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From the College of Natural Sciences
Science Faculty Featured in Newspaper’s Black in Academia Series

Science Faculty Featured in Newspaper’s Black in Academia Series

Over the summer, five faculty members in the College of Natural Sciences were spotlighted in a series by the Austin American-Statesman called Black in Academia. The purpose of the series was to explore the scientific research done by Black scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, as well as highlight the challenges they face in the academic world.

Major NSF Grant Accelerates Development for the Giant Magellan Telescope

Major NSF Grant Accelerates Development for the Giant Magellan Telescope

The GMTO Corporation has received a $17.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to accelerate the prototyping and testing of some of the most powerful optical and infrared technologies ever engineered. These crucial advancements for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), of which The University of Texas at Austin is a founding partner, will allow astronomers to see farther into space with more detail than any other optical telescope before.

Planet Hugging a White Dwarf May Be a Survivor of Star’s Death Throes

Planet Hugging a White Dwarf May Be a Survivor of Star’s Death Throes

In this illustration, WD 1856 b, a potential Jupiter-size planet, orbits its dim white dwarf star every day and a half. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

An international team of astronomers has used NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and retired Spitzer Space Telescope to discover what may be the first intact planet found closely orbiting a white dwarf, the dense leftover of a sun-like star only 40% larger than Earth. The work, led by Andrew Vanderburg of The University of Texas at Austin, included follow-up observations with the 10-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the university's McDonald Observatory.

McDonald Observatory Will Reopen to the Public Aug. 28

McDonald Observatory Will Reopen to the Public Aug. 28

Aerial view of McDonald Observatory. Photo credit: Damond Benningfield.

The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory is planning to reopen to the public, in a limited fashion, on Friday, Aug. 28. Beginning with a star party that night, the observatory's Frank N. Bash Visitors Center will begin holding public programs again.

A Young Sub-Neptune-sized Planet Sheds Light onto How Planets Form and Evolve

A Young Sub-Neptune-sized Planet Sheds Light onto How Planets Form and Evolve

New detailed observations from the Habitable Zone Planet Finder on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, as well as NSF’s NOIRLab facilities, reveal a young exoplanet, orbiting a young star in the Hyades cluster, that is unusually dense for its size and age. Slightly smaller than Neptune, K2-25b orbits an M-dwarf star — the most common type of star in the galaxy — every 3.5 days. Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. Pollard

A team of astronomers including McDonald Observatory's Bill Cochran have made a detailed study of a young planet slightly smaller than Neptune with the Habitable-zone Planet Finder at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory. They characterized the planet's mass, radius, and the tilt of its orbit. This work provides insight into how such planets form and evolve, and has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

The Universe Doesn’t Stop for the Pandemic

The Universe Doesn’t Stop for the Pandemic

Hobby-Eberly Telescope stands a silent sentinel at McDonald Observatory.

Under one of the darkest skies in the world, in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, a telescope operator at the McDonald Observatory walks alone under the bright stars toward the massive Hobby-Eberly Telescope. Sitting inside the dome and communicating over the internet with their counterparts back in Austin, astronomers punch coordinates into the control panel and guide the huge telescope as it probes distant galaxies and black holes.

Studying Radioactive Aluminum in Solar Systems Unlocks Formation Secrets

Studying Radioactive Aluminum in Solar Systems Unlocks Formation Secrets

This artist's concept illustrates a solar system that is a much younger version of our own. Dusty disks, like the one shown here circling the star, are thought to be the breeding grounds of planets, including rocky ones like Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An international team of astronomers including Stella Offner of The University of Texas at Austin has proposed a new method for the formation of aluminum-26 in star systems that are forming planets. Because its radioactive decay is thought to provide a heat source for the building blocks of planets, called planetesimals, it's important for astronomers to know where aluminum-26 comes from. Their research is published in the current issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

A Commitment to Inclusion in Texas Mathematics and Science

A Commitment to Inclusion in Texas Mathematics and Science

​Dean Goldbart sent a message to the community after Interim President Jay Hartzell announced that the building once named for R.L. Moore would be renamed and that Painter Hall would soon have a new Heman M. Sweatt entrance.

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.

The Next 50 Years: Anybody Out There? (Audio)

The Next 50 Years: Anybody Out There? (Audio)

In these next few decades, will humans finally find life in space? We asked University of Texas at Austin astronomer Caroline Morley and her answer just might surprise you. Morley shares her vision for the future in this latest episode of our miniseries, The Next 50 Years.