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From the College of Natural Sciences
Excavation Begins on Giant Magellan Telescope Site in Chile

Excavation Begins on Giant Magellan Telescope Site in Chile

Hard rock excavation has begun for the Giant Magellan Telescope's massive concrete pier and the foundations for the telescope's enclosure at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. More than 13,000 tons of rock will be removed. Credit: GMTO Corporation

The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory today shared in announcing the start of hard rock excavation for the Giant Magellan Telescope's (GMT's) massive concrete pier and the foundations for the telescope's enclosure on its site at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. McDonald Observatory is a founding partner of the international collaboration building the GMT, which will be the world's largest telescope when completed in the next decade.

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McDonald Observatory, Oil and Gas Orgs Collaborate to Protect Night Skies

McDonald Observatory, Oil and Gas Orgs Collaborate to Protect Night Skies

Star trails swirl around Polaris, the North Star, above the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory. Credit: Ethan Tweedie Photography

The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory has collaborated with the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA) and the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) to reduce light shining into the sky from drilling rigs and related activities in West Texas. The excess light has the potential to drown out the light from stars and galaxies, and threatens to reduce the effectiveness of the observatory's research telescopes to study the mysteries of the universe.

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Gravitational Wave Event Likely Signaled Creation of a Black Hole

Gravitational Wave Event Likely Signaled Creation of a Black Hole

The merger of two neutron stars (top) that generated gravitational waves, announced in fall 2017, likely did something else: birthed a black hole. This newly spawned black hole would be the lowest mass black hole ever found. X-rays from the resulting object a couple of weeks after the merger (bottom left) and more than three months later (bottom right), suggest the object is not a neutron star, but rather a black hole. Illustration credit: CXC/M. Weiss. X-ray image credit: NASA/CXC/Trinity University/D. Pooley et al.

The spectacular merger of two neutron stars that generated gravitational waves announced last fall likely did something else: birthed a black hole, according to a team of researchers including Pawan Kumar and J. Craig Wheeler of The University of Texas at Austin. This newly spawned black hole would be the lowest mass black hole ever found.

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Planet Probes, All the Rage Now, Have Deep Roots at UT Austin

Planet Probes, All the Rage Now, Have Deep Roots at UT Austin

Photo courtesy of NASA.

2018 may go down in science history as the Year of Super Planetary Research.

Creating Star Stuff on Earth is the Aim of New $7 Million Project

Creating Star Stuff on Earth is the Aim of New $7 Million Project

To re-create the surface of a white dwarf star, UT Austin astronomer Don Winget and colleagues use the Z-machine, which converts the amount of electricity needed to power a few TV sets for the evening into a burst of energy greater than that produced by all the power plants in the world. The result: a tiny chunk of a star. Photo by Randy Montoya. Courtesy of Sandia National Labs.

Astrophysicists will conduct experiments designed to re-create the physical environment inside stars, with a new $7 million grant that the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) has awarded to The University of Texas at Austin. This work could help astronomers reduce uncertainties about the sizes and ages of super-dense objects known as white dwarf stars.

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Two Postdocs Receive Fellowships to Study Extrasolar Planets

Two Postdocs Receive Fellowships to Study Extrasolar Planets

Two postdoctoral fellows in the Department of Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin have received the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Texas’ Caitlin Casey Receives 2018 Pierce Prize from American Astronomical Society

Texas’ Caitlin Casey Receives 2018 Pierce Prize from American Astronomical Society

Dr. Caitlin Casey of The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize by the American Astronomical Society today at its semi-annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The organization awards the prize each year for "outstanding early-career achievement in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from an astronomical object."

Discovery of New Planet Reveals Distant Solar System to Rival Our Own

Discovery of New Planet Reveals Distant Solar System to Rival Our Own

With the discovery of an eighth planet, the Kepler-90 system is the first to tie with our solar system in number of planets. (Click to expand) Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel.

The discovery of an eighth planet circling the distant star Kepler-90 by University of Texas at Austin astronomer Andrew Vanderburg and Google's Christopher Shallue overturns our solar system's status as having the highest number of known planets. We're now in a tie.

Texas Astronomers Will Lead Early Studies with $8 Billion James Webb Space Telescope

Texas Astronomers Will Lead Early Studies with $8 Billion James Webb Space Telescope

A full-sized model of the James Webb Space Telescope is seen in Austin during the South by Southwest festival in 2013.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, the powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is expected to launch in 2019 after decades of development. Now the agency has announced the scientists who will use the $8 billion telescope first, testing its instruments to prove it's in good working order. Steven Finkelstein, an associate professor of astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin, leads one of the chosen Early Release Science projects as principal investigator.

UT Austin and Partners Cast Fifth Massive Mirror for Giant Magellan Telescope

UT Austin and Partners Cast Fifth Massive Mirror for Giant Magellan Telescope

The GMT mirror 5 mold filled with 17,500 kg of low expansion glass, ready for the lid of the furnace to be placed. (Credit: University of Arizona)

Today, The University of Texas at Austin and its partners in the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) are beginning to cast the fifth of seven mirrors that will form the heart of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). The mirror is being cast at The University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory, a facility known for creating the world's largest mirrors for astronomy. The 25-meter diameter GMT will be located in the Chilean Andes and will study planets around other stars and to look back to the time when the first galaxies formed.

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Trip to McDonald Observatory Inspires FRI Student

Trip to McDonald Observatory Inspires FRI Student

Rylee Ross, second from left, poses with other members of the White Dwarf Stars research stream in front of the 2.1m Otto Struve Telescope at the McDonald Observatory. Students used the telescope to make time series measurements of pulsating white dwarf stars.

This summer, Rylee Ross, a member of the White Dwarf Stars research stream of the Freshman Research Initiative and her lab-mates visited the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. Rylee is a second-year physics (space science option) major and the recipient of a 2017 FRI Summer Research Fellowship. After graduation, she hopes to attend graduate school in physics.

Eyewitness to a Cosmic Car Wreck (Audio)

Eyewitness to a Cosmic Car Wreck (Audio)

Astronomers have long been able to watch the universe's blockbuster special effects unfold in dazzling 3D Technicolor. But until now, it's been like watching a silent movie. Today that all changes. Scientists announced this morning that they have for the first time ever detected both light and gravitational waves from a massive explosion in space caused by the collision of two super-dense neutron stars. On today's show, we talk to astrophysicist Pawan Kumar about what this breakthrough means for his field.

New Telescope Coming Soon to McDonald Observatory

New Telescope Coming Soon to McDonald Observatory

FORT DAVIS, Texas — A new 1-meter telescope is coming to The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory in the next two years. The Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) global network is expanding, and will build a second 1-meter telescope at McDonald.

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Astronomers Solve Mystery of Formation of First Supermassive Black Holes

Astronomers Solve Mystery of Formation of First Supermassive Black Holes

Gas density distribution around the newborn protostar. The left-to-right supersonic gas motion results in the non-spherical, compressed density structure. (Credit: Shingo Hirano)

An international team of researchers has successfully used a supercomputer simulation to recreate the formation of a massive black hole from supersonic gas streams left over from the Big Bang. The study will be published tomorrow in the journal Science, in a paper led by astronomer Shingo Hirano of The University of Texas at Austin.

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Heart of an Exploded Star Observed in 3-D

Heart of an Exploded Star Observed in 3-D

Supernovas — the violent endings of the brief yet brilliant lives of massive stars — are among the most cataclysmic events in the cosmos. Though supernovas mark the death of stars, they also trigger the birth of new elements and the formation of new molecules. In February of 1987, astronomers witnessed one of these events unfold inside the Large Magellanic Cloud, a tiny dwarf galaxy located approximately 160,000 light-years from Earth.

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