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From the College of Natural Sciences
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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Astronomers Prove What Separates True Stars from Wannabes

Astronomers Prove What Separates True Stars from Wannabes

​Astronomer Trent Dupuy of The University of Texas at Austin has shown what separates true stars from wannabes. Not in Hollywood, but in the whole universe. He will present his research today in a news conference at the semi-annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin.

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Do Stars Fall Quietly into Black Holes, or Crash into Something Utterly Unknown?

Do Stars Fall Quietly into Black Holes, or Crash into Something Utterly Unknown?

This artist's impression shows a star crossing the event horizon of a supermassive black hole located in the center of a galaxy. Illustration credit: Mark A. Garlick/CfA.

Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University have put a basic principle of black holes to the test, showing that matter completely vanishes when pulled in. Their results constitute another successful test for Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

Upgraded Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dedicated, Enabling Dark Energy Survey and More

Upgraded Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dedicated, Enabling Dark Energy Survey and More

The world's third-largest telescope, the 10-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) located at McDonald Observatory in West Texas, has completed a multiyear $40 Million upgrade to enable it to take on the biggest challenges in astronomy today: unraveling the mystery of dark energy, probing distant galaxies and black holes, discovering and characterizing planets around other stars and much more. The HET Board is celebrating with a dedication ceremony today.

Astronomers Find Faintest Early Galaxies Yet, Probe How the Early Universe Lit Up

Astronomers Find Faintest Early Galaxies Yet, Probe How the Early Universe Lit Up

Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new technique to discover the faintest galaxies yet seen in the early universe —10 times fainter than any previously seen.

Discoveries with Ties to UT Austin Rank Among Top Scientific Findings of the Year

Discoveries with Ties to UT Austin Rank Among Top Scientific Findings of the Year

Simulation of black holes colliding. Credit: SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes

Two amazing scientific discoveries, both with ties to the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, were named the top 2 science stories of 2016 by Discover Magazine. Other major media outlets also included them in their year-end "best of" lists, including National Geographic, Science News, Science and the New York Times. A third story from the College of Liberal Arts and Jackson School of Geosciences, which solved the mystery of how the most famous human ancestor died, appears in Discover's top ten as well.

Betelgeuse May Have Swallowed Companion 100,000 Years Ago

Betelgeuse May Have Swallowed Companion 100,000 Years Ago

Astronomer J. Craig Wheeler of The University of Texas at Austin thinks that Betelgeuse, the bright red star marking the shoulder of Orion, the hunter, may have had a past that is more interesting than meets the eye. Working with an international group of undergraduate students, Wheeler has found evidence that the red supergiant star may have been born with a companion star, and later swallowed that star. The research is published today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Helping Students Promote Inclusion in Astrophysics

Helping Students Promote Inclusion in Astrophysics

Rolling up your sleeves and putting research to work is a big part of the Longhorn experience. Our students don't just learn about helping people. They are out there making these ideas a reality.

And they need your help.

The Last First Planetary Mission (Audio)

The Last First Planetary Mission (Audio)

​The New Horizons spacecraft brought humanity face to face with the last unexplored planet in our solar system: Pluto. What we're learning is amazing. But, time and again, the mission almost didn't happen. University of Texas at Austin alumnus Alan Stern describes the challenges, and the joys, of the last first mission to a planet.

Astronomers Discover Rocky Planet Orbiting Nearest Star, Proxima Centauri

Astronomers Discover Rocky Planet Orbiting Nearest Star, Proxima Centauri

An international team of astronomers including Michael Endl of The University of Texas at Austin have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun. The long-sought new world, called Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than Earth and is the closest known exoplanet to us — and may be the closest possible abode for life outside our solar system.

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A New Kind of Black Hole, Once a Theory, Now Firmly within Observers’ Sight

A New Kind of Black Hole, Once a Theory, Now Firmly within Observers’ Sight

Astronomers Aaron Smith and Volker Bromm of The University of Texas at Austin, working with Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, have discovered evidence for an unusual kind of black hole born extremely early in the universe. 

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Young 'Super-Neptune' Offers Clues to Origin of Close-in Exoplanets

Young 'Super-Neptune' Offers Clues to Origin of Close-in Exoplanets

A team of astronomers led by Andrew Mann of The University of Texas at Austin has confirmed the existence of a young planet, only 11 million years old, that orbits extremely close to its star (at 0.05 AU), with an orbital period of 5.4 days. Approximately five times the size of Earth, the new planet is a "super-Neptune" and the youngest such planet known. The discovery lends unique insights into the origin of planetary system architectures.

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