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Astronomy and Astrophysics Research News

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A collection of press releases about the astronomy and astrophysics research conducted by Penn State scientists.

Experiment Near South Pole Reveals How Earth Blocks High-Energy Particles Produced by Nuclear Reactions
Experiment Near South Pole Reveals How Earth Blocks High-Energy Particles Produced by Nuclear Reactions 22 November 2017For the first time, a science experiment has measured Earth's ability to absorb neutrinos -- the smaller-than-an-atom particles that zoom throughout space and through us by the trillions every second at nearly the speed of light. The experiment was achieved with the IceCube detector, an array of 5,160 basketball-sized sensors frozen deep within a cubic kilometer of very clear ice near the South Pole. The IceCube collaboration includes Penn State physicists.
Sky-high observatory sheds light on origin of excess anti-matter: New study excludes nearby pulsars, points to dark matter as possible culprit
Sky-high observatory sheds light on origin of excess anti-matter: New study excludes nearby pulsars, points to dark matter as possible culprit 16 November 2017The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Observatory in Mexico, built and operated by an international team that includes Penn State scientists, has captured the first wide-angle view of very-high-energy light emanating from two rapidly spinning stars. The fresh perspective on these stellar neighbors casts serious doubt on one possible origin for a mysterious excess of particles near Earth.
New quest to map stars and galaxies across the entire sky
New quest to map stars and galaxies across the entire sky 16 November 2017The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has announced a $16 million grant to support the next generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-V) -- a project including Penn State scientists that is one of the most successful and influential efforts to map the universe in the history of astronomy.
Astronomers discover sunscreen snow falling on hot exoplanet
Astronomers discover sunscreen snow falling on hot exoplanet 26 October 2017Astronomers at Penn State have used the Hubble Space Telescope to find a blistering-hot giant planet outside our solar system where the atmosphere "snows" titanium dioxide -- the active ingredient in sunscreen.
Gravitational waves + new clues from space reveal new way to make a black hole
Gravitational waves + new clues from space reveal new way to make a black hole 16 October 2017For the first time, two neutron stars are caught in the act of colliding
You can see that from here: New telescope attachment allows ground-based observations of new worlds to rival those from space
You can see that from here: New telescope attachment allows ground-based observations of new worlds to rival those from space 05 October 2017A new, low-cost attachment to telescopes allows previously unachievable precision in ground-based observations of exoplanets -- planets beyond our solar system. With the new attachment, ground-based telescopes can produce measurements of light intensity that rival the highest quality photometric observations from space.
Penn State LIGO scientists celebrate 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics
Penn State LIGO scientists celebrate 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics 03 October 2017Penn State scientists and students on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory team (LIGO) are celebrating three LIGO leaders who have been honored today with the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.
New gravitational wave hits Earth -- For the first time, 3 detectors zoom in on its location
New gravitational wave hits Earth -- For the first time, 3 detectors zoom in on its location 27 September 2017For the first time, three detectors have tracked the gravitational waves emitted by a merger of two black holes -- a critical new capability that allows scientists to more closely locate a gravitational wave's birthplace in space.
Mystery solved: Super-energetic space particles crash to Earth from far, far away
Mystery solved: Super-energetic space particles crash to Earth from far, far away 21 September 2017Super-energetic space particles, which were thought to have been blasted toward Earth from somewhere outside our solar system, now have been discovered to be from very far away indeed -- from far outside our Milky Way galaxy.
NASA selects Arcus for Phase A studies
NASA selects Arcus for Phase A studies 31 August 2017Four Penn State scientists are part of the Arcus X-ray mission that has been selected by NASA to advance to “Phase A” concept studies, the project will receive $2 million for a nine-month detailed study of mission requirements.
New way to weigh a white dwarf: Use Hubble Space Telescope
New way to weigh a white dwarf: Use Hubble Space Telescope 09 June 2017Astronomers have used, for the first time, a novel method to determine the mass of a nearby dead star. The new method is based on the bending of a beam of light near a massive object. Now, astronomers have achieved a solid estimate of the mass of a white dwarf by measuring the deflection of light rays as they pass near the star.
New planet found to be hotter than most stars
New planet found to be hotter than most stars 06 June 2017A newly discovered Jupiter-like world is so hot that even its nights are like the flame of a welding torch. The gas giant has a “year” only 1.5 days long, and may have a tail like a comet.
New gravity waves hit Earth after record-breaking trip through space
New gravity waves hit Earth after record-breaking trip through space 01 June 2017Gravitational waves produced by the birth of a massive black hole, a record-breaking billions of light-years from Earth, have been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). The waves were generated when two smaller black holes collided and then merged to form a larger black hole with a mass about fifty times larger than our sun's.
Mysterious cosmic explosion surprises astronomers studying the distant x-ray universe
Mysterious cosmic explosion surprises astronomers studying the distant x-ray universe 30 March 2017A mysterious flash of X-rays has been discovered by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in the deepest X-ray image ever obtained. This source likely comes from some sort of destructive event, but it may be of a variety that scientists have never seen before.
Speeding Star Gives New Clues to Breakup of Multi-Star System
Speeding Star Gives New Clues to Breakup of Multi-Star System 29 March 2017A remarkable new discovery using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals three stars that now hold the record as the youngest-known examples of a super-fast-flying breed. The new discovery is published in this month's Astrophysical Journal Letters.
NSF funds supercomputer cluster at Penn State
NSF funds supercomputer cluster at Penn State 21 February 2017The Penn State Cyber-Laboratory for Astronomy, Materials, and Physics (CyberLAMP) is acquiring a high-performance computer cluster that will facilitate interdisciplinary research and training in cyberscience and is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
A tale of two pulsars' tails: Plumes offer geometry lessons to astronomers
A tale of two pulsars' tails: Plumes offer geometry lessons to astronomers 17 January 2017In two studies, international teams of astronomers suggest that recent images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory of two pulsars — Geminga and B0355+54 — may help shine a light on the distinctive emission signatures of pulsars, as well as their often perplexing geometry.
Deepest x-ray image ever reveals black hole treasure trove
Deepest x-ray image ever reveals black hole treasure trove 09 January 2017An unparalleled image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is giving an international team of astronomers the best look yet at the growth of black holes over billions of years beginning soon after the Big Bang. This is the deepest X-ray image ever obtained, collected with about 7 million seconds, or 11 and a half weeks, of Chandra observing time.
"Cosmic Whistle" Packs a Surprisingly Energetic Punch
"Cosmic Whistle" Packs a Surprisingly Energetic Punch 14 November 2016Penn State University astronomers have discovered that the mysterious "cosmic whistles" known as fast radio bursts can pack a serious punch, in some cases releasing a billion times more energy in gamma-rays than they do in radio waves and rivaling the stellar cataclysms known as supernovae in their explosive power.
RNA, gravitational waves focus of two new grants
23 September 2016Four Penn State researchers have been awarded a total of $450,000 by the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation to carry out basic science research over the next two years.

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