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Latest Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories

2013-06-24 16:20:36

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum announced that it will receive a $6 million donation from the Thomas W. Haas Foundation to establish an endowment for its Public Observatory Program. It is the largest donation ever given to the museum for science education programming. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130624/DC37426) The gift is in memory of Phoebe Waterman Haas, the grandmother of the foundation's...

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2012-08-15 22:06:34

Watch the Video: Recreating a Slice of the Universe Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online Scientists have found a way to accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years. For the first time, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) have made it possible to build a universe from scratch that brims with galaxies like we...

Alien Hunters Should Look For 'City Lights'
2011-11-04 03:42:51

In the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, astronomers have hunted for radio signals and ultra-short laser pulses. In a new paper, Avi Loeb (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and Edwin Turner (Princeton University) suggest a new technique for finding aliens: look for their city lights. "Looking for alien cities would be a long shot, but wouldn't require extra resources. And if we succeed, it would change our perception of our place in the universe," said Loeb. As with...

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2011-01-13 10:25:00

In the outer reaches of our solar system lies a mysterious region far more remote and difficult to explore than the Australian outback. It remains the only part of our solar system not visited by spacecraft. Called the Kuiper Belt, this area beyond Neptune is home to the dwarf planets Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea. It also harbors thousands of smaller objects that form a second, icy asteroid belt (or more appropriately, comet belt). In this realm of perpetual twilight, the distant sun...

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2010-12-07 14:25:00

Our Sun can be a menace when it sends out powerful solar blasts of radiation towards the Earth. Astronomers keenly watch the Sun to learn more about what powers these solar eruptions, in hopes of being able to predict them. New research shows that one-third of the Sun's blasts are "sneak attacks" that may occur without warning. "If space weather forecasters rely on some of the traditional danger signs, they'll miss a significant fraction of solar eruptions," said Suli Ma of the...

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2010-11-19 09:13:15

Dr. Brian Geoffrey Marsden passed away Thursday, Nov. 18 at the age of 73 following a prolonged illness. He was a Supervisory Astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Director Emeritus of the Minor Planet Center. "Brian was one of the most influential comet investigators of the twentieth century," said Charles Alcock, Director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, "and definitely one of the most colorful!" Dr. Marsden specialized in celestial mechanics and...

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2010-09-28 06:15:00

The Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) PS1 telescope has discovered an asteroid that will come within 4 million miles of Earth in mid-October. The object is about 150 feet in diameter and was discovered in images acquired on September 16, when it was about 20 million miles away. It is the first "potentially hazardous object" (PHO) to be discovered by the Pan-STARRS survey and has been given the designation "2010 ST3." "Although this particular object won't hit...

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2010-09-15 06:30:00

When NASA's Solar Probe Plus (SPP) launches before the end of the decade, it will carry a suite of cutting-edge scientific instruments. Only one "“ the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) Investigation "“ will directly sample the Sun's outer atmosphere. Designed by scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), part of SWEAP will extend beyond the probe's heat shield to scoop up some of the Sun's tenuous gases. "While the other instruments are...

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2010-06-16 14:55:00

Astronomers announced today that the first Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) telescope, PS1, is fully operational. This innovative facility will be at the front line of Earth defense by searching for "killer" asteroids and comets. It will map large portions of the sky nightly, making it an efficient sleuth for not just asteroids but also supernovae and other variable objects. "Pan-STARRS is an all-purpose machine," said Harvard astronomer Edo Berger. "Having...

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2009-12-15 09:55:00

About 550 light-years from Earth, a star like our Sun is writhing in its death throes. Chi Cygni has swollen in size to become a red giant star so large that it would swallow every planet out to Mars in our solar system. Moreover, it has begun to pulse dramatically in and out, beating like a giant heart. New close-up photos of the surface of this distant star show its throbbing motions in unprecedented detail. "This work opens a window onto the fate of our Sun five billion years from now,...