Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics News

Astronomers Examine the Circumstellar Dust Around KIC 8462852

May 13, 2016

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Constraints on the Circumstellar Dust around KIC 8462852

A new measurement of the dust around KIC 8462852 reveals that it seems to be consistent with the breakup of a cluster of Halley-like comets. The Kepler satellite was designed to search for Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of stars by measuring dips in a star’s brightness as orbiting planets move across the stellar […]

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Astronomers Examine the Processes Involved in Generating Turbulence

May 6, 2016

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Astronomers Examine the Physical Processes Involved in Generating Turbulence

A new study of turbulence in galaxies concludes that in many cases it is generated not by star formation but by gravitational effects alone. The gas in galaxies is typically seen to be moving at very rapid, even supersonic velocities, providing clear evidence that the medium is highly turbulent. Looking more closely at gas clouds […]

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Evidence Points to Planet Nine Existing, But How Was it Produced?

May 3, 2016

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Update on Planet Nine

New research examines Planet Nine and the mystery behind its existence. Earlier this year scientists presented evidence for Planet Nine, a Neptune-mass planet in an elliptical orbit 10 times farther from our Sun than Pluto. Since then theorists have puzzled over how this planet could end up in such a distant orbit. New research by […]

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Astronomers Develop New Method to Determine Oxygen Abundance in Stars

April 29, 2016

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New Models Determine the Oxygen Abundance in Giant Stars

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have developed a new computational method to determine the abundance of oxygen in these and similar stars, and in particular in giant stars. The code finds values that are more self-consistent than previous estimates. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium. […]

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Astronomers Gain a Better Understanding of Spica

April 26, 2016

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Stellar Modelling of Spica

A newly published study details Spica, an eccentric double-lined spectroscopic binary system with a β Cep type variable primary component. The familiar star Spica (Alpha Virginis) is the fifteenth brightest star in the night sky, in part because it is relatively nearby, only about 250 light-years away. It is easy to find by following the […]

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Zipf’s Law from Scale-free Geometry – Like Galaxies, Like Cities

April 18, 2016

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Zipf's Law from Scale-Free Geometry

Abstract: The spatial distribution of people exhibits clustering across a wide range of scales, from household (∼10−2 km) to continental (∼104 km) scales. Empirical data indicates simple power-law scalings for the size distribution of cities (known as Zipf’s law) and the population density fluctuations as a function of scale. Using techniques from random field theory […]

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APEX Explores the Onset of Pulsation-Driven Winds in Giant Stars

April 12, 2016

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Exploring the Onset of Pulsation-Driven Winds in Giant Stars

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used the APEX submillimeter telescope to study the velocity of the CO gas in the wind of the giant star EU Del to help constrain the mechanism responsible for driving its wind. Nearly all stars have winds. The Sun’s wind, which originates from its hot outer layer (corona), […]

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Hot Jupiter KELT-4Ab Boasts Rare Triple Suns

April 6, 2016

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Newly Discovered Hot Jupiter KELT-4Ab Boasts Rare Triple Suns

Using the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope, a team of astronomers has discovered an alien planet that has three suns in its sky. Eat your heart out, Tatooine: A newly discovered alien planet has not one, not two, but three suns in its sky. While scientists know of many planets with two suns, a planet with […]

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Astronomers Reveal a Planet Forming in an Earth-Like Orbit Around Young Star TW Hydrae

March 31, 2016

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Astronomers Find a Planet Forming in an Earth-like Orbit around a Young Star

Using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, astronomers reveal a planet-forming disk in unprecedented detail, revealing a series of concentric dusty bright rings and dark gaps, including intriguing features that suggest a planet with an Earth-like orbit is forming there. Disks of dust and gas that surround young stars are the formation sites of […]

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Astronomers Identify a Signature of Dark Matter Annihilation

March 25, 2016

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Astronomers Detect the Signature of Dark Matter Annihilation

By studying the spatial distribution of gamma-ray emission in the Milky Way, astronomers believe they have identified a signature of dark matter annihilation. We live in a dramatic epoch of astrophysics. Breakthrough discoveries like exoplanets, gravity waves from merging black holes, or cosmic acceleration seem to arrive every decade, or even more often. But perhaps […]

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Scientists Discover a Binary Companion for a Type Ia Supernova

March 24, 2016

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Astronomers Discover a Binary Companion for a Type Ia Supernova

A newly published study details evidence for the interaction between a normal Type Ia supernova and a non-degenerate binary companion. A team of astronomers including Harvard’s Robert Kirshner and Peter Challis has detected a flash of light from the companion to an exploding star. This is the first time astronomers have witnessed the impact of […]

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Astronomers Show Magnetic Field is Critical for Life

March 16, 2016

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Magnetic Field Was Critical for Life on the Early Earth

Newly published research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that any Earth-like planet would need a magnetic field in order to protect its atmosphere and be habitable. Nearly four billion years ago, life arose on Earth. Life appeared because our planet had a rocky surface, liquid water, and a blanketing atmosphere. But life thrived […]

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Astronomers Analyze the Distribution of Globular Clusters

March 14, 2016

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The Extended Spatial Distribution of Globular Clusters

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have analyzed the distribution of over eighty thousand globular clusters to infer an active history of galaxy-galaxy interactions. Globular clusters are gravitationally bound, roughly spherical ensembles of stars. Some contain as many as a million stars, and their sizes are as small as only tens of light-years in […]

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Astronomers Take A Closer Look at the Milky Way’s Central Molecular Zone

February 29, 2016

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Molecular Gas Kinematics Within the Central 250 pc of the Milky Way

New research confirms that the Milky Way’s Central Molecular Zone is not centered on the black hole, but is offset; they also confirm that the gas motions throughout are supersonic. The center of our Milky Way galaxy lies about 27,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation of Sagittarius. At its core is a […]

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New Research Shows LIGO’s Twin Black Holes Might Have Been Born Inside a Single Star

February 24, 2016

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Twin Black Holes Born Inside a Single Star

Newly published research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests that the burst detected by LIGO occurred because the two black holes lived and died inside a single, massive star. On September 14, 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes 29 and 36 times the […]

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Astronomers Discover Distant Radio Galaxies via Gravitational Lensing

February 23, 2016

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Radio Galaxies Being Gravitationally Lensed

A new study details how a team of X-ray astronomers used lensed radio galaxies to identify and study distant galaxies with active supermassive black hole nuclei. A lensing cluster is a gravitationally bound collection of galaxies, hundreds or even thousands, whose mass acts as a gravitational lens to collect and reimage the light of more […]

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DES Results of First Search for Visible Light Associated with Gravitational Waves

February 15, 2016

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Astronomers Report Results of First Search for Visible Light Associated with Gravitational Waves

The Dark Energy Survey has already discovered more than 1,000 supernovae and mapped millions of galaxies to help us understand the accelerating expansion of our universe and now it searches for optical signatures of gravitational waves. Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicts the emission of gravitational waves by massive celestial bodies moving though space-time. For […]

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Preliminary Reference Earth Model Shows Earth-like Planets Have Earth-like Interiors

February 8, 2016

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PREM Model Shows Mass-Radius Relation for Rocky Planets

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that rocky worlds share similar structures, with a core containing about a third of the planet’s mass, surrounded by a mantle and topped by a thin crust. Every school kid learns the basic structure of the Earth: a thin outer crust, a thick mantle, and a […]

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