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

Texas Astronomers Lead Early Studies with $8B Webb Telescope

AUSTIN, Texas — 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.

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Next Generation Astronomical Survey to Map the Entire Sky

Next Generation Survey to Map the Entire Sky

Pasadena, Calif. — The next generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-V), directed by Juna Kollmeier of the Carnegie Institution for Science, will move forward with mapping the entire sky following a $16 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The grant will kickstart a groundbreaking all-sky spectroscopic survey for a next wave of discovery, anticipated to start in 2020.

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Hubble Spots Expanding Light Echo Around a Supernova

Hubble Spots Expanding Light Echo Around a Supernova

Voices reverberating off mountains and the sound of footsteps bouncing off walls are examples of an echo. Echoes happen when sound waves ricochet off surfaces and return to the listener.

Space has its own version of an echo. It’s not made with sound but with light, and occurs when light bounces off dust clouds.

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

Casting the Fifth Mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope

TUCSON, Ariz. — 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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Astronomers Detect Comets Outside our Solar System

Astronomers Detect Comets Outside our Solar System

AUSTIN — Astronomers from The University of Texas at Austin, working with scientists from other institutions and amateur astronomers, have spotted the dusty tails of six exocomets — comets outside our solar system — orbiting a faint star 800 light years from Earth.

These cosmic balls of ice and dust, which were about the size of Halley’s comet and traveled about 100,000 miles per hour before they ultimately vaporized, are some of the smallest objects yet found outside our own solar system.

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Astronomers Solve Mystery of Formation of First Supermassive Black Holes

Solving the Mystery of the First Supermassive Black Holes

AUSTIN — 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 Shingo Hirano of The University of Texas at Austin's Department of Astronomy.

“This is significant progress. The origin of the monstrous black holes has been a long-standing mystery and now we have a solution to it,” Hirano said.

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