Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Microwave oven blamed for radio-telescope signals

14 May 2015 - 10:08am

Microwave oven blamed for radio-telescope signals

Nature 521, 7551 (2015). doi:10.1038/521129f

Author: Chris Woolston

Studies about mysterious signals and super-strong spider silk triggered online chatter.

Astrophysics: Farthest galaxy measured

14 May 2015 - 10:08am

Astrophysics: Farthest galaxy measured

Nature 521, 7551 (2015). doi:10.1038/521129b

Astronomers have observed a distant galaxy as it looked just 650 million years after the Big Bang, making it the farthest galaxy to have its distance reliably measured.Pascal Oesch at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and his colleagues used a telescope at the

Probe spies Pluto's faint moons

14 May 2015 - 9:52am

The New Horizons probe, heading for its historic flyby of Pluto in July, has now caught sight of all the known faint moons of the dwarf planet.

NASA Research Reveals Europa's Mystery Dark Material Could Be Sea Salt

13 May 2015 - 10:13am
NASA experiments suggest the dark material coating some geological features of Jupiter's moon Europa is likely sea salt from a subsurface ocean, discolored by exposure to radiation. Sea salt on Europa's surface suggests the ocean is interacting with its seafloor - an important consideration in determining whether the icy moon could support life.

Mars volcanoes launch dust storms like a skate ramp

13 May 2015 - 10:12am
Weird dust storms on Mars suggest that massive volcano Olympus Mons is the solar system's sickest half-pipe







The election results are in: the next President of the RAS will be Prof. John Za...

12 May 2015 - 10:31am
The election results are in: the next President of the RAS will be Prof. John Zarnecki!

New vice-presidents are Don Kurtz and Christine Peirce, whilst new Councillors are Joanna Barstow, Mike Bode, Caitriona Jackman, Sara Russell and Stephen Serjeant.

http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2630-election-results-2015-new-president-and-council


Election results 2015: new President and Council
www.ras.org.uk
The results of the 2015 RAS elections were announced at the Annual General Meeting of the society on 8 May. The following Fellows were elected to serve on Council, the governing body of the society:

Auroras on Mars

12 May 2015 - 10:31am
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has detected widespread auroras on Mars.

Millions of missing galaxies found hiding in plain sight

12 May 2015 - 10:30am

A type of galaxy thought to be all but extinct has turned up in our own backyard in the same abundance as in the early universe







Supernova blast shows stars die in lopsided explosions

11 May 2015 - 10:08am

A closer look at a supernova confirms simulations that an asymmetric explosion is required to trigger stellar death







Hubble Finds Giant Halo Around the Andromeda Galaxy

8 May 2015 - 10:08am

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The Andromeda galaxy is our Milky Way's nearest neighbor in space. The majestic spiral of over 100 billion stars is comparable in size to our home galaxy. At a distance of 2.5 million light-years, it is so close to us the galaxy can be seen as a cigar-shaped smudge of light high in the autumn sky. But if you could see the huge bubble of hot, diffuse plasma surrounding it, it would appear 100 times the angular diameter of the full Moon! The gargantuan halo is estimated to contain half the mass of the stars in the Andromeda galaxy itself. It can be thought of as the "atmosphere" of a galaxy. Astronomers using Hubble identified the gas in Andromeda's halo by measuring how it filtered the light of distant bright background objects called quasars. It is akin to seeing the glow of a flashlight shining through a fog. This finding promises to tell astronomers more about the evolution and structure of one of the most common types of galaxies in the universe.

Mercury's magnetic heart was beating soon after its birth

8 May 2015 - 10:07am
The planet's molten core became magnetic nearly 4 billion years ago – potentially making Mercury's magnetic field the most enduring in our solar system







Send your drawing into space with CHEOPS

7 May 2015 - 10:30am

Do you want to send your art into space on the new CHEOPS satellite? ESA and its mission partners are inviting children to submit drawings that will be miniaturised and engraved on two plaques that will be put on the satellite.

Curtain eruptions from Enceladus’ south-polar terrain

7 May 2015 - 10:15am

Curtain eruptions from Enceladus’ south-polar terrain

Nature 521, 7550 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14368

Authors: Joseph N. Spitale, Terry A. Hurford, Alyssa R. Rhoden, Emily E. Berkson & Symeon S. Platts

Observations of the south pole of the Saturnian moon Enceladus revealed large rifts in the south-polar terrain, informally called ‘tiger stripes’, named Alexandria, Baghdad, Cairo and Damascus Sulci. These fractures have been shown to be the sources of the observed jets of water vapour and icy particles and to exhibit higher temperatures than the surrounding terrain. Subsequent observations have focused on obtaining close-up imaging of this region to better characterize these emissions. Recent work examined those newer data sets and used triangulation of discrete jets to produce maps of jetting activity at various times. Here we show that much of the eruptive activity can be explained by broad, curtain-like eruptions. Optical illusions in the curtain eruptions resulting from a combination of viewing direction and local fracture geometry produce image features that were probably misinterpreted previously as discrete jets. We present maps of the total emission along the fractures, rather than just the jet-like component, for five times during an approximately one-year period in 2009 and 2010. An accurate picture of the style, timing and spatial distribution of the south-polar eruptions is crucial to evaluating theories for the mechanism controlling the eruptions.

An extremely young massive clump forming by gravitational collapse in a primordial galaxy

7 May 2015 - 10:15am

An extremely young massive clump forming by gravitational collapse in a primordial galaxy

Nature 521, 7550 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14409

Authors: A. Zanella, E. Daddi, E. Le Floc’h, F. Bournaud, R. Gobat, F. Valentino, V. Strazzullo, A. Cibinel, M. Onodera, V. Perret, F. Renaud & C. Vignali

When cosmic star formation history reaches a peak (at about redshift z ≈ 2), galaxies vigorously fed by cosmic reservoirs are dominated by gas and contain massive star-forming clumps, which are thought to form by violent gravitational instabilities in highly turbulent gas-rich disks. However, a clump formation event has not yet been observed, and it is debated whether clumps can survive energetic feedback from young stars, and afterwards migrate inwards to form galaxy bulges. Here we report the spatially resolved spectroscopy of a bright off-nuclear emission line region in a galaxy at z = 1.987. Although this region dominates star formation in the galaxy disk, its stellar continuum remains undetected in deep imaging, revealing an extremely young (less than ten million years old) massive clump, forming through the gravitational collapse of more than one billion solar masses of gas. Gas consumption in this young clump is more than tenfold faster than in the host galaxy, displaying high star-formation efficiency during this phase, in agreement with our hydrodynamic simulations. The frequency of older clumps with similar masses, coupled with our initial estimate of their formation rate (about 2.5 per billion years), supports long lifetimes (about 500 million years), favouring models in which clumps survive feedback and grow the bulges of present-day galaxies.

Mysterious galactic signal points LHC to dark matter

7 May 2015 - 10:12am

Mysterious galactic signal points LHC to dark matter

Nature 521, 7550 (2015). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/521017a

Author: Davide Castelvecchi

High-energy particles at centre of Milky Way now within scope of Large Hadron Collider.

Pluto-bound craft hunts for hazardous moons

7 May 2015 - 10:12am

Pluto-bound craft hunts for hazardous moons

Nature 521, 7550 (2015). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/521014a

Author: Alexandra Witze

Unknown satellites pose danger to New Horizons mission as it journeys to the edge of the Solar System.