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Latest Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories

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2008-01-18 21:15:00

170 light-years away from earth exists a particularly puzzling orbiting object. This object, 2M1207B, seems to be physically impossible. Nothing about it matches any established astronomical theory. Eric Mamajek of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced in a press conference, "This is a strange enough object that it needs a strange explanation." During this press conference, the 211th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, astronomers announced that 2M1207B might in...

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2008-01-17 08:34:02

Austin, TX -- Having the sharpest pictures always is a big advantage, and a sophisticated radio-astronomy technique using continent-wide and even intercontinental arrays of telescopes is yielding extremely valuable scientific results in a wide range of specialties. That's the message delivered to the American Astronomical Society's meeting in Austin, Texas, by Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a leading researcher in the field of ultra-precise astronomical position...

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2008-01-16 08:55:00

Our planet is changing before our eyes, and as a result, many species are living on the edge. Yet Earth has been on the edge of habitability from the beginning. New work by astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows that if Earth had been slightly smaller and less massive, it would not have plate tectonics - the forces that move continents and build mountains. And without plate tectonics, life might never have gained a foothold on our world. "Plate tectonics are...

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2007-12-06 16:11:56

Cambridge, MA - The Sun is minimally active right now, but this quiet state of affairs won't last for long. Over the next few years, the number of solar flares and eruptions known as coronal mass ejections will increase until reaching solar maximum in 2011 or 2012.  Such eruptions can impact Earth, disrupting satellites, communications, and even power grids. Some predict the next solar cycle will be the most intense in 50 years. As a result, scientists are striving to understand the...

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2007-11-01 10:00:00

Cambridge, MA - Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found that a supernova discovered last year was caused by two colliding white dwarf stars. The white dwarfs were siblings orbiting each other. They slowly spiraled inward until they merged, touching off a titanic explosion. CfA observations show the strongest evidence yet of what was, until now, a purely theoretical mechanism for creating a supernova. "This finding shows that nature may be richer than...

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2007-10-30 09:55:00

Cambridge, MA -- Using two NASA satellites, astronomers have discovered a black hole that obliterates a record announced just two weeks ago. The new black hole, with a mass 24 to 33 times that of our Sun, is the heftiest known black hole that orbits another star. The record-breaker belongs to the category of "stellar-mass" black holes. Formed in the death throes of massive stars, they are smaller than the monster black holes found in galactic cores. The previous record holder for largest...

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2007-09-17 17:31:16

Cambridge, MA - The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) are two of the Milky Way's closest neighboring galaxies. A stunning sight in the southern hemisphere, they were named after Ferdinand Magellan, who explored those waters in the 16th century. For hundreds of years, these galaxies were considered satellites of the Milky Way, gravitationally bound to our home galaxy. New research by Gurtina Besla (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and her colleagues...

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2007-08-09 09:40:00

Cambridge, MA -- By combining the capabilities of several telescopes, astronomers have spotted extremely bright galaxies hiding in the distant, young universe. The newfound galaxies are intrinsically bright due to their large rate of star formation-1000 times greater than the Milky Way. However, much of that light is hidden by surrounding dust and gas, leaking out only in the infrared. The galaxies are located about 12 billion light-years away, and existed when the universe was less than 2...

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2007-08-08 10:16:38

Cambridge, MA -- A spectacular new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope uncovers a small group of young stellar "siblings" in the southern portion of the Serpens cloud "“ located approximately 848 light-years away from Earth. Scientists suspect that this discovery will lead them to more clues about how these cosmic families, which contain hundreds of gravitationally bound stars, form and interact. "It's amazing how these stars really stand out in the Spitzer images. At visible...

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2007-08-06 16:15:00

Four galaxies are slamming into each other and kicking up billions of stars in one of the largest cosmic smash-ups ever observed. The clashing galaxies, spotted by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, will eventually merge into a single, behemoth galaxy up to 10 times as massive as our own Milky Way. This rare sighting provides an unprecedented look at how the most massive galaxies in the universe form. "Most of the galaxy mergers we already knew about are like compact cars crashing together,"...


Word of the Day
Cthulhu
  • A gigantic fictional humanoid alien god being described with a head resembling an octopus and dragon wings and claws, around whom an insane cult developed.
  • Pertaining to the mythos of Cthulhu and additional otherworldly beings created by H. P. Lovecraft or inspired by his writings and imitators.
This word was invented in 1926 by H.P. Lovecraft for his short story, 'The Call of Cthulhu.' 'Cthulhu' may be based on the word 'chthonic,' which in Greek mythology refers to the underworld.
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