Farewell to Peggy

Before the Cassini spacecraft makes its final plunge into Saturn's atmosphere in September this year, one of its last acts will be to take a photo of an intriguing object that Professor Carl Murray of the School of Physics and Astronomy has been studying for nearly four years.

Nicknamed "Peggy" after Prof. Murray's mother-in-law, since it was first noticed on her birthday in 2013, the object appears as a small smudge of light at the very edge of Saturn's main ring system, the A-ring. The smudge is actually a cloud of dust particles some 2000 km long that is being disturbed by the presence of Peggy itself, thought to be a solid object less than 5 km across. The dust may well be the result of a collision between Peggy and another object in the ring.

Twenty-fifth anniversary of the discovery of the first exoplanet

Twenty-five years ago today, on 9 January 1992, astronomers published the first unambiguous discovery of an exoplanet — a planet beyond our Solar System. Since then the search for, and study of, exoplanets has become an exciting and productive branch of astronomy, one in which researchers in Queen Mary's School of Physics and Astronomy are actively engaged.

Unusually, this first exoplanet was not found in orbit around a 'conventional' star; instead it orbits an object known as a pulsar, a very exotic object left over after a star much bigger than the Sun has undergone a massive explosion — a supernova — at the end of its life.

QMUL astronomer in top ten scientists list

Dr Guillem Anglada-Escudé from the School of Physics and Astronomy has been named one of the top ten people who matter in science in 2016 by the prestigious scientific journal Nature. The annual list, known as "Nature's 10", highlights researchers from around the world who have made a major impact this year.

The real cost of supersymmetry

In 1999, Dr David Berman attended a conference about string theory in Copenhagen. During the course of a rather lively conference dinner a wager was made. On one side were physicists who thought that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) would, by 2010 (subsequently extended to 2016), find evidence for the existence of supersymmetric particles, mysterious cousins of the "normal" particles like protons and electrons, that are predicted to exist by the theory known as supersymmetry. On the other side of the wager were those physicists who thought it wouldn't find them. David Berman was in the former camp.

QMUL receives prestigious award for public engagement

QMUL has been awarded the Gold Engage Watermark by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, in recognition of its public engagement work. The Engage Watermark is granted to universities in recognition of their commitment to public engagement and the Gold award is the highest level an institution can achieve at this stage of the process. 

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