News and Events

supercomputer simulation of the cosmological environment where primordial gas undergoes the direct collapse to a black hole

A New Kind of Black Hole, Once a Theory, Now Firmly within Observers' Sight

July 11, 2016

"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."

Full CfA Press Release: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2016-15

Adam Riess Photo

Adam Riess, Nobel Laureate and ’96 alumnus of the Harvard Astronomy Department, named a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins

July 11, 2016

Adam Riess, Nobel Laureate and ’96 alumnus of the Harvard Astronomy Department, has just been named a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins. Supported by a $350M gift from Michael Bloomberg, the BDPs will form a cohort of 50 world-class, interdisciplinary scholars at Johns Hopkins. Adam is the 7th internally selected faculty member to be chosen for this honor.

Dave Charbonneau awarded a Blavatnik Fellowship

Dave Charbonneau awarded a Blavatnik Fellowship

June 21, 2016

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".

The announcement may be read at: http://blavatnikawards.org/honorees/profile/david-charbonneau/

ESO/M. Kornmesser

Detection of Methanol Shows Comets are Forming in Distant Solar System

June 15, 2016

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. 

Read More: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2016-13

Image: Christine Pulliam (CfA). Sun image: NASA/SDO

Universe's First Life Might Have Been Born on Carbon Planets

June 8, 2016

"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.

"'This work shows that even stars with a tiny fraction of the carbon in our solar system can host planets,' says lead author and Harvard University graduate student Natalie Mashian.

Graduation 2016

Graduation 2016

June 1, 2016

Congratulations 2016 Grads. 

In the picture:
Maria Drout, Jason Dittmann, Ian Czekala, Aaron Bray, Greg Green
Elisabeth Newton, Zack Slepian, Vicente Rodriguez-Lopez, Ana-Maria Piso, Lauren Woolsey

Retreat

2016 Graduate Student Retreat

May 31, 2016

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. 

Wen-fai Fong (PhD 2014) Wins the 2016 APS Division of Astrophysics Thesis Award

Wen-fai Fong (PhD 2014) Wins the 2016 APS Division of Astrophysics Thesis Award

May 3, 2016

Dr. Wen-fai Fong, who completed her doctoral thesis in 2014 with Prof. Edo Berger, was awarded the 2016 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis in Astrophysics Prize from the American Physical Society Division of Astrophysics.  Dr. Fong's thesis was titled "Unveiling the Progenitors of Short Gamma-ray Bursts".  Information about the award is available from: https://www.aps.org/programs/honors/dissertation/astrophysics.cfm and a short bio for Dr.

Destination: Nearest star

Destination: Nearest star

April 15, 2016

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. 

Read full interview with Avi Loeb. 

Fast Radio Burst "Afterglow" Was Actually a Flickering Black Hole

Fast Radio Burst "Afterglow" Was Actually a Flickering Black Hole

April 4, 2016
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.