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Latest Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories

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2005-07-19 12:45:00

Cambridge, MA -- Every rule has an exception. One rule in astronomy, supported by considerable evidence, states that dust disks around newborn stars disappear in a few million years. Most likely, they vanish because the material has collected into full-sized planets. Astronomers have discovered the first exception to this rule - a 25-million-year-old dust disk that shows no evidence of planet formation. "Finding this disk is as unexpected as locating a 200-year-old person," said astronomer...

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2005-07-08 12:40:00

Cambridge, MA -- Smithsonian astronomers watched as the "Impactor" probe from NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft hit Comet Tempel 1 earlier this week. They monitored the impact using the ground-based Submillimeter Array (SMA) in Hawaii and NASA's orbiting Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS). Results are still coming in, but so far the scientists report seeing only weak emission from water vapor and a host of other gases that were expected to erupt from the impact site. The most...

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2005-06-28 11:29:01

Cambridge, MA -- The Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS) has been asleep on orbit for the past 11 months. SWAS operators placed it into hibernation after a highly successful 5.5-year mission highlighted by the discovery of a swarm of comets evaporating around an aging red giant star. Now, they have awakened SWAS again for the first-ever opportunity to study a comet on a collision course with a U.S. space probe. "We knew there was life left in SWAS," said SWAS Principal Investigator...

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2005-06-24 10:24:01

Cambridge, MA -- Interstellar travelers might want to detour around the star system TW Hydrae to avoid a messy planetary construction site. Astronomer David Wilner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and his colleagues have discovered that the gaseous protoplanetary disk surrounding TW Hydrae holds vast swaths of pebbles extending outward for at least 1 billion miles. These rocky chunks should continue to grow in size as they collide and stick together until they...

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2005-06-17 00:45:00

Cambridge, MA -- The Submillimeter Array (SMA) will be ready and watching when NASA's Deep Impact probe strikes the nucleus of Comet Tempel 1 on July 4th. The impact is expected to excavate material from the comet's interior - material left over from the earliest days of our solar system. "The SMA will be the only operational millimeter or submillimeter array observing Tempel 1 at the time of the impact" said astronomer Charlie Qi of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "As...

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2005-06-15 09:24:37

Cambridge, MA -- Astronomers find jets everywhere when they look into space. Small jets spout from newborn stars, while huge jets blast out of the centers of galaxies. Yet despite their commonness, the processes that drive them remain shrouded in mystery. Even relatively nearby stellar jets hide their origins behind almost impenetrable clouds of dust. All stars, including our sun, pass through a jet phase during their "childhood," so astronomers are eager to understand how jets form and how...

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2005-06-06 10:05:00

Cambridge, MA -- In 1987, earthbound observers saw a star explode in the nearby dwarf galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. Astronomers eagerly studied this supernova-the closest seen in the past 300 years-and have continued to examine its remains. Although its blast wave has lit up surrounding clouds of gas and dust, the supernova appears to have left no core behind. Astronomers now report that even the sharp eyes of the Hubble Space Telescope failed to locate the black hole or...

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2005-05-23 15:28:13

Cambridge, MA -- For the first time, amateur and professional astronomers have teamed up to discover a new planet circling a distant star. The planet was detected by looking for the effect of its gravitational field on light from a more distant star, a technique known as microlensing. It is only the second world to be discovered using the microlensing technique. Gravitational microlensing offers the potential for detecting Earth-mass planets using existing or near-future technologies. "This...

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2005-05-12 07:30:00

Cambridge, MA -- Reporting in the May 12th issue of Nature, astronomers announced that they have penetrated the heart of the universe's most powerful explosion - a gamma-ray burst (GRB). Using the PAIRITEL (Peters Automated Infrared Imaging Telescope) robotic telescope on Mt. Hopkins, Arizona, they detected a flash of infrared light accompanying the burst of high-energy radiation that signaled the death of a star roughly fifteen times more massive than the Sun. "This is the first time...

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2005-04-08 04:55:00

RAS -- Using two orbiting X-ray telescopes, a team of international astronomers has examined distant galaxy clusters in order to compare them with their counterparts that are relatively close by. Speaking today at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Birmingham, Dr. Ben Maughan (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), presented the results of this new analysis. The observations indicate that, despite the great expansion that the Universe has undergone since the Big Bang, galaxy...


Word of the Day
glogg
  • Scandinavian punch made of claret and aquavit with spices and raisins and orange peel and sugar.
This word comes from the Swedish 'glogg,' which is an alteration of 'glodgat,' mulled (wine).
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