Zeroing in on baby exoplanets could reveal how they form

The way that a young exoplanet interacts with its star's disc of dust and gas determines the type of exoplanet that will ultimately form. Image credit - NASA/JPL-Caltech/D. Berry

Twenty-four years ago, Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz discovered the first planet orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system – a milestone recognised by this year’s Nobel prize in physics. Today we know of thousands more ‘exoplanets’, and researchers are now trying to understand when and how they form. The known exoplanets … Read more

Is there life on super-Earths? The answer could lie in their cores

The habitability of a super-Earth could be related to its having a magnetic field. Image credit - ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser, licensed under CC BY 4.0. Artist’s impression of super-Earth K2-18 b

Rocky planets larger than our own, so-called super-Earths, are surprisingly abundant in our Galaxy, and stand as the most likely planets to be habitable. Getting a better idea of their interior structures will help predict whether different planets are able to generate magnetic fields – thought to be conducive for life to survive. Atmospheric water … Read more

‘We’ve found dozens of potentially habitable planets – now we need to study them in detail’

In 2016, Dr Gillon discovered a system of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1 (artist's impression). Image credit - NASA/JPL-Caltech

by Jonathan O’Callaghan From the first discoveries of planets beyond our solar system in the 1990s, we now know of thousands of alien worlds, some of which could even be habitable to life as we know it. Now we need to detect more of these exoplanets and study them in detail, says astronomer Dr Michaël … Read more

Why hunting for fast radio bursts is an ‘exploding field’ in astronomy

FRB 121102, a repeating burst, was discovered in 2015. This discovery enabled astronomers to figure out what galaxy the FRB came from and in turn locate hundreds more FRBs. Image credit - Gemini Observatory / AURA / NSF / NRC

by Jonathan O’Callaghan Little more than a decade ago, two astronomers discovered mysterious bursts of radio waves that seem to take place all over the sky, often outshining all the stars in a galaxy. Since then, the study of these fast radio bursts, or FRBs, has taken off, and while we still don’t know what … Read more

In a picture: ‘Now we know what a black hole looks like’

by Jonathan O’Callaghan The first-ever image of an event horizon – the gravitational boundary of a black hole beyond which light cannot escape – was revealed on 10 April and is the best evidence yet that these phenomena really do exist. It was the result of a global collaboration of hundreds of scientists, using multiple … Read more

Astronomers reveal first-ever image of a black hole

Image credit - EHT Collaboration

by Jonathan O’Callaghan Scientists have revealed the first ever image of a black hole, a major milestone in astrophysics which not only backs up Einstein’s theory of general relativity but also opens up a new era of black hole observations. The image shows the event horizon – the gravitational point of no return beyond which nothing, … Read more