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Beacons or Fireworks?

Posted: 30 Mar 2012

In the local, old Universe we only see intense bursts of star formation when galaxies collide - but the young Universe was a very different place, it seems. Georgios Magdis is using the Herschel and VLA telescopes to measure the amount of gas in massive galaxies 1-4 billion years after the Big Bang, and finding that mergers weren't so important back then. Some galaxies had so much gas they could sustain long periods of star formation, without the need for a merger to compress the gas at all - they look more like beacons than fireworks. Phil Marshall caught up with Georgios and asked him a few questions about his work.

VISTA's superb deep infrared image of Hubble's COSMOS field

Posted: 29 Mar 2012

A new observation carried out with the VISTA telescope, built here in Oxfordshire and now operating in Chile, has given us the deepest wide-field infrared image of the Universe that will be available from the ground for some years to come... Gavin Dalton introduces the remarkable first-year Ultra-VISTA data.

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? - Sirius!

Posted: 28 Mar 2012

Throughout the following days, look towards the South in the evening and you will see a sparkling gem - a bright star called Sirius. In fact, it happens to be the brightest* star you can see in the sky all year round. It is no wonder then that its name is derived from the ancient Greek for "glowing". If you are still not sure which star I am referring to, proceed by first finding the easily identifiable three stars that form Orion's belt (still looking towards the South), then imagine a line running through these and extrapolate it to your left. You will inevitably end up spotting the dazzling Sirius, writes Joseph Caruana

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? - Mizar!

Posted: 08 Mar 2012

This week's "What's Up" features Mizar and its companion Alcor, a "sextuple star" that was the mediaeval Arabs' idea of an eye test, writes Phil Bull.

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? Polaris!

Posted: 08 Mar 2012

Polaris is best known for its position in the night sky: it always appears almost directly North. This is why it is commonly known as both the North Star and the Pole star. To find Polaris, draw a line from the two stars in The Plough which are furthest from its handle (see picture) and keep going; the next prominent star you see will be Polaris, writes David Sinclair.

Mayan astronomy for 2012: Looking ahead

Posted: 07 Mar 2012

The Maya were keen naked-eye astronomers, and made various observations that were startlingly accurate for their time. This year marks the end of the major cycle of the Mayan calendar, which was based on astronomical events. Some people have interpreted the ending of the cycle as a portent of doom, a prediction that the end of the world is upon us! This is nonsense, of course. Celia Escamilla Rivera, of the University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, in Spain, takes us through the event from a Mayan perspective to discover the real significance of this event.