Institute of Astronomy

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Small stars may keep planets in line with magnetic harnesses

Astronomy News - 18 August 2015 - 9:27am

Some planets orbit their stars right around the star's equator, while others go at wonky angles – and it's all down to the star's size

Young 'alien Jupiter' discovered

Astronomy News - 17 August 2015 - 9:22am

A planet 100 light-years away resembles a young version of Jupiter, astronomers say.

VIDEO: Timelapse shows Northern Lights from space

Astronomy News - 17 August 2015 - 9:22am

Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly captures timelapse footage of Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, from the International Space Station.

What makes a planet habitable?

Astronomy News - 17 August 2015 - 9:21am

Working out what is necessary for life

Rosetta's big day in the Sun

Astronomy News - 14 August 2015 - 9:34am

ESA's Rosetta today witnessed Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko making its closest approach to the Sun. The exact moment of perihelion occurred at 02:03 GMT this morning when the comet came within 186 million km of the Sun.

NASA's Hubble Finds Supernovae in 'Wrong Place at Wrong Time'

Astronomy News - 14 August 2015 - 9:34am

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What happens when you find something in the wrong place at the wrong time? That's a question astronomers have been trying to answer after finding several exploding stars outside the cozy confines of galaxies, where most stars reside. These wayward supernovae also have puzzled astronomers because they exploded billions of years before their predicted detonations. Astronomers using archived observations from several telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, have developed a theory for where these doomed stars come from and how they arrived at their current homes.

Newly Discovered World Is Most Like Jupiter

Astronomy News - 14 August 2015 - 9:33am

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A team of astronomers, including half a dozen from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, have used the Gemini Observatory's new Gemini Planet Imager to find the most solar system-like planet ever directly imaged around another star. The planet, known as 51 Eridani b, is about two times the mass of Jupiter and orbits its host star at about 13 times the Earth-sun distance (equivalent to being between Saturn and Uranus in our solar system). The planet is located about 100 light-years away from Earth. The Gemini data provide scientists with the strongest-ever spectroscopic detection of methane in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet, adding to its similarities to giant planets in our solar system. "This planet looks like a younger, slightly bigger version of Jupiter," said Dr. Laurent Pueyo of STScI, one of the astronomers who carefully measured the planet's light against the background glare of starlight. "That we can see so clearly the presence of methane for a planet a million times fainter than its star, even through the atmosphere, bodes very well for the future characterization of even fainter planets from space using the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope."

VIDEO: Perseid shower in 45 seconds

Astronomy News - 14 August 2015 - 9:14am

Stargazers captured the dazzling display of the annual Perseid meteor shower as it reached its peak on Wednesday night. BBC News viewers sent in their photos.

Astronomy: Stars align to show new planet

Astronomy News - 13 August 2015 - 12:03pm

Astronomy: Stars align to show new planet

Nature 524, 7564 (2015). doi:10.1038/524138d

Two teams using different telescopes have confirmed that a planet with a mass similar to that of Uranus is orbiting a distant star.Most known exoplanets orbit close to their stars, but in 2005 researchers using an effect called microlensing spotted a planet with a

Sniff out alien life with giant library of weird chemicals

Astronomy News - 13 August 2015 - 12:01pm

The search for vital signs of life in the atmospheres of other planets has taken a new turn with a vast library of biosignatures that could help us detect ET

VIDEO: Why the Perseids happen every year

Astronomy News - 13 August 2015 - 9:12am

The BBC's Pallab Ghosh explains why the Perseid meteor shower happens every year.

VIDEO: Perseid meteor shower photos in 60 secs

Astronomy News - 13 August 2015 - 9:12am

A look at some of your photos of the Perseid meteor shower in 60 seconds.

Comet 67P nears closest point to Sun

Astronomy News - 13 August 2015 - 9:11am

Comet 67P has passed the closest point to the Sun in its 6.5-year orbit, with the Rosetta spacecraft still in orbit around it.

Planck Legacy Archive: 2015 data delivery is complete

Astronomy News - 12 August 2015 - 9:54am
ESA's Planck mission has achieved a significant milestone. The 2015 data delivery to the Planck Legacy Archive, which hosts the mission products, is now complete. The new version of the archive comprises a full record of the data and results from the mission

Comet's firework display ahead of perihelion

Astronomy News - 12 August 2015 - 9:52am

In the approach to perihelion over the past few weeks, Rosetta has been witnessing growing activity from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with one dramatic outburst event proving so powerful that it even pushed away the incoming solar wind.

Oxymoronic Black Hole Provides Clues to Growth

Astronomy News - 12 August 2015 - 9:50am
Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the 6.5-meter Clay Telescope in Chile have identified the smallest supermassive black hole ever detected in the center of a galaxy. This oxymoronic object could provide clues to how larger black holes formed along with their host galaxies 13 billion years or more in the past.

VIDEO: Top tips to view a meteor shower

Astronomy News - 12 August 2015 - 9:19am

Skywatchers are in for a dazzling display as the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak on Wednesday.

Charting the Slow Death of the Universe

Astronomy News - 11 August 2015 - 9:16am
An international team of astronomers studying more than 200 000 galaxies has measured the energy generated within a large portion of space more precisely than ever before. This represents the most comprehensive assessment of the energy output of the nearby Universe. They confirm that the energy produced in a section of the Universe today is only about half what it was two billion years ago and find that this fading is occurring across all wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the far infrared. The Universe is slowly dying.

A Good Year for Perseid Meteors

Astronomy News - 11 August 2015 - 9:15am
This week, Earth passes through a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Forecasters say the show could be especially good this year because the Moon is nearly new when the shower peaks on Aug. 12-13.

Meteor light show set to dazzle

Astronomy News - 11 August 2015 - 9:07am

The annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak late on Wednesday, though weather is likely to spoil the party across southern England.