News and Events

Martin Elvis: Asteroids

Martin Elvis: Asteroids

April 1, 2014

Asteroids have great interest: not only do they preserve information about the earliest times in the pre-Solar nebula, and as a result contain unique minerals, they are also hazards to the Earth (see Chelyabinks) and are the easiest objects to reach with spacecraft. As targets for human exploration, scientific discovery, retrieval to Earth-Moon space and sources of abundant resources both for space and on Earth, asteroids are worth paying attention to. I investigate all aspects of near-Earth asteroids related to hazards, expeditions and especially resources, i.e. asteroid mining.

Martin Elvis: Quasar Spectral Energy Distributions: Twisted Tori

Martin Elvis: Quasar Spectral Energy Distributions: Twisted Tori

April 1, 2014

For a long time we have known that our view of the centers of quasars is often blocked by optically thick dusty material - the “obscuring torus”. But to block a large solid angle requires a large height/radius ratio which is hard to achieve with cold matter. Andy Lawrence and I proposed that a thin torus that is twisted through large angles is a natural solution. I am investigating the spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of quasars in SDSS adding near-IR UKIDSS and mid-IR WISE data to see if the predictions of our model hold up.

The Harvard Horizons Symposium: April 22, 2014

The Harvard Horizons Symposium: April 22, 2014

March 27, 2014

Celebrating the Impact of New Ideas and New Discoveries
Please join President Faust, Provost Alan Garber, FAS Dean Mike Smith, and GSAS Dean Xiao-Li Meng as the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences celebrates the power of new ideas — and the talent and innovation of the scholars who are generating them.

The Harvard Horizons Symposium
Featuring short talks by the 2014 Horizon Scholars, eight PhD students whose ideas represent the best new thinking in their disciplines.

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).
Faculty members Bob Kirshner and Avi Loeb participate in simulcast event Thursday, Feb 20 celebrating the Big Bang theory

Faculty members Bob Kirshner and Avi Loeb participate in simulcast event Thursday, Feb 20 celebrating the Big Bang theory

February 20, 2014

Watch an online webcast of an Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory Night event tonight (Thursday, February 20, 2014) at 7:30PM celebrating "50 Years After the Discovery of the Big Bang", featuring four 20 minute presentations by Alan Guth, Bob Wilson, Bob Kirshner, and Avi Loeb.

Second link for broadcast: http://www.space.com/17933-nasa-television-webcasts-live-space-tv.html

Karin Öberg Selected as 2014 Sloan Fellow

Karin Öberg Selected as 2014 Sloan Fellow

February 18, 2014

Karin Oberg won the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship for 2014. Also among the recipients are the former students of our department, Ryan Hickox and Phil Hopkins, and the former ITC postdoc, Dan Fabrycky.

"The Sloan Research Fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.  These two-year fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field."

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."