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.
"'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....
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.
Abraham “Avi” Loeb, Chair of Harvard’s Department of Astronomy and C. Meghan Urry, Director of Yale University’s Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, take us on a tour of these remarkable discoveries.
Call it a gut reaction. The revolutionary discovery of space-time ripples may have come from two black holes colliding while inside the belly of an enormous star, whose subsequent collapse launched powerful jets of gamma rays.
Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts the emission of gravitational waves by massive celestial bodies moving though space-time. For the past century gravitational waves have eluded a direct detection, but now the LIGO Virgo Collaboration has announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves, emitted by a merging pair of black holes. Catastrophic mergers of binary systems can also produce brilliant and explosive fireworks of light, so a team of astronomers, including at Harvard, sought evidence of such an visible afterglow. Although none was spotted, this work...
"Dwarf galaxies are typically very faint, and are therefore hard to find. Given that, what are our chances of finding their distant ancestors, located billions of light-years away? A recent study aims to find out."
In the last two decades, knowledge about our universe has exploded.
Thanks to sophisticated instruments and space-traveling telescopes, we’ve gleaned astonishing new information about dark energy, dark matter, black holes, exoplanets and the nature of the early universe. Pluto, it turns out, may have water. Several of Jupiter’s...
The AAS awards Dr. Karin I. Öberg the Pierce Prize for her research on the astrochemistry and astrophysics of ices and molecules in star-forming regions and proto-planetary disks. The panel recognizes Dr. Öberg’s scientific leadership in her ability to identify important, well-defined, and tractable problems, yielding fundamental advances in the field of star and planet formation. Dr. Öberg’s combination of experimental work matched to focused millimeter observations and comparison simulations provides novel insight into the details of chemical processes taking place in planet-forming...