Institute of Astronomy

Astronomy News

Giant telescope’s mobile-phone ‘dead zones’ rile South African residents

23 November 2017 - 9:12am

Giant telescope’s mobile-phone ‘dead zones’ rile South African residents

Nature 551, 7681 (2017).

Author: Sarah Wild

Sensitive radio dishes of the Square Kilometre Array will affect phone reception — and could harm local economies, say farmers.

Exoplanet hunters rethink search for alien life

23 November 2017 - 9:12am

Exoplanet hunters rethink search for alien life

Nature 551, 7681 (2017).

Author: Alexandra Witze

Astronomers expand ideas of how chemistry and geology could affect chances for life on other worlds.

Light pollution: Night being lost in many countries

23 November 2017 - 9:11am

Much of the world is "losing the night" as artificial light becomes brighter and more widespread, say scientists.

High-energy 'ghost particles' absorbed by Earth

23 November 2017 - 9:10am

Neutrinos are famous for travelling through solid objects, but they don't go through everything, a study shows.

The message we’re sending to nearby aliens is no threat to Earth

22 November 2017 - 9:21am

Critics fear provoking hostile extraterrestrials by beaming messages to our closest exoplanets but there's no need to worry, says METI president Douglas Vakoch

We got a good look at the interstellar asteroid and it’s weird

22 November 2017 - 9:20am

Our first detailed glimpse at ‘Oumuamua, the interstellar asteroid that recently flew by Earth, shows it’s one of the weirdest asteroids we’ve ever seen

Ocean-covered planets may not be the places to search for life

22 November 2017 - 9:19am

Looking for life in the universe has often come down to a search for water on other planets. But water worlds may not make enough of the nutrients life needs

Solar System’s First Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

22 November 2017 - 9:19am

Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped through the solar system on a steep trajectory from interstellar space—the first confirmed object from another star. 

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 11:00

How the Milky Way’s middle grew a peanut-shaped bulge

22 November 2017 - 9:19am

How the Milky Way’s middle grew a peanut-shaped bulge

How the Milky Way’s middle grew a peanut-shaped bulge, Published online: 20 November 2017; doi:10.1038/d41586-017-07277-7

Model points to motion of the stars in the galactic disc.

A brief visit from a red and extremely elongated interstellar asteroid

22 November 2017 - 9:18am

A brief visit from a red and extremely elongated interstellar asteroid

A brief visit from a red and extremely elongated interstellar asteroid, Published online: 20 November 2017; doi:10.1038/nature25020

ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before

22 November 2017 - 9:17am
For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space. Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. The new results appear in the journal Nature on 20 November 2017.

Black holes that shred stars burp out cosmic rays and neutrinos

20 November 2017 - 9:02am

The highest energy cosmic rays and neutrinos that rain down on Earth may come from white dwarf stars being devoured by black holes

We may know why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is red instead of white

17 November 2017 - 10:01am

The gases in Jupiter's atmosphere should form white clouds, so why do they look red? Two teams have found different recipes for the red in the Great Red Spot

We just sent a message to try to talk to aliens on another world

17 November 2017 - 9:12am

We've just sent a message to a nearby star to see if there's any life there - and we'll only have to wait 25 years for a reply

Dark matter may be the source of antimatter streaming past Earth

17 November 2017 - 9:11am

Two nearby powerful pulsars aren’t responsible for the stream of antimatter positrons snaking past Earth, so dark matter might be behind it after all

NASA Detects Solar Flare Pulses at Sun and Earth

17 November 2017 - 9:10am
Portal origin URL: NASA Detects Solar Flare Pulses at Sun and EarthPortal origin nid: 413448Published: Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 14:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Two recent studies show how solar flares exhibit pulses or oscillations in the amount of energy being sent out. Such research provides new insights on the origins of these massive solar flares and the space weather they produce. This is key information as humans and robotic missions venture out into the solar system, farther and farther from Earth.Portal image: SDO observations of 2011 X-class flareScience Categories: Sun

NASA Selects Instrument for Future International Mission to Martian Moons

17 November 2017 - 9:09am
NASA has selected a science instrument for an upcoming Japan-led sample return mission to the moons of Mars planned for launch in 2024.

'Routine' detection of space ripples

17 November 2017 - 9:08am

Laser labs sense black holes merging at a distance of about a billion light-years from Earth.

Interstellar asteroid is given a name

17 November 2017 - 9:07am

The first known asteroid to visit our Solar System from interstellar space has been given a name.

Haze heats Pluto’s atmosphere yet explains its cold temperature

16 November 2017 - 9:44am

Haze heats Pluto’s atmosphere yet explains its cold temperature

Nature 551, 7680 (2017). doi:10.1038/nature24465

Authors: Xi Zhang, Darrell F. Strobel & Hiroshi Imanaka

Pluto’s atmosphere is cold and hazy. Recent observations have shown it to be much colder than predicted theoretically, suggesting an unknown cooling mechanism. Atmospheric gas molecules, particularly water vapour, have been proposed as a coolant; however, because Pluto’s thermal structure is expected to be in radiative–conductive equilibrium, the required water vapour would need to be supersaturated by many orders of magnitude under thermodynamic equilibrium conditions. Here we report that atmospheric hazes, rather than gases, can explain Pluto’s temperature profile. We find that haze particles have substantially larger solar heating and thermal cooling rates than gas molecules, dominating the atmospheric radiative balance from the ground to an altitude of 700 kilometres, above which heat conduction maintains an isothermal atmosphere. We conclude that Pluto’s atmosphere is unique among Solar System planetary atmospheres, as its radiative energy equilibrium is controlled primarily by haze particles instead of gas molecules. We predict that Pluto is therefore several orders of magnitude brighter at mid-infrared wavelengths than previously thought—a brightness that could be detected by future telescopes.