Institute of Astronomy

News and Press Releases

Breakthrough study models dying stars in a lab

Published on 14/02/2013 

A team of scientists has successfully reproduced conditions in one of the most hostile environments in the galaxy, enabling them to find out more about how atoms behave in these extreme settings.

The study modelled conditions near to the surface of a white dwarf star - a stellar remnant comprising the dead embers which are left behind after Sun-like stars have exhausted their fuel. The environment is characterised by very high gravitational forces, very high temperatures, and occasionally very high magnetic fields.

Do missing Jupiters mean massive comet belts?

Published on 27/11/2012 

Do missing Jupiters mean massive comet belts?

Using ESA’s Herschel space observatory, astronomers have discovered vast comet belts surrounding two nearby planetary systems known to host only Earth-to-Neptune-mass worlds. The comet reservoirs could have delivered life-giving oceans to the innermost planets.

Giant black holes found lurking in survey data

Published on 10/10/2012 

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have used cutting-edge infrared surveys of the sky to discover a new population of enormous, rapidly growing supermassive black holes in the early Universe. The black holes were previously undetected because they sit cocooned within thick layers of dust. The new study has shown however that they are emitting vast amounts of radiation through violent interactions with their host galaxies. The team will publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest Ever View of the Universe

Published on 25/09/2012 

Like photographers assembling a portfolio of best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of humanity's deepest-ever view of the universe.

Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the centre of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon.

Dark Galaxies of the Early Universe Spotted for the First Time

Published on 11/07/2012 

For the first time, dark galaxies — an early phase of galaxy formation, predicted by theory but unobserved until now — may have been spotted. These objects are essentially gas-rich galaxies without stars. Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, an international team thinks they have detected these elusive objects by observing them glowing as they are illuminated by a quasar.