Institute of Astronomy

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Nears Historic July 14 Encounter with Pluto

Astronomy News - 20 April 2015 - 9:41am
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is three months from returning to humanity the first-ever close up images and scientific observations of distant Pluto and its system of large and small moons.

Celebrate with NASA as Agency Commemorates Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th Anniversary

Astronomy News - 20 April 2015 - 9:41am
NASA is celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope's 25th anniversary with a variety of events highlighting its groundbreaking achievements and scientific contributions with activities running April 20-26.

North pole of spinning dwarf planet Ceres glows in the sunlight

Astronomy News - 20 April 2015 - 9:40am

The first high-resolution images of a dwarf planet have captured the sun-lit north pole of Ceres







Giant galaxies die from the inside out - Hubble and VLT observations show that star formation shuts down in the centres of elliptical galaxies first [heic1508]

Astronomy News - 17 April 2015 - 9:20am

Astronomers have shown for the first time how star formation in "dead" galaxies sputtered out billions of years ago. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) have revealed that three billion years after the Big Bang, these galaxies still made stars on their outskirts, but no longer in their interiors. The quenching of star formation seems to have started in the cores of the galaxies and then spread to the outer parts. The results will be published in the 17 April 2015 issue of the journal Science.

Giant Galaxies Die from the Inside Out

Astronomy News - 17 April 2015 - 9:18am
Astronomers have shown for the first time how star formation in “dead” galaxies sputtered out billions of years ago. ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have revealed that three billion years after the Big Bang, these galaxies still made stars on their outskirts, but no longer in their interiors. The quenching of star formation seems to have started in the cores of the galaxies and then spread to the outer parts. The results will be published in the 17 April 2015 issue of the journal Science.

ALMA Reveals Intense Magnetic Field Close to Supermassive Black Hole

Astronomy News - 17 April 2015 - 9:16am
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has revealed an extremely powerful magnetic field, beyond anything previously detected in the core of a galaxy, very close to the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. This new observation helps astronomers to understand the structure and formation of these massive inhabitants of the centres of galaxies, and the twin high-speed jets of plasma they frequently eject from their poles. The results appear in the 17 April 2015 issue of the journal Science.

NASA Spacecraft Achieves Unprecedented Success Studying Mercury

Astronomy News - 17 April 2015 - 9:16am

After extraordinary science findings and technological innovations, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2004 to study Mercury will impact the planet’s surface, most likely on April 30, after it runs out of propellant.

Celebrate with NASA as Agency Commemorates Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th Anniversary

Astronomy News - 17 April 2015 - 9:15am

NASA is celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope's 25th anniversary with a variety of events highlighting its groundbreaking achievements and scientific contributions with activities running April 20-26.

Nuclear ashes and outflow in the eruptive star Nova Vul 1670

Astronomy News - 16 April 2015 - 9:06am

Nuclear ashes and outflow in the eruptive star Nova Vul 1670

Nature 520, 7547 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14257

Authors: Tomasz Kamiński, Karl M. Menten, Romuald Tylenda, Marcin Hajduk, Nimesh A. Patel & Alexander Kraus

CK Vulpeculae was observed in outburst in 1670–1672 (ref. 1), but no counterpart was seen until 1982, when a bipolar nebula was found at its location. Historically, CK Vul has been considered to be a nova (Nova Vul 1670), but its similarity to ‘red transients’, which are more luminous than classical novae and thought to be the results of stellar collisions, has re-opened the question of CK Vul’s status. Red transients cool to resemble late M-type stars, surrounded by circumstellar material rich in molecules and dust. No stellar source has been seen in CK Vul, though a radio continuum source was identified at the expansion centre of the nebula. Here we report that CK Vul is surrounded by chemically rich molecular gas in the form of an outflow, as well as dust. The gas has peculiar isotopic ratios, revealing that CK Vul's composition was strongly enhanced by the nuclear ashes of hydrogen burning. The chemical composition cannot be reconciled with a nova or indeed any other known explosion. In addition, the mass of the surrounding gas is too large for a nova, though the conversion from observations of CO to a total mass is uncertain. We conclude that CK Vul is best explained as the remnant of a merger of two stars.

Planetary science: A new recipe for Earth formation

Astronomy News - 16 April 2015 - 9:06am

Planetary science: A new recipe for Earth formation

Nature 520, 7547 (2015). doi:10.1038/520299a

Authors: Richard W. Carlson

Experimental results suggest that if Earth initially grew by the accumulation of highly chemically reduced material, its core could contain enough uranium to drive the planet's magnetic field throughout Earth's history. See Letter p.337

Astronomy: Hubble's legacy

Astronomy News - 16 April 2015 - 9:05am

Astronomy: Hubble's legacy

Nature 520, 7547 (2015). doi:10.1038/520287a

Author: Mario Livio

Twenty-five years after launch, the wild success of the space telescope argues for a new era of bold exploration in the face of tight budgets, says Mario Livio.

Biography of a space telescope: Voices of Hubble

Astronomy News - 16 April 2015 - 9:05am

Biography of a space telescope: Voices of Hubble

Nature 520, 7547 (2015). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/520282a

Author: Alexandra Witze

As the venerable space telescope turns 25 this month, key scientists and engineers recount the highs and lows of its stellar career.

Astrophysics: Neutrinos from a galaxy far away

Astronomy News - 16 April 2015 - 9:04am

Astrophysics: Neutrinos from a galaxy far away

Nature 520, 7547 (2015). doi:10.1038/520266b

Two of the most energetic neutrinos detected by a telescope in the Antarctic may have come from the cores of distant galaxies.Neutrinos are stable and can travel far in space, so they could shed light on distant astrophysical and galactic objects. The Antarctic telescope

How does new dark matter evidence fit together?

Astronomy News - 16 April 2015 - 8:56am

What does the flurry of new studies say about dark matter?

First Signs of Self-interacting Dark Matter?

Astronomy News - 15 April 2015 - 9:39am
For the first time dark matter may have been observed interacting with other dark matter in a way other than through the force of gravity. Observations of colliding galaxies made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have picked up the first intriguing hints about the nature of this mysterious component of the Universe.

Rosetta and Philae find comet not magnetised

Astronomy News - 15 April 2015 - 9:38am
Measurements made by Rosetta and Philae during the probe's multiple landings on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko show that the comet's nucleus is not magnetised.

Philae's sensors show comet 67P has almost no magnetic field

Astronomy News - 15 April 2015 - 9:37am
Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko surprisingly has a negligible magnetic field, which has implications for how planets formed







Comet lander tells magnetic story

Astronomy News - 15 April 2015 - 9:25am

The comet being trailed through space by Europe's Rosetta probe has no magnetic field of its own - an important observation in the understanding of how the icy dirt-ball formed billions of years ago.

Coloured Pluto comes into view

Astronomy News - 15 April 2015 - 9:25am

The New Horizons probe, which is bearing down on Pluto, has captured its first colour image of the distant dwarf planet.

Dark matter becomes less 'ghostly'

Astronomy News - 15 April 2015 - 9:24am

Scientists have uncovered a vital new insight into the nature of dark matter.