Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

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.

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