Famous Red Star Betelgeuse is Spinning Faster than Expected; May Have Swallowed a Companion 100,000 Years Ago

Betelgeuse Spins Too Fast; May Have Swallowed Companion in Past

AUSTIN — 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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Walter E. Massey and Taft Armandroff Selected to Lead Giant Magellan Telescope Board of Directors

Massey, Armandroff to Lead GMT Board

Pasadena, Calif. — The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) today announced the appointment of Walter E. Massey, PhD, and Taft Armandroff, PhD, to the positions of Board Chair and Vice Chair, respectively.

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Astronomers Discover Rocky Planet Orbiting Nearest Star, Proxima Centauri

Nearest Star, Proxima Centauri, Has a Planet

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

AUSTIN — 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. They showed that a recently discovered unusual source of intense radiation is likely powered by a “direct-collapse black hole,” a type of object predicted by theorists more than a decade ago. Their work is published today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Texas Astronomer Finds Young 'Super-Neptune,' New Planet Offers Clues to the Origin of Close-in Exoplanets

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

AUSTIN — 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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Brendan Bowler Wins Hubble Fellowship

Brendan Bowler Wins Hubble Fellowship

by Rebecca Johnson

AUSTIN — Astronomer Brendan Bowler of The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a competitive Hubble Fellowship from NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), science center for the Hubble Space Telescope.

“I congratulate Brendan Bowler on winning one of the most prestigious fellowships in astronomy to continue his work at McDonald Observatory," said Taft Armandroff, the observatory’s director.

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CosmoQuest Partners, Including McDonald Observatory, Share $11.5 Million to Expand Astronomy Outreach Programs

CosmoQuest Receives $11.5 Million for Astronomy Outreach Program

The CosmoQuest virtual research facility has been awarded an $11.5 million NASA grant to continue working with the public to explore the universe. The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory is partnering with CosmoQuest on the project.

Newly Discovered Planet in the Hyades Cluster Could Shed Light on Planetary Evolution

Newly discovered Hyades planet has potential

by Rebecca Johnson

AUSTIN — University of Texas at Austin astronomer Andrew Mann and colleagues have discovered a planet in a nearby star cluster which could help astronomers better understand how planets form and evolve. The discovery of planet K2-25b used both the Kepler space telescope and the university’s McDonald Observatory, and is published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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