Interstellar Travel: Hawking aims for Alpha Centauri

In the announcement of the most ambitious space exploration project yet Prof. Stephen Hawking set out a plan, with financial backing from investors such as Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg, to send a spacecraft to our neighbouring star in the coming decades. The proposal named ‘Breakthrough Starshot’, sees a $100 million investment in the development…

Kepler-452b: The Importance and Reality of the “Earth 2.0” Discovery

Yesterdays announcement by the NASA Kepler mission confirmed many new exoplanets discovered by the impressive telescope. Among these is the press self-proclaimed “Earth 2.0” or Kepler-452b. There are reasons to both get excited and be hesitant about these announcements. The raw facts released in the paper published to Astrophysical Journal – http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/ms-r1b.pdf – suggests that this…

Looking at the Dark Matter World

Hi readers of Physics Horizon. It has been a few months since there was the last news post! The reason for this is I have been working hard on my 4th year at University. I hope to be able to bring you more regular news in the coming weeks and I am really glad that…

Bad News for Cosmic Inflation

A paper released today after careful analysis of the CMB (cosmic microwave background) map captured by the Planck satellite have revealed that contrary to the claim by the BICEP2 telescope of polarisation in the photons from the CMB this could be purely due to unaccounted for galactic dust. The original BICEP2 evidence released in support of polarisation…

How to survive a Physics GCSE/A level?

Whenever I mention to anyone what I do for my degree I receive one major response “Physics! Oh I hated that at school!”. Not only does this tend to kill the conversation but it is fundamentally interesting to know why a majority of people dislike physics at school. I think the main reason is that…

Undergraduate Life: Comet hunting!

A short post following on from yesterdays article regarding the Rosetta mission. At the University of Birmingham we last year installed a half metre Ritchey-Chretein Cassegrain telescope in our observatory. During the last year since it’s introduction I have taken part in a few memorable earlier morning observing trips. I though I would post some…

Spotlight #2: Measuring the Mass of Cosmic Giants

The universe we live in has a hierarchy of structure. We live on a planet which orbits an averaged sized star that we call the Sun. The Sun has neighbouring stars which all form into a large galactic city that we call the Milky Way. Each of these galaxies is gravitationally combined with all the…

Rosetta Coming in for Landing

For the last 10 years the Rosetta spacecraft has been speeding across the solar system in order to attempt a first for humanities space exploration. The craft is preparing to rendezvous with the comet 67P (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) with a schedule of landing on the 11th November 2014. Today ESA released on which proposed landing site the…

Scientists on Strike!

At 5000 meters above sea level in a Chilean desert sits the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). This array consists of 66 radio telescope dishes and was officially opened in March 2013.  This marvel of technology has already peered through cosmic dust clouds in the milky way to observe planet formation and distant galaxies. However…

Milky Way has a Dark Matter deficit?

A new set of galactic formation simulations has suggested that our Milky Way could actually contain only 1/4 to a 1/3 of the previously accepted quantity of Dark Matter. When scientists observe other spiral galaxies in the Universe one property which is commonly investigated is how the rotational velocity of the stars is related to…