Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

The spiralling signatures of planet formation

Published on 24/04/2017 

A young star recently observed to be surrounded by spiralling gas and dust could be one of the first to show planet formation ‘in action’ via a mechanism once thought to be unlikely.

Astrophysicists at the University of Cambridge have used theoretical models to determine the origins of the striking large-scale spiral features surrounding a nearby star.

Stars Born in Winds from Supermassive Black Holes

Published on 24/03/2017 

Observations using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed stars forming within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. These are the first confirmed observations of stars forming in this kind of extreme environment. The discovery has many consequences for understanding galaxy properties and evolution.

Rapid changes point to origin of ultra-fast black hole winds

Published on 28/02/2017 

Astronomers have made the most detailed observation yet of an ultra-fast wind emanating from a Black Hole at a quarter of the speed of light. Using the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuSTAR telescopes, the scientists observed the phenomenon in an active galaxy known as IRAS 13224-3809.

Mapping the family tree of stars

Published on 20/02/2017 

Evolutionary tree of near-by stars constructed using the genetic code MEGA and 17 different chemical elements as the stellar DNA. Credit: Amanda Smith

Black-Hole-Powered Jets Forge Fuel for Star Formation

Published on 14/02/2017 

Composite image showing how powerful radio jets from the supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy in the Phoenix Cluster inflated huge "bubbles" in the hot, ionized gas surrounding the galaxy (the cavities inside the blue region imaged by NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory). Hugging the outside of these bubbles, ALMA discovered an unexpected trove of cold gas, the fuel for star formation (red). The background image is from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ALMA (ECO/NAOJ/NRAO) H. Russell, et al.; NASA/ESA Hubble; NASA/CSC/MIT/M. McDonald et al.; B.

A bridge of stars connects two dwarf galaxies

Published on 12/02/2017 
Figure caption: The Magellanic Clouds, their stellar halos and the RR Lyrae bridge. Pale white veils and the narrow bridge between the Clouds represent the distribution of the RR Lyrae stars detected with the data from the Gaia satellite. Credit: V. Belokurov, D. Erkal and A. Mellinger

The death of a planet nursery?

Published on 22/09/2016 

Planetary disc around the star known as TW Hydrae. Source: S. Andrews (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA); B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

The dusty disc surrounding the star TW Hydrae exhibits circular features that may signal the formation of protoplanets. Cambridge astronomer Giovanni Rosotti is one of a team of astronomers led by LMU astrophysicist Barbara Ercolano who argue that the innermost feature actually points to the impending dispersal of the disc.

Astronomers identify a young heavyweight star in the Milky Way

Published on 19/08/2016 

Astronomers identify a young heavyweight star in the Milky Way

A young star over 30 times more massive than the Sun could help us understand how the most extreme stars in the Universe are born.

The First Atmospheric Study of Earth-Sized Exoplanets

Published on 19/07/2016 

First atmospheric study of Earth-sized exoplanets excites researchers

Two Earth-sized exoplanets have become the first rocky worlds to have their atmospheres studied using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Planets similar to Jupiter are likely able to form on orbits shorter than the Earth’s

Published on 15/07/2016 

Planets similar to Jupiter are likely able to form on orbits shorter than the Earth's

After analyzing four years of Kepler space telescope observations, astronomers from the University of Toronto, and of the University of Cambridge have given us our clearest understanding yet of a class of exoplanets called “warm Jupiters”, showing that many have unexpected planetary companions