a very heavy star, using two radio telescope views of the process taken 18 years apart.

Our Solar System and Beyond: NASA’s Search for Water and Habitable Planets

2 April 2015 - 9:56am

NASA Television will air an event from 1 – 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, April 7, featuring leading science and engineering experts discussing the recent discoveries of water and organics in our solar system, the role our sun plays in water-loss in neighboring planets, and our search for habitable worlds among the stars.

Dark energy could signal collapse of the universe

2 April 2015 - 9:53am

The dark energy thought to be behind the accelerating expansion of space since the big bang might also trigger the universe's demise – in a big crunch

Planet heating prevents inward migration of planetary cores

2 April 2015 - 9:52am

Planet heating prevents inward migration of planetary cores

Nature 520, 7545 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14277

Authors: Pablo Benítez-Llambay, Frédéric Masset, Gloria Koenigsberger & Judit Szulágyi

Planetary systems are born in the disks of gas, dust and rocky fragments that surround newly formed stars. Solid content assembles into ever-larger rocky fragments that eventually become planetary embryos. These then continue their growth by accreting leftover material in the disk. Concurrently, tidal effects

Planetary science: Preventing stars from eating their young

2 April 2015 - 9:51am

Planetary science: Preventing stars from eating their young

Nature 520, 7545 (2015). doi:10.1038/520040a

Authors: Martin J. Duncan

Researchers have found a mechanism that prevents newly forming giant-planet cores from spiralling in towards their parent stars. The result may explain why planets such as Saturn and Jupiter are where they are today. See Letter p.63

Astrophysics: Zapped plasma emits sounds

2 April 2015 - 9:48am

Astrophysics: Zapped plasma emits sounds

Nature 520, 7545 (2015). doi:10.1038/520009e

Sound waves could be ringing across the surfaces of stars.A team led by Ravindra Kumar of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, zapped a hot, dense cloud of plasma with an ultrafast laser and found that the rapid heating of the

Herschel and Planck find missing clue to galaxy cluster formation

1 April 2015 - 9:26am

By combining observations of the distant Universe made with ESA's Herschel and Planck space observatories, cosmologists have discovered what could be the precursors of the vast clusters of galaxies that we see today.

Extended deadline: abstracts for talks and posters at the National Astronomy Mee...

1 April 2015 - 9:26am
Extended deadline: abstracts for talks and posters at the National Astronomy Meeting 2015 are now due by 14 April.

Priority for talks will be given to those submitted by 1 April (the original deadline). Present your latest results to the community in Llandudno!

Curiosity Sniffs Out History of Martian Atmosphere

1 April 2015 - 9:25am

NASA's Curiosity rover is using a new experiment to better understand the history of the Martian atmosphere by analyzing xenon.

Is this ET? Mystery of strange radio bursts from space

1 April 2015 - 9:24am

Mysterious radio wave flashes from far outside the galaxy are proving tough for astronomers to explain. Is it pulsars? A spy satellite? Or an alien message?

The moon's got two tails - and its friends might too

1 April 2015 - 9:22am

The man in the moon wears a tailcoat. The discovery of a second stream of particles from the moon's dark side suggests a way to probe alien worlds from afar

BepiColombo launch moved to 2017

31 March 2015 - 9:06am

The launch of BepiColombo, an ESA mission to explore the planet Mercury in collaboration with the Japanese space agency, JAXA, is now planned to take place during a one month long window starting on 27 January 2017.