Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

VIDEO: Jupiter's Red Spot revealed in 4K

14 October 2015 - 8:55am

New ultra-high definition imagery, rendered in 4K, has revealed details of Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot.

China has had a telescope on the moon for the past two years

13 October 2015 - 9:23am

The robotic telescope, mounted on the Chang'e 3 lander, is the first of its kind and provides unique views of the night sky that aren't possible from Earth

Astrophysics: Surprisingly fast motions in a dust disk

8 October 2015 - 10:55am

Astrophysics: Surprisingly fast motions in a dust disk

Nature 526, 7572 (2015). doi:10.1038/526204a

Authors: Marshall D. Perrin

A recently commissioned planet-finding instrument has been used to study a young solar system around the star AU Microscopii, leading to the discovery of rapidly moving features in the dust disk around the star. See Letter p.230

NASA narrows its list of planetary targets

8 October 2015 - 10:54am

NASA narrows its list of planetary targets

Nature 526, 7572 (2015).

Author: Alexandra Witze

Venus and asteroids take the spotlight as the agency chops list of Discovery-class candidates from 27 to 5.

Mysterious Ripples Found Racing Through Planet-forming Disc

8 October 2015 - 10:51am
Using images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered never-before-seen structures within a dusty disc surrounding a nearby star. The fast-moving wave-like features in the disc of the star AU Microscopii are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted, before now. The origin and nature of these features present a new mystery for astronomers to explore. The results are published in the journal Nature on 8 October 2015.

Mysterious Ripples Found Racing Through Planet-Forming Disk

8 October 2015 - 10:51am

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Though astronomers have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars, very little is known about how they are born. The conventional wisdom is that planets coagulate inside a vast disk of gas and dust encircling newborn stars. But the details of the process are not well understood because it takes millions of years to happen as the disk undergoes numerous changes until it finally dissipates.

The young, nearby star AU Microscopii (AU Mic) is an ideal candidate to get a snapshot of planet birthing because the disk is tilted nearly edge on to our view from Earth. This very oblique perspective offers an opportunity to see structure in the disk that otherwise might go unnoticed. Astronomers are surprised to uncover fast-moving, wave-like features embedded in the disk that are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted. Whatever they are, these ripples are moving at 22,000 miles per hour fast enough to escape the star's gravitational pull. This parade of blob-like features stretches farther from the star than Pluto is from our sun. They are so mysterious it's not known if they are somehow associated with planet formation, or some unimagined, bizarre activity inside the disk.

Learn even more about AU Mic by joining the live Hubble Hangout discussion at 3:00 pm EDT on Thurs., Oct. 8 at

Charon moon seen in super detail

5 October 2015 - 8:47am

Pluto's major moon, Charon, takes centre stage in this week's release of new pictures from the New Horizons mission.

Is there life on Mars?

5 October 2015 - 8:46am

Evidence is growing that there might have been some once

Supernova 'stream' in lab's sights

5 October 2015 - 8:46am

A global collaboration will aim to unravel the mysteries of neutrinos - also known as "ghost particles".

Astrophysics: Primordial stars brought to light

1 October 2015 - 9:34am

Astrophysics: Primordial stars brought to light

Nature 526, 7571 (2015). doi:10.1038/526046a

Authors: Bethan James

The earliest stars are of huge importance to the chemical history of the cosmos, but have previously existed only in theory. There is now strong evidence that such population III stars exist in the brightest galaxy yet found in the early Universe.

The mountain-top battle over the Thirty Meter Telescope

1 October 2015 - 9:31am

The mountain-top battle over the Thirty Meter Telescope

Nature 526, 7571 (2015).

Author: Alexandra Witze

Plans to build one of the world's biggest telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii are mired in conflict. Four people involved in the fight explain their diverse views.

Ceres' spots remain mysterious

1 October 2015 - 9:29am

The team behind Nasa's Dawn mission to Ceres releases striking new images, but remains unable to explain the dwarf planet's most intriguing mystery.

Salty water seen flowing on Mars, not far from Curiosity rover

1 October 2015 - 9:18am

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finds strongest evidence yet that there is liquid water on the surface fo the Red Planet, so there might also be life