Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

How to escape a black hole

Published on 24/11/2015 

image credit : NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab

An international team of astrophysicists, including researchers from the University of Cambridge, has observed a new way for gas to escape the gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole.

Ancient stars at the centre of the Milky Way contain ‘fingerprints’ from the very early Universe

Published on 10/11/2015 

Ancient stars at the centre of the Milky Way contain ‘fingerprints’ from the very early Universe

Astronomers have discovered some of the oldest stars in the galaxy, whose chemical composition and movements could tell us what the Universe was like soon after the Big Bang.

Black Hole has major flare

Published on 28/10/2015 
This diagram shows how a shifting feature, called a corona, can create a flare of X-rays around a black hole. The corona (feature represented in purplish colors) gathers inward (left), becoming brighter, before shooting away from the black hole (middle and right). Astronomers don't know why the coronas shift, but they have learned that this process leads to a brightening of X-ray light that can be observed by telescopes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Using stellar ‘twins’ to reach the outer limits of the galaxy

Published on 07/09/2015 

Astronomers from the University of Cambridge have developed a new, highly accurate method of measuring the distances between stars, which could be used to measure the size of the galaxy, enabling greater understanding of how it evolved.

Gaia's first year of scientific observations

Published on 26/08/2015 

On  Friday, 21 August, ESA’s billion-star surveyor, Gaia, completed its first year of science observations in its main survey mode.

Gaia satellite and amateur astronomers spot one in a billion star

Published on 22/07/2015 

Artist’s impression of Gaia14aae. Credit: Marisa Grove/Institute of Astronomy

The Gaia satellite has discovered a unique binary system where one star is ‘eating’ the other, but neither star has any hydrogen, the most common element in the Universe. The system could be an important tool for understanding how binary stars might explode at the end of their lives.

Gaia satellite and amateur astronomers spot one in a billion star

Published on 17/07/2015 

An international team of researchers, with the assistance of amateur astronomers, have discovered a unique binary star system: the first known such system where one star completely eclipses the other. It is a type of two-star system known as a Cataclysmic Variable, where one super dense white dwarf star is stealing gas from its companion star, effectively ‘cannibalising’ it.

Second Catalogue of Planck compact sources released

Published on 09/07/2015 

Figure caption: Map of selection of compact sources from the Second Planck Catalogue of Compact Sources. Credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration

‘Sunscreen’ Layer found on Extreme Planet

Published on 10/06/2015 

NASA scientists detected a stratosphere on WASP-33b by measuring the drop in light as the planet passed behind its star (top). Temperatures in the low stratosphere rise (right) because of molecules absorbing radiation from the star; otherwise, temperatures would cool down at higher altitudes (left).

Link to the accompanying NASA vido on Youtube.

‘Sunscreen’ layer detected on distant planet

Discovery shows what the solar system looked like as a ‘toddler’

Published on 26/05/2015 

Astronomers have discovered a disc of planetary debris surrounding a young sun-like star that shares remarkable similarities with the Kuiper Belt that lies beyond Neptune, and may aid in understanding how our solar system developed.

An international team of astronomers, including researchers from the University of Cambridge, has identified a young planetary system which may aid in understanding how our own solar system formed and developed billions of years ago.