In 2006, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from its rank as a planet. But after an hourlong debate between planetary science experts on what constitutes a planet, an audience packed into Harvard’s Phillips Auditorium voted to restore it to its place.
New research by theorists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) shows that we could spot the fingerprints of certain pollutants under ideal conditions. This would offer a new approach in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
Astronomers have created the first realistic virtual universe using a computer simulation called Illustris. Illustris can re-create 13 billion years of cosmic evolution in a cube 350 million light-years on a side with unprecedented resolution.
Four experts, including Nobel Prize winner Robert Wilson, came together for a CfA program titled “50 Years After the Discovery of the Big Bang.”
A new study by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that students grasp the unimaginable emptiness of space more effectively when they use iPads to explore 3-D simulations of the universe, compared with traditional classroom instruction.
Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are drafting the target list for NASA’s next planet-finding telescope, the orbiting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which will search the Earth’s galactic neighborhood for planets that might support life.
New observations confirm that colliding neutron stars create short gamma-ray bursts, and such collisions produce rare heavy elements, including gold. Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics believe the Earth’s gold likely came from colliding neutron stars.
Gerhard Sonnert, a research associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has created a new website that allows listeners to literally hear the music of the stars.
Astronomers have found a planetary system orbiting the star Kepler-62. This five-planet system has two worlds in the habitable zone — the distance from their star at which they receive enough light and warmth for liquid water to theoretically exist on their surfaces.
A lecturer from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says that “dark clouds of gas and dust have the potential to alter Earth’s climate.
Earth-like planets potentially capable of supporting life may be right in our galactic neighborhood, according to researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the California Institute of Technology.
Astronomers have identified a new structure in the Milky Way: a long tendril of dust and gas that they are calling a “bone.”
The quest for a twin Earth is heating up. Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), presented the new analysis of Kepler data that shows that about 17 percent of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury.
At first glance, the center of the Milky Way seems like a very inhospitable place to try to form a planet. New research by astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that planets still can form in this cosmic maelstrom.
Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies have made it possible to build a universe from scratch.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ astronomers have detected for the first time jets of gamma rays extending thousands of light years from the Milky Way’s core, confirming expectations based on observations of other galaxies.
Before 2004, the most recent Venus transit occurred more than a century ago, in 1882, and was used to compute the distance from the Earth to the sun. On June 5, 2012, another Venus transit will occur. Scientists with NASA's Kepler mission hope to discover Earth-like planets outside our solar system by searching for transits of other stars by planets that might be orbiting them. The next Venus transit: Dec. 11, 2117.
Supermassive black holes snack infrequently, making the recent discovery of a black hole in the act of feeding all the more interesting to astronomers.
New research by astronomers at the University of Utah and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that supermassive black holes can grow big by ripping apart double-star systems and swallowing one of the stars.
Seven years ago, astronomers boggled when they found the first runaway star flying out of our galaxy at a speed of 1.5 million miles per hour. The discovery intrigued theorists, who wondered: If a star can get tossed outward at such an extreme velocity, could the same thing happen to planets? New research shows that the answer is yes.
Observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have added a new type of planet to the mix. By analyzing the previously discovered world GJ1214b, astronomer Zachory Berta of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and colleagues proved that it is a water world enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere.
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have found a cluster of young, blue stars encircling the first intermediate-mass black hole ever discovered. The presence of the star cluster suggests that the black hole was once at the core of a now-disintegrated dwarf galaxy.
Harvard astronomers, working as part of NASA’s Kepler mission, have detected the first Earth-sized planets orbiting a distant star, a milestone in the hunt for alien worlds that brings scientists one step closer to their ultimate goal of finding a twin Earth.
In the distant reaches of the universe, almost 13 billion light-years from Earth, a strange species of galaxy lay hidden. Cloaked in dust and dimmed by the intervening distance, even the Hubble Space Telescope couldn't spy it. It took the revealing power of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to uncover not one, but four remarkably red galaxies.
In a new paper, Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Edwin Turner of Princeton University suggest a new technique for finding aliens: Look for their city lights.
Though it won’t be completed until 2013, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, a radio telescope observatory under construction in northern Chile, is already the most powerful and complex such facility ever built, and four astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are among those first in line to use it.
All three winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics have connections to Harvard — including two whose Ph.D.s launched them into their winning notion of an accelerating universe and the puzzle of dark matter.
Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have embarked on an exploration unusual for space scientists — one involving art. A project probes how the presentation of images of space affects viewers’ appreciation and understanding of what’s happening in the pictures.
New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that some old stars might be held up by their rapid spins, and when they slow down, they explode as supernovae. Thousands of these "time bombs" could be scattered throughout our Galaxy.
Imagine a giant world like Jupiter, but more alien than any planet in our solar system. Instead of displaying gleaming clouds colored white and salmon, this world is darker than the blackest lump of coal. It glows only with a feeble red light like a stove's electric burner — the result of scorching heat from a sun just 3 million miles away.
New research shows that aurorae on distant “hot Jupiters” could be 100 to 1,000 times brighter than Earth’s aurorae. "I'd love to get a reservation on a tour to see these aurorae," said lead author Ofer Cohen, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Answers to questions about life in the universe is “within our grasp,” astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger said at an Origins of Life Initiative forum.
Harvard undergraduate Derek Robins recounts his summer spent doing astronomy research on campus.
The exhibition “Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists,” produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, will open at the Boston Museum of Science on June 21. The exhibit journeys to the edge of black holes to discover how recent scientific research is challenging notions of space and time, and, in the process, turning science fiction into fact. Discounted museum passes are available through Outings & Innings, 9 Holyoke St., (617) 495-2828.
As NASA’s Kepler space telescope this week begins scanning the Milky Way for planets that might harbor life, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) are keeping their fingers crossed and waiting for the data to start flowing.
We are likely not alone in the universe, though it may feel like it, since life on other planets is probably dominated by microbes or other nonspeaking creatures, according to scientists who gave their take on extraterrestrial life at Harvard last week.
A small knot of a dozen people gathered on the Science Center roof on Friday (Oct. 31) to officially dedicate Harvard’s latest teaching telescope, a 16-inch cassegrain telescope built by DFM Engineering in Colorado.
Astronomers have discovered that the nearby star Epsilon Eridani has two rocky asteroid belts and an outer icy ring, making it a triple-ring system. The inner asteroid belt is a virtual twin of the belt in our solar system, while the outer asteroid belt holds 20 times more material. Moreover, the presence of these three rings of material implies that unseen planets confine and shape them.
Astronomers think that many — perhaps all — galaxies in the universe contain massive black holes at their centers. New observations with the Submillimeter Array now suggest that such colossal black holes were common even 12 billion years ago, when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old and galaxies were just beginning to form. The new conclusion comes from the discovery of two distant galaxies, both with black holes at their heart, which are involved in a spectacular collision.
In a basement laboratory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), surrounded by instruments built to detect the universe’s distant secrets, sits a machine that will help us look not outward to the stars, but inward at our own bodies.
Theoretical work on the evolution and structure of the universe landed Canadian cosmologist J. Richard Bond the 2008 Cosmology Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, awarded Sept. 17 at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is sponsoring a focus group survey on Dec. 3 at Phillips Auditorium, 60 Garden St., to gather information on how NASA scientists create astronomical imagery. CfA experts will be on hand for the 3 p.m. talk and discussion. Astronomy enthusiasts are invited to register for the survey, which will last approximately 15 minutes, at http://astroart.cfa.harvard.edu/focus/. Food, drinks, and souvenirs will be provided for all participants. For more information, visit http://astroart.cfa.harvard.edu/.
Three astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) were recently recognized for their innovative work by three leading national magazines. The trio was selected from hundreds of scientists across the country for their leadership and achievements in their respective research fields.
Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found that a supernova discovered last year was caused by two colliding white dwarf stars.
Using two NASA satellites, astronomers have discovered a black hole that obliterates a record announced just two weeks ago. The new black hole, with a mass 24 to 33 times that of our sun, is the heftiest known black hole to orbit another star.
Steam vents in Yellowstone National Park are part of the area’s unique environment, seen in a case study exploring Yellowstone and the reintroduction of wolves into the park. This case study is part of a new environmental science course for high school science teachers.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) are two of the Milky Way’s closest neighboring galaxies. A stunning sight in the southern hemisphere, they were named after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who explored those waters in the 16th century. For hundreds of years, these galaxies were considered satellites of the Milky Way, gravitationally bound to our home galaxy. But new research by Gurtina Besla of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and her colleagues shows that the Magellanic Clouds are recent arrivals — on their first visit to the Milky Way’s neighborhood.
Assistant Professor of Astronomy Bryan M. Gaensler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has been awarded the 2006 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Gaensler received the prize for his work on the interactions between neutron stars and their surroundings, which led to a greater appreciation of the wide diversity of magnetized neutron stars.