Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

Variations in the ‘fogginess’ of the universe identify a milestone in cosmic history

Published on 15/04/2019 

Large differences in the ‘fogginess’ of the early universe were caused by islands of cold gas left behind when the universe heated up after the big bang, according to an international team of astronomers.

Double star system flips planet-forming disk into pole position

Published on 15/01/2019 

New research involving IoA researchers has found the first confirmed example of a double star system that has flipped its surrounding disc to a position that leaps over the orbital plane of those stars. The international team of astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) to obtain high-resolution images of the Asteroid belt-sized disc.
 

Dark Energy Survey completes six-year mission

Published on 08/01/2019 

After scanning in depth about a quarter of the southern skies for six years and cataloguing hundreds of millions of distant galaxies, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) will finish taking data on January 9 2019.

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. 

Gaia reveals major galaxy collision that changed the Milky Way

Published on 20/08/2018 

An international team of astronomers has discovered an ancient and dramatic head-on collision between the Milky Way and a smaller object, dubbed ‘the Sausage Galaxy’. The cosmic crash was a defining event in the early history of the Milky Way and reshaped the structure of our Galaxy, fashioning both the Galaxy’s inner bulge and its outer halo, as reported in a series of new papers.

Gaia mission releases 3D census of over 1 billion stars

Published on 24/04/2018 

The European Space Agency's Gaia mission has released its second batch of data. This release includes information on 1.7 billion objects (including stars, galaxies, quasars, and asteroids). This dataset covers a volume of space 1000 times greater than the previous Gaia release, with a hundredfold improvement in precision. This data will benefit almost all branches of astronomy, shedding light on the formation of our Solar System, the evolution of stars, the history of the Milky Way, the distribution of dark matter, and the calibration the Universe's distance scale.

Dark Energy Survey publicly releases first three years of data

Published on 10/01/2018 

At a special session held during the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., scientists of the Dark Energy Survey (DES) announced  the public release of their first three years of data. This first major release of data from the Survey includes information on about 400 million astronomical objects, including distant galaxies billions of light years away as well as stars in our own galaxy.

Habitable planets around pulsars theoretically possible

Published on 19/12/2017 

Artistic impression of a habitable planet near a pulsar (right). Credit: Amanda Smith, IoA, Cambridge

First detection of gravitational waves produced by colliding neutron stars

Published on 16/10/2017 

In a galaxy far away, two dead stars begin a final spiral into a massive collision. The resulting explosion unleashes a huge burst of energy, sending ripples across the very fabric of space. In the nuclear cauldron of the collision, atoms are ripped apart to form entirely new elements and scattered outward across the Universe.

It could be a scenario from science fiction, but it really happened 130 million years ago -- in the NGC 4993 galaxy in the Hydra constellation, at a time here on Earth when dinosaurs still ruled, and flowering plants were only just evolving.

The Scientific Quest to Explain Tabby's Star

Published on 10/10/2017 

One of the most mysterious stellar objects may be revealing some of its secrets at last.