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Latest Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories

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2006-08-10 16:30:00

Cambridge, MA - Long predicted by theory, the Smithsonian's Submillimeter Array has found the first conclusive evidence of an hourglass-shaped magnetic field in a star formation region. Measurements indicate that material in the interstellar cloud is dense enough to allow it to gravitationally collapse, warping the magnetic field in the process. Astronomers Josep Girart (Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia, Spanish National Research Council), Ramprasad Rao (Institute of Astronomy and...

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2006-07-25 12:40:57

Kamuela, Hawaii -- As astronomers increasingly link two telescopes as interferometers to reveal greater detail of distant stars, a Keck Observatory astronomer is showing the power of linking three or even more telescopes together. Astronomer Sam Ragland used Arizona's Infrared-Optical Telescope Array (IOTA) of three linked telescopes to obtain unprecedented detail of old red giant stars that represent the eventual fate of the Sun. Surprisingly, he found that nearly a third of the red giants...

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2006-07-25 12:25:00

Cambridge, MA - In the distant, young universe, quasars shine with a brilliance unmatched by anything in the local cosmos. Although they appear starlike in optical telescopes, quasars are actually the bright centers of galaxies located billions of light-years from Earth. The seething core of a quasar currently is pictured as containing a disk of hot gas spiraling into a supermassive black hole. Some of that gas is forcefully ejected outward in two opposing jets at nearly the speed of light....

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2006-03-14 00:05:00

Cambridge, MA -- Astronomers have discovered a new "super-Earth" orbiting a red dwarf star located about 9,000 light-years away. This newfound world weighs about 13 times the mass of the Earth and is probably a mixture of rock and ice, with a diameter several times that of Earth. It orbits its star at about the distance of the asteroid belt in our solar system, 250 million miles out. Its distant location chills it to -330 degrees Fahrenheit, suggesting that although this world is similar in...

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2006-01-31 14:58:07

Cambridge, MA -- Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe, emitting huge amounts of high-energy radiation. For decades their origin was a mystery. Scientists now believe they understand the processes that produce gamma-ray bursts. However, a new study by Jonathan Grindlay of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and his colleagues, Simon Portegies Zwart (Astronomical Institute, The Netherlands) and Stephen McMillan (Drexel University), suggests a...

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2006-01-30 09:25:00

Cambridge, MA -- Common wisdom among astronomers holds that most star systems in the Milky Way are multiple, consisting of two or more stars in orbit around each other. Common wisdom is wrong. A new study by Charles Lada of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) demonstrates that most star systems are made up of single stars. Since planets probably are easier to form around single stars, planets also may be more common than previously suspected. Astronomers have long known...

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2006-01-27 00:00:00

Cambridge, MA - TV reality show contestants aren't the only ones under threat of exile. Astronomers using the MMT Observatory in Arizona have discovered two stars exiled from the Milky Way galaxy. Those stars are racing out of the Galaxy at speeds of more than 1 million miles per hour - so fast that they will never return. "These stars literally are castaways," said Smithsonian astronomer Warren Brown (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). "They have been thrown out of their home...

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2006-01-16 05:40:00

Washington, DC -- While examining a region where new stars are forming with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers found a surprise - an object that looks like a giant tornado in space. The apparent tornado is shaped by a cosmic jet packing a powerful punch as it plows through clouds of interstellar gas and dust. They released an image of the "tornado" today at the 207th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, DC. "When I first saw the image of this tornado-like...

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2006-01-10 06:35:00

Washington, DC -- The Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) is a challenging stargazing target for amateur astronomers. It is one of the closest planetary nebulas - a type of nebula formed from gas ejected by a dying sunlike star. Yet it is so large and spread out in the sky that it appears very dim in a telescope eyepiece. Long-exposure photographs unveil the true beauty of this celestial wonder. A new portrait of the Helix Nebula, created by the penetrating infrared gaze of NASA's Spitzer Space...

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2005-12-27 13:55:00

Cambridge, MA -- The Perseus spiral arm - the nearest spiral arm in the Milky Way outside the Sun's orbit - lies only half as far from Earth as some previous studies had suggested. An international team of astronomers measured a highly accurate distance to the Perseus arm for the first time using a globe-spanning system of radio dishes known as the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), which offers the sharpest vision of any telescope in existence. Additional VLBA measurements will help...


Word of the Day
call-note
  • The call or cry of a bird or other animal to its mate or its young.
'Call-note' is newer than 'bird-call,' which originally referred to 'an instrument for imitating the note of birds' but now also refers to 'the song or cry of a bird.'
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