Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics News

The Search for Variable Stars in Globular Cluster M4

July 25, 2014

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In a newly published study, astronomers detail the results of a photometric search for variable stars in the core of the globular cluster M4. A globular cluster is a roughly spherical ensemble of stars, as many as several million of them, gravitationally bound together in groups whose diameters can be as small as only tens […]

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A New Approach in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

July 23, 2014

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Scientists are taking a new approach in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, studying exoplanet atmospheres for signs of pollution. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Humanity is on the threshold of being able to detect signs of alien life on other worlds. By studying exoplanet atmospheres, we can look for gases like oxygen and methane that only coexist […]

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Astronomers Discover Transiting Exoplanet with Longest Known Year, Kepler-421b

July 22, 2014

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Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered a transiting exoplanet with the longest known year, circling its star once every 704 days. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Astronomers have discovered a transiting exoplanet with the longest known year. Kepler-421b circles its star once every 704 days. In comparison, Mars orbits our Sun once every 780 […]

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Astronomers Use Gyrochronology to Reveal the Ages of 22 Sun-Like Stars

July 10, 2014

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Using a new technique for measuring the age of a star using its spin, astronomers reveal the gyrochronological ages of 22 Sun-like stars. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Defining what makes a star “Sun-like” is as difficult as defining what makes a planet “Earth-like.” A solar twin should have a temperature, mass, and spectral type similar to […]

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Gemini Reveals a Hidden Gravitational Wave Source

July 9, 2014

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Using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph on the Gemini North telescope and the Blue Channel spectrograph on the 6.5-meter MMT Telescope, astronomers have identified one of the best (and perhaps the most powerful) gravitational wave sources. Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity predicts that accelerated masses emit gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. Even though gravitational waves […]

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No Significant Evidence That Distant ULIRGs Are Less Involved in Mergers

June 27, 2014

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Using the Hubble Space Telescope and quantitative measures of galaxy distortion, CfA astronomers reveal that there is only a slight 20% decrease in the collision rate of distant ultra-luminous infrared galaxies from that of local galaxies. Ultra-luminous infrared galaxies ((ULIRGs) are galaxies whose luminosity exceeds that of a trillion suns, By way of comparison, our […]

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Astronomers Measure Black Hole Spin in the Nucleus of the Galaxy NGC 1365

June 27, 2014

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Using observations from NuSTAR and XMM-NEWTON, a team of astronomers examined the time-varying spectral shape of highly excited iron atoms in the nucleus of the galaxy NGC 1365. The nuclei of most galaxies contain a massive black hole. In our Milky Way, for example, the nuclear black hole contains about four million solar masses of […]

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Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reveals Treasure Trove of “Red Nugget” Galaxies

June 12, 2014

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At this years the meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society, astronomers revealed a treasure trove of “red nugget” galaxies discovered by combing through the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database. Cambridge, Massachusetts – The world of astronomy has changed. An astronomer used to have to travel to a remote location and endure long, cold nights, patiently […]

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Exoplanets Can Be Divided Into Three Groups: Terrestrials, Gas Giants, and Mid-Sized Gas Dwarfs

June 9, 2014

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A newly published study form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics follows up on Kepler discoveries, revealing that exoplanets can be divided into three groups: terrestrials, gas giants, and mid-sized gas dwarfs. Cambridge, Massachusetts – The planets of our solar system come in two basic flavors, like vanilla and chocolate ice cream. We have small, rocky […]

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New Research Reveals Harsh Space Weather May Doom Potential Life on Red-Dwarf Planets

June 9, 2014

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New research presented at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society reveals that harsh space weather may strip the atmosphere of any rocky planet orbiting in a red dwarf’s habitable zone, making the possibility of finding life as we know it less likely. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Life in the universe might be even rarer than […]

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New Image Reveals Colliding Galaxy Clusters

June 5, 2014

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This new image reveals a violent, complex scene of colliding galaxy clusters more than 5 billion light-years from Earth. Astronomers using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory have produced a spectacular image revealing new details of violent collisions involving at least four clusters of galaxies. Combined with an […]

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Kepler-56b and Kepler-56c Will Be Swallowed by Their Star

June 4, 2014

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Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced that planets Kepler-56b and Kepler-56c will be swallowed by their star, providing a glimpse into the future of our solar system. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Two worlds orbiting a distant star are about to become a snack of cosmic proportions. Astronomers announced today that the planets Kepler-56b and […]

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