Astronomers spot 18 black holes gobbling up nearby stars
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Jennifer Chu | MIT News
1M ago
Star-shredding black holes are everywhere in the sky if you just know how to look for them. That’s one message from a new study by MIT scientists, appearing today in the Astrophysical Journal. The study’s authors are reporting the discovery of 18 new tidal disruption events (TDEs) — extreme instances when a nearby star is tidally drawn into a black hole and ripped to shreds. As the black hole feasts, it gives off an enormous burst of energy across the electromagnetic spectrum. Astronomers have detected previous tidal disruption events by looking for characteristic bursts in the optical and X-r ..read more
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Study: Stars travel more slowly at Milky Way’s edge
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Jennifer Chu | MIT News
1M ago
By clocking the speed of stars throughout the Milky Way galaxy, MIT physicists have found that stars further out in the galactic disk are traveling more slowly than expected compared to stars that are closer to the galaxy’s center. The findings raise a surprising possibility: The Milky Way’s gravitational core may be lighter in mass, and contain less dark matter, than previously thought. The new results are based on the team’s analysis of data taken by the Gaia and APOGEE instruments. Gaia is an orbiting space telescope that tracks the precise location, distance, and motion of more than 1 bill ..read more
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A carbon-lite atmosphere could be a sign of water and life on other terrestrial planets, MIT study finds
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Jennifer Chu | MIT News
2M ago
Scientists at MIT, the University of Birmingham, and elsewhere say that astronomers’ best chance of finding liquid water, and even life on other planets, is to look for the absence, rather than the presence, of a chemical feature in their atmospheres. The researchers propose that if a terrestrial planet has substantially less carbon dioxide in its atmosphere compared to other planets in the same system, it could be a sign of liquid water — and possibly life — on that planet’s surface. What’s more, this new signature is within the sights of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). While scient ..read more
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Everything, everywhere all at once
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Sophie Hartley | School of Science
3M ago
The way Morgane König sees it, questioning how we came to be in the universe is one of the most fundamental parts of being human. When she was 12 years old, König decided the place to find answers was in physics. A family friend was a physicist, and she attributed her interest in the field to him. But it wasn't until a trip back to her mother's home country of Côte d'Ivoire that König learned her penchant for the subject had started much younger. No one in Côte d'Ivoire was surprised she was pursuing physics — they told her she'd been peering upward at the stars since she was a small child, wo ..read more
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Bright flash leads astronomers to a heavy-metal factory 900 million light years away
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Jennifer Chu | MIT News
4M ago
An extraordinary burst of high-energy light in the sky has pointed astronomers to a pair of metal-forging neutron stars 900 million light years from Earth. In a study appearing today in Nature, an international team of astronomers, including scientists at MIT, reports the detection of an extremely bright gamma-ray burst (GRB), which is the most powerful type of explosion known in the universe. This particular GRB is the second-brightest so far detected, and the astronomers subsequently traced the burst’s origin to two merging neutron stars. Neutron stars are the collapsed, ultradense cores of ..read more
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LIGO surpasses the quantum limit
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Whitney Clavin
4M ago
The following article is adapted from a press release issued by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory. LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation and operated by Caltech and MIT, which conceived and built the project. In 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, made history when it made the first direct detection of gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time, produced by a pair of colliding black holes. Since then, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded LIGO and its sister detector in Europe, Virgo, hav ..read more
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Mikhail Ivanov wins 2024 New Horizons in Physics Breakthrough Prize
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Sandi Miller | Department of Physics
5M ago
Assistant professor of physics Mikhail Ivanov will receive the 2024 New Horizons in Physics Prize, which he will share with Marko Simonović from the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) at the University of Florence, and Oliver Philcox from Columbia University and the Simons Foundation. The New Horizons Prize, which is given to promising early-career physicists and mathematicians making strides in their research fields, recognizes Ivanov, Simonovic, and Philcox “for contributions to our understanding of the large-scale structure of the universe and the development of new too ..read more
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A bigger, better space-ripple detector
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Jennifer Chu | MIT News
6M ago
The search for space-shaking ripples in the universe just got a big boost. An MIT-led effort to build a bigger, better gravitational-wave detector will receive $9 million dollars over the next three years from the National Science Foundation. The funding infusion will support the design phase for Cosmic Explorer — a next-generation gravitational-wave observatory that is expected to pick up ripples in space-time from as far back as the early universe. To do so, the observatory’s detectors are planned to span the length of a small city. The observatory’s conceptual design takes after the detecto ..read more
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3Q: Exploring the universe’s “first light”
MIT News » Astrophysics
by Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office
9M ago
In its first year on the job, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has performed in ways that can only been described as stellar. Launching at the tail end of 2021 after years of delays, the observatory — NASA’s largest and most expensive space telescope to date — has been living up to its hype. Last July, the public got a first look at the telescope’s power, when astronomers released one of the first images taken by the observatory, showing a cluster of spinning galaxies, each one captured in spectacular, luminous detail from 4.6 billion light years away. Since then, JWST has peeled back more la ..read more
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Gravitational-wave detectors start next observing run to explore the secrets of the universe
MIT News » Astrophysics
by MIT News Office
9M ago
The following article is adapted from a press release issued by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory, in collaboration with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration. LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by Caltech and MIT, which conceived and built the project. On Wednesday, the LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA (LVK) collaboration began a new observing run with upgraded instruments, new and even more accurate signal models, and more advanced data analysis methods. The LVK collaboration consists of scientists a ..read more
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