Tag Archives | harvard smithsonian center

Solar mystery solved

The Sun has been in the news a lot lately because it’s beginning to send out more flares and solar storms. Its recent turmoil is particularly newsworthy because the Sun was very quiet for an unusually long time. Astronomers had a tough time ex…

The best way to measure dark energy just got better

Dark energy is a mysterious force that pervades all space, acting as a “push” to accelerate the Universe’s expansion. Despite being 70 percent of the Universe, dark energy was only discovered in 1998 by two teams observing Type Ia supernovae. A Type…

Qatar-led international team finds its first alien world

In an exciting example of international collaboration, a Qatar astronomer teamed with scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and other institutions to discover a new alien world. This “hot Jupiter,” now named Qatar…

Super-Earth has an atmosphere, but is it steamy or gassy?

In December 2009, astronomers announced the discovery of a super-Earth known as GJ 1214b. At the time, they reported signs that the newfound world likely had a thick, gaseous atmosphere. Now, a team led by Jacob Bean (Harvard-Smithsonian Center …

How to weigh a star using a moon

How do astronomers weigh a star that’s trillions of miles away and way too big to fit on a bathroom scale? In most cases they can’t, although they can get a best estimate using computer models of stellar structure.
New work by astrophysicist…

Ghosts of the future

Astronomers using the South Pole Telescope report that they have discovered the most massive galaxy cluster yet seen at a distance of 7 billion light-years. The cluster (designated SPT-CL J0546-5345) weighs in at around 800 trillion Suns, and hold…

NASA’s Hubble harvests distant solar system objects

Beyond the orbit of Neptune reside countless icy rocks known as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). One of the biggest, Pluto, is classified as a dwarf planet. The region also supplies us with comets such as famous Comet Halley. Most TNOs are small …

Can we spot volcanoes on alien worlds? Astronomers say yes

Volcanoes display the awesome power of Nature like few other events. Earlier this year, ash from an Icelandic volcano disrupted air travel throughout much of northern Europe. Yet this recent eruption pales next to the fury of Jupiter’s moon Io…

Pulverized planet dust might lie around double stars

Tight double-star systems might not be the best places for life to spring up, according to a new study using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The infrared observatory spotted a surprisingly large amount of dust around three mature, close-…

Rivers of gas could provide part of universe's 'missing matter'

An Ohio astronomer and her colleagues have detected a type of hot gas in space that could account for part of the “missing” matter in the universe. A gas cloud, one trillion times more massive than our sun and more than 150 times hotter, surrounds our local group of galaxies, the astronomers reported in the journal Nature. Though vast, this gas cloud is only part of larger rivers of gas that wind between all the galaxies of the universe.

Scientists Boost Tally at Uranus

A new moon of the planet Uranus has been discovered and confirmed by a team of astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This most-recently discovered natural satellite, named S/2001 U 1, brings the total number of confirmed uranian moons to 21. The new kid on the block — and five others like it — have very irregular, eccentric orbits that don’t share the same orbital plane as the larger moons of Uranus. Ranging in size from 10 to 20 kilometers, these moons are thought to be remnants of ancient collisions that occurred at the early stage of planetary formation.