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From the College of Natural Sciences
How Black Holes Might Have Influenced the First Stars

How Black Holes Might Have Influenced the First Stars

Just milliseconds after the universe's Big Bang, chaos reigned. Atomic nuclei fused and broke apart in hot, frenzied motion. Incredibly strong pressure waves built up and squeezed matter so tightly together that black holes formed, which astrophysicists call primordial black holes.

An artist's concept illustrates merging black holes. Credit: LIGO/Caltech/MIT/R. Hurt (IPAC).
Stars Shed Light on Why Stellar Populations Are So Similar in Milky Way

Stars Shed Light on Why Stellar Populations Are So Similar in Milky Way

Mock narrowband observation of a simulated star-forming region where massive stars destroy their parent cloud. Credit: STARFORGE

Scientists have uncovered what sets the masses of stars, a mystery that has captivated astrophysicists for decades. Their answer? Stars, themselves.

Wide View of Early Universe Hints at Galaxy Among the Earliest Ever Detected

Wide View of Early Universe Hints at Galaxy Among the Earliest Ever Detected

Members of the CEERS collaboration explore the first wide, deep field image from the James Webb Space Telescope at the Texas Advanced Computing Center’s Visualization Lab on the UT Austin campus on July 21, 2022. Credit: Nolan Zunk/University of Texas at Austin.

Two new images from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope show what may be among the earliest galaxies ever observed. Both images include objects from more than 13 billion years ago, and one offers a much wider field of view than Webb's First Deep Field image, which was released amid great fanfare July 12. The images represent some of the first out of a major collaboration of astronomers and other academic researchers teaming with NASA and global partners to uncover new insights about the universe.

Investment from UT Austin, Other Partners Accelerates Construction of Giant Magellan Telescope

Investment from UT Austin, Other Partners Accelerates Construction of Giant Magellan Telescope

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) is a next-generation optical/infrared telescope being developed in northern Chile that will yield important discoveries on topics such as galaxies in the early universe and Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby stars.

Artists' concept of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Image credit: Giant Magellan Telescope - GMTO Corporation.
Worlds of Possibility: Gift Helps Unlock Secrets of the Universe

Worlds of Possibility: Gift Helps Unlock Secrets of the Universe

What starts here reveals the universe. A world-changing gift of $10 million from visionary philanthropist David Booth increases UT's access to the Giant Magellan Telescope, which will help students in the College of Natural Sciences peer far into the universe.

Supernova Reveals Secrets to Texas-led Team of Astronomers

Supernova Reveals Secrets to Texas-led Team of Astronomers

Schematic of Supernova 2014C

An international group of astronomers led by Benjamin Thomas of The University of Texas at Austin has used observations from the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) at the university's McDonald Observatory to unlock a puzzling mystery about a stellar explosion discovered several years ago and evolving even now. The results, published in today's issue of The Astrophysical Journal, will help astronomers better understand the process of how massive stars live and die.

McDonald Observatory Holds Dark Skies Festival April 29-30

McDonald Observatory Holds Dark Skies Festival April 29-30

Visitors in the amphitheater during a public star party at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. The Milky Way is clearly visible under the dark skies of McDonald Observatory. The streak at top center shows the path of an artificial satellite passing overhead. Credit: Ethan Tweedie Photography

FORT DAVIS, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory will hold its first Dark Skies Festival Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30. The festival will include daytime and evening events for the whole family, plus the debut of the new "Preserving Dark Skies" exhibit in the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. Both the exhibit and the festival are funded by Apache Corporation.

Two NASA Post-Doctoral Fellows Coming to UT Austin

Two NASA Post-Doctoral Fellows Coming to UT Austin

NASA has selected 24 new Fellows for its prestigious NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP), two of whom are heading to The University of Texas at Austin. The program enables outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue independent research in any area of NASA astrophysics, using theory, observations, simulations, experimentation or instrument development. Each fellowship provides the awardee up to three years of support at a university or research center of their choosing in the United States.

World’s Largest International Dark Sky Reserve Created by McDonald Observatory, Community Partners

World’s Largest International Dark Sky Reserve Created by McDonald Observatory, Community Partners

The Milky Way soars over the domes of McDonald Observatory's Mount Locke showcasing the region's dark skies. (Credit: Stephen Hummel/McDonald Observatory)

The world's largest International Dark Sky Reserve is coming to Texas and Mexico, thanks to a partnership between The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory, The Nature Conservancy, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and many others. The designation, granted by the IDA, recognizes the commitment of organizations, governments, businesses and residents in the region to maintaining dark skies. The move will benefit not only astronomical research, but also wildlife, ecology and tourism.

Astronomer Stella Offner Receives Delta Young Astronomer Lectureship Award

Astronomer Stella Offner Receives Delta Young Astronomer Lectureship Award

Astronomer Stella Offner of The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded the NCU-Delta Young Astronomer Lectureship Award by Taiwan's National Central University and the Delta Electronics Foundation.

Giant Magellan Telescope Awards Final Enclosure Design Contract

Giant Magellan Telescope Awards Final Enclosure Design Contract

Renowned engineering and architecture firm, IDOM, faces rigorous design requirements of the Giant Magellan Telescope’s enclosure to allow for unobstructed observations of the night sky. Credit: Giant Magellan Telescope – GMTO Corporation.

The partners of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) today announced they have awarded IDOM, a renowned engineering and architecture firm based in Spain, a contract to complete the telescope enclosure design by 2024. The award follows an extensive enclosure designer evaluation and selection process based on a detailed set of criteria involving design team experience, proposed approaches to specific design challenges, incorporation of safety management in the design process, and more. The University of Texas at Austin is a founding partner of the GMT.

Astronomer Brendan Bowler Receives 2022 Sloan Research Fellowship

Astronomer Brendan Bowler Receives 2022 Sloan Research Fellowship

Brendan Bowler, an assistant professor of astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences has been selected as a 2022 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Physics.

Bill Wren, Tireless Promoter of Dark Skies, Retires from McDonald Observatory

Bill Wren, Tireless Promoter of Dark Skies, Retires from McDonald Observatory

After more than three decades of sharing astronomy with the public and working to protect dark skies from light pollution, Bill Wren has retired from McDonald Observatory.

Probing the Secrets of Dead Stars and Planetary Remnants

Probing the Secrets of Dead Stars and Planetary Remnants

The dark silhouette of the 2.1-meter Otto Struve Telescope is backed by a colorful sunrise. Credit: Ethan Tweedie Photography

In the course of research for his Ph.D., Zach Vanderbosch spent nearly 300 nights studying the heavens from telescopes at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory. Later this month, he will receive his doctorate for his research into the dead stars known as white dwarfs, and the orbiting disks of debris made up of these stars' former planets.

Astronomers Discover Strangely Massive Black Hole in Milky Way Satellite Galaxy

Astronomers Discover Strangely Massive Black Hole in Milky Way Satellite Galaxy

McDonald Observatory astronomers have found that Leo I (inset), a tiny satellite galaxy of the Milky Way (main image), has a black hole nearly as massive as the Milky Way's. Leo I is 30 times smaller than the Milky Way. The result could signal changes in astronomers' understanding of galaxy evolution. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC; SDSS (inset)

Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory have discovered an unusually massive black hole at the heart of one of the Milky Way's dwarf satellite galaxies, called Leo I. Almost as massive as the black hole in our own galaxy, the finding could redefine our understanding of how all galaxies — the building blocks of the universe — evolve. The work is published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal.