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Latest Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories

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2009-01-20 09:35:00

Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered a planet somewhat larger and more massive than Neptune orbiting a star 120 light-years from Earth. While Neptune has a diameter 3.8 times that of Earth and a mass 17 times Earth's, the new world (named HAT-P-11b) is 4.7 times the size of Earth and has 25 Earth masses. HAT-P-11b was discovered because it passes directly in front of (transits) its parent star, thereby blocking about 0.4 percent of the star's light....

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2009-01-05 15:40:33

The planet Jupiter gained weight in a hurry during its infancy. It had to, since the material from which it formed probably disappeared in just a few million years, according to a new study of planet formation around young stars. Smithsonian astronomers examined the 5 million-year-old star cluster NGC 2362 with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which can detect the signatures of actively forming planets in infrared light. They found that all stars with the mass of the Sun or greater have lost...

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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...

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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...

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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,...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...


Word of the Day
ween
  • To think; to imagine; to fancy.
  • To be of opinion; have the notion; think; imagine; suppose.
The word 'ween' comes from Middle English wene, from Old English wēn, wēna ("hope, weening, expectation"), from Proto-Germanic *wēniz, *wēnōn (“hope, expectation”), from Proto-Indo-European *wen- (“to strive, love, want, reach, win”).
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