Black Holes and Revelations at University of Hertfordshire

THE Milky Way tastes of raspberries, the Sun is not as bright as it used to be and the Great Nebular of Orion is rather busy. These were just some of the revelations that were disclosed during European Week of Astronomy and Space Science, hosted by

THE Milky Way tastes of raspberries, the Sun is not as bright as it used to be and the Great Nebular of Orion is rather busy.

These were just some of the revelations that were disclosed during European Week of Astronomy and Space Science, hosted by the University of Hertfordshire.

More than 1,000 leading scientists from across the continent descended upon Hatfield for the event, to showcase the most recent developments in European astronomy.

Throughout the week, the latest technology was on display, including the space rover ExoMars, an exploration vehicle which will be sent on a mission to the Red Planet.


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And several lectures provided fascinating insight into the secrets of the cosmos.

A newly discovered "exoplanet" - a planet beyond our solar system - provided the most compelling evidence yet that life is indeed out there.

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Astronomers studying a solar system around a star known as Gliese 581 have discovered a planet bearing the closest resemblance yet to Earth's habitable conditions.

Planet "e", as it is known, is too close to the star to support life, but it is hoped that another planet, Gliese 581 d, which is seven times the mass of Earth, falls into a region where liquid water could exist.

Professor James Hough, director of astronomy research at the university, said: "The University of Hertfordshire was delighted to host the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science, which we believe has been extremely successful with well over a 1,000 delegates from Europe and beyond, presenting exciting new results ranging from newly discovered planets around other stars to the properties of the most distant galaxies."

FACTFILE

* The Milky Way smells of rum and tastes like raspberries. Astronomers have detected two of the most complex molecules yet discovered in the galaxy. One of these, Ethyl formate, gives raspberries their flavour and smells of rum.

* The Great Nebula of Orion is "busy". Astronomers have found the star formation of the Great Nebula of Orion to be a lively and somewhat overcrowded place, with young stars emitting gas jets in all directions, creating quite a chaotic picture.

* The Sun is the dimmest that it has been for nearly a century, with hardly any "solar flares" - vast bubbles of gas that erupt from the Sun's outer atmosphere - or sunspots. The Sun normally goes through an 11-year cycle of highs and lows in activity but is not showing signs of emerging from a quiet period. However, this does not mean that global warming will begin to slow down.

* Scientists at the University of Hertfordshire have seen the effects of a shock wave blasted through a galaxy by powerful jets of plasma emanating from a supermassive black hole at the galactic core.

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