Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Leading Space Experts to Discuss the Search for Life Beyond Earth

10 July 2014 - 5:00pm
NASA Television will air a panel discussion of leading science and engineering experts on Monday, July 14, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EDT, who will describe the scientific and technological roadmap that will lead to the discovery of potentially habitable worlds among the stars.

Hubble Spots Spiral Bridge of Young Stars Linking Two Ancient Galaxies

10 July 2014 - 3:30pm
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed an unusual structure 100,000 light years long, which resembles a corkscrew-shaped string of pearls and winds around the cores of two colliding galaxies.

Hubble:Merging galaxies and droplets of starbirth [heic1414]

10 July 2014 - 3:00pm
The Universe is filled with objects springing to life, evolving and dying explosive deaths. This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures a snapshot of some of this cosmic movement. Embedded within the egg-shaped blue ring at the centre of the frame are two galaxies. These galaxies have been found to be merging into one and a "chain" of young stellar superclusters are seen winding around the galaxies' nuclei.

Hubble Sees Spiral Bridge of Young Stars Between Two Ancient Galaxies

10 July 2014 - 2:50pm

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It seems like our compulsive universe can be downright capricious when it comes to making oddball-looking things in the cosmos. The latest surprise to Hubble astronomers is a 100,000-light-year-long structure that looks like a string of pearls twisted into a corkscrew shape. This Slinky-like structure forms a bridge between two giant elliptical galaxies that are colliding. The "pearls" on the Slinky are superclusters of blazing, blue-white, newly born stars. The whole assembly, which looks like a tug-of-war, must result from the gravitational tidal forces present in the collision.

Rosetta: 'Spuds in space'

10 July 2014 - 2:14pm
Rosetta's comet quarry shapes up

Rosetta:The three faces of Rosetta's comet

10 July 2014 - 2:13pm
What a difference a week can make. Even in the six days since the last image, the shape of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is becoming much more apparent, although still heavily pixelated.

Exoplanet names will be put to public vote

10 July 2014 - 12:51pm
The international group that names cosmic bodies is crowd-sourcing names for exoplanets – but will you be able to name a planet Alderaan or Westeros?

VLT Clears Up Dusty Mystery

9 July 2014 - 6:00pm
A group of astronomers has been able to follow stardust being made in real time — during the aftermath of a supernova explosion. For the first time they show that these cosmic dust factories make their grains in a two-stage process, starting soon after the explosion, but continuing for years afterwards. The team used ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in northern Chile to analyse the light from the supernova SN2010jl as it slowly faded. The new results are published online in the journal Nature on 9 July 2014.

Astrophysics: Survival of the largest

9 July 2014 - 1:00am

Astrophysics: Survival of the largest

Nature 511, 7509 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13640

Authors: Haley Gomez

Whether supernovae create most of the dust in the cosmos is a controversial question. Observations of a distant supernova have revealed signs of freshly formed dust, but the properties of the dust are unexpected. See Letter p.326

Rapid formation of large dust grains in the luminous supernova 2010jl

9 July 2014 - 1:00am

Rapid formation of large dust grains in the luminous supernova 2010jl

Nature 511, 7509 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13558

Authors: Christa Gall, Jens Hjorth, Darach Watson, Eli Dwek, Justyn R. Maund, Ori Fox, Giorgos Leloudas, Daniele Malesani & Avril C. Day-Jones

The origin of dust in galaxies is still a mystery. The majority of the refractory elements are produced in supernova explosions, but it is unclear how and where dust grains condense and grow, and how they avoid destruction in the harsh environments of star-forming galaxies. The recent detection of 0.1 to 0.5 solar masses of dust in nearby supernova remnants suggests in situ dust formation, while other observations reveal very little dust in supernovae in the first few years after explosion. Observations of the spectral evolution of the bright SN 2010jl have been interpreted as pre-existing dust, dust formation or no dust at all. Here we report the rapid (40 to 240 days) formation of dust in its dense circumstellar medium. The wavelength-dependent extinction of this dust reveals the presence of very large (exceeding one micrometre) grains, which resist destruction. At later times (500 to 900 days), the near-infrared thermal emission shows an accelerated growth in dust mass, marking the transition of the dust source from the circumstellar medium to the ejecta. This provides the link between the early and late dust mass evolution in supernovae with dense circumstellar media.

Planetary Science: Hit-and-run origin for Mercury

9 July 2014 - 1:00am

Planetary Science: Hit-and-run origin for Mercury

Nature 511, 7508 (2014). doi:10.1038/511129c

Mercury may have formed as the result of one or more 'hit-and-run' collisions between the many protoplanets in the early Solar System.Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is unusual because its large metallic core lacks a massive rocky mantle like the ones that

Testing Completed on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Backplane

8 July 2014 - 5:00pm
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has reached another development milestone with the completion of static load testing of its primary mirror backplane support structure (PMBSS) moving the telescope one step closer to its 2018 launch.