Harvard-Smithsonian Center For Astrophysics News

LMT Reveals Gas and Dust Properties of Distant Galaxies

August 28, 2015

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LMT Reveals Gas and Dust Properties of Luminous Galaxies

Using the Large Millimeter Telescope in its first stages of operation, astronomers study the gas and dust properties of luminous galaxies in the early stages of the universe. In the 1980’s, observations of nearby galaxies made with the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, along with observations of the far-infrared /submillimeter background with the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, […]

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If Life Can Travel Between The Stars We Should Be Able To Detect It

August 27, 2015

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Statistical Signatures of Panspermia in Exoplanet Surveys

A new study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests that if life can travel between the stars (in a process called panspermia), it would spread in a characteristic pattern that we could potentially identify. Cambridge, Massachusetts – We only have one example of a planet with life: Earth. But within the next generation, it […]

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Astronomers Study Textured Dust Storms on Mars

August 21, 2015

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Dust Storms on Mars

A new analysis of textured dust storms from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics examines data over eight years of MGS observations and finds that such storms account for about half of all the dust in the Martian atmosphere. In the 1870’s astronomers first noted the presence of yellow clouds on the surface of Mars and […]

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The Nearest Potentially Habitable Planet is Roughly Nine Light-Years Away

August 11, 2015

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Distance to the Nearest Potentially Habitable Planet

A new study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has examined Kepler observations for exoplanet transits around lower mass M-dwarf stars, revealing that the nearest potentially habitable Earth-sized planet is likely to be about nine light-years away. The Kepler mission has so far spotted an astonishing 4696 possible exoplanets; about one third of them, 1030, […]

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The Direct Imaging and Spectroscopy of a Young Extrasolar Kuiper Belt

August 11, 2015

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Direct Imaging and Spectroscopy of a Young Extrasolar Kuiper Belt

Using the new spectrometer on the Gemini telescope to study a star slightly larger than the Sun, astronomers found that the debris ring is confined to a Kuiper belt–like distance from the star and that its dust has properties consistent with that of the major constituents of Kuiper belt bodies — including water ice. The […]

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Astronomers Develop New Models to Search for Molecular Oxygen

July 27, 2015

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Astronomers Find Molecular Oxygen

Newly published research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics provides the first self-consistent treatment of preshock, shock, and postshock regions under the influence of UV fields, and explains why O2 detections are so rare. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe (after hydrogen and helium) and of course it is important: all […]

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Astrophysicist Scott Kenyon Shares His Thoughts and Reactions on New Horizons’ Flyby of Pluto

July 16, 2015

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Annotated Image of Pluto's Newly Discovered Features

As astrophysicists around the world watch to see what NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft will reveal about the Pluto, Scott Kenyon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shared his reaction to the flyby in an interview with the Harvard Gazette. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reached its closest approach to Pluto on Tuesday, swooping to within 7,800 […]

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Astronomers Detail the Demographics of Transition Discs in Ophiuchus and Taurus

July 7, 2015

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Demographics of Transition Discs in Ophiuchus and Taurus

New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that the most probable explanation for the inner gap in transition disks is the influence of one or more giant planets orbiting nearby. A star is typically born with a disk of gas and dust encircling it, from which planets develop as dust grains in the […]

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Astronomers Discover Disilicon Carbide in Space

June 30, 2015

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Astronomers Discover Dust-Forming Molecule Si-C-Si

After decades of speculation and searching, astronomers have discovered the important dust-forming molecule Si-C-Si (disilicon carbide) in space. The space between stars is not empty — it contains a vast reservoir of diffuse material with about 5-10% of the total mass of our Milky Way galaxy. Most of the material is gas, but about 1% […]

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New Insights into the Evolution of Radio Galaxy 3C 270

June 5, 2015

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Radio Galaxy NGC 4261

Using new and archival radio observations, astronomers reveal that the two lobes of radio galaxy 3C 270 are respectively about twenty-nine and thirty-seven million years old and that the lobes are the result of multiple outbursts of activity from the vicinity of black hole. The longest known highly collimated structures in the universe are the […]

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Astronomers Study the Interstellar Medium a Billion Years After the Big Bang

June 2, 2015

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Scientists Examine the Interstellar Medium a Billion Years after the Big Bang

In a newly published study astronomers measured the emission from ionized carbon in seventeen young galaxies, revealing a good measure of the rate of star formation in the very early universe (except in sources deficient in carbon), that the UV fields are about 100-1000 times as strong as they are near the Sun, and that […]

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Astronomers Discover Super-Jupiter Exoplanet around an Evolved Star

May 26, 2015

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Astronomers Discover Kepler-432

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered two new giant exoplanets around an evolved star. There are 565 exoplanets currently known that are as massive as Jupiter or bigger, about one third of the total known, confirmed exoplanet population. About one quarter of the massive population orbits very close to its star, with […]

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TEMPO Space-Based Pollution Monitoring Instrument Passes NASA Review

May 13, 2015

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TEMPO Pollution Monitoring Instrument Passes Critical Review

A new space-based instrument that will monitor major air pollutants across North America on an hourly basis has successfully completed a critical review by NASA. Cambridge, Massachusetts – The Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument passed a major milestone April 10, 2015 by successfully completing a critical NASA confirmation review. It has been confirmed […]

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The Changing Frequency of Galaxy Collisions

May 11, 2015

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New Theoretical Framework for Calculating the Frequency of Galaxy Mergers

New research from the Illustris project examines the changing frequency of galaxy collisions, as the universe evolves from the big bang to the present day. Our knowledge of the big bang has increased dramatically in the past decade, as satellites and ground-based studies of the cosmic microwave background have refined parameters associated with the very […]

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Astrophysicists Show Water Could Have Been Abundant in the early Universe

May 4, 2015

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Water Could Have Been Abundant in the Early Universe

New theoretical work from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reveals that water vapor could have been abundant in the early universe. Cambridge, Massachusetts – How soon after the Big Bang could water have existed? Not right away, because water molecules contain oxygen and oxygen had to be formed in the first stars. Then that oxygen […]

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Astronomers Discover Radio Phoenix Close to the Moment of Its Formation

April 28, 2015

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Abell 1033

Using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, the Very Large Array ad the optical Sloan Digital Sky Survey, astronomers have spotted a radio source with the emission and charged particle characteristics of a radio phoenix. Abell 1033 is a cluster of over 350 galaxies located about 1.7 billion light-years away. […]

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Astronomers Reveal “Missing-Link” in the Supernova-GRB Connection

April 28, 2015

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Missing-Link in the Supernova-GRB Connection

A newly published study details the “missing link” between supernova explosions that generate gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and those that don’t. Cambridge, Massachusetts – Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array (VLA) have found a long-sought “missing link” between supernova explosions that generate gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and those that don’t. The scientists found that […]

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Astronomers Discover 11 Runaway Elliptical Galaxies

April 24, 2015

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Astronomers Find Runaway Galaxies

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Moscow State University have discovered 11 isolated compact elliptical galaxies that have been flung out of their homes to wander the void of intergalactic space. Cambridge, Massachusetts – We know of about two dozen runaway stars, and have even found one runaway star cluster escaping its galaxy […]

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