Institute of Astronomy

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Calling all artists: apply now for art and science residency

Astronomy News - 21 April 2016 - 9:36am

ESA, in partnership with Ars Electronica, is announcing art&science@ESA, a new art residency to explore the fertile ground between art and space science.

Dusty doughnut around massive black hole spied for first time

Astronomy News - 21 April 2016 - 9:35am

The bright discs of gas around a galaxy’s central black hole are thought to be obscured by a torus of dust. We’ve now seen one directly

NASA’s Dawn probe may visit third asteroid after Ceres and Vesta

Astronomy News - 21 April 2016 - 9:34am

The team behind Dawn, the first ever asteroid-hopping spacecraft, have asked NASA for permission to extend its mission to a third destination  

Venus Express' swansong experiment sheds light on Venus' polar atmosphere

Astronomy News - 20 April 2016 - 9:26am

Some of the final results sent back by ESA's Venus Express before it plummeted down through the planet's atmosphere have revealed it to be rippling with atmospheric waves – and, at an average temperature of -157°C, colder than anywhere on Earth.

We are closing in on possible whereabouts of Planet Nine

Astronomy News - 20 April 2016 - 9:25am

The hunt for Planet Nine heats up as a new analysis of the Cassini spacecraft's data narrows down the orbit of the potential planet at the edge of the solar system

Scientists set eyes on ice moon Europa

Astronomy News - 20 April 2016 - 9:23am

European scientists are meeting in Paris to consider their best option for exploring Europa, the moon of Jupiter widely regarded as the most likely place beyond Earth to support microbial life.

Gravitational wave hunters gear up to detect extreme black holes

Astronomy News - 19 April 2016 - 9:29am

The LIGO experiment only recently made the first sighting of gravitational waves, but already the team is preparing for their next feat

Water telescope’s first sky map shows flickering black holes

Astronomy News - 19 April 2016 - 9:29am

The High Altitude Water Cherenkov observatory has released its first map of the high-energy sky, catching pulsars, supernova remnants and blazars switching on and off

Gravity mission passes 'sanity check'

Astronomy News - 19 April 2016 - 9:28am

A European Space Agency effort to try to detect gravitational waves in space is not only technically feasible but compelling, a new report finds.

Saturn probe Cassini hoovers up dust from distant stars

Astronomy News - 18 April 2016 - 9:23am

A rare haul of interstellar dust was picked up in orbit around Saturn, and could give us clues to how the solar system formed from the remnants of other stars  

Interstellar dust intercepted at Saturn

Astronomy News - 15 April 2016 - 9:13am

The international Cassini spacecraft has detected the faint but distinct signature of dust coming from outside our Solar System.

Saturn probe Cassini hoovers up dust from distant stars

Astronomy News - 15 April 2016 - 9:12am

A rare haul of interstellar dust was picked up in orbit around Saturn, and could give us clues to how the solar system formed from the remnants of other stars  









A map of the large day–night temperature gradient of a super-Earth exoplanet

Astronomy News - 14 April 2016 - 9:23am

A map of the large day–night temperature gradient of a super-Earth exoplanet

Nature 532, 7598 (2016). doi:10.1038/nature17169

Authors: Brice-Olivier Demory, Michael Gillon, Julien de Wit, Nikku Madhusudhan, Emeline Bolmont, Kevin Heng, Tiffany Kataria, Nikole Lewis, Renyu Hu, Jessica Krick, Vlada Stamenković, Björn Benneke, Stephen Kane & Didier Queloz

Over the past decade, observations of giant exoplanets (Jupiter-size) have provided key insights into their atmospheres, but the properties of lower-mass exoplanets (sub-Neptune) remain largely unconstrained because of the challenges of observing small planets. Numerous efforts to observe the spectra of super-Earths—exoplanets with masses of one to ten times that of Earth—have so far revealed only featureless spectra. Here we report a longitudinal thermal brightness map of the nearby transiting super-Earth 55 Cancri e (refs 4, 5) revealing highly asymmetric dayside thermal emission and a strong day–night temperature contrast. Dedicated space-based monitoring of the planet in the infrared revealed a modulation of the thermal flux as 55 Cancri e revolves around its star in a tidally locked configuration. These observations reveal a hot spot that is located 41 ± 12 degrees east of the substellar point (the point at which incident light from the star is perpendicular to the surface of the planet). From the orbital phase curve, we also constrain the nightside brightness temperature of the planet to 1,380 ± 400 kelvin and the temperature of the warmest hemisphere (centred on the hot spot) to be about 1,300 kelvin hotter (2,700 ± 270 kelvin) at a wavelength of 4.5 micrometres, which indicates inefficient heat redistribution from the dayside to the nightside. Our observations are consistent with either an optically thick atmosphere with heat recirculation confined to the planetary dayside, or a planet devoid of atmosphere with low-viscosity magma flows at the surface.

Rescued Japanese spacecraft delivers first results from Venus

Astronomy News - 14 April 2016 - 9:22am

Rescued Japanese spacecraft delivers first results from Venus

Nature 532, 7598 (2016). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/532157a

Author: Elizabeth Gibney

Streaked acidic clouds and a bow shape in the atmosphere are among Akatsuki’s findings.

Destination Venus

Astronomy News - 14 April 2016 - 9:22am

Destination Venus

Nature 532, 7598 (2016). doi:10.1038/532148a

Findings from the Akatsuki mission should rekindle interest in Earth’s closest neighbour.

Astronomy: Black-hole disk launches jet

Astronomy News - 14 April 2016 - 9:20am

Astronomy: Black-hole disk launches jet

Nature 532, 7598 (2016). doi:10.1038/532150d

Scientists have caught one of the best glimpses yet of a jet of plasma streaming from the black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy.Intense magnetic fields around black holes are thought to launch these beams, which travel nearly at the speed of

Astrochemistry: Sugars made in simulated space

Astronomy News - 14 April 2016 - 9:20am

Astrochemistry: Sugars made in simulated space

Nature 532, 7598 (2016). doi:10.1038/532151b

A key sugar found in DNA has been created in the laboratory under conditions similar to those around comets.Ribose forms the backbone of DNA and RNA, but its ancient origin remains a mystery. Cornelia Meinert and Uwe Meierhenrich of the University of Nice Sophia

Inside the Fiery Furnace

Astronomy News - 14 April 2016 - 9:12am
This new image from the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile captures a spectacular concentration of galaxies known as the Fornax Cluster, which can be found in the southern hemisphere constellation of Fornax (The Furnace). The cluster plays host to a menagerie of galaxies of all shapes and sizes, some of which are hiding secrets.

Our top 5 wacky NASA missions that might just happen

Astronomy News - 13 April 2016 - 9:13am

NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts programme funds long-shot concepts for further study. This year's include a paper-thin spaceship and a steampunk Venus rover









Billionaire pledges $100m to send spaceships to Alpha Centauri

Astronomy News - 13 April 2016 - 9:13am

Yuri Milner has backed a plan to research sending tiny, laser-powered spacecraft to the nearest star at 20 per cent of the speed of light