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
Dave Charbonneau and Avi Loeb joined forces to announce honors and awards at the annual Honors Colloquium on Monday, May 23. Among the many students cited, two undergraduates received Goldberg Prizes (Tom Leith and Matt Pasquini) and two graduates received Fireman Fellowships (Maria Drout and Elisabeth Newton). Read more about 2016 Astronomy Honors Colloquium and Picnic
Alyssa Goodman has been selected to join the 50 other women and men, who are the 2016–2017 fellowship class at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where the acceptance rate to the fellowship program this year was just under 4 percent.
David Charbonneau, Harvard Astronomy, was one of five faculty selected as Harvard College Professors, a five-year appointment that provides them with extra support for research or scholarly activities.
Prof. Edo Berger has been named one of the winners of the third annual Star Family Challenge for Promising Scientific Research, a faculty research award program established at the suggestion of James A. Star ’83. The Star Family Challenge provides seed funding for high-risk, high-impact projects in the natural and social sciences.
"World-famous theoretical cosmologist Stephen W. Hawking discussed the history of and recent breakthroughs in research on black holes at the inauguration of Harvard's Black Hole Initiative in Sanders Theatre on Monday afternoon.
Astronomer explains plan to send tiny spaceships to Alpha Centauri
"A group of astronomers and technology entrepreneurs has announced an audacious plan to send a fleet of tiny spaceships traveling at a fifth the speed of light to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri.
"The plan would see humankind leap out of the solar system with the aid of an ultralight vessel made of what are essentially cellphone components and a thin, reflective light sail propelled by an enormous array of Earth-based lasers.
Last February a team of astronomers reported detecting an afterglow from a mysterious event called a fast radio burst, which would pinpoint the precise position of the burst's origin, a longstanding goal in studies of these mysterious events. These findings were quickly called into question by follow-up observations. New research by Harvard astronomers Peter Williams and Edo Berger shows that the radio emission believed to be an afterglow actually originated from a distant galaxy's core and was unassociated with the fast radio burst.