News and Events

Project Starshot, an initiative sponsored by the Breakthrough Foundation, is intended to be humanity's first interstellar voyage. Credit: breakthroughinitiatives.org

In Quest to Reach Alpha Centauri, Breakthrough Starshot Launches World’s Smallest Spacecraft

July 31, 2017

Press Release:

First Prototype ‘Sprites’ – Precursors to Eventual ‘StarChip’ Probes – Achieve Low Earth Orbit

San Francisco – July 26, 2017 – Breakthrough Starshot, a multi-faceted program to develop and launch practical interstellar space missions, successfully flew its first spacecraft – the smallest ever launched.

On June 23, a number of prototype “Sprites” – the world’s smallest fully functional space probes, built on a single circuit board – achieved Low Earth Orbit, piggybacking on OHB

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Magnetar model

Astronomers Discover “Heavy Metal” Supernova Rocking Out

July 31, 2017

Cambridge, MA -

Many rock stars don’t like to play by the rules, and a cosmic one is no exception. A team of astronomers has discovered that an extraordinarily bright supernova occurred in a surprising location. This “heavy metal” supernova discovery challenges current ideas of how and where such super-charged supernovas occur.

Supernovas are some of the most energetic events in the Universe. When a massive star runs out of fuel, it can collapse onto itself and create a spectacular explosion that briefly outshines an entire galaxy, dispersing vital elements

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The Case for Cosmic Modesty

July 21, 2017

Evolver social movement & the Hive to Thrive speaker series hosted Harvard University director of astronomy Avi Loeb for a wide ranging discussion. From the nature of scientific discovery to possible origins of FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts) emanating from the cosmic background radio noise. 
Produced by Sam Tabar

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8-legged micro animal

The Last Survivors on Earth

July 14, 2017

"The world's most indestructible species, the tardigrade, an eight-legged micro-animal, also known as the water bear, will survive until the Sun dies, according to a new Oxford University collaboration."

"The new study published in Scientific Reports, has shown that the tiny creatures, will survive the risk of extinction from all astrophysical catastrophes, and be around for at least 10 billion years – far longer than the human race."

CFA Press Release:

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Artists Conception of Habitable Zone

More to Life Than the Habitable Zone

July 13, 2017
"Cambridge, MA - Two separate teams of scientists have identified major challenges for the development of life in what has recently become one of the most famous exoplanet systems, TRAPPIST-1. "

"The teams, both led by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., say the behavior of the star in the TRAPPIST-1 system makes it much less likely than generally thought, that planets there could support life."

Press Release: 

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Centauri b artist conception

PNAS article on Proxima Centauri b

June 28, 2017

"An Earth-sized planet next door: that was the startling announcement last August. Astronomers had found an exoplanet orbiting the sun’s closest stellar neigh- bor, a cool red dwarf star called Proxima Centauri (1). Even better, the nearby world orbited within its parent star’s habitable zone, meaning liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface, which raised the prospects for its harboring life."

Read More:

  • All eyes on Proxima Centauri b: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/26/6646.full.pdf
  • Is there life around the nearest
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Hannah Jano-Condell

Hannah Jang-Condell (Astronomy PhD '04) granted tenure at the University of Wyoming

June 12, 2017

Hannah Jang-Condell, our alum who received her Ph.D. in 2004, has been given tenure at the University of Wyoming.  She is an Associate Professor in their Physics and Astronomy Department. She studies planet formation theory, protoplanetary disk models, extrasolar planets, computational astrophysics, astrobiology.  Congratulations, Hannah!

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Black hole cartoon image

Ravenous Supermassive Black Holes May Sterilize Nearby Planets

May 31, 2017

Press coverage of a new paper in Scientific American: A new study sheds light on how damaging black holes can be to the habitability of planets throughout the Milky Way and the universe.

Link: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ravenous-supermassive-black-holes-may-sterilize-nearby-planets/

Astrobites: https://astrobites.org/2017/05/30/blown-away-by-black-holes-losing-planetary-atmospheres-to-quasar-radiation/

Image: This artist’s conception of a distant quasar shows how luminous they can be—

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Patrick Thaddeus

Pat Thaddeus

April 28, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

I am very sorry to report that our colleague Pat Thaddeus passed away this morning. 

Pat was a highly influential teacher and astronomer for over 50 years, including the past 30 at the CfA. His interests were extremely broad, including pioneering work on the cosmic microwave background radiation, planetary atmospheres, and large-scale studies of star formation and galactic structure. He was one of the founders of the now flourishing field of astrochemistry.  His elegant laboratory spectroscopy provided ironclad identifications of

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Dava Sobel

Light years ahead: Star analysts of Harvard College Observatory struck Dava Sobel as book-worthy history

April 12, 2017

Read an interview with Dava Sobel about her book the Glass Universe about the Harvard College Observatory. 

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/star-analysts-of-harvard-college-observatory-inspired-new-book-by-dava-sobel/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=04.12.2017%20(1)

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Astronomy Rewind Image Capture

With Astronomy Rewind, Citizen Scientists Bring Zombie Astrophotos Back to Life

March 23, 2017

 

"A new citizen-science project will rescue tens of thousands of potentially valuable cosmic images that are mostly dead to science and bring them fully back to life. Called Astronomy Rewind, the effort, which launches today (22 March 2017), will take photographs, radio maps, and other telescopic images that have been scanned from the pages of dusty old journals and place them in context in digital sky atlases and catalogs. Anyone will then be able to find them online and compare them with modern electronic data

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Lindsay Smith, acting curator of the Plate Stacks at the Harvard College Observatory

'Hidden Figures' Of Astronomy At Harvard Take Center Stage In Play About Women 'Computers'

March 15, 2017

Local public radio station WBUR recently broadcast a segment about the Watertown play Silent Sky  about the Harvard College Observatory "computers:" Meredith Hughes (PhD 2010) is interviewed at the end of the segment about her great-grandmother, a  former head computer at Lockheed Martin. 

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