Latest Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories

Gamma Rays From Milky Way’s Past Show Historically Active Black Hole
2012-05-30 03:39:18

Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com Gamma-ray beams seen in the Milky Way's central black hole suggest that the galaxy's center was much more active in the past, according to new research. Harvard University astrophysicists used an image taken by NASA's Fermi space telescope to reveal gamma-rays from the Milky Way millions of years ago. "These faint jets are a ghost or after-image of what existed a million years ago," Meng Su, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics...

Rogue Planets Sometimes Captured By Stars
2012-04-18 03:28:47

New research suggests that billions of stars in our galaxy have captured rogue planets that once roamed interstellar space. The nomad worlds, which were kicked out of the star systems in which they formed, occasionally find a new home with a different sun. This finding could explain the existence of some planets that orbit surprisingly far from their stars, and even the existence of a double-planet system. "Stars trade planets just like baseball teams trade players," said Hagai Perets of...

'Ordinary' Black Hole Discovered 12 Million Light Years Away
2012-03-27 07:54:34

An international team of scientists have discovered an ℠ordinary´ black hole in the 12 million light year-distant galaxy Centaurus A. This is the first time that a normal-size black hole has been detected away from the immediate vicinity of our own Galaxy. PhD student Mark Burke will present the discovery at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester. Although exotic by everyday standards, black holes are everywhere. The lowest-mass black holes are formed when very massive...

Runaway Planets At 30 Million Miles Per Hour Possible
2012-03-22 13:27:20

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics researchers have determined that some planets are flying around in space at 30 million miles per hour. These hypervelocity planets are produced in the same way as the hypervelocity star that was found seven years ago traveling around the Milky Way Galaxy at 1.5 million miles per hour. "These warp-speed planets would be some of the fastest objects in our Galaxy," astrophysicist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in...

Astronomers Discover 'Waterworld' Planet
2012-02-21 14:30:13

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a new class of planet, completely enveloped by water. The "waterworld" planet has a thick, steamy atmosphere and is smaller than Uranus but larger than Earth. "GJ1214b is like no planet we know of," Zachory Berta of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) said in a press release. "A huge fraction of its mass is made up of water." The planet is about 2.7 times Earth's diameter, and weighs almost seven times...

Black Hole Found At The Center Of A Shredded Galaxy
2012-02-15 13:40:43

Astronomers say they have found a black hole that was once at the core of a now-disintegrated dwarf galaxy. The researchers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to find a cluster of young, blue stars encircling the first intermediate-mass black hole ever discovered. "For the first time, we have evidence on the environment, and thus the origin, of this middle-weight black hole," Mathieu Servility, who worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics when this research was...

Image 1 - Kepler Finds Two More Two-Sun Planets
2012-01-12 05:42:31

Astronomers announced the findings of two new circumbinary planets, or worlds that orbit two different stars, during the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Austin, Texas on Wednesday. The discovery, which was presented by San Diego State University (SDSU) Associate Professor Dr. William Welsh and published online in the journal Nature, used data from NASA's Kepler Mission to locate a pair of transiting circumbinary planet systems. The two worlds, which have been dubbed...

Spitzer Finds Strange New Galaxy 'Species'
2011-12-02 04:25:01

In the distant reaches of the universe, almost 13 billion light-years from Earth, a strange species of galaxy lay hidden. Cloaked in dust and dimmed by the intervening distance, even the Hubble Space Telescope couldn't spy it. It took the revealing power of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to uncover not one, but four remarkably red galaxies. And while astronomers can describe the members of this new "species," they can't explain what makes them so ruddy. "We've had to go to extremes to get...

Black Hole Birth Announcement
2011-11-17 14:40:32

For the first time, astronomers have produced a complete description of a black hole, a concentration of mass so dense that not even light can escape its powerful gravitational pull. Their precise measurements have allowed them to reconstruct the history of the object from its birth some six million years ago. Using several telescopes, both ground-based and in orbit, the scientists unraveled longstanding mysteries about the object called Cygnus X-1, a famous binary-star system discovered...

Word of the Day
  • A bookseller; now, especially, a dealer in rare and curious books.
This word comes from a Greek phrase meaning 'book seller.'