Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

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.

Astronomers find first evidence of changing conditions on a super Earth

Published on 04/05/2015 

Astronomers find first evidence of changing conditions on a super Earth
Astronomers have detected wildly changing temperatures on a super Earth – the first time any atmospheric variability has been observed on a rocky planet outside the solar system – and believe it could be due to huge amounts of volcanic activity, further adding to the mystery of what had been nicknamed the ‘diamond planet’.  

New dwarf galaxies discovered in orbit around the Milky Way

Published on 09/03/2015 

Welcome to the neighbourhood: new dwarf galaxies discovered in orbit around the Milky Way

Astronomers have discovered a ‘treasure trove’ of rare dwarf satellite galaxies orbiting our own Milky Way. The discoveries could hold the key to understanding dark matter, the mysterious substance which holds our galaxy together.

A 'galactic hailstorm' in the early Universe

Published on 15/01/2015 

Astronomers have been able to peer back to the young Universe to determine how quasars – powered by supermassive black holes with the mass of a billion suns – form and shape the evolution of galaxies.

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.