News and Events

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Weekend Special: "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

January 2, 2018

"Are we alone? This is surely a question each and every one of us has asked, at some point in our lives. And while most of us go no further than simply putting this question out there, there are people who feel compelled to devote time and effort in a bid to find the answer. Today our guest on Sputnik's Weekend Special is just such a man - Abraham Loeb, Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University and an adviser to the Breakthrough Listen project."

Listen to Radio Interview: ... Read more about Weekend Special: "Are We Alone in the Universe?"
This artist's concept depicts the interstellar visitor known as 'Oumuamua as a battered metallic space rock. Some astronomers, however, speculate that 'Oumuamua may be something far stranger. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Alien Probe or Galactic Driftwood? SETI Tunes In to 'Oumuamua

December 13, 2017

"It’s a long shot, but scientists are about to listen very closely for radio signals from our solar system’s first known interstellar visitor."
"Ever since its discovery in mid-October as it passed by Earth already outbound from our solar system, the mysterious object dubbed ‘Oumuamua (Hawaiian for “first messenger”) has left scientists utterly perplexed."

Press Coverage:
  • Scientific American: ...
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illustration of Dense, expanding gas of debris

Cosmic alchemy: Colliding neutron stars show us how the universe creates gold

October 24, 2017

For thousands of years, humans have searched for a way to turn matter into gold. Ancient alchemists considered this precious metal to be the highest form of matter. As human knowledge advanced, the mystical aspects of alchemy gave way to the sciences we know today. And yet, with all our advances in science and technology, the origin story of gold remained unknown. Until now.

Read Full Article: The Conversation, by Duncan Brown, Syracuse University and Edo Berger, Harvard University

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Discovery Image

Astronomers See Light Show Associated With Gravitational Waves

October 16, 2017

Marking the beginning of a new era in astrophysics, scientists have detected gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation, or light, from the same event for the first time. This historic discovery reveals the merger of two neutron stars, the dense cores of dead stars, and resolves the debate about how the heaviest elements such as platinum and gold were created in the Universe.

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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!

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