Institute of Astronomy

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VIDEO: Probe's photo of dwarf planet Pluto

Astronomy News - 15 July 2015 - 9:28am

The New Horizons probe has reached Pluto after a 10 year journey of three billion miles (4.8 billion km).

VIDEO: Pluto probe makes contact

Astronomy News - 15 July 2015 - 9:28am

A signal has been received from the New Horizons probe, which soared past Pluto on Tuesday.

Space Coffee

Astronomy News - 13 July 2015 - 9:22am
Advances in the understanding of how fluids behave in low gravity is a key to an excellent cup of coffee in space.

Destination Pluto: Countdown to the historic New Horizons fly-by

Astronomy News - 13 July 2015 - 9:21am

The latest images of Pluto, a checklist of mysteries waiting to be solved. And New Scientist will be covering all the action – live from mission control









VIDEO: Why is Pluto not a planet?

Astronomy News - 13 July 2015 - 9:11am

As Nasa's New Horizons probe gets ready to flyby Pluto on Tuesday, the Royal Observatory's Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula looks at one of the most divisive issues in modern science - Pluto's reclassification to a "dwarf planet".

VIDEO: New Horizons on course for Pluto flyby

Astronomy News - 13 July 2015 - 9:11am

Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft is due to flyby Pluto on Tuesday and scientists are expecting it to send back the clearest ever images of the distant dwarf planet.

New Horizons set for Pluto flyby

Astronomy News - 13 July 2015 - 9:10am

Engineers say the New Horizons spacecraft is in great shape for its historic flyby of Pluto on Tuesday.

New Tool for Astronomers – Second Planck Catalogue of Compact Sources Released

Astronomy News - 10 July 2015 - 9:49am

ESA's Planck mission is the source for a new catalogue, eagerly awaited by the scientific community, and available online from today. The Second Planck Catalogue of Compact Sources uses data from the entire mission to identify tens of thousands of compact sources, as well as providing polarisation data for several hundred of them. The new catalogue surpasses its predecessors not only in the quantity of sources but also in the quality of data. It will be an asset to astronomers working in a wide range of fields.

Huge New Survey to Shine Light on Dark Matter

Astronomy News - 10 July 2015 - 9:47am
The first results have been released from a major new dark matter survey of the southern skies using ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The VST KiDS survey will allow astronomers to make precise measurements of dark matter, the structure of galaxy halos, and the evolution of galaxies and clusters. The first KiDS results show how the characteristics of the observed galaxies are determined by the invisible vast clumps of dark matter surrounding them.

What the sun would look like if you had X-ray vision

Astronomy News - 10 July 2015 - 9:45am

A new image of the sun combines three views to reveal its activity in a new light









Pluto snapped from 8 million km

Astronomy News - 10 July 2015 - 9:33am

Nasa's spacecraft New Horizons acquires another stunning view of Pluto as it bears down on the dwarf planet, ahead of its 14 July flyby.

What will Pluto mission discover?

Astronomy News - 10 July 2015 - 9:33am

The key questions about Nasa's Pluto flyby

Biggest Explosions in the Universe Powered by Strongest Magnets

Astronomy News - 9 July 2015 - 10:04am
Observations from ESO’s La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile have for the first time demonstrated a link between a very long-lasting burst of gamma rays and an unusually bright supernova explosion. The results show that the supernova was not driven by radioactive decay, as expected, but was instead powered by the decaying super-strong magnetic fields around an exotic object called a magnetar. The results will appear in the journal Nature on 9 July 2015.

Mystery plasma blobs lurk in deep space and no one knows why

Astronomy News - 9 July 2015 - 10:02am

Dark objects affecting the radio signals from quasars and pulsars could be strangely dense blobs of plasma. But if so, how did they get there?









It's time to decide when to declare a planet lifeless

Astronomy News - 9 July 2015 - 10:01am

Spacecraft are sterilised before they visit Mars to protect any life there – but it is expensive and no life has yet been found. When do we stop?









A very luminous magnetar-powered supernova associated with an ultra-long γ-ray burst

Astronomy News - 9 July 2015 - 10:00am

A very luminous magnetar-powered supernova associated with an ultra-long γ-ray burst

Nature 523, 7559 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14579

Authors: Jochen Greiner, Paolo A. Mazzali, D. Alexander Kann, Thomas Krühler, Elena Pian, Simon Prentice, Felipe Olivares E., Andrea Rossi, Sylvio Klose, Stefan Taubenberger, Fabian Knust, Paulo M. J. Afonso, Chris Ashall, Jan Bolmer, Corentin Delvaux, Roland Diehl, Jonathan Elliott, Robert Filgas, Johan P. U. Fynbo, John F. Graham, Ana Nicuesa Guelbenzu, Shiho Kobayashi, Giorgos Leloudas, Sandra Savaglio, Patricia Schady, Sebastian Schmidl, Tassilo Schweyer, Vladimir Sudilovsky, Mohit Tanga, Adria C. Updike, Hendrik van Eerten & Karla Varela

A new class of ultra-long-duration (more than 10,000 seconds) γ-ray bursts has recently been suggested. They may originate in the explosion of stars with much larger radii than those producing normal long-duration γ-ray bursts or in the tidal disruption of a star. No clear supernova has yet been associated with an ultra-long-duration γ-ray burst. Here we report that a supernova (SN 2011kl) was associated with the ultra-long-duration γ-ray burst GRB 111209A, at a redshift z of 0.677. This supernova is more than three times more luminous than type Ic supernovae associated with long-duration γ-ray bursts, and its spectrum is distinctly different. The slope of the continuum resembles those of super-luminous supernovae, but extends further down into the rest-frame ultraviolet implying a low metal content. The light curve evolves much more rapidly than those of super-luminous supernovae. This combination of high luminosity and low metal-line opacity cannot be reconciled with typical type Ic supernovae, but can be reproduced by a model where extra energy is injected by a strongly magnetized neutron star (a magnetar), which has also been proposed as the explanation for super-luminous supernovae.

Feedback in low-mass galaxies in the early Universe

Astronomy News - 9 July 2015 - 9:59am

Feedback in low-mass galaxies in the early Universe

Nature 523, 7559 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14454

Authors: Dawn K. Erb

The formation, evolution and death of massive stars release large quantities of energy and momentum into the gas surrounding the sites of star formation. This process, generically termed ‘feedback’, inhibits further star formation either by removing gas from the galaxy, or by heating it to temperatures that are too high to form new stars. Observations reveal feedback in the form of galactic-scale outflows of gas in galaxies with high rates of star formation, especially in the early Universe. Feedback in faint, low-mass galaxies probably facilitated the escape of ionizing radiation from galaxies when the Universe was about 500 million years old, so that the hydrogen between galaxies changed from neutral to ionized—the last major phase transition in the Universe.

Astrophysics: A twist in the tale of γ-ray bursts

Astronomy News - 9 July 2015 - 9:59am

Astrophysics: A twist in the tale of γ-ray bursts

Nature 523, 7559 (2015). doi:10.1038/523164b

Authors: Stephen J. Smartt

An unusually long burst of γ-rays zapped Earth in December 2011, lasting 4 hours. The cause of this burst is now proposed to be a peculiar supernova produced by a spinning magnetic neutron star. See Letter p.189

Pluto fly-by: a graphical guide to the historic mission

Astronomy News - 9 July 2015 - 9:56am

Pluto fly-by: a graphical guide to the historic mission

Nature 523, 7559 (2015). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/523140a

Author: Alexandra Witze

New Horizons mission is set to speed past an ice world at the fringes of the Solar System.

Astronomy: Event pile-up may explain solar storm

Astronomy News - 9 July 2015 - 9:54am

Astronomy: Event pile-up may explain solar storm

Nature 523, 7559 (2015). doi:10.1038/523131b

A rare combination of factors might have combined to make a solar storm in March 2015 the strongest seen for a decade.Like most such storms, this one began when the Sun spurted fast-moving plasma in an event called a coronal mass ejection. A different