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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.

Gravitational forces in protoplanetary disks may push super-Earths close to their stars
Gravitational forces in protoplanetary disks may push super-Earths close to their stars 09 May 2019New research led by Penn State astronomers improves understanding of why very large planets called super-Earths with small, quick orbits form so close to their host stars.
LIGO and Virgo Detect Neutron Star Smash-Ups
LIGO and Virgo Detect Neutron Star Smash-Ups 02 May 2019LIGO and Virgo observe five probable gravitational waves in the first month after the observatories were upgraded, including one believed to originate in a never-before-seen neutron star-black hole merger.
First ever open public alerts from LIGO: Two probable black-hole mergers spotted in first weeks after gravitational-wave detector is updated
First ever open public alerts from LIGO: Two probable black-hole mergers spotted in first weeks after gravitational-wave detector is updated 16 April 2019Two new probable gravitational waves have been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo observatory in Italy in the first weeks after the detectors were updated.
A new signal for a neutron star collision discovered
A new signal for a neutron star collision discovered 16 April 2019A bright burst of X-rays has been discovered by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory—including Penn State researchers—in a galaxy 6.6 billion light years from Earth, an event that likely signals the merger of two neutron stars.
Penn State’s Habitable Zone Planet Finder Enables Discovery of Planets Around Cool Stars
Penn State’s Habitable Zone Planet Finder Enables Discovery of Planets Around Cool Stars 20 February 2019A new astronomical spectrograph built by a Penn State-led team of scientists provides the highest precision measurements to date of infrared signals from nearby stars, allowing astronomers to detect planets capable of having liquid water on their surfaces that orbit cool stars outside our Solar System.
Stellar winds, the source material for the universe, are clumpy
Stellar winds, the source material for the universe, are clumpy 24 January 2019Data recorded by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory of a neutron star as it passed through a dense patch of stellar wind emanating from its massive companion star provide valuable insight about the structure and composition of stellar winds.
How hot are atoms in the shock wave of an exploding star?
How hot are atoms in the shock wave of an exploding star? 21 January 2019A new method to measure the temperature of atoms during the explosive death of a star will help scientists understand the shock wave that occurs as a result of this supernova explosion.
Searching the stars
Searching the stars 03 January 2019With forward-looking, concurrent development of a new global research hub and a unique graduate curriculum, Penn State is growing the worldwide SETI community, looking for intelligent life across the cosmos.
Penn State set to lead on new exoplanet science priorities
Penn State set to lead on new exoplanet science priorities 07 November 2018A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine sets the stage for Penn State's Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds to expand its role in NASA's exoplanetary science initiatives
The surprising environment of an enigmatic neutron star
The surprising environment of an enigmatic neutron star 17 September 2018An unusual infrared emission detected by the Hubble Space Telescope from a nearby neutron star could indicate that the pulsar has features never before seen. The observation could help astronomers better understand the evolution of neutron stars.
Water worlds could have stable climate, perhaps support life, study says
Water worlds could have stable climate, perhaps support life, study says 31 August 2018“Water world” planets, those covered with a deep global ocean, could maintain surface conditions similar to that of the Earth for over a billion years.
Births, deaths and collisions: Swift’s telescope snaps one millionth UV image
Births, deaths and collisions: Swift’s telescope snaps one millionth UV image 22 August 2018The Ultraviolet Optical Telescope (UVOT) aboard the NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory captured its millionth image on May 13. Swift's science and flight operations are controlled by Penn State from the Mission Operations Center at the University Park campus.
New era of space research launched by IceCube Observatory and global team of astronomers
New era of space research launched by IceCube Observatory and global team of astronomers 12 July 2018The first-ever identification of a deep-space source of the super-energetic subatomic high-energy neutrino particles has launched a new era of space research. Detection of one such neutrino beneath the Antarctic ice sent a global team of astronomers racing to track down its origins: a flaring supermassive black hole 3.7 billion light years from Earth.
Penn State to participate in consortium to demonstrate remote monitoring of nuclear reactors
Penn State to participate in consortium to demonstrate remote monitoring of nuclear reactors 27 March 2018Penn State researchers will participate in a new international multi-laboratory and multi-university collaboration that harnesses the unusual characteristics of the elusive subatomic particles known as antineutrinos for nuclear nonproliferation.
NASA set to launch Penn State led experiment
NASA set to launch Penn State led experiment 26 March 2018NASA will launch a suborbital sounding rocket carrying a Penn State led experiment to test a newly-developed X-ray spectrograph and study the X-rays from a supernova remnant in the Milky Way galaxy.
Big black holes outpace their galaxies in growth
Big black holes outpace their galaxies in growth 15 February 2018The growth of the biggest black holes in the universe is outrunning the growth of the galaxies that they inhabit, according to a new study led by researchers at Penn State.
Three types of extreme-energy space particles may have unified origin
Three types of extreme-energy space particles may have unified origin 22 January 2018New model connects the origins of very high-energy neutrinos, ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, and high-energy gamma rays with black-hole jets embedded in their environments.
How massive is supermassive? Astronomers measure more black holes, farther away
How massive is supermassive? Astronomers measure more black holes, farther away 10 January 2018A team of astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), including several Penn State scientists, announced new measurements of the masses of a large sample of supermassive black holes far beyond the local universe.
Alien Megastructure not the cause of dimming of the 'Most Mysterious Star in the Universe'
Alien Megastructure not the cause of dimming of the 'Most Mysterious Star in the Universe' 03 January 2018A team of more than 200 researchers, including Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Assistant Professor Jason Wright and led by Louisiana State University's Tabetha Boyajian, is one step closer to solving the mystery behind the "most mysterious star in the universe."
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.

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