Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics News

Spitzer and OGLE Discover a Planet Deep Within Our Galaxy

April 15, 2015

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Spitzer Finds a Planet Deep Within Our Galaxy

Using a method called microlensing, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and OGLE’s Warsaw Telescope teamed up to reveal a remote gas planet that is located about 13,000 light-years away. The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer — from its unique perch in space — can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout […]

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Unusual Isotopic Abundances Discovered in Nova Vul 1670

April 10, 2015

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Eruptive Star Nova Vul 1670

A newly published study reveals that Nova Vul 1670 is not only rich in molecular species, its gas has dramatically unusual isotopic abundances (that is, the atoms present, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen in particular, have extra neutrons in their nuclei). Astronomers have known for decades that the merger of two normal stars is a frequent […]

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Astronomers Discover Complex Organic Molecules in Infant Star System

April 10, 2015

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Complex Cyanides Reveal Composition of a Protoplanetary Disk

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have detected the presence of complex organic molecules in a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star, indicating that the conditions that spawned our Earth and Sun are not unique in the universe. This discovery, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), reveals that the protoplanetary disk surrounding […]

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Magnetic Fields Influence Star Formation on a Variety of Scales

March 30, 2015

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Magnetic Fields Influence Star Formation

A newly published study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that magnetic fields influence star formation on a variety of scales, from hundreds of light-years down to a fraction of a light-year. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Stars form when gravity pulls together material within giant clouds of gas and dust. But gravity isn’t the only […]

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Astronomers Use Globular Clusters to Measure Galaxy Evolution

March 20, 2015

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Measuring Galaxy Evolution

A new study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that globular clusters are often gathered into distinct groupings whose shapes reflect the formation of the clusters and the histories of the galaxies. Globular clusters are gravitationally bound ensembles of stars, as many as a million stars in some cases, grouped in roughly spherical clusters […]

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Cosmic Bumps on Cosmic Ripples – Analysis of Sunyaev-Zel’dovich Effect

March 13, 2015

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Researchers Use Observations from the SPT to Examine the SZE Signatures

Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used the South Pole Telescope to examine the SZE signatures of galaxy clusters, reporting an unexpectedly weak SZE signal for less massive galaxy clusters. In 1969, the astrophysicists Rashid Sunyaev and Yakov Zel’dovich realized that the then recently discovered cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) would be distorted by […]

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Coronal Mass Ejections Accelerate and Concentrate Nanodust Particles

March 10, 2015

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Nanodust Observations by the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory

A team of astronomers has discovered that coronal mass ejections accelerate and concentrate nanodust particles in the interplanetary medium, a conclusion derived from STEREO instruments that observed an increase in the rate of nanodust impacts on the spacecraft. Dust particles smaller than about a wavelength of light are abundant in our solar system, created by […]

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Astrophysicists Investigate Where Stars Form in Merging Galaxies

February 27, 2015

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The Spatial Extent of Induced Star Formation

Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics simulated galaxy collisions under a wide range of conditions in order to investigate the question of where the induced star formation is located. Collisions between galaxies, and even less dramatic gravitational encounters between them, are recognized as triggering star formation. Observations of luminous galaxies, powered by starbursts, are […]

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The Formation of a Quadruple Star System

February 20, 2015

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Astronomers View the Formation of a Quadruple Star System

Astronomers have discovered a nearby stellar nursery where quadruplets are being born. More than half of all stars are in multiple systems: binary stars, or even triplets or quadruplets, that orbit one another. No one is quite sure how or why they form, but the effects can be significant, for example influencing the character of […]

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Dark Matter Influences Supermassive Black Hole Growth

February 19, 2015

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Dark Matter Guides Growth of Supermassive Black Holes

Using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the ROSAT X-ray satellite’s all-sky survey, researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics detail a distinct relationship between the mass of a dark matter halo and the mass of a black hole. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Every massive galaxy has a black hole at its center, and […]

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CfA Astronomers Examine the Dynamics of Collapsing Cores and Star Formation

February 16, 2015

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Study Reveals  Dynamics of Collapsing Cores and Star Formation

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics measures the velocity distribution of the gas in a pre-stellar core, revealing the dynamics of collapsing cores and star formation. Stars like the Sun begin their lives as cold, dense cores of dust and gas that gradually collapse under the influence of gravity until nuclear fusion is […]

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Astronomers Discover a New Class of Binary Stars

February 12, 2015

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Astronomers Identify 18 Extreme Mass-Ratio Binary Stars

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered a new class of binary stars; one star is fully formed while the other is still in its infancy. Cambridge, Massachusetts – The majority of stars in our galaxy come in pairs. In particular, the most massive stars usually have a companion. These fraternal twins tend […]

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Astronomers Measure the Rotation Periods of Thirty Sun-Like Stars

February 9, 2015

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Astronomers Measure the Rotation Periods of Sun-Like Stars

Using the precise data from the Kepler exoplanet mission, astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have determined the rotation period measurements for 30 cool stars in the 2.5- billion-year-old stellar cluster NGC 6819. The mass of a star is perhaps its most significant feature. It determines how brightly it shines (a star ten times […]

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The Spitzer Interacting Galaxies Survey: An Infrared Atlas of Interacting Galaxies

February 3, 2015

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Interacting Galaxies M51A and M51B

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics report that, when compared with non-interacting field galaxies, the star formation rate does indeed increase in merging spirals, but that the efficiency of star formation does not appear to increase much as the merger progresses, at least in this limited sample. Most galaxies, including our own Milky Way, […]

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3D Map of Core-Collapse Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A

January 30, 2015

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Nearby Supernova Remnant Reveals Frothy Interior

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals near-infrared observations of the young Milky Way supernova remnant Cassiopeia A and a three-dimensional map of its interior. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short, is one of the most well studied supernova remnants in our galaxy. But it still holds major surprises. […]

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CID-42: A Recoiling, Supermassive Black Hole?

January 23, 2015

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CID-42 A Recoiling Black Hole

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics provides new insights from deep VLA data on the potentially recoiling black hole CID-42 in the COSMOS field. When galaxies collide, the central supermassive black holes that reside at their cores will end up orbiting one another in a binary pair, at least according to current simulations. […]

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A Significant Step Towards Explaining the Cosmic Origins of the Seeds of Galaxies

January 16, 2015

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3D Simulation Shows Small Protostellar-Like Core Can Grow into a Supermassive Black Hole

In a new study, astronomers from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics found that a small protostellar-like core of only 0.1 solar-masses can develop in only a few years from a suitable environment and then can grow into a supermassive black hole in only millions of years. Supermassive black holes with millions or billions of solar-masses of […]

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