Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

219 million stars: Astronomers release most detailed catalogue ever made of the visible Milky Way

Published on 16/09/2014 
A density map of part of the Milky Way disk, constructed from IPHAS data. 

A new catalogue of the visible part of the northern part of our home Galaxy, the Milky Way, includes no fewer than 219 million stars. Geert Barentsen of the University of Hertfordshire led a team, including members of the IoA, Cambridge, who assembled the catalogue in a ten year programme using the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) on La Palma in the Canary Islands. Their work appears today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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.

Are a companion's comets a key to a curious exoplanet system?

Published on 17/12/2013 

The nearby star Fomalhaut A hosts the most famous planetary system outside our own Solar System, containing both an exoplanet and a spectacular ring of comets. Today, an international team of astronomers announced a new discovery with the Herschel Space Observatory that has made this system even more intriguing; the least massive star of the three in the Fomalhaut system, Fomalhaut C, has now been found to host its own comet belt. The researchers published their results today in a letter to the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

A New View of the Hot and Energetic Universe

Published on 28/11/2013 

A New View of the Hot and Energetic Universe

ESA selects the science theme for its next large mission

At its meeting in Paris today, the Science Programme Committee of the European Space Agency (ESA) selected the "The Hot and Energetic Universe" as the science theme for its next Large (L-class) mission, expected to be launched in 2028, with the power to address some of the most fundamental questions in modern astrophysics.