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Stories by Kelly Oakes

Explaining Titan's Alien Weather System

Underneath Titan's dense atmosphere lies something rather unusual, by terrestrial standards. Some features of the Saturnian moon, at first glance, might look similar to some features we have on Earth — it is the only other body in the solar system with lakes, and appears to have an active weather system...

January 14, 2012 — Kelly Oakes

Red Giant Core Spins Ten Times Faster Than Its Surface

Astronomers have found that the core of a red giant, the type of star that our Sun will eventually become, spins ten times as fast as its surface. And it happens because of a phenomenon we can see here on Earth, too.You have probably seen a figure skater perform a so-called 'scratch spin', where she starts out with arms and free leg extended, before pulling them in – and spinning faster as a result...

January 11, 2012 — Kelly Oakes

How Brain Scans Can Help Astronomers Understand Stars

They may come from completely different fields of study, but brain scans and supernovae have more in common than you would think. In a new TED talk, Michelle Borkin explains how software developed for use in a hospital was able to help astronomers study the structure of supernovae.An astronomer colleague of Borkin's at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics had eight years worth of data from the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A...

January 9, 2012 — Kelly Oakes

Faster-than-light neutrinos: a timeline

2011 has been a busy year for particle physicists. They've found a new particle, closed in on the elusive Higgs boson, and witnessed some neutrinos acting pretty strangely, amongst other things...

December 31, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

Stars That Go Out With a Bang

When a star becomes a white dwarf — an old, extremely dense star that would have once been similar to our own Sun — the eventful part of its life is over.

December 30, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

The Strange Case of the Christmas Burst

How did the Christmas gamma-ray burst explode? No, it's not a geeky Christmas cracker joke, it's a real question scientists have been trying to answer since Christmas day last year, when a gamma-ray burst called GRB 101225A first lit up the sky...

December 24, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

A Sweet and Simple Higgs Discovery

Tomorrow afternoon, in "the most eagerly awaited scientific presentation of the century to date", particle physics laboratory Cern will update the world on its search for the Higgs boson, that elusive particle that is believed to give mass to fundamental particles.The Higgs is the only particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, currently the best theory we have to describe how particles interact, that we have not yet observed...

December 12, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

Massive Stars Create `Cocoon' of Cosmic Rays

Cygnus X is a star forming region in the constellation Cygnus in the night sky. It looks rather pretty in visible light, as shown at the beginning of the video below.

November 30, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

Why the Higgs Boson Matters

Every year the Royal College of Science Union at Imperial College runs an essay competition called the Science Challenge. There are usually four questions to answer and a number of prizes for the essays that answer them best.I've been shortlisted before, but this year I finally won something — the Physics prize...

November 27, 2011 — Kelly Oakes
Hubble Unearths Distant Colourful Dwarf Galaxies

Hubble Unearths Distant Colourful Dwarf Galaxies

Hubble has uncovered a goldmine of young dwarf galaxies that are undergoing intense bursts of star formation. Dwarf galaxies are the most common in the universe but until now astronomers had seen few examples of distant dwarf galaxies because they are small and not very bright...

November 24, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

CLASH of the Galaxy Clusters

Galaxies do not usually exist alone. They tend to bunch together in small groups, like the Local Group of galaxies in which the Milky Way sits, or larger groups called clusters.

November 16, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

The Closest You'll Ever Get to Being in Space

Being a student of Imperial College has a few perks. Our campus is on the same road as three of the biggest museums in London: the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert, and the Science Museum...

October 30, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

Blue stragglers formed by engulfing red giants

Unusual stars known as blue stragglers have been causing trouble for astronomers since they were first seen in 1953: they are hotter and brighter than they should be, and much younger too...

October 28, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

In praise of the Tevatron

Tomorrow, the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab will shut down. The end will be no song and dance: the accelerator operators will simply stop putting new protons and antiprotons into the machine...

September 29, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

Faster-than-light neutrinos show science in action

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past 24 hours, you've probably heard about the neutrinos that turned up at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy a few nanoseconds earlier than they were supposed to, in a feat that would have required them to travel faster than the speed of light.The story has been covered by many news outlets already, and, while some headlines may have raised a few eyebrows, most of the coverage has been suitably cautious...

September 23, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

An impossible star?

In the beginning, the only elements that existed were hydrogen, helium and very small amounts of lithium. All of the other elements in the period table came later and, rather than forming out of the primordial soup of sub-atomic particles that existed shortly after the big bang, the elements from lithium up to and including iron, were made in the nuclear furnaces at the centres of stars...

September 23, 2011 — Kelly Oakes

Double checking our cosmic tape measure

In the late 90s there was a race going on between two astronomy collaborations. Both were on the verge of making a discovery that would change the field of cosmology forever, though they may not have realised it at the time...

August 18, 2011 — Kelly Oakes
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