Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics News

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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Astronomers Observe Star Formation in the Outskirts of Galaxies

February 5, 2016

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Star Formation in the Outer Spiral Regions of Galaxy NGC 4625

A newly published study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics finds that the star formation processes in the outer spiral regions of the galaxy NGC 4625 generally resemble the processes at work in more normal, denser regions where molecular gas abounds. Star formation environments can be roughly grouped into three types, categorized by the density […]

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Scientists Propose a New Method to Probe the Evolutionary History of the Universe

January 27, 2016

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Scientists Propose a New Method to Probe the Beginning of the Universe

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests that oscillating heavy particles generated “clocks” in the primordial universe that could be used to determine what produced the initial conditions that gave rise to the universe. How did the universe begin? And what came before the Big Bang? Cosmologists have asked these questions ever since […]

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Astronomers Discover a Giant Exoplanet and Four New Companion Stars

January 22, 2016

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The Pan-Pacific Planet Search III Five Companions Orbiting Giant Stars

Using a new systematic radial velocity search for brown dwarf and stellar-mass companions to stars, astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered one new giant exoplanet and four new companion stars. The search for exoplanets via the radial velocity technique has been underway for nearly 30 years. The method searches for wobbles in […]

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Harvard Astrophysicists Examine the Properties of Pre-Stellar Cores

January 18, 2016

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Far-Infrared Dust Temperatures and Column Densities of the MALT90 Molecular Clump Sample

A new infrared study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics examined the cores of star-forming dust clouds in various stages of development, enabling astronomers to categorize the temperatures, densities, and evolutionary characters of young stellar nurseries. Stars like the Sun begin their lives as cold, dense cores of dust and gas that collapse under the […]

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Supercomputers Simulate the Formation of Carbon-Rich Molecules in Space

January 11, 2016

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Formation of Carbon-Rich Molecules in Space

Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have used a new generation of supercomputers to simulate how atoms in space might combine to form carbon-rich molecules and clusters. The space between stars is not empty, but contains an abundance of diffuse material, about 5-10% of the total mass of our galaxy (excluding dark matter). Most […]

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Scientists Believe Globular Clusters Could Nurture Interstellar Civilizations

January 7, 2016

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Astronomers Believe Globular Clusters Like 47 Tucanae Could Nurture Interstellar Civilizations

Astronomers believe globular star clusters might be excellent places to search for interstellar civilizations. Their crowded nature means intelligent life at our stage of technological advancement could send probes to the nearest stars. Globular star clusters are extraordinary in almost every way. They’re densely packed, holding a million stars in a ball only about 100 […]

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Astronomers Use G1 and G2 to Probe the Accretion Flow Feeding Sgr A*

January 4, 2016

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Astronomers Use Gas Clouds to Probe the Accretion Flow Feeding Sgr A

New research uses the G1 and G2 gas clouds to probe the accretion flow feeding Sgr A∗. The center of our Milky Way galaxy, about twenty-five thousand light years from Earth, is invisible to us in optical light because of the extensive amounts of absorbing, intervening dust. Radiation at many other wavelengths, however, including the […]

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Chandra Observations Reveal Magnetic Fields in Powerful Radio Jets

December 28, 2015

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Deep Chandra observations of Pictor A

New observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory reveal that the X-ray emissions from Pictoris A are produced by rapidly moving charged particles in magnetic fields. Super-massive black holes at the centers of galaxies can spawn tremendous bipolar jets when matter in the vicinity forms a hot, accreting disk around the black hole. The rapidly moving […]

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Astronomers Reveal the “Skeletal Structure” of the Milky Way

December 18, 2015

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The Skeleton of the Milky Way

Using infrared surveys from the Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have identified ten new filamentary dark clouds in the Milky Way and are looking for more in order to study the “skeletal” makeup of the galaxy. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is a typical barred spiral galaxy, a flattened disk of about a hundred billion […]

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ALMA Telescope Reveals Planetary Influences on Young Stellar Disks

December 15, 2015

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ALMA Reveals Planetary Influences on Young Stellar Disks

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that the gas cavity in transition disks in four young stars was as much as three times smaller than the dust cavity, and that the gas density inside the cavity drops by at least a factor of one thousand compared to the surface density. A newborn […]

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VERITAS Detects Gamma Rays from Distant Galaxy PKS 1441+25

December 15, 2015

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VERITAS Detects Gamma Rays from Galaxy PKS 1441+25

Using the VERITAS array, astronomers have detected gamma rays from a blazar known as PKS 1441+25. The research shows that the source of the gamma rays were surprisingly far from the galaxy’s black hole – at least a tenth of a light-year away, and most likely about 5 light-years away. In April 2015, after traveling […]

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VLA Provides New Insights into Solar Flares

December 8, 2015

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Astronomers Reveal New Insights into Solar Flares

Using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array Radio Telescope, along with other telescopes at ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths, astronomers reveal new insights into solar flares. Astronomers have made a significant step toward confirming a proposed explanation for how solar flares accelerate charged particles to speeds nearly that of light. This important advance was made […]

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Astronomers Image the Expanding Shell of Supernova SN 2011dh

December 8, 2015

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Optical Image of Galaxy Messier 51

Using precise radio imaging techniques, astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have determined the size of the shock around supernova SN 2011dh and estimated its outward velocity. Supernovae, the explosive deaths of massive stars, are among the most momentous events in the cosmos because they disburse into space all of the chemical elements that […]

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Astronomers Measure Magnetic Fields at Sagittarius A*

December 4, 2015

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Telescope Reveals Magnetic Fields at Milky Way's Central Black Hole

Using the Event Horizon Telescope, astronomers have measured the magnetic fields just outside the event horizon of Sagittarius A* for the first time. Most people think of black holes as giant vacuum cleaners sucking in everything that gets too close. But the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies are more like cosmic engines, […]

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Astronomers Detect Time Delays between Flaring Events in a Quasar

December 1, 2015

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New Image of the Quintuple Quasar SDSSJ1029+2623

The Quintuple Quasar SDSSJ1029+2623 has been gravitationally imaged by an intervening cluster of galaxies. Astronomers have detected time delays between flaring events in the quasar, the result of the light in different images traveling along different paths in space. Quasars are galaxies with massive black holes at their cores around which vast amounts of energy […]

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Astronomers Study the Star Formation Rates of Galaxies

November 20, 2015

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The Schmidt Law in Six Galactic Massive Star-forming Regions

In a newly published study, astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics counted up the new stars in RCW106 and five other local regions of active star formation to check the reliability of estimating star formation rates in other galaxies by measuring their gas content and infrared emission. Our Milky Way galaxy produces on average […]

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Tiny Red Dwarf Star Has a Magnetic Field Several Hundred Times Stronger Than Our Sun

November 20, 2015

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ALMA Reveals Ultracool Star That is Super Stormy

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, astronomers reveal that red dwarf star TVLM 513-46546 has an amazingly powerful magnetic field. Our Sun is a relatively quiet star that only occasionally releases solar flares or blasts of energetic particles that threaten satellites and power grids. You might think that smaller, cooler stars would be even more […]

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