Institute of Astronomy

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Colliding Stars Explain Enigmatic Seventeenth Century Explosion

Astronomy News - 24 March 2015 - 8:58am
New observations made with APEX and other telescopes reveal that the star that European astronomers saw appear in the sky in 1670 was not a nova, but a much rarer, violent breed of stellar collision. It was spectacular enough to be easily seen with the naked eye during its first outburst, but the traces it left were so faint that very careful analysis using submillimetre telescopes was needed before the mystery could finally be unravelled more than 340 years later. The results appear online in the journal Nature on 23 March 2015.

The RAS and Institute of Physics back the UK bid for the HQ of the Square Kilome...

Astronomy News - 24 March 2015 - 8:56am
The RAS and Institute of Physics back the UK bid for the HQ of the Square Kilometre Array to be at Jodrell Bank

https://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2607-ras-and-iop-back-uk-bid-for-hq-of-world-s-largest-telescope


RAS and IOP back UK bid for HQ of world’s largest telescope
www.ras.org.uk
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Institute of Physics (IOP) have responded to the decision of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation to extend its selection process to decide on where to site the permanent headquarters of the array

Australia finds 'huge asteroid impact'

Astronomy News - 24 March 2015 - 8:46am

Scientists in central Australia discover what they say is a 400km-wide underground asteroid crater - the largest impact area ever found.

Awesome photos from Europe's biggest solar eclipse

Astronomy News - 23 March 2015 - 10:27am

Umbraphiles in the UK saw the biggest solar eclipse in 16 years, but the European Space Agency beat the clouds and got a spectacular view from space






Quasar backlighting gives weight to Andromeda galaxy

Astronomy News - 23 March 2015 - 10:26am

Astronomers find 40 billion suns' worth of gas hiding in our neighbouring galaxy's halo – and get insight into how galaxies collect material over time






Rosetta makes first detection of molecular nitrogen at a comet

Astronomy News - 20 March 2015 - 12:20pm

ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has made the first measurement of molecular nitrogen at a comet, providing clues about the temperature environment in which Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko formed.

NASA’s SOFIA Finds Missing Link Between Supernovae and Planet Formation

Astronomy News - 20 March 2015 - 12:20pm

Using NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an international scientific team discovered that supernovae are capable of producing a substantial amount of the material from which planets like Earth can form.

The Mystery of Nanoflares

Astronomy News - 20 March 2015 - 12:20pm
Tiny solar flares on the sun seem to be having an outsized effect on the temperature of the sun's atmosphere. A NASA telescope designed to study black holes may be able to crack the mystery of "nanoflares."

NASA Spacecraft Detects Aurora and Mysterious Dust Cloud around Mars

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:40am

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.

Weird aurora and dust cloud found on new Mars mission

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:39am

Since its arrival in orbit around the Red Planet in October, the MAVEN mission has already found mysterious aurora and a dust cloud that researchers are scrambling to explain






Bright spots on Ceres could be water volcanoes

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:38am
Images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft show that a mysterious bright spot on dwarf planet Ceres could be a plume of water spurting from a deep, icy crater






A dusty, normal galaxy in the epoch of reionization

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:38am

A dusty, normal galaxy in the epoch of reionization

Nature 519, 7543 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14164

Authors: Darach Watson, Lise Christensen, Kirsten Kraiberg Knudsen, Johan Richard, Anna Gallazzi & Michał Jerzy Michałowski

Candidates for the modest galaxies that formed most of the stars in the early Universe, at redshifts z > 7, have been found in large numbers with extremely deep restframe-ultraviolet imaging. But it has proved difficult for existing spectrographs to characterize them using their ultraviolet light. The detailed properties of these galaxies could be measured from dust and cool gas emission at far-infrared wavelengths if the galaxies have become sufficiently enriched in dust and metals. So far, however, the most distant galaxy discovered via its ultraviolet emission and subsequently detected in dust emission is only at z = 3.2 (ref. 5), and recent results have cast doubt on whether dust and molecules can be found in typical galaxies at z ≥ 7. Here we report thermal dust emission from an archetypal early Universe star-forming galaxy, A1689-zD1. We detect its stellar continuum in spectroscopy and determine its redshift to be z = 7.5 ± 0.2 from a spectroscopic detection of the Lyman-α break. A1689-zD1 is representative of the star-forming population during the epoch of reionization, with a total star-formation rate of about 12 solar masses per year. The galaxy is highly evolved: it has a large stellar mass and is heavily enriched in dust, with a dust-to-gas ratio close to that of the Milky Way. Dusty, evolved galaxies are thus present among the fainter star-forming population at z > 7.

Five Solar System sights NASA should visit

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:36am

Five Solar System sights NASA should visit

Nature 519, 7543 (2015). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/519274a

Author: Alexandra Witze

US planetary scientists dream up voyages of discovery, from Venus mappers to asteroid tours.

Crunch time for Canada’s role in mega-telescope

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:36am

Crunch time for Canada’s role in mega-telescope

Nature 519, 7543 (2015). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/519270a

Author: Alexandra Witze

Astronomers ask federal government to honour promise for Thirty Meter Telescope.

Highly efficient star formation in NGC 5253 possibly from stream-fed accretion

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:34am

Highly efficient star formation in NGC 5253 possibly from stream-fed accretion

Nature 519, 7543 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14218

Authors: J. L. Turner, S. C. Beck, D. J. Benford, S. M. Consiglio, P. T. P. Ho, A. Kovács, D. S. Meier & J.-H. Zhao

Gas clouds in present-day galaxies are inefficient at forming stars. Low star-formation efficiency is a critical parameter in galaxy evolution: it is why stars are still forming nearly 14 billion years after the Big Bang and why star clusters generally do not survive their births, instead dispersing to form galactic disks or bulges. Yet the existence of ancient massive bound star clusters (globular clusters) in the Milky Way suggests that efficiencies were higher when they formed ten billion years ago. A local dwarf galaxy, NGC 5253, has a young star cluster that provides an example of highly efficient star formation. Here we report the detection of the J = 3→2 rotational transition of CO at the location of the massive cluster. The gas cloud is hot, dense, quiescent and extremely dusty. Its gas-to-dust ratio is lower than the Galactic value, which we attribute to dust enrichment by the embedded star cluster. Its star-formation efficiency exceeds 50 per cent, tenfold that of clouds in the Milky Way. We suggest that high efficiency results from the force-feeding of star formation by a streamer of gas falling into the galaxy.

Astronomy: Milky Way has corrugated rings

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:34am

Astronomy: Milky Way has corrugated rings

Nature 519, 7543 (2015). doi:10.1038/519265c

The Milky Way's stars sprawl outwards in a series of concentric ripples, hinting that it might extend farther into space than was thought.Data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey confirm a previously known ring of stars at about 9,000 parsecs from the Sun. They

VIDEO: Unusual Northern Lights head south

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:27am

The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, have been creating a fabulous show across large parts of the Britain, and across the globe.

'Northern lights' observed on Mars

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:26am

A Nasa spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet detects a mysterious aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.

Is Titan submarine the most daring space mission yet?

Astronomy News - 19 March 2015 - 10:26am

Is this the most daring space mission yet?

Race to find the first exomoon heats up

Astronomy News - 18 March 2015 - 10:29am
Speedier ways to search for moons outside the solar system are good news for alien hunters: these would be some of the best places to look for life