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Science Journal Spotlight: Exploring the Origins of the Universe

23 March 2021

The Winter 2021 issue of the Science Journal is now available online. In this issue, we explore the early universe and the evolution of stars, planets, and galaxies. Guest editor Donald Schneider, head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, provides important context about the ways that the college has pushed the boundaries of research in this area.

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brown dwarf planetary disk

The Disks That Make Solar Systems Flat
This feature article explores how Penn State astronomers test theories about the formation of planetary star systems, including by studying the spinning disks of gas and dust from which stars and planets are born.

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The Hobby-Eberly Telescope. Credit: Marty Harris, McDonald Observatory, UT Austin

HETDEX and the ‘Quest for the Rest’
This feature article delves into Penn State astronomers’ search for dark energy—an invisible force pushing the universe apart—and what it could teach us about the origin, evolution, and eventual fate of our universe.

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Michael Eracleous

Can We Detect Binary Supermassive Black Holes?
Penn State astronomer Michael Eracleous studies the evolution of galaxies and the supermassive black holes at their cores.

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This full-sky image of the temperature fluctuations (shown as color differences) in the cosmic microwave background was made from nine years of observations by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) satellite. These temperature fluctuations are the seeds of galaxies, from a time when the universe was less than 400,000 years old. Credit: NASA

Beyond the Limits of Observation
Penn State physicist Sarah Shandera uses observational data to inform theories about the early universe, beyond the reach of even our most powerful telescopes. 

View the rest of this issue at the Science Journal web page.