Latest Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories

2009-01-06 07:40:00

Milky Way Bigger Than Once Thought The Milky Way packs a big punch. In fact, scientists discovered that it is larger than Andromeda - not the little sister it was once thought to be. Scientists mapped the Milky Way in a more detailed, three-dimensional way and found that it's bulkier and spinning faster than astronomers once thought. The Milky Way is denser, with 50 percent more mass, and 15 percent larger in breadth. The research was presented Monday at the American Astronomical Society's...

2008-11-18 13:55:00

The powerful black holes at the center of massive galaxies and galaxy clusters act as hearts to the systems, pumping energy out at regular intervals to regulate the growth of the black holes themselves, as well as star formation, according to new data from NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Scientists from the University of Michigan, the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for...

2008-10-16 14:00:00

Astronomers think that many - perhaps all - galaxies in the universe contain massive black holes at their centers. New observations with the Submillimeter Array now suggest that such colossal black holes were common even 12 billion years ago, when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old and galaxies were just beginning to form. The new conclusion comes from the discovery of two distant galaxies, both with black holes at their heart, which are involved in a spectacular collision. 4C60.07,...

2008-09-18 13:45:00

Water is being blasted to pieces by a young star's laser-like jets, according to new observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The discovery provides a better understanding of how water -- an essential ingredient for life as we know it -- is processed in emerging solar systems. "This is a truly unique observation that will provide important information about the chemistry occurring in planet-forming regions, and may give us insights into the chemical reactions that made water and even...

2008-08-22 12:45:00

Cambridge, MA - A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope tells a tale of life and death, and reveals a rich family history. The striking infrared picture shows a colorful cosmic cloud, called W5, studded with multiple generations of blazing stars. It also provides dramatic new evidence that massive stars - through their brute winds and radiation - can trigger the birth of stellar newborns. "Triggered star formation continues to be very hard to prove," said Xavier Koenig of the...

2008-07-09 10:52:35

A detailed survey of stars in the Orion Nebula has found that fewer than 10 percent have enough surrounding dust to make Jupiter-sized planets, according to a report by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Because stars like the sun probably formed in hot open clusters like Orion, the finding suggests that sun-like stars have a low probability of forming planets, or at...

2008-05-27 15:25:00

On April 9, the Sun erupted and blasted a bubble of hot, ionized gas into the solar system. The eruption was observed in unprecedented detail by a fleet of spacecraft, revealing new features that are predicted by computer models but difficult to see in practice.The observations are being discussed today in a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union Joint Assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.Such eruptions, called coronal mass ejections or CMEs, happen periodically and pose a potential...

2008-02-14 16:05:00

Astronomers have discovered that rocky, terrestrial planets might orbit many, if not most, of the nearby sun-like stars in the disk of our galaxy. These new results suggest that worlds with potential for life are more common that we thought. This release is being issued jointly with the University of Arizona (UA). UA astronomer Michael Meyer (currently on sabbatical at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to determine whether planetary...

2008-02-11 15:50:00

Newborn stars peek out from beneath their natal blanket of dust in this dynamic image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Called "Rho Oph" by astronomers, it's one of the closest star-forming regions to our own solar system. Located near the constellations Scorpius and Ophiuchus, the nebula is about 407 light years away from Earth. Rho Oph is made up of a large main cloud of molecular hydrogen, a key molecule allowing new stars to form out of cold cosmic gas,...

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...

Word of the Day
  • 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.'