What's New at The Royal Observatory

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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IFA LogoNew telescope instrument sheds light on Dark Energy

1st November 2019

Edinburgh scientists are taking part in the most detailed survey of the Universe ever undertaken.

The aim of the five-year programme is to shed light on Dark Energy – the mysterious force thought to be pushing galaxies apart and causing the Universe to expand at an accelerating rate.

The new telescope instrument effectively contains 5,000 mini-robots, each capable of measuring the light of far-away galaxies in 20 minutes.

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IFA LogoThe violent history of the big galaxy next door

3rd October 2019

Astronomers have pieced together the cannibalistic past of the neighbouring large galaxy Andromeda, which has set its sights on our Milky Way as the main course.

The galactic detective work found that Andromeda has eaten several smaller galaxies, likely within the last few billion years, with left-overs found in large streams of stars.

This study was led by Dr Dougal Mackey from the Australian National University (ANU) and Professor Geraint Lewis from the University of Sydney, and involves a team of researchers from across the globe, including Professor Annette Ferguson and Professor Jorge Penarrubia from the School’s Institute for Astronomy.

The international team also found evidence of more small galaxies that Andromeda gobbled up even earlier, perhaps as far back as during its first phases of formation about 10 billion years ago.

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IFA LogoDr Alex Amon wins the Royal Astronomical Society thesis prize

13th June 2019

Congratulations to Dr Alex Amon who has won this years Royal Astronomical Society Michael Penston thesis prize for her University of Edinburgh thesis entitled “Cosmology with the Kilo Degree Lensing Survey”.

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The winner of the 2019 Caroline Herschel Prize Lectureship is Dr Anna Lisa Varri

10th June 2019

Congratulations to Dr Anna Lisa Varri who has won the 2019 Caroline Herschel Prize Lectureship. The Caroline Herschel Prize Lectureship supports promising female astronomers early in their careers.

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ROEProf Wayne Holland

31 May 2019

On the 22nd of May 2019 we lost one of the leading figures in submillimetre astronomy. Wayne Holland was a respected and much liked astronomer who will be sadly missed by his friends and colleagues. Wayne was one of those people who went out of his way to support and encourage others. He will be remembered fondly by the many astronomers who visited the JCMT, with Wayne as their support astronomer, benefitting from his constant nurturing of the SCUBA camera to ensure they got the best science from their observing run.

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Dr Anna Lisa Varri awarded Future Leaders Fellowship

13th May 2019

Congratulations to Dr Anna Lisa Varri who has been awarded one of the first UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowships which aim to grow the strong supply of talented individuals needed to ensure that UK research and innovation is world class. Anna Lisa’s profile has also been selected by UKRI as one the twelve inaugural case studies.

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ROEExhibition charts the work of ‘Edinburgh’s Forgotten Astronomer’ Charles Piazzi Smyth

04 April 2019

A fascinating free new exhibition – part of a year-long series of events - opens in Edinburgh aiming to establish Charles Piazzi Smyth’s place in Edinburgh’s history. The exhibition, housed in Edinburgh’s iconic Nelson Monument on Calton Hill, presents Piazzi Smyth’s photography, paintings and drawings, alongside a newly commissioned short film and interviews in what will be the first major exhibition dedicated to Edinburgh’s forgotten astronomer.

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Successful IOP Juno Champion award renewal

20th February 2019

The School of Physics and Astronomy has had its status as Juno Champion renewed in recognition of our continuing efforts in addressing gender equality and fostering a more inclusive working environment.

Project Juno is a national scheme operated by the Institute of Physics (IOP) that recognizes and rewards physics departments that have taken action to address gender equality and to encourage better practice for all staff . The School was first awarded Juno Practitioner in 2010 and progressed to Juno Champion in 2014. The Juno Champion award and the Athena SWAN Silver award are reciprocal awards.

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IFA LogoAstronomers release first part of deep all-sky radio survey with LOFAR

19th February 2019

A major new radio sky survey has revealed hundreds of thousands of previously undetected galaxies, shedding new light on many research areas including the physics of black holes and how clusters of galaxies evolve.

An international team of more than 200 astronomers from 18 countries, in which Edinburgh astronomers play a leading role, has published the first phase of the survey at unprecedented sensitivity using the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope.

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Max Planck Humboldt Research Award for Professor Catherine Heymans

29th October 2018

Congratulations to Professor Catherine Heymans who is the first winner of the new Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award. The award, which is worth €1.5 million, is financed by funds from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and awarded jointly by the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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Congratulations to new Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

27th February 2018

Congratulations to Professors Philip Best and Catherine Heymans of the School of Physics and Astronomy, who today were among the 66 distinguished individuals elected to become Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

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UK ATCUK ATC's Professor Wayne Holland awarded prestigious astronomy medal

12th January 2018

Professor Wayne Holland, Project Scientist at STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s 2018 Jackson-Gwilt Medal. The award recognises outstanding invention, improvement, or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques.

Professor Holland, who is also a visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh, has been cited for his substantial contributions to the evolution of submillimetre astronomy, and in particular his leadership of SCUBA-2, the world's most powerful submillimetre camera.

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ROEHiggs Centre for Innovation Website Launched

22 December 2017

The website for the Higgs Centre for Innovation has been launched detailing the facilities available, the business incubation support, and the collaboration opportunities.

Higgs Centre for Innovation Website

IFA LogoEdinburgh students star in film about Charles Piazzi Smyth

2nd October 2017

On Saturday 7th October, Edinburgh staff and students can be seen on-screen at the Edinburgh Filmhouse, in a f ilm which recounts the life of the famous astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth, and re-creates his famous experiments of 1856.

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Astronomers release largest ever infrared sky survey

1st August 2017

An international team of astronomers, led by the Universities of Nottingham and Edinburgh, have released the largest ever map of the sky at infrared wavelengths, with over 1.5 million mega-pixels and containing nearly two billion stars and galaxies. It has already been used to find some of the most distant quasars known, and will be now be queried and analysed by astronomers all over the world.

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IFA LogoAlexander von Humboldt Foundation Award for Professor Annette Ferguson

10th March 2017

Professor Annette Ferguson has won a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in recognition of her research into the histories of nearby galaxies.

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Gravitational Waves to Reveal Darkest Secret of our Universe

1st February 2017

Near the end of the last millennium, our Universe was discovered to be undergoing an accelerated expansion. The physics underlying this acceleration, however, remains one of the Cosmos's darkest secrets. It could be attributed to a new "Dark Energy" force that fills the Cosmos or the presence of the Cosmological Constant predicted by Einstein. But for the two decades since this discovery, there has also been the possibility the acceleration is due to a change in Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. In particular, high hopes were assigned to an extension by a new constituent of the Universe that shares similar properties to the Higgs field.

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Royal Astronomical Society award for Professor Catherine Heymans

16th January 2017

The Institute for Astronomy's Prof. Catherine Heymans has been awarded the 2017 George Darwin Lectureship by the Royal Astronomical Society. The Lecture is given annually, on a topic in astronomy, cosmology or astroparticle physics.

Catherine Heymans is a Professor of Astrophysics and European Research Council Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, based at the Institute for Astronomy.

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