Institute of Astronomy

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Pluto gives up its icy secrets as New Horizons data pours in

Astronomy News - 18 March 2016 - 10:22am

Eight months after NASA's New Horizons spacecraft's historic fly-by of Pluto, new data reveals startling links between Pluto, Charon, their four smaller satellites, and the space environment that surrounds them









Hubble telescope spies 'land of giants'

Astronomy News - 18 March 2016 - 10:21am

Astronomers use the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate a clutch of monster stars on the edge of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Meteor sighting reports across Britain

Astronomy News - 18 March 2016 - 10:21am
A meteor has been sighted above Britain in the early hours with witnesses describing seeing a green flash.

NASA Mars woes could delay other planetary missions

Astronomy News - 17 March 2016 - 10:55am

NASA Mars woes could delay other planetary missions

Nature 531, 7594 (2016). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/nature.2016.19549

Author: Devin Powell

Plan to postpone launch of InSight probe will cost agency an extra US$150 million.

On the hunt for a mystery planet

Astronomy News - 17 March 2016 - 10:55am

On the hunt for a mystery planet

Nature 531, 7594 (2016). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/531290a

Author: Alexandra Witze

Scientists are searching for an unseen world at the fringes of the solar system.

Astronomy: Milky Way's bulging waistline

Astronomy News - 17 March 2016 - 10:52am

Astronomy: Milky Way's bulging waistline

Nature 531, 7594 (2016). doi:10.1038/531279d

The mass of stars in the Milky Way's central bulge (pictured) is about 20 billion times the mass of the Sun — a much higher estimate than in most previous studies.The central bulge protrudes from the Galaxy's main disk like the yolk

Unexpected Changes of Bright Spots on Ceres Discovered

Astronomy News - 17 March 2016 - 10:42am
Observations made using the HARPS spectrograph at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile have revealed unexpected changes in the bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres. Although Ceres appears as little more than a point of light from the Earth, very careful study of its light shows not only the changes expected as Ceres rotates, but also that the spots brighten during the day and also show other variations. These observations suggest that the material of the spots is volatile and evaporates in the warm glow of sunlight.

Who was Caroline Herschel?

Astronomy News - 17 March 2016 - 10:40am

Who was subject of latest Google Doodle?

Rosetta finds magnetic field-free bubble at comet

Astronomy News - 14 March 2016 - 10:48am

ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has revealed a surprisingly large region around its host comet devoid of any magnetic field.

Amazing Moons

Astronomy News - 14 March 2016 - 10:48am

When the Space Age began more than 50 years ago, explorers were eager to visit the planets of the solar system. As the years have passed, however, astronomers have realized that the moons of the solar system may be even more interesting.

Listening to the Stars

Astronomy News - 14 March 2016 - 10:48am

In 1947, shortly after the end of World War II, a young radio astronomer in Australia named Ruby Payne-Scott was observing the sun when a tremendous roar of static issued from the loudspeaker of her radio telescope. Almost 70 years later, astronomers are still marveling at the outburst.

Mars methane mission lifts off

Astronomy News - 14 March 2016 - 10:45am
Europe and Russia launch a joint mission to the Red Planet to investigate whether methane in the Mars atmosphere comes from microbial life.

VIDEO: Meet Bruno, the Mars mission rover

Astronomy News - 14 March 2016 - 10:42am

BBC News has a look at the European Space Agency rover that will explore the red planet and look for signs of life

VIDEO: Blast off for Europe Russia Mars mission

Astronomy News - 14 March 2016 - 10:42am

Live coverage as Europe and Russia launch a joint mission to the Red Planet.

Telescopes Combine to Push Frontier on Galaxy Clusters

Astronomy News - 11 March 2016 - 10:18am

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To learn more about galaxy clusters, including how they grow via collisions, astronomers have used some of the world's most powerful telescopes, looking at different types of light. They have focused long observations with these telescopes on a half-dozen galaxy clusters. The name for the galaxy cluster project is the "Frontier Fields." Two of these Frontier Fields galaxy clusters, MACS J0416.1-2403 (abbreviated MACS J0416) in the right panel and MACS J0717.5+3745 (MACS J0717 for short) in the left panel, are featured here in a pair of multiwavelength images.

A repeating fast radio burst

Astronomy News - 10 March 2016 - 10:50am

A repeating fast radio burst

Nature 531, 7593 (2016). doi:10.1038/nature17168

Authors: L. G. Spitler, P. Scholz, J. W. T. Hessels, S. Bogdanov, A. Brazier, F. Camilo, S. Chatterjee, J. M. Cordes, F. Crawford, J. Deneva, R. D. Ferdman, P. C. C. Freire, V. M. Kaspi, P. Lazarus, R. Lynch, E. C. Madsen, M. A. McLaughlin, C. Patel, S. M. Ransom, A. Seymour, I. H. Stairs, B. W. Stappers, J. van Leeuwen & W. W. Zhu

Fast radio bursts are millisecond-duration astronomical radio pulses of unknown physical origin that appear to come from extragalactic distances. Previous follow-up observations have failed to find additional bursts at the same dispersion measure (that is, the integrated column density of free electrons between source and telescope) and sky position as the original detections. The apparent non-repeating nature of these bursts has led to the suggestion that they originate in cataclysmic events. Here we report observations of ten additional bursts from the direction of the fast radio burst FRB 121102. These bursts have dispersion measures and sky positions consistent with the original burst. This unambiguously identifies FRB 121102 as repeating and demonstrates that its source survives the energetic events that cause the bursts. Additionally, the bursts from FRB 121102 show a wide range of spectral shapes that appear to be predominantly intrinsic to the source and which vary on timescales of minutes or less. Although there may be multiple physical origins for the population of fast radio bursts, these repeat bursts with high dispersion measure and variable spectra specifically seen from the direction of FRB 121102 support an origin in a young, highly magnetized, extragalactic neutron star.

Chinese gravitational-wave hunt hits crunch time

Astronomy News - 10 March 2016 - 10:49am

Chinese gravitational-wave hunt hits crunch time

Nature 531, 7593 (2016). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/531150a

Author: David Cyranoski

The pressure is on to choose between several proposals for space-based detectors.

Sharpest View Ever of Dusty Disc Around Aging Star

Astronomy News - 10 March 2016 - 10:47am
The Very Large Telescope Interferometer at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has obtained the sharpest view ever of the dusty disc around an aging star. For the first time such features can be compared to those around young stars — and they look surprisingly similar. It is even possible that a disc appearing at the end of a star’s life might also create a second generation of planets.

Billion-light-year galactic wall may be largest object in cosmos

Astronomy News - 10 March 2016 - 10:39am

Astronomers peering into the distant universe have discovered the BOSS Great Wall, a vast superstructure of 830 galaxies that is a billion light years across