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Department of Astrophysics

News 2018

December 2018

Sapphires and Rubies in the Sky

Sapphires and Rubies
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Illustration einer der drei studierten Supererden, 55 Cnc e, die durch ihre grossen Vorkom-men an Saphiren und Rubinen wahrscheinlich rot bis blau schimmern. (Illustration: Thibaut Roger)

Researchers at the Universities of Zurich and Cambridge have discovered a new, exotic class of planets outside our solar system. These so-called super-Earths were formed at high temperatures close to their host star and contain high quantities of calcium, aluminium and their oxides - including sapphire and ruby.

Press release

Link to paper

November 2018

Encouraging Prospects for Moon Hunters

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One of the computer simulations on the formation of moons (white bodies) around Neptune (blue sphere). (Image: Judit Szulágyi)

Astrophysicists of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich show how the icy moons of Uranus came to be. Their findings suggest that such potentially habitable worlds are much more abundant in the Universe than previously believed. The incredibly complex computer simulations were performed at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in Lugano.
Read more.

October 2018

How the moons of Jupiter were formed


When astrophysicists of the NCCR PlanetS at the University of Zürich analyzed their computer simulations they were amazed: The formation of the moons of Jupiter happened much faster and later than previously believed. 


October 2018

Gravitational Waves Could Shed Light on Dark Matter



Researchers from the University of Zurich have now found that LISA could also shed light on the elusive dark matter particle.


August 2018

Jupiter Had Growth Disorders

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Researchers of the Universities of Zurich and Bern and of ETH Zurich show how Jupiter was formed. Data collected from meteorites had indicated that the growth of the giant planet had been delayed for two million years. Now the researchers have found an explanation: Collisions with kilometer-sized blocks generated high energy, which meant that in this phase hardly any accretion of gas could take place and the planet could only grow slowly.


Yann Alibert, Julia Venturini et al.: “The formation of Jupiter by hybrid pebble- planetesimal accretion”, Nature Astronomy, 27 August 2018. DOI: 10.1038/s41550-018-0557-2


August 2018

«100 Ways of Thinking» - Scientific festival in the Kunsthalle Zürich


You are here: Dr Joachim Stadel's image at the 100 Ways of Thinking Exhibit

A slice through the invisible Universe of dark matter. We are located at the center of the image, in the Present, and the structures extend around us in all directions. The most distant regions observable by the Euclid satellite form the “edge” here at a radius of 10 billion light years, although the structures continue to extend beyond this. Since light takes 10 billion years to travel from this edge to us at the center, we see that the structure of the Universe has noticeably evolved via Gravitation during this time. It is considerably smoother in the past and the large empty regions, known as voids, are much more prominent at the present. The mission of Euclid is to measure this network-like structure and thereby lift the veil of mystery surrounding the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. These dark “Actors” drive the entire evolution of the Universe, but remain puzzling for our understanding of Physics. The computer simulation which produced this map was run on the Piz Daint supercomputer at CSCS in Lugano, and is the largest and most accurate simulation of the dark matter in the Universe ever performed. Galaxies like the Milky Way, which at this scale would fit in the width of a human hair, live in the dark matter halos (dark brown colour).


August 2018

NASA Lands at UZH

NASA research director Thomas Zurbuchen at his talk at UZH: "Discovering the secrets of the universe is one of the most important activities we could be doing as humans, because it is researching who we are, where we come from." (Image: Fabio Schönholzer)

UZH had the honor of welcoming Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA. He was able to gain an impression of current aviation and spaceflight projects that are being carried out at the UZH Space Hub, which already is collaborating with NASA and further partners.

Space Hub
Discussed space research together: Christian Schwarzenegger, Vice President Faculty Affairs and Scientific Information at UZH, Michael Schaepman, Vice President Research at UZH, Thomas Zurbuchen, research director at NASA, Yasmine Inauen, International Relations Office UZH, Tanya Gant Ward, Public Affairs Officer of the US embassy in Switzerland, Oliver Ullrich, director of the UZH Space Hub, and Romain Teyssier, professor of computational astrophysics. (Image: Fabio Schönholzer)


June 2018

Euclid STAR Prize 2018 Team Award

Flagship Team

Flagship mock galaxy catalog team: Linda Blot, Jorge Carretero, Francisco Castander, Pablo Fosalba, Mischa Knabenhans, Doug Potter, Lucia Pozzetti, Santiago Serrano, Joachim Stadel, Pau Tallada, Romain Teyssier

In a massive coordinated effort, a team of scientists of the Euclid project have worked together over the last year to develop the largest simulated galaxy catalogue ever produced, the so-called “Euclid Flagship” mock galaxy catalogue.


February 2018

A Conversation with Democritus | Ben Moore | TEDxZurich

2500 years ago the Greece and the Mediterranean islands must have been a plentiful and lush environment that enabled time to think. Democritus (and others) realized the world around them was understandable without invoking gods. He speculated that everything was made of tiny 'atomos' (he called them), particles so small that you couldn't see them. He was the first to state that the Milky Way was made of stars like our sun, that the universe contained many planets, some with life, others barren and empty. Ben Moore examines how it may have been possible for Democritus to know all this and Democritus' role in uncovering this complex phenomenon that is now widely understood by philosophy and science. A Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Zurich, Ben’s research is centred on understanding the origin and evolution of the universe and how stars, planets and galaxies form. He enjoys communicating science to the public through different media, including writing, music and art. Ben has recently opened the world’s first cosmic concept store in Zurich called Da Draussen.

Watch the TEDx talk on youtube: