Tag Archives: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Looking for life beyond the solar system just got harder
Profile of John Kovac, whose team appears to have confirmed that the universe underwent an enormous growth spurt during the first tiny fraction of a second of its existence
Reaction of experts to the big news about the aftermath of the Big Bang
Peering back until nearly the dawn of the universe–Nobel-prize worthy research confirms inflation theory
My Q&A with John Kovac, whose team discovered evidence of primordial gravitational waves, which others say is worthy of a Nobel prize
Earth-mass planet “frighteningly” unlike Earth
Astronomers have found two planets similar in size to Earth in the habitable zone of a star beyond the solar system
Astronomers have found two planets similar in size to Earth in the habitable zone of a star beyond the solar system.
March 29 – April 25 Off to Harvard astronomy department for one-month fellowship.
March 29-April 25 Off to Harvard astronomy department for one-month fellowship.
Planets May be Forming On Way to Black Hole [Nature]
Recent modeling work done at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests that a gas cloud moving toward Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center, could be forming planets. If that’s the case, then the gas cloud and its potential planets don’t have much time.
From my recent article in Nature:
Regardless of the cloud’s origin, it could take decades for the whole of it to plunge into the black hole. Material could start falling onto a swirling accretion disk surrounding the black hole by the end of 2013 and continue for 20–40 years, says astronomer Andreas Burkert of the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, another member of the cloud-discovery team.
When the plunge into the black hole begins—as soon as next summer—there will be an accompanying light show (see artist’s rendition at the bottom of this post):
The activity could come in bursts or appear as a steady brightening, and could also include a jet of hot gas shooting out of the black hole, says Burkert. The nature of the light show could help researchers to answer an enduring puzzle — why Sagittarius A* is so quiescent compared with other supermassive black holes,seemingly not having guzzled a substantial meal of gas and stars for years. But even before it dives into the black hole, the gas will heat up and glow brightly — at around the time of the cloud’s closest approach to Sagittarius A* next summer, Loeb says.