What's New at The Royal Observatory

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Rosemary Wyse Awarded the 2016 Brouwer Award by the Division on Dynamical Astronomy of the AAS

29th May 2016

Professor Rosie Wyse, currently a Visiting Leverhulme Professor at the Institute for Astronomy, has been awarded the 2016 Brouwer Award by the Division on Dynamical Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society for her fundamental role in advancing our understanding of the structure, dynamics and formation history of the Milky Way and its satellite galaxies.

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UK ATCUK ATC at the SUPA annual gathering exhibition in Glasgow

25th May 2016

The UK ATC was present at the exhibition which forms part of the SUPA (Scotish Universities Physics Alliance) annual gathering that was held on Wednesday 25th 2016.

The UK ATC stand featured near-future projects such as MIRI including a model and prototype hardware and the E-ELT where a hologram was used to show the telescope design and scale. Also on display was an image slicer demonstration that is an up-scaled version of the slicers used in MIRI and other UK ATC built instruments. The demonstrator shows in a very direct and simple way and at a much larger scale how image slicers work.

SUPA comprises eight Scottish Universities (Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Heriot Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde and UWS) which have come together to form a research alliance in Physics.

SUPA Annual Gathering 2016

ROEThe greatest movie ever made

19 May 2015

The World’s first motion picture of our Universe, being dubbed the ‘greatest movie ever made’, is to be produced by international astronomers.

The film, which could feature dangerous asteroids and uncover some of the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, will be recorded on a giant digital camera comprising 3.2 billion pixels.

It hasn’t been completed yet, but when it is, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will be the World’s largest digital camera. It will be able to take images of the sky that each cover over 40 times the area of the moon, building up a survey of the entire visible sky in just three nights.)

University of Edinburgh Release

STFC Release

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Professor James Dunlop becomes a Fellow of the Royal Society

29th April 2016

Congratulations to Prof. James Dunlop, who has been elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society.

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science.

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UK ATCConstruction starts on Higgs Centre for Innovation

27th January 2016

Construction has today begun on the Higgs Centre for Innovation. The final designs for the building were also unveiled at a celebratory event at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, where the new centre will be housed.

The Higgs Centre for Innovation is named in honour of Professor Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, who received the Nobel Prize for his prediction of the existence of the Higgs Boson which was discovered at CERN in 2012. The Centre will support start-up businesses with the aim of creating new market opportunities, especially in big data and space technologies. The Centre is funded through a £10.7 million investment from the UK Government. The Science and Technology Facilities Council will invest £2million over five years to operate the centre.

Full text of the press release

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Herschel Medal Award for Professor Jim Dunlop

8th January 2016

Prof Jim Dunlop of the School of Physics & Astronomy has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Societyʼs (RAS) Herschel Medal for his pioneering research into galaxy formation.

The Herschel Medal is awarded for investigations of outstanding merit in observational astrophysics.

The prize was announced at the January 2016 meeting of the RAS, and will be presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in June 2016. Previous winners of the Herschel Medal can be found at the link below:

Previous Herschel Medal Recipients

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Gas that fuels star formation identified

18th November 2015

Astronomers have identified for the first time one of the key components of many stars, a University study suggests.

A type of gas found in the voids between galaxies - known as atomic gas - can be part of the star formation process under certain conditions, researchers say.

It was previously thought that stars could form only in the presence of a different type of gas - called molecular gas.

Full Text of the press release

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Galaxies show appetite for growth

5th August 2015

The extent to which galaxies consume one another has been revealed in research. Findings from the study help to explain how galaxies such as the Milky Way were formed. A team of scientists has used a highly sensitive instrument on one of the world’s largest telescopes to witness a dominant galaxy ingesting the stars of its near neighbours.

Full text of the press release

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Awards for Institute for Astronomy Postdoc Astronomer

31st July 2015

The ROE IfA postdoc, Michal Michalowski, has been awarded The Royal Astronomical Society's Winton Capital Award in astronomy for a postdoc in a UK institution "whose career has shown the most promising development" and the Polish Astronomical Society Young Scientist Award "in recognition of outstanding individual accomplishments"

RAS Award Details, Polish Astronomical Society Award Details

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Virtual reality headset opens up immersive astronomy

7th July 2015

Edinburgh astronomers have combined the new Oculus Rift virtual reality headset with Stellarium planetarium software to produce an exciting and immersive way to explore the sky.

The system, known as StarsightVR, was demonstrated live at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, and will soon be available as a shared group experience to anyone with a headset and an Internet connection.

PhD researcher Alastair Bruce and his supervisor Prof. Andy Lawrence adapted the Stellarium software to create StarsightVR. Bruce saw potential for the Oculus Rift headset, which is expected to be popular in the gaming industry when it goes on sale in 2016, to be adapted for use by astronomy enthusiasts. A prototype version of the system was well received by audiences during a preview at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

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Deep space images aid dark matter study

9th July 2015

New images of deep space are helping shed light on the material that accounts for more than 80 per cent of the universe.

The images are the first from an international project that seeks to aid understanding of dark matter - how much of it is contained, and how it is distributed, in groups of galaxies - such as the group that houses the Milky Way.

The study is also hoped to improve scientists’ knowledge of how galaxies are formed.

Being able to explain dark matter would represent a major scientific breakthrough.

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ROEPhD Research Project
Design and prototyping a compact spectrometer for monitoring atmospheric CH4 from space

05 June 2015

Please note that funding is restricted to students.

In this project you will design a new compact CH4 spectrograph, in collaboration with a multinational aerospace company, which can be carried on small, unmanned airborne platforms, to address the measurements required to detect fugitive emissions. We anticipate that the design and demonstration of such an instrument will underpin future developments in small satellite (e.g. CubeSat) mission concepts that address greenhouse gas monitoring of international agreements.

Supervisors: Paul Palmer (U. Edinburgh) and Dave Lee (Astronomy Technology Centre, STFC, Edinburgh)

Project Details PDF

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The successful student will start in September 2015

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Astronomers shed light on mysterious nature of dark matter

26th March 2015

Scientists have furthered their understanding of dark matter, the elusive material that accounts for much of the mass of the Universe.

They used NASA telescopes to study how dark matter behaved during cosmic crashes between galaxies in deep space. Each collision took hundreds of millions of years, and is captured as a freeze-frame from a single camera angle.

Their findings show that dark matter interacts with itself even less than was previously thought. It improves scientists understanding of the mysterious substance, and helps pinpoint what it might be made of.

Full text of the press release

ROEDeath of Vincent Reddish, former Astronomer Royal

7th January 2015

On Friday Jan 2nd 2015, Vincent Reddish, former Astronomer Royal, Director of the Royal Observatory and Regius Professor of Astronomy, sadly passed away.

Vincent was born in 1926, and studied and worked at UCL, Manchester and Edinburgh, eventually becoming Director of ROE in 1975, until 1980 when he retired to private life. During the 1960s and 1970s Reddish was a key part of the drive for modern automation at ROE, and the leading force behind the creation of COSMOS, the UK Schmidt, and UKIRT.

Obituary: The Scotsman

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Paper on the nature of time wins new cosmology prize

6th January 2015

Marina Cortes, a Marie Curie Research Fellow in the University of Edinburgh's Institute for Astronomy, has been jointly awarded the 2014 Buchalter Cosmology Prize, along with Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute (Canada), for their paper “The Universe as a Process of Unique Events” (arXiv:1307.6167).

The judging committee recognised the work as “a remarkable approach for introducing the irreversible flow of time into the foundations of physics.” This is the first year that the prize, which is worth 10,000 US dollars, has been awarded. It was announced at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle on the 6th of January 2015.

Full text of the press release

UK ATCESO gives the go-ahead for E-ELT construction

4th December 2014

The announcement today that the green light has been given for construction of the world’s biggest optical and infrared telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), provides huge opportunities for both the UK astronomy community and UK Industry.

Full text of the press release

UK ATC'ReD letter day' at the UK ATC

25th November 2014

November 25th marked the shipping of the UK ATC developed Retinal Densiometer prototype (ReD) to Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences. The device is designed to help diagnose Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of sight loss in adults living in the developed world. Once at Cardiff the prototype will undergo more realistic engineering tests involving human volunteers before further versions are deployed for clinical trials.

Full text of the press release.

ROEConcluding news from SPIE 2014

07 July 2014

SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation 2014, the most prestigious event for developers of ground- and space-based telescopes, the supporting technologies, and the latest instrumentation.

Concluding news from the event

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UK astronomers bid to join Large Survey Telescope Project

23rd June 2014

Astronomers will discuss the case for UK involvement in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project (LSST) on Monday 23 June at the National Astronomy Meeting in Portsmouth.

The LSST will be sited at Cerro Pachón in the Chilean Andes and will have a primary mirror 8.4 metres in diameter, making it one of the largest single telescopes in the world, as well as the world’s largest digital camera, comprising 3.2 billion pixels. It will achieve first light in 2020 and its main sky survey will begin in 2022.

More Details

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Prof. John Peacock is joint recipient of Shaw Prize in Astronomy

28th May 2014

Prof. John Peacock has been jointly awarded the Shaw Prize in Astronomy. He shares the award with professors Daniel Eisenstein (Harvard University) and Shaun Cole (Durham University).

The 2014 Shaw Prize recognises the achievements of two large-scale sky surveys: with the UK-Australian Two-degree Field Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dFGRS) and the USA-led Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). John Peacock is a co-lead of the 2dFGRS, which catalogued 220,000 galaxies between 1995 and 2002, a tenfold leap in the size of such studies.

Full text of the press release

UK ATCUK ATC key partner in new Scottish Satellite Applications Centre

21st March 2014

The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) in Edinburgh has this week been named one of the key partners in a new Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications that will enable businesses to tap in to the UK’s £8.2 billion space sector.

Full text of the press release.

ROERSE Awards for two members of ROE staff

7th March 2014

Congratulations to Professor Gillian Wright MBE, Director of the STFC UK Astronomy Technology Centre, and Professor Rob Ivision, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Astronomy (IfA), part of the University of Edinburgh, on being elected Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

The 53 Royal Society of Edinburgh Fellows announced are seen as outstanding representatives from a wide variety of disciplines - spanning the arts, business, science and technology sectors. Gillian and Rob will join those Fellows, past and present, who continue the RSE’s founding mission: "the advancement of learning and useful knowledge". The breadth of the Fellowship, which includes more than 1500 people from Scotland, the rest of the UK and beyond, ensures that the RSE can provide leadership and excellence across all areas of public life.

STFC News Item

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First surface map of a brown dwarf shows extraterrestrial weather patterns

29th January 2014

Astronomers have presented the first detailed study of the atmospheric features – the extraterrestrial weather patterns – of a brown dwarf (an object intermediate between planets and stars). The results include the first surface map of a brown dwarf and measurements at different wavelengths probing the atmosphere at different depths. They mark the beginning of an era in which astronomers will be able to compare models for cloud formation on brown dwarfs – and, eventually, on giant gas planets in distant star systems – with observations. The results are published in the January 30, 2014 issue of the journal Nature and in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

University of Edinburgh Press Release, ESO Press Release, MPIA Press Release

UK ATCRAS Group Achievement Award for SPIRE

22nd January 2014

The Herschel-SPIRE Consortium has received the RAS Group Achievement Award reflecting the contributions of the large international team, including the UK ATC and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, which built this spaceborne astronomical instrument.

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UK ATCHeriot-Watt University and UK ATC work on Photonics and E-ELT feature on BBC Scotland

20th January 2014

Laser inscription work being done by Dr Robert Thomson of Heriot-Watt University was featured on BBC Scotland. The laser inscription work is required for development of photonic lanterns a technology that will be used in the instruments for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The UK ATC helped fund this work and is collaborating with the research. The TV report also featured Dr John Davies giving the background to the E-ELT and explaining the importance of photonic lanterns for the development of E-ELT instruments.

BBC Scotland TV Report

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Royal Astronomical Society award for Professor James Dunlop

10th January 2014

The Institute for Astronomy's Prof. James Dunlop has been awarded the 2014 George Darwin Lectureship by the Royal Astronomical Society. The Lecture is given annually by a distinguished and eloquent speaker on a topic in astronomy, cosmology or astroparticle physics.

Prof. Dunlop is Head of the Institute for Astronomy, having previously held this position for five years from 2002-2007. He has also received a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award and currently holds an ERC Advanced Investigator Award.

Full text of the press release

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