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From the College of Natural Sciences
Young Giant Planet Offers Clues to Formation of Exotic Worlds

Young Giant Planet Offers Clues to Formation of Exotic Worlds

This artist's rendition shows a type of gas giant planet known as a hot Jupiter that orbits very close to its star. Finding more of these youthful planets could help astronomers understand how they formed and if they migrate from cooler climes during their lifetimes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Jupiter-size planets orbiting close to their stars have upended ideas about how giant planets form. Finding young members of this planet class could help answer key questions. For most of human history our understanding of how planets form and evolve was based on the eight (or nine) planets in our solar system. But over the last 25 years, the discovery of more than 4,000 exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system, changed all that.

Texas Astronomer Uses His 25-year-old Hubble Data to Confirm Planet Proxima Centauri c

Texas Astronomer Uses His 25-year-old Hubble Data to Confirm Planet Proxima Centauri c

Fritz Benedict used data he collected from the Hubble Space Telescope to confirm the existence of Proxima c, the second known planet orbiting the star closest to our sun. Photo credit: NASA.

Fritz Benedict has used data he took over two decades ago with Hubble Space Telescope to confirm the existence of another planet around the Sun's nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, and to pin down the planet's orbit and mass. Benedict, an emeritus Senior Research Scientist with McDonald Observatory at The University of Texas at Austin, will present his findings today in a scientific session and then in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

University Welcomes New Center for Planetary Habitability

University Welcomes New Center for Planetary Habitability

Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter

​Scientists from across The University of Texas at Austin are joining forces in the hunt for life on other planets. Astronomers, geoscientists, chemists, biologists and aerospace engineers have pooled resources to form the UT Center for Planetary Systems Habitability, a cross-campus, interdisciplinary research unit.

Graduate Students Win Top Dissertation, Master’s Thesis Awards

Graduate Students Win Top Dissertation, Master’s Thesis Awards

Two College of Natural Sciences graduate students have earned awards from the University of Texas at Austin's Graduate School as part of the annual professional and student awards, including the top campus honor a doctoral student can receive for research.

Texas-Led Team Finds Earth-Sized, Habitable Zone Planet Hidden in Early NASA Kepler Data

Texas-Led Team Finds Earth-Sized, Habitable Zone Planet Hidden in Early NASA Kepler Data

A team of transatlantic scientists led by The University of Texas at Austin's Andrew Vanderburg has used reanalyzed data from NASA's Kepler space telescope to discover an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting in its star's habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water.

Postdoc Receives Fellowship to Study Extrasolar Planets

Postdoc Receives Fellowship to Study Extrasolar Planets

Ben Tofflemire, a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas at Austin, has received a 51 Pegasi b Fellowship.

Ben Tofflemire, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin, has received a 51 Pegasi b Fellowship from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Surveying Deepest Space to Understand Dark Energy

Surveying Deepest Space to Understand Dark Energy

HETDEX is the first major experiment to search for dark energy. It uses the giant Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory and a set of spectrographs to map the three-dimensional positions of one million galaxies.

Two decades ago, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Reiss shocked the world when they published research showing not only that the Universe was expanding, but that the expansion was occurring at an accelerating rate. The discovery came as a complete surprise even to the astronomers themselves, and netted them a Nobel Prize in 2011.

McDonald Observatory Hires Teznie Pugh as New Superintendent

McDonald Observatory Hires Teznie Pugh as New Superintendent

The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory has hired Teznie Pugh as its new Superintendent, responsible for managing day-to-day operations at the West Texas site.

Planet Finder Validates Its First Habitable-Zone Exoplanet, a Mini Neptune

Planet Finder Validates Its First Habitable-Zone Exoplanet, a Mini Neptune

The Habitable Zone Planet Finder instrument. (Credit: Gudmundur Stefanssonn/Penn State)

Astronomers have validated their first exoplanet with the Habitable Zone Planet Finder instrument on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, one of the world's largest telescopes, located at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory.

Distant Giant Planets Form Differently than ‘Failed Stars’

Distant Giant Planets Form Differently than ‘Failed Stars’

A team of astronomers led by Brendan Bowler of The University of Texas at Austin has probed the formation process of giant exoplanets and brown dwarfs, a class of objects that are more massive than giant planets, but not massive enough to ignite nuclear fusion in their cores to shine like true stars.

Caroline Morley Receives Annie Jump Cannon Award

Caroline Morley Receives Annie Jump Cannon Award

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has awarded Caroline Morley, assistant professor of astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin, its 2020 Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy for outstanding research and promise for future research by a postdoctoral woman researcher within five years of earning her PhD.

Texas Astronomer Helps NASA Planet Hunter Find its First Earth-Sized, Habitable-Zone World

Texas Astronomer Helps NASA Planet Hunter Find its First Earth-Sized, Habitable-Zone World

Artist illustration of TOI 700 d, the first Earth-size habitable-zone world discovered by TESS. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered its first Earth-size planet in its star's habitable zone, the range of distances where conditions may be just right to allow the presence of liquid water on the surface. A team of scientists, including Andrew Vanderburg of The University of Texas at Austin, confirmed the find, called TOI 700 d, using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and have modeled the planet's potential environments to help inform future observations.

Twin Astronomer Probes ‘DNA’ of Twin Stars to Reveal Family History of Milky Way

Twin Astronomer Probes ‘DNA’ of Twin Stars to Reveal Family History of Milky Way

Astronomer Keith Hawkins (left), an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin, is pictured with twin brother Kevin Hawkins. Credit: Rob Hardin

Twin stars appear to share chemical "DNA" that could help scientists map the history of the Milky Way galaxy, according to new research by astronomer Keith Hawkins of The University of Texas at Austin accepted for publication in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

UT Austin Astronomer Spies Most Distant Dusty Galaxy Hidden in Plain Sight

UT Austin Astronomer Spies Most Distant Dusty Galaxy Hidden in Plain Sight

Artist impression of what MAMBO-9 would look like in visible light. The galaxy is very dusty and it has yet to build most of its stars. Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF, B. Saxton.

Astronomer Caitlin Casey of The University of Texas at Austin has used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to spot the light of a massive galaxy seen just 970 million years after the Big Bang. This galaxy, called MAMBO-9, is the most distant dusty star-forming galaxy that has ever been observed without the help of a gravitational lens.

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Giant Magellan Telescope Signs Contract for Telescope Structure

Giant Magellan Telescope Signs Contract for Telescope Structure

The latest design of the GMT enclosure, telescope and site at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile . Credit: M3 Engineering and GMTO Corporation.

GMTO Corporation, the organization managing the development of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) on behalf of its U.S. and international founders, has signed a contract with MT Mechatronics and Ingersoll Machine Tools to design, build and install the telescope's precision steel structure.