Institute of Astronomy

Planets

Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form

Published on 22/10/2018 

 

Researchers have identified a young star with four Jupiter and Saturn-sized planets in orbit around it, the first time that so many massive planets have been detected in such a young system. 

The system has also set a new record for the most extreme range of orbits yet observed: the outermost planet is more than a thousand times further from the star than the innermost one, which raises interesting questions about how such a system might have formed. 

ESA exoplanet PLATO mission moves towards construction

Published on 20/06/2017 

The ESA SPC meeting on 20-21 June has now agreed to the adoption of the PLATO mission, following its selection in February 2014. This means it can move from a blueprint into construction. In the coming months industry will be asked to make bids to supply the spacecraft platform. Whilst its payload and control and analysis software will be constructed by agencies and institutes across Europe.

‘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’.  

Do missing Jupiters mean massive comet belts?

Published on 27/11/2012 

Do missing Jupiters mean massive comet belts?

Using ESA’s Herschel space observatory, astronomers have discovered vast comet belts surrounding two nearby planetary systems known to host only Earth-to-Neptune-mass worlds. The comet reservoirs could have delivered life-giving oceans to the innermost planets.

Solar System

One of the most curious small body populations within the Solar System is irregular satellites. Investigations of the dust created in collisions between these objects is undertaken by Mark Wyatt and Grant Kennedy.

Planetary System Dynamics

Research into the dynamics of extrasolar planetary systems at the Institute of Astronomy covers a broad spectrum of topics.