Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Mars’s surface hosts millions of towering dust devils every day

9 August 2017 - 9:11am

The Red Planet has 10 times as many dust devils as we thought, which stir up dust that warms the planet and could be dangerous for future Mars explorers

New sky survey shows that dark energy may one day tear us apart

8 August 2017 - 9:09am

The best cosmic map yet of the universe’s make-up finds 24 per cent less dark matter than we thought and could call for a rewrite of physics

Giant loner asteroids suggest baby planets formed quickly

4 August 2017 - 9:11am

The oldest intact asteroids hint that planets didn’t grow by slowly gathering small space rocks, but came from rapidly collapsing dust

An ultrahot gas-giant exoplanet with a stratosphere

3 August 2017 - 9:10am
Infrared radiation emitted from a planet contains information about the chemical composition and vertical temperature profile of its atmosphere. If upper layers are cooler than lower layers, molecular gases will produce absorption features in the planetary thermal spectrum. Conversely, if there is a stratosphere—where temperature increases with altitude—these molecular features will be observed in emission. It has been suggested that stratospheres could form in highly irradiated exoplanets, but the extent to which this occurs is unresolved both theoretically and observationally. A previous claim for the presence of a stratosphere remains open to question, owing to the challenges posed by the highly variable host star and the low spectral resolution of the measurements. Here we report a near-infrared thermal spectrum for the ultrahot gas giant WASP-121b, which has an equilibrium temperature of approximately 2,500 kelvin. Water is resolved in emission, providing a detection of an exoplanet stratosphere at 5σ confidence. These observations imply that a substantial fraction of incident stellar radiation is retained at high altitudes in the atmosphere, possibly by absorbing chemical species such as gaseous vanadium oxide and titanium oxide.

Astronomy: Ozone-like layer in an exoplanet atmosphere

3 August 2017 - 9:10am
The nature of exoplanetary atmospheres is hotly debated. The thermal spectrum of an exoplanet called a hot Jupiter reveals the presence of an analogue of Earth's ozone layer, although its composition is unknown. See Letter p.58

Exomoon candidate, fake peer review and a telescope problem

3 August 2017 - 9:09am
The week in science: 28 July–3 August 2017.

Enormous exoplanet has an atmosphere hot enough to boil iron

3 August 2017 - 9:07am

A planet nearly double the size of Jupiter and 900 light years away has a glowing stratosphere and an atmosphere hot enough that iron there exists as a vapour

Cutting-edge Adaptive Optics Facility Sees First Light

3 August 2017 - 9:06am
The Unit Telescope 4 (Yepun) of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has now been transformed into a fully adaptive telescope. After more than a decade of planning, construction and testing, the new Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) has seen first light with the instrument MUSE, capturing amazingly sharp views of planetary nebulae and galaxies. The coupling of the AOF and MUSE forms one of the most advanced and powerful technological systems ever built for ground-based astronomy.

Fast radio bursts may be dark matter ‘stars’ hitting black holes

2 August 2017 - 9:01am

The mysterious FRBs we’ve been tracking for a decade could be created by clumps of dark matter particles dancing along the edges of black holes

An Earth-like Atmosphere May Not Survive Proxima b’s Orbit

2 August 2017 - 9:00am
Portal origin URL: An Earth-like Atmosphere May Not Survive Proxima b’s OrbitPortal origin nid: 406545Published: Monday, July 31, 2017 - 13:11Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: An Earth-like planet outside the solar system may not be able to keep a grip on its atmosphere, leaving the surface exposed to harmful stellar radiation and reducing its potential for habitability.Portal image: Artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima CentauriScience Categories: Sun

ESA, NASA’s SOHO Reveals Rapidly Rotating Solar Core

2 August 2017 - 9:00am
Portal origin URL: ESA, NASA’s SOHO Reveals Rapidly Rotating Solar CorePortal origin nid: 406593Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 09:29Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: After four decades of searching, solar scientists have at long last found evidence of a type of seismic wave in our Sun, thanks to ESA and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO.Portal image: illustration of SOHO and a cross-section of the SunScience Categories: Sun

The Hunt for Asteroids

2 August 2017 - 9:00am
Video Length: 3:19

NASA is hunting for Near-Earth Objects, while also working on ways to defend Earth against them.

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Video Links: The Hunt for Asteroids - mp4YouTubeVimeo

NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Still Reaching for the Stars After 40 Years

2 August 2017 - 8:59am
Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.

Gravity waves detected in Sun's interior reveal rapidly rotating core

2 August 2017 - 8:58am

Scientists using the ESA/NASA SOHO solar observatory have found long-sought gravity modes of seismic vibration that imply the Sun's core is rotating four times faster than its surface.

Not just stars

2 August 2017 - 8:57am

The shortlisted images in this year's Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year have now been selected.

Building blocks of alien cells found on Saturn’s largest moon

31 July 2017 - 9:13am

The discovery of two compounds that could help make cells only adds to Titan’s image as the most promising place in our solar system to look for alien life

NASA Selects Proposals to Study Sun, Space Environment

31 July 2017 - 9:12am
NASA has selected nine proposals under its Explorers Program that will return transformational science about the Sun and space environment and fill science gaps between the agency’s larger missions; eight for focused scientific investigations and one for technological development of instrumentation.