Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Accessible Astronomy: The Transit of Mercury

Get ready to witness a rare spectacle that won’t be seen for another 13 years as Mercury transits the Sun on 11th November 2019. But what is a transit, what is its scientific importance and how can you see it? Affelia Wibisono, PhD student, tells us more.

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A Long Time Ago in a Dusty Galaxy Far Away

Dust is a very important element present everywhere in the Universe. In particular, dust attenuation absorbs, scatters and re-emits light.  Nevertheless, not much is known on how dust affects light from galaxies at high redshift, since it is difficult to observe them. Mónica Tress, a final-year-PhD explains more about how dust attenuation effects are studied in galaxies far away.

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Cosmic rays: the secret agent of galaxy evolution

Cosmic rays are rays of energetic particles and radiation, with their composition in our own Galaxy being dominated by protons. Ellis Owen, a final-year PhD student working on cosmic rays, star-formation and galaxy evolution, tells us about his research on them.

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Non-parametric Cosmology with Cosmic Shear

Cosmology is in pretty bad shape; we don’t know what makes up 95% of the Universe. Galaxies spin too fast and the expansion of the Universe is unexpectedly accelerating. Cosmologists deal with this by inferring the existence of dark matter and dark energy. These form the backbone of the Lambda Cold Dark Matter (LCDM) model. The problem is that we have no physical explanation for the existence of these two components.

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A View from the Lab: Life as a 1st Year PhD Student

You may be considering applying for a PhD at MSSL and want to know more about what it’s really like here. Some of our new students answer questions about how they are finding life as a research student here at the lab. Anurag, Choong Ling, and Nabil joined the Astrophysics group in this September.

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Gaia Radial Velocities

The release of Gaia radial (line-of-sight) velocities in DR2 represents for me the first fruits of 17 years of work in the Gaia project. Such is the timescale of a mission as demanding, and different, as Gaia. I knew from the start, at mission adoption in 2001, that this would be a remarkable endeavour, not only from the scientific and technical perspective, but also from the long term working relationships and comradery that engaging deeply with it would entail.

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From why?! to wifi!! How astronomers can change the world

Historically, astronomy has played a key role in the development of science and technology while also having a large cultural impact. For example, explaining the orbits of the planets was important for understanding that the Sun, and not the Earth, was at the centre of the solar system; that had an enormous impact on our view of our place in the Universe. During the ‘space race’ and the cold war, when astronauts took the first photos of a spherical earth, it was the first direct evidence that the Earth was a sphere, just another planet. Such images emphasise the isolation of the Earth in space, and perhaps underline the fragility of the Earth’s ecosystems. Direct evidence of a greenhouse effect can be seen from Venus, which has been a ‘hot topic’ (excuse the pun!) in international policy in the last few decades. Also, understanding of our early Universe after the big bang has been found using telescopes such as WMAP and Planck. However, most astronomers also contribute their skills and knowledge to industry and culture in less well known ways. This blog post tells a less well known story, that modern wireless technology (which you are probably using to read this very blog post!) was developed by mathematicians, engineers and radio astronomers.

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