Chris Lintott

Chris Lintott is a professor of astrophysics at Oxford and co-presenter of The Sky at Night. Asteroid 4937 is named after him.

Short Cuts: Born in Light

Chris Lintott, 27 January 2022

The universe​ was born in light. If modern cosmology is right, for the first forty thousand years or so after the Big Bang the most important component in the young, hot universe was electromagnetic radiation, a situation that continued until the universe had cooled sufficiently for the first hydrogen and helium atoms to form. Temperatures were still high enough at that point for the cosmos...

From The Blog
24 December 2021

Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe is now the fastest object ever built, hitting 101 miles per second as it passed within six million miles of the Sun last month, setting a record for the closest approach to our star on its tenth planned orbit. The views during its slingshots are spectacular, with Parker’s camera catching Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, the Milky Way and the Earth sliding past the window on a recent passage. These familiar objects are seen in an unfamiliar setting. The flickering light in the background is from the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, through which Parker is flying. It is the first spacecraft to enter this region of tenuous hot gas, normally only visible from Earth during the special conditions of a total solar eclipse. 

Onthe evening of 28 February, a bright fireball seen across northern France and southern England delivered a scattering of fresh meteorites to the Gloucestershire market town of Winchcombe. One of them disturbed the peace of a Sunday evening as it thumped into a family’s driveway. They found it the next morning, looking like a crumbled BBQ briquette left over from last summer. Now on...

From The Blog
16 September 2020

There’s a long history of astronomers looking for signs of life on Venus. Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, reports circulated of a mysterious glow, known as the Ashen Light, which sporadically appeared on the planet’s night side. Could it be a product of civilisation, perhaps the glow of vast ritual bonfires breaking through the thick clouds that were known to blanket the planet? Later writers speculated about vast underground cities, or intelligent creatures who made the most of the thick atmosphere for aerial acrobatics. When spacecraft finally visited our neighbouring planet, in the 1960s, dreams of life on Venus receded. A runaway version of the greenhouse effect has changed what may once have been a pleasant world to a decent approximation of hell; the surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead, the pressure on the ground high enough to crush a visiting astronaut, and those thick clouds are mostly sulphuric acid. A few dreamers still wrote of floating cities in Venusian clouds, but attention turned to Mars as the best bet for searching for past or present life. Until this week, that is.

From The Blog
3 April 2020

Black holes have a fearsome reputation. They have imperilled a thousand stricken starship crews in the pages of science fiction, and the language used to describe them even in non-fiction often implies menace. In popular science, they ‘lurk’ at the centres of galaxies, waiting to ‘devour’ passing stars. I’m not sure this sort of imagery is justified, though it can be hard to avoid. A lot of the time black holes are passive, quiet beasts.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences