CFA Press Release: "The universe is 13.8 billion years old, while our planet formed just 4.5 billion years ago. Some scientists think this time gap means that life on other planets could be billions of years older than ours. However, new theoretical work suggests that present-day life is actually premature from a cosmic perspective."
"Astronomers Aaron Smith and Volker Bromm of The University of Texas at Austin, working with Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, have discovered evidence for an unusual kind of black hole born extremely early in the universe. They showed that a recently discovered unusual source of intense radiation is likely powered by a "direct-collapse black hole," a type of object predicted by theorists more than a decade ago."
Dave Charbonneau has been awarded the 2016 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists in Physical Sciences & Engineering. The award citation recognizes: "pioneering discoveries in the field of exoplanets and the development of novel observational methods to detect and characterize exoplanets with the ultimate goal of discovering habitable worlds".
Astronomers announced today that they have found the organic molecule methyl alcohol, or methanol, in the TW Hydrae protoplanetary disk. This is the first such detection of this chemical compound in a young planet-forming disk. Because methanol forms on the icy coatings of small dust grains, this discovery provides a window into the region where comets likely are forming.
"Our Earth consists of silicate rocks and an iron core with a thin veneer of water and life. But the first potentially habitable worlds to form might have been very different. New research suggests that planet formation in the early universe might have created carbon planets consisting of graphite, carbides, and diamond. Astronomers might find these diamond worlds by searching a rare class of stars.
The graduate student retreat was a success again this year! Roughly 20 students participated (including 5 first-years) in a day trip to Salem, MA. Students explored Salem, visited the Friendship ship, went kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing. At the end of the day, they gathered for an outdoor barbecue with a beautiful view of the harbor. Read more about 2016 Graduate Student Retreat