Older News From The Royal Observatory

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Future Leader Fellowship Information

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.

Full text of the press release

IFA LogoImages of faraway galaxies shed new light on dark matter

7th December 2016

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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ROEMessages of hope embark on 400-year space journey

10 October 2016

Messages of hope and reflection from around the world will be beamed towards the North Star, Polaris, as part of an interstellar art project. More than 3700 messages from 146 countries and territories will be sent into space at the speed of light as a cosmic message in a bottle.

A Simple Response to an Elemental Message is developed in a collaboration involving the University of Edinburgh, ESA, the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, and the European Southern Observatory.

University of Edinburgh Release

IFA LogoAstronomers explore golden age of galaxies

22nd September 2016

An international team of astronomers, led by Edinburgh, has gained a new view of the evolution of distant galaxies.

Their study focuses on a region of the Universe previously studied using the deepest observations of the Hubble Space Telescope. The team has traced the previously unknown abundance of star-forming gas and dust over cosmic time. This provides new insights into what is known as the golden age of galaxy formation - approximately 10 billion years ago.

The new observations of a well-studied area of sky, known as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, were taken with the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope, located high in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

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Rosemary Wyse Awarded the 2016 Brouwer Award by the Division on Dynamical Astronomy of the AAS

29th May 2016

Professor Rosie Wyse, currently a Visiting Leverhulme Professor at the Institute for Astronomy, has been awarded the 2016 Brouwer Award by the Division on Dynamical Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society for her fundamental role in advancing our understanding of the structure, dynamics and formation history of the Milky Way and its satellite galaxies.

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UK ATCUK ATC at the SUPA annual gathering exhibition in Glasgow

25th May 2016

The UK ATC was present at the exhibition which forms part of the SUPA (Scotish Universities Physics Alliance) annual gathering that was held on Wednesday 25th 2016.

The UK ATC stand featured near-future projects such as MIRI including a model and prototype hardware and the E-ELT where a hologram was used to show the telescope design and scale. Also on display was an image slicer demonstration that is an up-scaled version of the slicers used in MIRI and other UK ATC built instruments. The demonstrator shows in a very direct and simple way and at a much larger scale how image slicers work.

SUPA comprises eight Scottish Universities (Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Heriot Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde and UWS) which have come together to form a research alliance in Physics.

SUPA Annual Gathering 2016

ROEThe greatest movie ever made

19 May 2016

The World’s first motion picture of our Universe, being dubbed the ‘greatest movie ever made’, is to be produced by international astronomers.

The film, which could feature dangerous asteroids and uncover some of the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, will be recorded on a giant digital camera comprising 3.2 billion pixels.

It hasn’t been completed yet, but when it is, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will be the World’s largest digital camera. It will be able to take images of the sky that each cover over 40 times the area of the moon, building up a survey of the entire visible sky in just three nights.)

University of Edinburgh Release

STFC Release

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Professor James Dunlop becomes a Fellow of the Royal Society

29th April 2016

Congratulations to Prof. James Dunlop, who has been elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society.

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science.

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UK ATCConstruction starts on Higgs Centre for Innovation

27th January 2016

Construction has today begun on the Higgs Centre for Innovation. The final designs for the building were also unveiled at a celebratory event at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, where the new centre will be housed.

The Higgs Centre for Innovation is named in honour of Professor Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, who received the Nobel Prize for his prediction of the existence of the Higgs Boson which was discovered at CERN in 2012. The Centre will support start-up businesses with the aim of creating new market opportunities, especially in big data and space technologies. The Centre is funded through a £10.7 million investment from the UK Government. The Science and Technology Facilities Council will invest £2million over five years to operate the centre.

Full text of the press release

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Herschel Medal Award for Professor Jim Dunlop

8th January 2016

Prof Jim Dunlop of the School of Physics & Astronomy has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Societyʼs (RAS) Herschel Medal for his pioneering research into galaxy formation.

The Herschel Medal is awarded for investigations of outstanding merit in observational astrophysics.

The prize was announced at the January 2016 meeting of the RAS, and will be presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in June 2016. Previous winners of the Herschel Medal can be found at the link below:

Previous Herschel Medal Recipients

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