"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." Read more about A gas cloud collides with the black hole at the center of our galaxy, and we get to watch
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).
"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.
"It has been called an elegant solution to a difficult problem. The notion that mysterious dark matter, which holds galaxies together, is made of primordial black holes that formed when dense regions of early Universe gravitationally collapsed was laid out in 1971 by physicist Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge, UK1. Read more about Search for primordial black holes called off
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." Read more about Dying Stars Write Their Own Swan Songs
"Aliens might have existed during the Universe’s infancy. A set of calculations suggests that liquid water — a prerequisite for life — could have formed on rocky planets just 15 million years after the Big Bang..." (Nature, Article)
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. Read more about Galaxy Quest: Just How Many Earth-Like Planets Are Out There?
"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.
Referring to them as "an array of the most brilliant," David Bjerklie and the editors of Time Magazine in a photo-centric supplement entitled The 25 Most Influential People in Space named Avi Loeb, Dave Charbonneau, Adam Reiss and Sara Seager for their contributions to astronomical research.
What is dark matter? Well, we know what it's probably not: black holes. Astronomy Chair, Avi Loeb, and several colleagues decided to test the idea whether or not smallish black holes could be the source of the universe's dark matter, and Time Magazine's Michael Lemonick has written an excellent overview of their conclusions.