Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

Astronomers discover the ‘Mighty Mouse’ of stellar remnants

Published on 08/10/2014 

An international team of astronomers has found a pulsating, dead star beaming with the energy of about 10 million suns. This is the brightest pulsar – a dense stellar remnant left over from a supernova explosion – ever recorded.

The most detailed exoplanet weather map ever

Published on 01/10/2014 
In this artist illustration the Jupiter sized planet WASP-43b orbits its parent star in what is one of the closest orbits ever measured for an exoplanet of its size — with a year lasting just 19 hours. The planet is tidally locked meaning it keeps one hemisphere facing the star, just as our Moon keeps one face toward Earth. The colour gradient on the planet represents the temperature across its atmosphere. This is based on data from a recent study that mapped the temperature of WASP-43b in more detail than has been done for any other exoplanet. Credit ESA, NASA.

Clear skies on exo-Neptune

Published on 23/09/2014 

This is an artist's concept of the silhouette of the extrasolar planet HAT-P-11b as it passes its parent star. The planet was observed as it crossed in front of its star in order to learn more about its atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Gaia discovers its first supernova

Published on 12/09/2014 

Image caption: An artist’s impression of a Type Ia supernova – the explosion of a white dwarf locked in a binary system with a companion star (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab/C. Carreau). The inset figure shows a low-resolution spectrum obtained with the photometric instrument on Gaia of the supernova. (Credits: ESA/Gaia/DPAC/N. Blagorodnova).

NASA's NuSTAR Sees Rare Blurring of Black Hole Light

Published on 08/08/2014 

A big, spinning black hole blurs light

Highest-precision measurement of water in planet outside the solar system

Published on 22/07/2014 

Highest-precision measurement of water in planet outside the solar system

The discovery of water vapour in the atmospheres of three exoplanets includes the most precise measurement of any chemical in a planet outside the solar system, and has major implications for planet formation and the search for water on Earth-like habitable exoplanets in future.

Astronomers create first realistic virtual universe

Published on 07/05/2014 

Tracking 13 billion years of cosmic evolution, astronomers have created the first realistic virtual simulation of the Universe.

A newly-developed computer simulation has created the first realistic version of the Universe, enabling researchers to understand how galaxies, black holes and other cosmic phenomena developed from shortly after the Big Bang to the present day.

Stellar Stuff - Gaia Live in Schools

Published on 24/03/2014 

An IoA, Cambridge-led outreach project is connecting over 2,200 pupils with the excitement of ESA’s Gaia mission through a Q&A session that will take place tomorrow with the discussion streamed live to schools throughout Europe.

Will Gaia discover habitable planets similar to the Earth? Is the Universe infinite? Could Gaia be hit by a piece of space debris as in the film Gravity? How many planets are there in the Milky Way?

Galactic gas caused by colliding comets suggests mystery ‘shepherd’ exoplanet

Published on 06/03/2014 

Latest research has uncovered a massive clump of carbon monoxide in a young solar system. The gas is the result of near constant collisions of icy comets – suggesting vast swarms of tightly packed comets in thrall to the gravitational pull of an as-yet-unseen exoplanet.

Gaia-ESO data suggest Milky Way may have formed ‘inside-out’, and provide new insights into Galactic evolution

Published on 19/01/2014 

Gaia-ESO data show Milky Way may have formed ‘inside-out’, and provide new insight into Galactic evolution

Research on first data release from Gaia-ESO project suggests the Milky Way formed by expanding out from the centre, and reveals new insights into the way our Galaxy was assembled.