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Latest Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories

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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...

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2005-04-05 19:20:00

Cambridge, MA -- When the distant planetoid Sedna was discovered on the outer edges of our solar system, it posed a puzzle to scientists. Sedna appeared to be spinning very slowly compared to most solar system objects, completing one rotation every 20 days. Astronomers hypothesized that this world possessed an unseen moon whose gravity was slowing Sedna's spin. Yet Hubble Space Telescope images showed no sign of a moon large enough to affect Sedna. New measurements by Scott Gaudi, Krzysztof...

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2005-03-10 00:35:00

Cambridge, MA -- What did the universe look like when it was only 2 to 3 billion years old? Astronomers used to think it was a pretty simple place containing relatively small, young star-forming galaxies. Researchers now are realizing that the truth is not that simple. Even the early universe was a wildly complex place. Studying the universe at this early stage is important in understanding how the galaxies near us were assembled over time. Jiasheng Huang (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for...

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2005-03-04 08:05:00

Cambridge, MA -- In the March 4th issue of Science, astronomers report that they have measured the slowest ever motion of a galaxy across the plane of the sky. This distant whirlpool of stars appears to creep along despite its actual speed through space because it is located so far from the Earth. Measuring this galaxy's glacial pace of only 30 micro-arcseconds per year stretched current radio astronomy technology to its limit. "A snail crawling on Mars would appear to be moving across the...

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2005-02-09 07:31:06

Cambridge, MA -- Using the MMT Observatory in Tucson, AZ, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) are the first to report the discovery of a star leaving our galaxy, speeding along at over 1.5 million miles per hour. This incredible speed likely resulted from a close encounter with the Milky Way's central black hole, which flung the star outward like a stone from a slingshot. So strong was the event that the speedy star eventually will be lost altogether,...

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2005-01-28 11:10:00

Cambridge, MA -- Astronomy is a science of extremes--the biggest, the hottest, and the most massive. Today, astrophysicist Bryan Gaensler (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and colleagues announced that they have linked two of astronomy's extremes, showing that some of the biggest stars in the cosmos become the strongest magnets when they die. "The source of these very powerful magnetic objects has been a mystery since the first one was discovered in 1998. Now, we think we have...

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2005-01-11 14:26:29

San Diego, CA -- The center of our galaxy is hidden behind a "brick wall" of obscuring dust so thick that not even the Hubble Space Telescope can penetrate it. Astronomers Silas Laycock and Josh Grindlay (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and colleagues have lifted that veil to reveal a beautiful vista swarming with stars. Moreover, their hunt for specific stars associated with X-ray-emitting sources has ruled out one of two options for the nature of these X-ray sources: most...

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2005-01-11 14:20:00

San Diego, CA -- Astronomers Jon Miller (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and Jeroen Homan (MIT) have seen evidence of hot iron gas riding a ripple in spacetime around a black hole. This spacetime wave, if confirmed, would represent a new phenomenon that goes beyond Einstein's general relativity. These observations confirm one important theory about how a black hole's extreme gravity can stretch light. The data also paint an intriguing image of how a spinning black hole can drag...

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2004-12-13 16:58:47

Cambridge, MA -- The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has taken a key step toward the goal of building and operating a large next-generation telescope through its participation in the joint Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). The GMT will have a diameter of about 83 feet (25.4 meters), about as wide as the 2004 Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, New York, is tall. Today, two of the GMT participants--the Carnegie Observatories of the Carnegie Institution, and the University of...


Word of the Day
lunula
  • A small crescent-shaped structure or marking, especially the white area at the base of a fingernail that resembles a half-moon.
This word is a diminutive of the Latin 'luna,' moon.
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