Older News From The Royal Observatory

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

Older news is available from the link at the bottom of the page: Older News Link

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

ROEWhere and when to look for asteroid 2012DA14

15th February2013

Asteroid 2012DA14 will pass by Earth tonight, and if the sky is clear and you have a reasonably dark sky, you should be able to see it with a pair of binoculars. It is due to pop over the horizon in the ENE shortly before 2000 this evening (viewed from the Edinburgh area), will pass through the Plough about 2130 and continue on roughly towards the Pole Star.

More detailed skychart

UK ATCVISTA: a celebration - Workshop

17th - 18th January 2013

VISTA is delivering fabulous survey science to the European community and this is due to the hard work of those involved in delivering the project and the key leadership of the science surveys in the UK. VISTA was a challenging project to deliver and this meeting is in three-parts: to review the complexity of the novel design and the history of the project itself; the science data taking and the results of the current surveys; plans for future surveys using VISTA.

More Information about the Workshop

UK ATCDark Sky Discovery sites in the UK hit the big 50 as Stargazing LIVE gets underway

8th Jan 2013

The Dark Sky Discovery (DSD) network is today unveiling six new Dark Sky Discovery Sites on the day that BBC Two’s Stargazing LIVE gets underway. Dark Sky Discovery Sites are areas identified by the public as safe, accessible viewing spots where it is dark enough to view stars in the night sky.

Full text of the Press Release

UK ATC24-armed giant led from the UK successfully installed on ESO's Very Large Telescope

12th Dec 2012

A two and a half ton instrument that can look back billions of years, simultaneously pinpointing 24 galaxies and uncovering intricate detail about each of them, has made its first observations in Chile. The K-band Multi Object Spectrometer (KMOS) has been successfully tested on the world’s most advanced optical telescope, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT). KMOS is such a step forward in capability that it can achieve in just months what previous generations of instruments would have taken years to uncover. It will allow astronomers to discover the important processes at work during the formation of galaxies in the very early Universe billions of years ago. The achievement of ‘first light’ follows years of design and construction by teams in the UK, in Germany and at ESO. The KMOS team is led in the UK by Durham University and the instrument was assembled at STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC).

Full text of the Press Release

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Astronomers Shed New Light On Cosmic Dawn

12th Dec 2012

University of Edinburgh astronomers have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to reveal a population of primitive galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago, when the Universe was less than 4% of its present age. One of these is probably the most distant galaxy found to date (at redshift 12). These new observations shed new light on the earliest years of cosmic history.

Full text of the press release

IFA Logo"Cosmic GDP" crashes 97% as star formation slumps

7th November 2012

While parts of the world experience economic hardship, a team of astronomers co-led by Professsor Philip Best at the Institute for Astronomy in Edinburgh has found an even bigger slump happening on a cosmic scale.

Full text of the press release

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Euclid mission jumps final hurdle

22nd June 2012

The European Space Agency (ESA) has formally adopted the Euclid mission into their Cosmic Vision programme.

To make this adoption a success, the largest astronomical collaboration in history has been formed, and the University of Edinburgh plays leading roles in this endeavour. Adoption marks the final phase in a 6-year selection process and means that the scientists, industry partners and ESA can now start to aim for the expected launch date in 7 years' time.

Full text of the press release

UK ATCWorld's largest ground-based telescope is given 'go ahead'

11th June 2012

The governing Council of the European Southern Observatory (link opens in a new window) has today approved the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) programme – the world’s largest ground-based optical telescope.

Construction will not commence until provisional votes by four of the member states, including the UK, have been confirmed and 90% of the funding required has been secured. The E-ELT is a 39-m diameter optical/infrared telescope, planned to be tens of times more sensitive than any current telescope of its kind.

Full text of the Press Release

UK ATCFirst instrument for the JWST is completed and handed over to NASA

09 May 2012

After more than ten years of work by more than 200 engineers, the Mid InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), a camera so sensitive it could see a candle on one of Jupiter’s moons, has been declared ready for delivery by the European Space Agency and NASA. The MIRI Optical System is an instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that will eventually take up a position four times further away from the Earth than the Moon. It will now be shipped to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where it will be integrated with the other three instruments and the telescope.

Full text of the Press Release

IFA LogoBlack hole caught red-handed in a stellar homicide

3rd May 2012

British Astronomers have helped to gather the most direct evidence yet of a supermassive black hole shredding a star that wandered too close.

Full text of the press release

ROEWish You Were Here? Searching for Exoplanets

12 April 2012

"Wish You Were Here? Searching for Exoplanets" is a Scottish Government Science Engagement grant funded project and collaboration between ROE, Edinburgh College of Art and the University of St Andrews.

For the project, two teams of current and former ECA students have been working with astronomers to produce two short documentary films relating to work on exoplanets in Scotland.

The films have been completed and will premiere at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on Sunday 15th April, 8pm, in the National Museum of Scotland Auditorium. The films will then go on tour across Scotland, from Hoy to Wigtown!

More details about the films and screening locations.

ROEMid-Kent Astronomical Society begins work with the telescope

2nd April 2012

Members of the Mid-Kent Astronomical Society made a visit to the Royal Observatory on Monday the 2nd of March 2012 to begin the operation to remove the delicate optics from the old 20" IfA telescope prior to moving the instrument to its new home in Kent.

More information about the Mid-Kent Astronomical Society visit

ROE'Can-do' Kids meet at Royal Observatory

27 March 2012

Seven teams of high school students from across Scotland will compete to launch a space experiment that fits into a soft drinks can (a ‘CanSat’) at the STFC Royal Observatory Edinburgh this week. The competition is part of a Europe-wide programme organised by the European Space Agency. The cans have been provided by Irn Bru, and the Scottish CanSats are now ready to launch.

Full text of the Press Release.

ROENew SCUBA-2 camera reveals wild youth of the universe

27th March 2012

A team of astronomers from the UK, Canada and the Netherlands have commenced a revolutionary new study of cosmic star-formation history, looking back in time to when the universe was still in its lively and somewhat unruly youth! The consortium, co-led by University of Edinburgh astrophysicist Professor James Dunlop, is using a brand new camera called SCUBA-2, the most powerful camera ever developed for observing light at "sub-mm" wavelengths (i.e. light of wavelength 1000 times longer than we can see with our eyes).

Full text of the Press Release.

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