Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics News

Astronomers Reveal Colliding Galaxy Clusters

December 2, 2016

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Galaxy 3C438

A team of astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have concluded that the hot gas in the cluster around galaxy 3C438 is the result of a collision between two clusters of galaxies. Galaxy clusters contain a few to thousands of galaxies and are the largest bound structures in the Universe. Most galaxies are members […]

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NASA’s Chandra Views a Stellar Circle of Life, Cygnus X-3

November 28, 2016

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Chandra Views a Stellar Circle of Life

A newly published study reveals that the supernova explosion that formed either the black hole or neutron star in Cygnus X-3 kicked the binary system away from its original birthplace, estimating that Cygnus X-3 must have been thrown out at speeds between 400,000 and 2 million miles per hour. A snapshot of the stellar life […]

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No Change in Global Star Formation Process

November 18, 2016

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Star Formation in the Early Universe

New research of the gas content in galaxies so distant their light has been traveling for about ten billion years suggests that the processes converting gas into stars is about the same back then as in the local universe. The first stars appeared about one hundred million years after the big bang, and ever since […]

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GASS 3505: A Hydrogen Rich, Passive Galaxy

November 15, 2016

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Hydrogen Rich Passive Galaxy GASS-3505

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that the star formation in GASS 3505 is very weak, less than about 0.1 solar-masses per year. Cold gas in the form of neutral hydrogen atoms provides the reservoir for star formation in galaxies from the distant to the nearby Universe. Understanding how it accretes onto […]

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Astronomers Study the Pulsar Wind Nebula Created by PSR B0355+54

November 7, 2016

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Pulsar Wind Nebulae

A team of astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has modeled the detailed shape of the pulsar wind nebula created by PSR B0355+54. Neutron stars are the detritus of supernova explosions, with masses between one and several suns and diameters only tens of kilometers across. A pulsar is a spinning neutron star with a […]

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Slow-Blue Nuclear Hypervariables in PanSTARRS-1

November 1, 2016

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Nuclear Hypervariables in PanSTARRS-1

Astronomers have used a sky survey to identify a class of blue, hypervariable galaxies; the origin of the variability is uncertain but might in some cases be due to microlensing. Extreme variability in the intensity of the optical light of galaxies, by factors of two or more, is of great interest to astronomers. It can […]

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Hotspots in Active Galactic Nucleus Cygnus A

October 21, 2016

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Hotspots in an Active Galactic Nucleus

Astronomers used the Low Frequency Array radio telescope to obtain high spatial resolution images of the hotspots in Cygnus A, providing the first direct evidence that the spectral shape difference previously inferred is real. The nucleus of a so-called “active” galaxy contains a massive black hole that is vigorously accreting material. As a result, the […]

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Astronomers Study a Star’s Environment from Light Curves

October 17, 2016

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Studying a Star's Environment from Light Curves

Using the ALMA telescopes, astronomers discovered a circumstellar disk around the star EPIC 204278916 and offer several explanations for the dips including that they are caused by clumps of material in the warped inner portion of the disk. There are now about 2700 confirmed exoplanets discovered by transiting techniques including those used with the Kepler […]

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Astronomers Reveal That Proxima Centauri Might Be More Sunlike Than Previously Thought

October 13, 2016

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Proxima Centauri Might Be More Sunlike Than Previously Thought

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that the nearby star Proxima Centauri shows signs of a 7-year activity cycle. In August astronomers announced that the nearby star Proxima Centauri hosts an Earth-sized planet (called Proxima b) in its habitable zone. At first glance, Proxima Centauri seems nothing like our Sun. It’s a […]

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Astronomers Take First Step Toward Uncovering Nascent Galaxies in the Early Universe

October 10, 2016

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Scientists Study the Epoch of Reionization

In preparation for looking for the first generation of galaxies, the facility has published the first catalog of extragalactic sources of contamination in one of the fields of view. The epoch when the very first stars appeared is a key period of cosmic history. These stars began the manufacture of the chemical elements (those heavier […]

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Harvard Astronomers Study of Four Elusive Binary Systems

October 4, 2016

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Astronomers Study of Four Elusive Binary Systems

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have measured the orbital parameters of four millisecond pulsars in the globular cluster 47 Tuc and modeled their possible formation and evolution paths. When a star with a mass of roughly ten solar masses finishes its life, it explodes as a supernova, leaving behind a neutron star as […]

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CfA Astronomers Confirm and Characterize Exoplanet K2-33b

September 20, 2016

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Astronomers Confirm and Characterize Exoplanet K2-33b

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics take a closer look at migrating exoplanets. Many known exoplanets orbit close to their host star, within one-tenth of an astronomical unit (one AU is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun). Since their orbital periods are therefore very short and their gravitational influences on the […]

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Chandra Detects X-Rays from Pluto

September 15, 2016

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Astronomers Shed New Light on Pluto

Using Chandra, a team of astronomers has detected X-rays from Pluto for the first time. This X-ray emission comes from the interaction between Pluto’s atmosphere and solar wind. New Chandra observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding Pluto, the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions. While NASA’s New Horizons […]

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A Riddle for Our Time – Astronomers Examine Cosmic History

September 12, 2016

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The Dimensionless Age of the Universe: a Riddle for Our Time

In a newly published study, a team of astronomers call attention to a neglected riddle of the expansion of the universe: although cosmic acceleration might have started at any time, curiously it has happened in our own time. One of the most remarkable successes of astrophysics in the last century was its discovery that the […]

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Astrophysicists Show Milky Way Had a Blowout Bash 6 Million Years Ago

August 29, 2016

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New Study Shows Milky Way Had a Blowout Bash 6 Million Years Ago

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that the center of the Milky Way was once a very active place. The center of the Milky Way galaxy is currently a quiet place where a supermassive black hole slumbers, only occasionally slurping small sips of hydrogen gas. But it wasn’t always this way. A […]

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Exoplanet GJ 1132b Might Have a Thin Oxygen Atmosphere

August 18, 2016

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Venus-like Exoplanet GJ 1132b Might Have Oxygen Atmosphere

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that the Venus-like Exoplanet GJ 1132b might possess a thin, oxygen atmosphere – but no life due to its extreme heat. The distant planet GJ 1132b intrigued astronomers when it was discovered last year. Located just 39 light-years from Earth, it might have an atmosphere despite […]

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ALMA Images the Planetesimal Belt around HR8799

August 15, 2016

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Resolving the Planetesimal Belt of HR 8799

Using the ALMA submillimeter array, astronomers image the disk around HR8799 with a spatial scale as small as only thirty-two au, enough to probe the inner zones of the disk. Planets develop from the dusty placental disk of material that surrounds a star after it begins to shine. The dust in that disk, according to […]

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Astronomers Discover Chiral Molecules in Interstellar Space

August 8, 2016

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Astronomers Chiral Molecules in Space

A team of astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has detected chiral molecules in interstellar space. Life on Earth is based on chiral molecules. Chiral molecules are those that have a “handedness,” that is, they take one of two forms, identical in chemical composition but with mirror image shapes – like our right and […]

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