Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics News

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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HARPS-N Spectrograph Reveals the Composition of Terrestrial Planets

January 7, 2015

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Astronomers Reveal New Recipe for Other Earths

Using the High-Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), astronomers show that the recipe for Earth also applies to terrestrial exoplanets orbiting distant stars. Cambridge, Massachusetts – How do you make an Earth-like planet? The “test kitchen” of Earth has given us a detailed recipe, but it wasn’t clear whether other planetary systems would follow the […]

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Astronomers Discover Eight New Planets in “Goldilocks” Zone

January 7, 2015

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Eight New Planets Found in Goldilocks Zone

Using Kepler data, a team of astronomers has discovered eight new planets orbiting their stars at a distance where liquid water can exist on the planet’s surface. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Astronomers announced today that they have found eight new planets in the “Goldilocks” zone of their stars, orbiting at a distance where liquid water can […]

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Study Details Why Super-Earths Have Long-Lasting Oceans

January 6, 2015

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Super-Earths May Have Long-Lasting Oceans

A newly published study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals why oceans on super-Earths, once established, can last for billions of years. Cambridge, Massachusetts – For life as we know it to develop on other planets, those planets would need liquid water, or oceans. Geologic evidence suggests that Earth’s oceans have existed for nearly […]

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A New Set of Calculations for Catastrophic Disruptions of Main Belt Asteroids

January 2, 2015

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Catastrophic Disruption Rate of Small Main Belt Asteroids

A team of astronomers has revealed a new set of calculations for catastrophic disruptions of main belt asteroids, finding that for asteroids about one hundred meters in diameter collisions are not the primarily cause of break ups – rapid rotation is. Hundreds of thousands of asteroids are known to orbit our Sun at distances ranging […]

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A Deficit of Ultra-Luminous X-Ray Sources in Starburst Galaxies

December 22, 2014

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Astronomers Discover Ultra-Luminous X-Ray Sources in Starburst Galaxies

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have completed a study of active star-forming galaxies, revealing a large deficit in the number of ULXs detected. Ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULXs) are point sources in the sky that are so bright in X-rays that each emits more radiation than a million suns emit at all wavelengths. ULXs […]

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Kepler Detects A Super-Earth Transiting the Bright K-Dwarf HIP 116454

December 22, 2014

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Kepler Discovers HIP 116454

Despite a malfunction that ended its primary mission in May 2013, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft is still alive and working and has detected a newfound planet, HIP 116454b, has a diameter of 20,000 miles, two and a half times the size of Earth. Cambridge, Massachusetts – To paraphrase Mark Twain, the report of the Kepler spacecraft’s […]

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Astronomers Detect Pluto-Size Objects around a Sun-Like Star

December 12, 2014

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Astronomers Detect Pluto-Size Objects swarming Around an Adolescent Sun

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have detected Pluto-size objects around an adolescent Sun-like star. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Scientists used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to make detailed observations of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the star known as HD 107146, detecting an unexpected increase in the concentration […]

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