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From the College of Natural Sciences
Weizmann Institute of Science Joins Giant Magellan Telescope Project

Weizmann Institute of Science Joins Giant Magellan Telescope Project

Giant Magellan Telescope primary mirror segment with people in silhouette. Credit: Damien Jemison, Giant Magellan Telescope - GMTO Corporation.

The University of Texas at Austin and other co-founders of the Giant Magellan Telescope project welcomed the Weizmann Institute of Science into their international consortium on September 14.

Astronomy Educator Receives Dads’ Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship

Astronomy Educator Receives Dads’ Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship

Keely Finkelstein of the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin has been chosen to hold an endowed Dads' Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship for 2021-2022. The fellowships recognize faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in teaching and made significant contributions to undergraduate education at UT Austin.

Graduating Senior Finds Passions in Exoplanets and Outreach

Graduating Senior Finds Passions in Exoplanets and Outreach

When Zoe de Beurs arrived at UT Austin, she wasn't sure of what she wanted to do. Now, at the end of her fifth year, she's graduating from the Dean's Scholars honors program as a physics, astronomy and math triple major with an African and African Diaspora Studies minor.

Astronomers Disprove Planet Orbiting Nearby Barnard’s Star

Astronomers Disprove Planet Orbiting Nearby Barnard’s Star

Astronomers are announcing today that they have disproved a 2018-announced planet orbiting Barnard's Star, the second-closest star to our Sun. The findings, based on observations with the Habitable Zone Planet Finder (HPF) instrument on the 10-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory, have been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

You Can Help Decode the Universe!

You Can Help Decode the Universe!

Would you like to help astronomers understand more about the universe? McDonald Observatory astronomers are trying to learn more about dark energy — the mysterious force causing the universe to expand faster and faster over time. And now there is a fun and easy way anyone can help with their research, using a smartphone or computer.

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.

Two Postdocs Receive Fellowships to Study Extrasolar Planets

Two Postdocs Receive Fellowships to Study Extrasolar Planets

Two UT Austin postdoctoral scientists, Brianna Lacy and Yifan Zhou, have received the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship from the Heising-Simons Foundation, which will provide them with support for research focused on planets that orbit a star outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. Zhou is supervised by Brendan Bowler, an assistant professor of astronomy, and Lacy will be supervised by Caroline Morley, also an assistant professor of astronomy.

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.

Four Natural Sciences Faculty Receive Sloan Research Fellowships

Four Natural Sciences Faculty Receive Sloan Research Fellowships

​​Four faculty members from the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences have received 2021 Sloan Research Fellowships, which honor outstanding early-career scientists in eight fields.

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.

Black Hole Swan Songs

Black Hole Swan Songs

Simulation of light emitted by a pair of supermassive black holes spiraling inward, viewed from above the plane of the disk. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

When scientists first detected gravitational waves, from the violent collision of two black holes 1.3 billion years in the past, the ripples in space-time made a distinctive chirp, followed by a signal like a ringing bell. (The signals actually had to be converted into frequencies we can hear.) Since that first detection in 2015, every black hole collision has sounded pretty much the same. But according to a new study based on computer simulations, black holes actually sing a more elaborate swan song.

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