Institute of Astronomy

Press Releases

Bouncing comets could deliver building blocks for life to exoplanets

Published on 15/11/2023 

How did the molecular building blocks for life end up on Earth? One long-standing theory is that they could have been delivered by comets. Now, researchers from the IoA have shown how comets could deposit similar building blocks to other planets in the galaxy.


In order to deliver organic material, comets need to be travelling relatively slowly – at speeds below 15 kilometres per second. At higher speeds, the essential molecules would not survive – the speed and temperature of impact would cause them to break apart.

How spinning stars can help us understand the habitability of distant worlds

Published on 25/09/2023 

A team of astronomers, led by researchers at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, have developed a new way to model the spin of small stars (known as M-dwarfs). The new findings could allow better insight into whether exoplanets orbiting these stars could host life.

Methane and carbon dioxide found in atmosphere of habitable-zone exoplanet

Published on 11/09/2023 

Methane and carbon dioxide found in atmosphere of habitable-zone exoplanet<

PIGS find ancient stars in the heart of the Milky Way

Published on 10/07/2023 

An international team of researchers has obtained the largest set of detailed observations yet of the oldest stars in the centre of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. The Pristine Inner Galaxy Survey (PIGS) team finds that this group of stars is slowly spinning around the centre of the Milky Way, despite being thought to have formed in a chaotic fashion. They also seem to spend most of their long lives near the Galactic centre.

Tracing 13 billion years of history by the light of ancient quasars

Published on 08/03/2023 

An internation team of astrophysicists (including IoA Professor Martin Haehnelt) have shed new light on the state of the universe 13 billion years ago by

Astronomers observe light bending around an isolated white dwarf

Published on 15/02/2023 

Astronomers have directly measured the mass of a dead star using an effect known as gravitational microlensing, first predicted by Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity, and first observed by two Cambridge astronomers 100 years ago.

More clues to understand our early Universe

Published on 30/01/2023 

An array of 350 radio telescopes in the Karoo desert of South Africa is getting closer to detecting “the Epoch of Re-ionization” &

UK-led robotic sky scanner reveals its first galactic fingerprint

Published on 13/12/2022 

A major telescope upgrade has peered through to the distant Universe to reveal the spectra of a pair of galaxies 280 million light years away from Earth.

The spectra provide a first glimpse of the sky from the WHT Enhanced Area Velocity Explorer (WEAVE) – a unique upgrade to the William Herschel Telescope (WHT) in La Palma on the Canary Islands.

Non-detection of key signal allows astronomers to determine what the first galaxies were – and weren’t – like

Published on 05/12/2022 

Researchers have been able to make some key determinations about the first galaxies to exist, in one of the first astrophysical studies of the period in the early Universe when the first stars and galaxies formed, known as the cosmic dawn.


Using data from India’s SARAS3 radio telescope, researchers led by the University of Cambridge were able to look at the very early Universe – just 200 million years after the Big Bang – and place limits on the mass and energy output of the first stars and galaxies. 


Study of ‘polluted’ white dwarfs finds that stars and planets grow together

Published on 23/11/2022 


A team of astronomers have found that planet formation in our young Solar System started much earlier than previously thought, with the building blocks of planets growing at the same time as their parent star.