News Media

Milky Way Has 4 Billion Years to Live -- But Our Sun Will Survive

Milky Way Has 4 Billion Years to Live -- But Our Sun Will Survive

March 24, 2014

"Four billion years from now, our galaxy, the Milky Way, will collide with our large spiraled neighbor, Andromeda.

The galaxies as we know them will not survive.

In fact, our solar system is going to outlive our galaxy. At that point, the sun will not yet be a red giant star – but it will have grown bright enough to roast Earth’s surface. Any life forms still there, though, will be treated to some pretty spectacular cosmic choreography."

A gas cloud collides with the black hole at the center of our galaxy, and we get to watch

A gas cloud collides with the black hole at the center of our galaxy, and we get to watch

March 24, 2014

"The landscape in Chile’s Atacama desert is Martian-like: dry, barren and flanked by volcanoes, and its high altitude and unpolluted skies make it a prime spot for stargazing. It was there, after a full night of such observation — and over a 4 p.m. breakfast — that astronomer Stefan Gillessen found himself in possession of some very special data. His observations showed a cloud of gas being stretched out, or “spaghettified,” about to be ripped apart, as it barreled toward the black hole at the center of our galaxy." 

Public Talk: 50 year anniversary for the discovery of the cosmic microwave background

Public Talk: 50 year anniversary for the discovery of the cosmic microwave background

February 24, 2014
Thursday February 18, 2014 there were four short presentations celebrating the 50 years anniversary for the discovery of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) as evidence for the Big Bang. The event took place at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and featured Alan Guth (inflation), Bob Wilson (co-discoverer of the CMB), Bob Kirshner (cosmic acceleration), and Avi Loeb (future of the universe).
It’s Snack Time in the Cosmos

It’s Snack Time in the Cosmos

February 18, 2014

"Black holes, the ultradense collapsed objects predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, are often depicted as voracious feeders whose extraordinary gravity acts like a one-way membrane: Everything is sucked in, even light, and virtually nothing leaks out.

Now, for the first time, astronomers may have a chance to watch as a giant black hole consumes a cosmic snack.

Dying Stars Write Their Own Swan Songs

Dying Stars Write Their Own Swan Songs

January 15, 2014

Alicia Soderberg studies the death of stars. Often, these final moments come as violent explosions known as . They're spectacular events, but catching one as it unfolds can be tricky. "You have to be in the right place at the right time, and often we're not," says the professor in Harvard's astronomy department. "So all you can do is do a stellar autopsy and go back and try to pick up the pieces and try to figure out what happened."

Galaxy Quest: Just How Many Earth-Like Planets Are Out There?

Galaxy Quest: Just How Many Earth-Like Planets Are Out There?

November 5, 2013

A team of planet hunters estimates that about 22 percent of the Sun-like stars in our galaxy may have planets about the size of Earth that are bathed in similar amounts of sunlight — and potentially habitable. That's the conclusion of a new analysis by Erik Petigura, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley of observations taken by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 to hunt for potentially habitable Earth-like planets around other stars.

Astronomers Find Earthlike Planet, but It’s Infernally Hot

Astronomers Find Earthlike Planet, but It’s Infernally Hot

October 31, 2013

"Kepler 78b, a planet some 400 light-years away, is like hell on earth. Astronomers described it on Wednesday as the first Earth-size planet that seems to be made of the same mixture of rock and iron as Earth, and that orbits a star similar to our sun. At that close proximity, the surface of Kepler 78b is infernally hot: 3,500 to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or ... “Exoplanets are just surprising us with their diversity,” said Dimitar D. Sasselov, a professor of astronomy at Harvard and a member of Dr. Pepe’s team, using the name for planets outside our solar system.

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