Institute of Astronomy

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A fine-tuned universe may be controversial but can’t be ignored

Astronomy News - 29 June 2017 - 9:15am

The suggestion that our universe has physical laws and constants inexplicably just right for life is in the ascendant. Expect a heated debate, says Geraint Lewis

Planets in other star systems fit a puzzling pattern

Astronomy News - 29 June 2017 - 9:14am

Data from the Kepler space telescope show that exoplanets tend to be similar in size to their neighbours and regularly spaced, no matter the size of their star

Success of gravity-wave satellite paves way for three-craft mission

Astronomy News - 29 June 2017 - 9:12am
Technology far exceeded expectations in LISA Pathfinder test.

Gender bias: Citation lag in astronomy

Astronomy News - 29 June 2017 - 9:10am
Female first authors' work is cited less often.

Astrobiology: Hunting aliens

Astronomy News - 29 June 2017 - 9:09am
Ramin Skibba enjoys a profile of the woman heading the search for life off Earth.

Solar Minimum is Coming

Astronomy News - 28 June 2017 - 9:09am
Video Length: 3:46

Intense solar activity such as sunspots and solar flares subsides during solar minimum, but that doesn’t mean the sun becomes dull. Solar activity simply changes form.

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NASA Celebrates International Asteroid Day with Special Broadcast

Astronomy News - 28 June 2017 - 9:09am
NASA will mark the worldwide observance of International Asteroid Day at noon EDT Friday, June 30, with a special television program featuring the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and other projects working to find and study near-Earth objects (NEOs). The program will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Uranus’s crooked, messy magnetic field might open and shut daily

Astronomy News - 26 June 2017 - 9:28am

The off-kilter tumbling of the magnetic bubble around Uranus may regularly let a barrage of charged particles from the solar wind flow in

A massive, dead disk galaxy in the early Universe

Astronomy News - 23 June 2017 - 9:41am
At redshift z = 2, when the Universe was just three billion years old, half of the most massive galaxies were extremely compact and had already exhausted their fuel for star formation. It is believed that they were formed in intense nuclear starbursts and that they ultimately grew into the most massive local elliptical galaxies seen today, through mergers with minor companions, but validating this picture requires higher-resolution observations of their centres than is currently possible. Magnification from gravitational lensing offers an opportunity to resolve the inner regions of galaxies. Here we report an analysis of the stellar populations and kinematics of a lensed z = 2.1478 compact galaxy, which—surprisingly—turns out to be a fast-spinning, rotationally supported disk galaxy. Its stars must have formed in a disk, rather than in a merger-driven nuclear starburst. The galaxy was probably fed by streams of cold gas, which were able to penetrate the hot halo gas until they were cut off by shock heating from the dark matter halo. This result confirms previous indirect indications that the first galaxies to cease star formation must have gone through major changes not just in their structure, but also in their kinematics, to evolve into present-day elliptical galaxies.

ESA approves gravitational-wave hunting spacecraft for 2034

Astronomy News - 23 June 2017 - 9:38am

The triplet LISA spacecraft, which will use powerful lasers to measure ripples in space-time from supermassive black holes, have been green-lit

Weird orbits hint ‘Planet Ten’ might lurk at solar system edge

Astronomy News - 23 June 2017 - 9:37am

Astronomers studying icy objects in a distant region called the Kuiper belt say an unconfirmed planet with similar mass to Mars could be responsible for tugging them out of alignment

New catalogues for Herschel legacy archive

Astronomy News - 23 June 2017 - 9:35am

Two new catalogues, based on data from ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, have been released to the scientific community. The point source catalogues are examples of a new type of data product from two of Herschel's instruments, SPIRE and PACS. These catalogues are part of the lasting legacy of the Herschel mission, and will further facilitate data exploitation and drive ongoing research.