What's New at The Royal Observatory

IFA LogoAncient galaxy revealed by space telescope

22 May 2023

Astronomers using the most powerful telescope ever built have identified a massive, densely packed galaxy 25 billion light years away.

The galaxy – known as GS-9209 – formed just 600 to 800 million years after the Big Bang, and is the earliest of its kind found to date, researchers say.

A team led by researchers from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh has used the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to reveal in detail the properties of GS-9209 for the first time.

More Details

IFA Logo

Astronomers reveal the largest cosmic explosion ever seen

12th May 2023

A team of astronomers have uncovered the largest cosmic explosion ever witnessed.

The explosion is more than ten times brighter than any known supernova (exploding star) and three times brighter than the brightest tidal disruption event, where a star falls into a supermassive black hole.

The explosion, known as AT2021lwx, has currently lasted over three years, compared to most supernovae which are only visibly bright for a few months. It took place nearly 8 billion light years away, when the universe was around 6 billion years old, and is still being detected by a network of telescopes.

More Details

IFA LogoResearch award success for Jim Dunlop

1 February 2023

Congratulations to Jim Dunlop, Head of School and Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy, who has been awarded a Royal Society Research Professorship.

More Details

IFA Logo

Astronomy award recognition for John Peacock

13th January 2023

Congratulations to Professor Peacock who has received the Royal Astronomical Society’s highest honour for his contributions to cosmology.

The Royal Astronomical Society has announced the 2023 winners of its awards, medals and prizes in recognition of significant achievement, from research to education and outreach, in the fields of astronomy and geophysics.

The Society's highest honour, its Gold Medal in Astronomy, is awarded this year to Professor John Peacock of the University of Edinburgh, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to cosmology. His work ranges from studying the early abundance of galaxies with actively fuelled central supermassive black holes, to the formation of cosmological large-scale structure and its relation to the clustering of galaxies.

More Details

IFA LogoThe most distant galaxy discovered by Edinburgh astronomers

28 July 2022

Observations from the James Webb Space Telescope have revealed the most distant galaxy so far. A team of astronomers led by the University of Edinburgh have discovered what they believe is the most distant galaxy ever observed.

More Details

IFA Logo

Comet chaser mission moves from blueprint to reality

13th June 2022

The Comet Interceptor mission, which will further our understanding of the evolution of comets and will help solve some of the mysteries of the Universe, has been formally adopted by the European Space Agency (ESA). Due for launch in 2029, the mission will see one main spacecraft and two robotic probes travel to an as-yet unidentified comet and map it in three dimensions. The mission was first proposed by an international team led by University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) in Surrey and the University of Edinburgh. Professor Colin Snodgrass, who is based at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Astronomy, was deputy lead on the proposal, and leads the target selection team that is working to identify suitable comets.

More Details

IFA LogoA massive new harvest of astronomical data

June 13th 2022

On June 13th 2022 the European Space Agency releases a new tranche of processed data from the Gaia space observatory to the world scientific community. The release incorporates a rich variety of position, distance, spectroscopic and classification information for hundreds of thousands of solar system objects, 1.6 billion stars (including nearly ten million variable types and one million binaries), and millions of candidate galaxies and distant quasars. The spectroscopy alone amounts to some 220 million individual spectra, by far the largest haul of such data ever assembled. The data release is the result of several years’ work by hundreds of European scientists including a team at the Institute for Astronomy, based in the School of Physics and Astronomy.

More Details

IFA Logo

Heavens need environmental protection like the Earth, experts say

25th April 2022

Space urgently needs special legal protection similar to that given to land, sea and atmosphere to protect its fragile environment, a study argues.

An influx of space debris in orbital space – around 100 kilorrmeters above the earth’s surface – caused by the rapid growth of so-called satellite mega-constellations is endangering this precious ecosystem, researchers say.

More Details

UK ATCBringing the James Webb Space Telescope to life in the UK

23rd August 2021

Two new dedicated fellows will help bring the science of the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) to schools, scientific communities and the public in the UK.

The two appointees are, Dr Emma Curtis-Lake from the University of Hertfordshire and Dr Olivia Jones from STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) in Edinburgh.

As the once-in-a-generation spacecraft draws ever closer to launch, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has appointed the fellows to help: exploit the science from the mission and promote community engagement.

More Details

IFA Logo

Astronomy survey to revolutionise capability of understanding changing celestial phenomena

12th August 2021

UK project processing massive data stream from the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile will take inventory of the Universe.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile will carry out the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) by constantly surveying the southern sky over a period of 10 years.

The Observatory consists of an 8-metre telescope, the largest digital camera ever constructed with 189 sensors totalling 3.2 gigapixels, a complex data processing system, and an online education platform. The survey will produce an image every minute, and every object that is variable, transient or moving will be catalogued and a constant data stream of these alerts will be produced.

More Details

IFA LogoLive public debate on satellite megaconstellations

June 15th 2021 | 19:30-21:30 BST

Live public debate on the broader issues around satellite mega-constellations - effects on astronomical science as well as public stargazing, cultural and environmental issues, the debris problem, commercial competition and fairness, and space law and policy. The debate will be held between 38 invited experts, but will simultaneously be available livestreamed on Youtube, open to all. The event is meant to be understandable by the general public, but will also be of interest to professional astronomers and students.

More Details

IFA Logo

Major success for Edinburgh Astrophysicists with the James Webb Space Telescope

15th April 2021

Astrophysicists in the School of Physics & Astronomy have secured a spectacular series of observational programmes on the NASA/ESA (European Space Agency) James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the long-awaited successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

More Details

IFA LogoUltra-sensitive radio images reveal thousands of star-forming galaxies in early Universe

7th April 2021

An international team of astronomers has published the most sensitive images of the Universe ever taken at low radio frequencies, using the International Low Frequency Array (LOFAR). By observing the same regions of sky over and over again and combining the data to make a single very-long exposure image, the team has detected the faint radio glow of stars exploding as supernovae, in tens of thousands of galaxies out to the most distant parts of the Universe. A special issue of the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics is dedicated to fourteen research papers describing these images and the first scientific results.

More Details

IFA Logo

Triple success for astronomy researchers

1st December 2020

Congratulations to three researchers: Dr Adam Carnall, Dr Catherine Hale and Dr Tilman Troester, who have been awarded Early Career Fellowships.

The Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowships are intended to assist those at a relatively early stage of their academic careers to undertake a significant piece of publishable work.

All three researchers are based in the School’s Institute for Astronomy.

More Details

IFA LogoPossible light sparked by colliding black holes

25th June 2020

Astronomers have seen what could be the first ever light flare detected from a black hole merger.

Their findings potentially create a new chapter within astrophysics because the merger of black holes was not expected to generate light waves, as the gravity associated with black holes is so great that nothing – not even light – usually escapes from them.

The study – published in Physical Review Letters – involved an international team of scientists, including physicists from the School of Physics and Astronomy.

More Details

IFA Logo

Astronomers measure wind speed on a brown dwarf

10th April 2020

Scientists have used a new technique to take the first-ever measurement of atmospheric wind speed outside the solar system.

A team of Astronomers, including the Institute for Astronomy’s Dr Beth Biller, have used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to take the first measurement of wind speed on a brown dwarf - an object intermediate in mass between a planet and a star.

More Details

IFA LogoScientists discover supernova that outshines all others

14th April 2020

A supernova which is at least twice as bright and energetic, and likely much more massive than any yet recorded, has been identified by a team of astronomers.

More Details

IFA Logo

Neil Turok, the Inaugural Higgs Chair of Theoretical Physics, brings in new focus on the quantum universe

28th January 2020

Professor Neil Turok, a world-leading researcher in theoretical physics and fundamental cosmology has been appointed as the Inaugural Higgs Chair by the University of Edinburgh. Professor Turok will be joining the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy starting July 2020.

More Details

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