Cassini Crash

On 30 November 2016 NASA's Cassini spacecraft began a series of dives through Saturn's rings, the first stage in the probe's "grand finale" investigation of the gas giant planet.

Between then and 22 April 2017, Cassini will dive through the outer edge of Saturn's rings 20 times, once every seven days. This extraordinary manoeuvre will allow the spacecraft  to get the closest look ever at Saturn's outer rings and its moons.

New sculpture inspired by string theory research.

This new work by sculptor Chris Williams was inspired by the work of the Centre for Research in String Theory here in the School of Physics and Astronomy. Entitled "Particle" it was recently exhibited in the Attic Gallery Summer exhibition. Chris works mainly in timber and draws inspiration from both terrestrial and astronomical landscapes. He continues to work on pieces inspired by contemporary physics and our understanding of the Universe, as embodied in the research on fundamental physics carried out in QMUL. Chris is a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors.


Memory formation in the brain is thought to rely on the remodeling of synaptic connections which eventually results in neural network rewiring. This remodeling is likely to involve ultrathin astroglial protrusions which often occur in the immediate vicinity of excitatory synapses. The phenomenology, cellular mechanisms, and causal relationships of such astroglial restructuring remain, however, poorly understood. This is in large part because monitoring and probing of the underpinning molecular machinery on the scale of nanoscopic astroglial compartments remains a challenge. We will discuss recent observations concerning morphological astroglial plasticity, the respective monitoring methods, and some of the newly emerging techniques that might help with conceptual advances in the area. 

Speaker: Professor Dmitri Rusakov, Institute of Neurology, UCL

Queen Mary astronomer nominated for WIRED Audi Innovation award

Guillem Anglada Escudé of the School of Physics and Astronomy was one of the nominees for the prestigious WIRED Scientific Breakthrough award, one of the WIRED Audi Innovation Awards for 2016, for his discovery of a planet in orbit around the nearest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri.

School students to detect cosmic rays

The Cosmic Ray Muon Research Project 2016, run by Queen Mary University of London's School of Physics and Astronomy, has been launched.

Students from five Schools* in Dulwich and Sutton have been loaned muon detectors to carry out their own explorations into the behaviour of these exotic particles. The detectors employ the same sort of technology as used in major international particle experiments such as the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada, a project that the QMUL Particle Physics Research Centre is directly involved with.

The students will have the opportunity to get a hands-on understanding of the type of signals observed by the professional experiments, and the methods used to sift out background noise in order to reveal the expected signal.

Experimental Black Hole evaporation

Over the past decade it has become clear that one can, in analog systems, test Hawking's predition from 1974 that black holes have a temperature created by the properties of the metric near the horizon. These analogs (dumb holes) can be based on a variety of waves in matter-- sound waves in a fluid, surface gravity waves in a fluid, light in medium are just some examples-- and experiments are being carried out which give strong evidence that Hawking's arguments, despite their physical problems, are correct in the real world, and thus are also correct for true black holes. This is the subject of this talk

Speaker: Professor William G. Unruh, The University of British Columbia, Canada.

Date: 28 October 2016

Venue: GO Jones LT

Time: 16:00-18:00

Refreshments will be served after the event at the GO Jones building's foyer

Stars get their discs in a twist

An international team of astronomers that includes Richard Nelson of Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have discovered a truly unusual example of planet formation around a star.

The familiar picture is that planets form from a disc of gas and dust that circles around a star. When two stars are in orbit around each other — a system known as a binary star — we would not be surprised to see a disc around each star. But now the astronomers, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile, have discovered a binary system in which each star does indeed have a disc around it, but there is also a third, shared disc surrounding the pair of stars.

New Earth-like planet found around nearest star

Clear evidence of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System, has been found by an international team of scientists led by astronomers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Using facilities operated by ESO (the European Southern Observatory) and other telescopes, the research, which is published in the journal Nature, reveals a world with a similar mass to Earth orbiting around Proxima Centauri.

The planet, called Proxima b, orbits its parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth, and is the closest planet outside our Solar System. Planets around other stars are commonly referred to as exoplanets.