Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

ALMA detects the most distant oxygen ever

Published on 14/06/2016 

ALMA detects the most distant oxygen ever

An international team of astronomers have detected glowing oxygen in a distant galaxy seen just 700 million years after the Big Bang. This is the most distant galaxy in which oxygen has ever been unambiguously detected, and it is most likely being ionised by powerful radiation from young giant stars. This galaxy could be an example of one type of source responsible for cosmic reionisation in the early history of the Universe.

Cold gas cloud shadows in the glare of a supermassive black hole

Published on 06/06/2016 

‘Shadows’ cast by molecular clouds moving toward the supermassive black hole. imprinting absorption lines on the continuum-subtracted spectrum from the region around the core of the galaxy.

First evidence of icy comets orbiting a sun-like star

Published on 17/05/2016 

Illustration of the dust ring surrounding HD 181327. Credit: Amanda Smith, University of Cambridge.

First evidence of icy comets orbiting a sun-like star

An international team of astronomers have found evidence of ice and comets orbiting a nearby sun-like star, which could give a glimpse into how our own solar system developed.

Three potentially habitable worlds found around nearby ultracool dwarf star

Published on 10/05/2016 

Three Earth-sized planets have been discovered orbiting a dim and cool star, and may be the best place to search for life beyond the Solar System.

The discovery of a planetary system around such a small star opens up a brand new avenue for research.

Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary stars

Published on 26/04/2016 

Artist’s impression depicting a compact object – either a black hole or a neutron star – feeding on gas from a companion star in a binary system. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau

Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary systems

Streams of gas have been spotted streaming away from a mysterious star system at a quarter the speed of light.

Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein’s prediction

Published on 11/02/2016 

 

An international team of scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

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.