"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....
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. Fong is available from: https://www.aps.org/programs/honors/prizes/prizerecipient.cfm?last_nm=Fong&first_nm=Wen-fai&year=2016
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.
Graduate student Catherine Zucker’s research was featured on the American Astronomical Society’s “Nova” (News) site! Cara Battersby, SMA postdoc collaborator & Catherine’s REU mentor is the other co-author.
"Archaeologists and astronomers don’t seem to have much in common. One digs into the earth while the other looks at the sky, and a stone tool once wielded by Homo erectus couldn’t be more different from an exploding star at the edge of the visible universe...
"Our Sun is a relatively quiet star that only occasionally releases solar flares or blasts of energetic particles that threaten satellites and power grids. You might think that smaller, cooler stars would be even more sedate. However, astronomers have now identified a tiny star with a monstrous temper. It shows evidence of much stronger flares than anything our Sun produces. If similar stars prove to be just as stormy, then potentially habitable planets orbiting them are likely to be much less hospitable than previously thought"