Public and Media Relations at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

Image Gallery

This is a collection of images that illustrate the work of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, the Institute for Astronomy and the ROE Visitor Centre. Please refer to the usage guidelines.

Recent News and Press Releases

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20 March 2018
ARIEL exoplanet mission selected as ESA’s next medium-class science mission

ARIEL, a mission to answer fundamental questions about how planetary systems form and evolve, has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as its next medium-class science mission, due for launch in 2026. During a 4-year mission, ARIEL will observe 1000 planets orbiting distant stars and make the first large-scale survey of the chemistry of exoplanet atmospheres. ESA’s Science Programme Committee announced the selection of ARIEL from three candidate missions on 20th March 2018. STFC through its RAL Space and UK ATC teams is part of the UK team contributing to this project.

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08 November 2017
Visiting Professorship in Innovation

Colin Cunningham has been awarded a Visiting Professorship in Innovation, Instrumentation and Systems Engineering by the Royal Academy of Engineering. It is based at the Scottish Microelectronics Centre in the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. He started a three year employment at the beginning of October, and will be working on it for about half a day a week, combined with his part-time role as Technology Champion at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre.

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16 October 2017
A technological wonder: UKATC engineers behind the latest gravitational waves news

News that for the first time scientists have directly detected both gravitational waves and light from the same event was made possible in part by engineers from STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh.

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13 January 2017
2017 Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation to Former ROE Staff Member Prof Ian S. McLean

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has just announced the award of the 2017 Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation to Prof Ian S. McLean (University of California, Los Angeles). The award recognises more than 30 years at the forefront of the development of advanced infrared sensor arrays and for his leadership in the design, construction, and deployment of innovative infrared instruments that have had widespread and fundamental scientific impact across a broad community of astronomers.

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07 December 2016
Images of faraway galaxies shed new light on dark matter

Dark matter, the elusive material that accounts for much of the Universe, is less dense and more smoothly distributed throughout space than previously thought, according to a new study co-led by astronomers at the University of Edinburgh. The international team of scientists studied wide-area images of the distant universe, taken from the European Southern Observatory in Chile. They applied a technique based on the bending of light by gravity - known as weak gravitational lensing - to map out the distribution of dark matter in the Universe today. Their study represents the largest area of the sky to be mapped using this technique to date.

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25 November 2014
'ReD letter day' for the UK ATC

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.

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22 January 2014
2014 RAS Group Achievement Award to the Herschel-SPIRE Consortium

This award recognizes outstanding achievement by large groups in collaboration with other institutes, including STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire and the UKATC at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.


11 November 2013
Ministers view Extremely Large Telescope work

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.



30 October 2013
Astronomers talk climate change and biodiversity in pioneering project

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.



01 July 2013
Intergalactic magnifying glasses could help astronomers map galaxy centres.

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.



12 March 2013
Huge Map of the Distant Universe Reaches Halfway Point - VLT survey charts positions of 55 000 galaxies

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.


08 Jan 2013
Dark Sky Discovery sites in the UK hit the big 50 as Stargazing LIVE gets underway

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.


12 Dec 2012
Astronomers Shed New Light On Cosmic Dawn

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.


07 November 2012
"Cosmic GDP" crashes 97% as star formation slumps

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.


19 October 2012
Dark Sky Discovery all set for a winter of stargazing

A restaurant car park, a hotel and a caravan park may not seem the most likely places for a spot of stargazing but these are just some of the areas being named as Dark Sky Discovery Sites as a brand new season of stargazing gets underway.


09 May 2012
First instrument for the JWST is completed and handed over to NASA

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.


03 May 2012
Black hole caught red-handed in a stellar homicide

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


27 March 2012
‘Can-do’ Kids meet at Royal Observatory

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.


27 March 2012
New SCUBA-2 camera reveals wild youth of the universe

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).


21 March 2012
VISTA produces spectacular panoramic view of the distant Universe

A team led by University of Edinburgh astrophysicist Professor James Dunlop has just released the most sensitive ever infrared image of a representative region of the distant Universe. The new image comes from the first year of data taken as part of the five-year UltraVISTA survey. It was made by combining more than six thousand separate exposures equivalant to an exposure time of 55 hours. The image reveals more than 200,000 galaxies, including the most massive galaxies yet seen in the early Universe, objects which formed less than one billion years after the Big Bang.


09 January 2012
Astronomers reach new frontiers of dark matter

For the first time, astronomers have mapped dark matter on the largest scale ever observed. The results, presented by Dr Catherine Heymans of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Associate Professor Ludovic Van Waerbeke of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, are being presented today (09/01/12) to the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas. Their findings reveal a Universe comprised of an intricate cosmic web of dark matter and galaxies spanning more than one billion light years.


06 December 2011
Revolutionary new camera reveals the dark side of the Universe

A new camera that will revolutionise the field of submillimetre astronomy has been unveiled on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii. SCUBA-2 is far more sensitive and powerful than previous instruments and can map areas of the sky hundreds of times faster.


03 October 2011
STFC funding paves the way for UK leadership in E-ELT instrumentation

£3.5 million in funding from STFC over the next two years has put UK astronomers in a strong position to take a leading role in the development of key instruments on the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The E-ELT is planned to be the largest optical and infrared telescope in the world and will be tens of times more sensitive than any current ground-based optical telescope. The project is currently awaiting final approval for construction to begin.


29th June 2011
UK astronomers find brightest quasar in the early universe

An international team of astronomers announced today the discovery of the most distant known supermassive black hole, seen as a luminous quasar created by gas falling into the black hole.


14th February 2011
Scottish astronomers and engineers join search for new earth-like planets

Astronomers from the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh are joining their counterparts from Queen's University Belfast and the Universities of Geneva, Harvard and INAF-TNG in the hunt for extra-solar planets similar to the Earth. Together they will be building and using a new instrument called HARPS-N for the Italian 3.5-metre Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands. The instrument will be able to analyze the light of candidates identified from NASA’s Kepler space probe.


5th January 2011
VISTA goes deep into the Blue Lagoon

A new image of a star-forming region known as the Lagoon Nebula that lies about 4-5000 light years away has been captured by the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) UK-designed and built VISTA telescope.


13th October 2010
Conference highlights the benefits of astronomy research on wider society

A technology developed to establish the age of galaxies which is now being used to compare medical scans and a telescope project that has seen UK companies win £9 million in contracts are being highlighted at a conference this week as examples of how astronomy can benefit society.


13th August 2010
ROE staff on-loan for 'reading' at Edinburgh's Fringe Festival

A ‘Human Book’ about ‘Dark Skies and Big Telescopes’ was available for loan at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival this week (Wednesday 11th August), in the form of Dan Hillier, the manager of the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh Visitor Centre. Dan from the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC) was part of the ‘Future Editions’ library organised which offered 30 specialists on-loan across the city for festival-goers to chat with for ten minute spells.


11th August 2010
Spectacular new ‘Tarantula’ image captured by VISTA

Astronomers have captured a spectacular new image in a region of our neighbouring galaxy known to have an abnormally high rate of star formation that reveals yet more details about its history and development. The picture, taken with the UK-designed and built VISTA telescope, is of the Tarantula Nebula, a region in the Large Magellanic Cloud which contains many stars that can be difficult to detect because they are enshrouded in the gas and dust clouds from which they formed. Astronomers were able to take the image by using ESO’s VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy ) telescope because it can pick up near infra-red light, which we cannot see ourselves, that has a longer wavelength of visible light, enabling it to penetrate much of the dust that would normally obscure our view.


15th July 2010
NASA award for telescope innovation to Edinburgh Scientist

The late Dr Timothy Hawarden, who was based for many years at the ’STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC), has been awarded a NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal for his pioneering work on innovative cooling techniques that make possible future infrared space telescopes, including the one that will follow the Hubble Space Telescope. The awards were presented at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, home of the Hubble, on 16 June 2010. Nobel laureate, Dr, John Mather, an American astronomer who was an early convert to Tim’s concept, accepted it on Tim’s behalf.

The medals accompanying the award were presented to Tim’s widow, Frances today (15 July 2010) at a brief ceremony held at the UK ATC (formerly the Royal Observatory Edinburgh or ROE) during a meeting of the Science Working Group for the James Webb Space Telescope. At the ceremony Robert Smith, an historian charged with writing a comprehensive history of this huge NASA/ESA mission, gave an introduction to the significance of Tim’s work to an audience of NASA and ESA scientists together with some of Tim’s colleagues at the UK ATC.


25 June 2010
All eyes on giant telescope project

An exhibition including two innovative videos is showcasing inspirational plans to build the largest optical telescope in the world – the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

The giant telescope is in an advanced stage of design by astronomers and industry across Europe, led by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The E-ELT, with a main mirror 42 metres in diameter, is expected to revolutionise our understanding of the Universe and its origins.


17 June 2010
UK scientists focus on revealing hidden mysteries of the Universe

Secrets of the Universe are to be revealed as a new telescope equipped with the world?s most powerful digital camera begins its observations of the night sky. The Pan-STARRS sky survey telescope - known as PS1 - will enable scientists to better understand the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, the material that is thought to account for much of the mass of the universe but has never been proven to exist.

Astronomers from the Universities of Durham, Edinburgh and Queen?s University Belfast together with researchers from around the world are using the telescope to scan the skies from dusk to dawn each night.

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16 June 2010
Largest radio telescope gets royal seal of approval

The world's largest radio telescope has been officially launched at a special ceremony in the Netherlands attended by astronomers from the UK and many other countries. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands formally opened LOFAR, which stands for Low Frequency Array, on Saturday 12 June. Representatives from consortia in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom then officially signed the memorandum that kicks off their scientific collaboration.


18 March 2010
Hubble's successor one step closer to completion

A working replica of MIRI - the pioneering camera and spectrometer for the James Webb Space Telescope - has just been shipped (16th March) from the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, bringing the Webb telescope one small step closer to embarking on its journey into space where it will produce the sharpest images yet of the farthest depths of the cosmos.

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10 February 2010
Orion in a new light - ESO's VISTA telescope exposes high-speed antics of young stars

The Orion Nebula reveals many of its hidden secrets in a dramatic image taken by the new UK-designed VISTA telescope. The survey telescope's huge field of view can show the full splendour of the whole nebula and VISTA's infrared vision also allows it to peer deeply into dusty regions that are normally hidden and expose the curious behaviour of the very active young stars buried there. 

Previous press releases are available from the press release archive.

Public Events

The Royal Observatory runs a number of events for the Public. Information about these is available from the Visitor Centre. There are also site-wide events include the annual Open Days, which are part of the Edinburgh Doors Open Days.