What's New at The Royal Observatory

IFA Logo

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

IFA Logo

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

IFA Logo

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

IFA Logo

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

IFA Logo

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.

More Information

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

IFA Logo

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

UK ATCHiggs Centre for Innovation

05 December 2013

A new Higgs Centre for Innovation announced today (5 December 2013) aims to create new market opportunities whilst also inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The Centre will be built at STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC). It will focus on business incubation and start-up business support, by exploiting UK ATC and academic instrumentation and big data capabilities for commercial use. Working in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, the Centre will house up to 12 small businesses, as well as academic and PhD posts, to provide PhD students the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial experience as they start their research careers.

Full text of the press release.

ROEROE to host visit by Commander Chris Hadfield

15th November 2013

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh is delighted to be hosting Commander Chris Hadfield on the Scottish leg of his book launch tour. Commander Hadfield will give a talk and then be signing copies of his book.

The talk "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" will be on the Wednesday evening the 18th of December from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

This is a free ticketed event with a ‘No ticket, no entry’ policy due to limited space on site.

No advance reservations are being taken for this event. Tickets are only available on a "first come first served basis" via the Eventbright ticket reservation page.

More Information

UK ATCMinisters view Extremely Large Telescope work

11 November 2013

Alistair Carmichael MP, the Secretary of State for Scotland, visited the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) with David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, on 11th November 2013.

The highlight of the Ministers’ tour was the Crawford Laboratory, for which £0.5 million has been awarded to upgrade it for work on the large, high-precision instruments needed for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

Full text of the press release.

UK ATCWork starts on the world’s largest radio telescope

4th November 2013

Work starts this week (4 November 2013) on the next phase of development for what will soon be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope - the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project. The latest stage of the project will see the UK taking a major role in contributing to the overall final design of the world’s largest radio telescope. The SKA will revolutionise our understanding of the Universe by detecting radio waves with unprecedented sensitivity and image fidelity, helping answer key questions in astrophysics and astronomy, such as the role of dark energy and dark matter in our Universe, and possibly even one of mankind’s biggest questions: are we alone?

Full text of the press release

UK ATCNew Earth-sized exoplanet that ‘shouldn’t exist’ baffles astronomers

30 October 2013

Astronomers have for the first time weighed an Earth-sized planet orbiting another star. Although measuring the radius of exoplanets is relatively straightforward, measuring the planet's mass - and therefore its density, a clue to its composition - is more difficult. The results from two independent teams published in Nature (30 October 2013), one of which included a number of UK astronomers, confirm Kepler-78b as the first known Earth-sized exoplanet with an Earth-like density.

The results are baffling astronomers because Kepler-78b is a planet that shouldn’t exist. This scorching world circles its star every eight and a half hours at a distance of less than one million miles – one of the tightest known orbits. According to current theories of planet formation, it couldn’t have formed so close to its star, nor could it have moved there.

Full text of the press release.

ROEAstronomers talk climate change and biodiversity in pioneering project

30th October 2013

Astronomers are putting their telescopes aside this week (30-31 October) to look at climate change and biodiversity as they come together with tropical forest researchers to look at how tropical forest changes affect global warming and species distribution.

More Information

Edinburgh University Press Release, University of Leeds Press Release

IFA Logo

Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Peter Higgs and François Englert

8th October 2013

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2013 to Peter W. Higgs, University of Edinburgh,UK and François Englert, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.

Official Press Release

Edinburgh University Press Release, UK Prime Minister's Office Statement, STFC Media Release

IFA Logo

Our Universe May Not Be Flat

4th October 2013

IfA cosmologists Andrew Liddle and Marina Cortês put forward a proposal that explains the lopsidedness of the Universe - the fact that the perturbations in matter and energy are stronger in one side of the sky than on the other - by positing that our universe is slightly negatively curved, or shaped like a saddle. In this theory our universe originated as a bubble surrounded by higher energy space. The difference in energies provides a curvature scale, which in turn gives rise to the asymmetry we observe in the sky.

Learn more in Nature News

Link To The Scientific Paper

UK ATCNIRSpec on its way to NASA where it will join MIRI in tests next year

6 September 2013

ESA has completed the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), one of two instruments it is contributing to the international James Webb Space Telescope. NIRSpec is designed to detect the light from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the young Universe, roughly 400 million years after the Big Bang.

The delivery of the Mid-Infrared camera and spectrograph (MIRI) to NASA last year and now NIRSpec demonstrates how European engineers and scientists are playing a key role in this important international mission.

Full text of the press release.

ROEOpen Days weekend at the Royal Observatory

28th & 29th of September 2013

We open our doors this year over the weekend of the 28th and 29th of September 2013. Our theme this year is "Galaxies". Come to our Open Days to see demonstrations and exhibits about galaxies and the secret that lies at the centre of each one, even our own.

More details about our Open Days

IFA Logo

Intergalactic magnifying glasses could help astronomers map galaxy centres.

1st July 2013

An international team of astronomers may have found a new way to map quasars, the energetic and luminous central regions often found in distant galaxies. Team leader Prof. Andy Lawrence of the University of Edinburgh presents the new results on Monday 1 July at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in St Andrews, Scotland.

Full text of the press release

ROESPA Diamond Jubilee - Free Event

15th June 2013

The UK's leading organisation for beginners to stargazing, the Society for Popular Astronomy, is celebrating its 60th year. A Diamond Jubilee meeting at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh is being held on Saturday the 15th of June. A spectacular day of talks has been lined up which are free and open to all (ticket required).

More Information About The Event

ROEBomb Attack at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

20 May 2013

A hundred years ago this week, on the night of the 21st of May 1913, the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh was bombed. The attack was part of a wider militant suffragettes’ campaign seeking rights for women that targeted Government institutions and other representations of ‘the establishment’.

More Information About The Event

ROEUKATC Engineers spark NASA Engineer's Curiosity

19th April 2013

On Friday 19th April Nagin Cox, a senior engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, visited the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and was treated to a whistle-stop tour of some of the work carried out by the UKATC. Ms Cox, who works on the NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover 'Curiosity', is in the UK as part of a 3 country speaking tour whilst Mars is in conjunction (behind or close to) the Sun and work with Curiosity is not possible because radio communications are disrupted.

More Information About The Visit

IFA Logo

Huge Map of the Distant Universe Reaches Halfway Point - VLT survey charts positions of 55 000 galaxies

12th March 2013

The largest project ever undertaken to map out the Universe in three-dimensions using ESO telescopes has reached the halfway stage. An international team of astronomers, including members of the University of Edinburgh, has used the VIMOS instrument on the ESO Very Large Telescope to measure the distances to 55 000 galaxies as part of the VIPERS survey. This has already allowed them to create a remarkable three-dimensional view of how galaxies were distributed in space in the younger Universe. This reveals the complex web of the large-scale structure of the Universe in great detail.

Full text of the press release

UK ATCUK invests £88 million in world's largest ever optical telescope

4th March 2013

The UK research base and industry will play a leading role in one of the biggest global science collaborations in history, after the UK government confirmed long-term investment in the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) to be built in Chile.

The E-ELT will make huge strides toward our understanding of the Universe, the effects of dark matter and energy and planets outside of the solar system. Its 39 metres in diameter mirror will collect 15 times more light than any existing telescope and it will produce images 16 times sharper than the Hubble space-based telescope.

Full text of the press release

UK ATC£1.7M grant to fill major gaps in our understanding of human diseases

20 February 2013

A new UK endeavour that will focus on gaining a much better understanding of major human diseases, like cancer and other medical concerns such as deafness and ageing, is to be undertaken by an STFC-MRC consortium, thanks to a £1.7M grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The UK ATC is part of the consortium aiding in the development of adaptive optics for biomedical imaging. This technology was originally designed for use in astronomy research, and although the optics have been adapted for medical use, the underlying technology remains the same.

Full text of the press release.

Old news items are listed on this page: Old News Page