Older News From The Royal Observatory

The most recent of the old news items are listed on this page.

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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 scientistsí 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

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