‘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

Gravitational waves helping to expose black holes, dark matter and theoretical particles

Image Credit - LSC/Alex Nitz

Gravitational waves – the invisible ripples in the fabric of space predicted by Albert Einstein – are opening up a new era of astronomy that is allowing scientists to see parts of the universe once thought to be invisible, such as black holes, dark matter and theoretical subatomic particles called axions. Almost 100 years after … Read more

Fleets of autonomous satellites to coordinate tasks among themselves

Image credit - Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Space missions have long benefited from some autonomous operations being carried out aboard spacecraft, but with a sharp increase expected in the number of satellites being launched in the next few years, researchers are using automation and artificial intelligence to make them smarter and more effective. Technology firms and researchers see scope for giving satellites … Read more