Today, August 6th 2014, marks a significant milestone in European exploration of our solar system. After a 10-year, 6 billion-kilometre journey, the European Space Agency Rosetta spacecraft achieved a successful rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. At 10 am this morning, Rosetta fired its rockets and altered its trajectory to go into a series of triangular passes around the comet.
On Thursday 19th June 2014 at ~18:45 BST, an explosion high in the Atacama desert in Northern Chile marked the beginning of construction of what will be the largest optical & infrared telescope in the World. The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), built by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), will be sited at a high and dry peak on Cerro Armazones, some 20 km away from ESO's Paranal Observatory.
This blog post was contributed by Prof. Patrick Roche, reporting from Geneva:
Today (2nd July 2014) at the annual European Week of Astronomy and Space Science meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the 2014 MERAC prize for the best doctoral thesis in astronomical technologies was awarded to Dr Boon Kok Tan (see: http://eas.unige.ch/merac_prizes.jsp).
It's been a while since we had a blog post about space instrumentation, so here's first-year DPhil student Peter Hatfield to tell you all about TechDemoSat-1:
"A thrilling moment for the UK space industry is fast approaching. The launch of the satellite TechDemoSat-1, which recently had its launch date announced as July 8th, is now only a few weeks away!
With apologies for the delay in posting these results, here are the winners of this year's Stargazing Oxford photography competition. Once again, the submissions were very impressive and we would like to thank everyone who entered. As for last year's competition, three photographs were shortlisted for each category and a winner selected by our judges, with the public voting on the January 11th open day for their favourite. This year we also offered a prize for young photographers of 16 or under.
Almost two years ago, I wrote this post about the weird and wonderful super-Earth planet, GJ 1214b. Like its compatriots it doesn't have an especially exciting name, but this is one of the best-studied planets orbiting another star.
A supernova has exploded in the nearby galaxy M82, aka the 'cigar galaxy', and should get bright enough to be visible with binoculars. This supernova, already given the identifier SN2014J (the 10th supernova confirmed in 2014), is a "type 1a" supernova, which we believe are caused by exploding white dwarf stars. Type 1a's explode with very predictable brightnesses, making them ideal 'standard candles' to measure distances to galaxies accurately. These type of supernovae are the cornerstone of the relatively recent discovery that the Universe's expansion is actually accelerating, contrary to previous models.
It's December, and that can only mean one thing... ok, maybe not just one thing, but what it certainly does mean is that it's not long until Stargazing Oxford returns. Our open day in 2014 will take place on the 11th of January from 2-10 pm - further details will be posted shortly on the outreach pages.
As we have done in previous years, we are running an astrophotography competition as part of the event. You can see the winning images from last year here.
Comet ISON has made its Western turn, and will now be heading East for the next 8 months... Here's the latest image in our sequence, taken on 19th of April, showing ISON moving slowly against the background stars. You can see a small tail in our image, but unfortunately we can't quite compete with the likes of the Hubble Space Telescope when it comes to impressive images!
After nearly two months offline due to a broken drive motor, the Philip Wetton Telescope is now back observing the night sky! This has enabled us to take the next image in our Comet ISON project, which we started at Stargazing Oxford back in January. It looks like the coma and tail have got a bit bigger since we last saw it in late January. We've also started getting data for other projects, and at the bottom of the page there's a sneak peak at a future 'pretty pic'...