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From the College of Natural Sciences

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Exoplanet is Gobbling Up Gas and Dust as it Continues to Build Mass

Exoplanet is Gobbling Up Gas and Dust as it Continues to Build Mass

This illustration of the newly forming exoplanet PDS 70b shows how material may be falling onto the giant world as it builds up mass. Researchers got a unique look at radiation from extremely hot gas falling onto the planet with Hubble Space Telescope, allowing them to directly measure the planet’s mass growth rate for the first time. Credit: Y. Zhou/UT Austin/NASA, ESA, STScI and J. Olmsted
The Hubble Space Telescope has allowed astronomers from The University of Texas at Austin to get a rare look at a young, Jupiter-sized planet that is growing by feeding off material surrounding a young star 370 light-years from Earth.
Texas Astronomers Lead Major Projects in James Webb Space Telescope’s First Year

Texas Astronomers Lead Major Projects in James Webb Space Telescope’s First Year

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin are set to lead some of the largest programs in the first year of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), including the largest project overall. Set to launch this Halloween, the telescope will become operational by mid-2022. Altogether, UT astronomers received about 500 hours of telescope time in JWST's first year.

McDonald Observatory Honors Local Businesses, Organizations for Night-Sky-Friendly Lighting

McDonald Observatory Honors Local Businesses, Organizations for Night-Sky-Friendly Lighting

FORT DAVIS, Texas — Just in time for International Dark Skies Week (April 5-12), McDonald Observatory is announcing a new program to honor West Texas businesses and organizations for Night Skies Friendly Lighting practices. These practices keep light on the ground and out of the sky, helping to preserve the exceptional night skies for which far West Texas is famous.

Engineering Marvel: Sixth Mirror Cast for Giant Magellan Telescope

Engineering Marvel: Sixth Mirror Cast for Giant Magellan Telescope

Artist’s concept of the Giant Magellan Telescope in its enclosure at Las Campanas Observatory in the Chilean Andes. (Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corp.)

The University of Texas at Austin and other partners of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) announce the fabrication of the sixth of seven of the world's largest monolithic mirrors. These mirrors will allow astronomers to see farther into the universe with more detail than any other optical telescope before. The sixth 8.4-meter (27.5 feet) mirror — about two stories high when standing on edge — is being fabricated at The University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab and will take nearly four years to complete.

Anita Cochran Named Fellow of American Astronomical Society

Anita Cochran Named Fellow of American Astronomical Society

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, has honored Anita Cochran, assistant director of McDonald Observatory and senior research scientist, for extraordinary achievement and service by naming her an AAS Fellow for 2021.

HETDEX Project On Track to Probe Dark Energy

HETDEX Project On Track to Probe Dark Energy

Three years into its quest to reveal the nature of dark energy, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX) is on track to complete the largest map of the cosmos ever. The team will create a three-dimensional map of 2.5 million galaxies that will help astronomers understand how and why the expansion of the universe is speeding up ov...
Texas Astronomers Revive Idea for ‘Ultimately Large Telescope’ on the Moon

Texas Astronomers Revive Idea for ‘Ultimately Large Telescope’ on the Moon

A group of astronomers from The University of Texas at Austin has found that a telescope idea shelved by NASA a decade ago can solve a problem that no other telescope can: It would be able to study the first stars in the universe. The team, led by NASA Hubble Fellow Anna Schauer, will publish their results in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Major NSF Grant Accelerates Development for the Giant Magellan Telescope

Major NSF Grant Accelerates Development for the Giant Magellan Telescope

The GMTO Corporation has received a $17.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to accelerate the prototyping and testing of some of the most powerful optical and infrared technologies ever engineered. These crucial advancements for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), of which The University of Texas at Austin is a founding partner, will allow astronomers to see farther into space with more detail than any other optical telescope before.

Planet Hugging a White Dwarf May Be a Survivor of Star’s Death Throes

Planet Hugging a White Dwarf May Be a Survivor of Star’s Death Throes

In this illustration, WD 1856 b, a potential Jupiter-size planet, orbits its dim white dwarf star every day and a half. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

An international team of astronomers has used NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and retired Spitzer Space Telescope to discover what may be the first intact planet found closely orbiting a white dwarf, the dense leftover of a sun-like star only 40% larger than Earth. The work, led by Andrew Vanderburg of The University of Texas at Austin, included follow-up observations with the 10-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the university's McDonald Observatory.

McDonald Observatory Will Reopen to the Public Aug. 28

McDonald Observatory Will Reopen to the Public Aug. 28

Aerial view of McDonald Observatory. Photo credit: Damond Benningfield.

The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory is planning to reopen to the public, in a limited fashion, on Friday, Aug. 28. Beginning with a star party that night, the observatory's Frank N. Bash Visitors Center will begin holding public programs again.