Astrophysics

The infant universeAn all-sky picture of the infant universe revealing 13.77 billion-year-old temperature fluctuations (shown as color differences) that correspond to the seeds that grew to become the galaxies. (Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team)

Astrophysics is a branch of astronomy that explores the physical properties of the cosmos and its composition. Astrophysicists study a broad range of topics, from the tiniest particles of matter and the forces that join them together to the grandest of celestial structures. In essence, astrophysics extends the workings of physics and chemistry that we experience directly here on Earth into the vastness of space. It is both an observational and theoretical science. To probe the universe's past, present and future, astrophysicists have built some of the most complex and precise machines in the world, including terrestrial and space-based telescopes tuned to various wavelengths. The continued seeking of new discoveries is constantly pushing the limits of telescope and model-building technology. 

Did a Starry “Mosh Pit” Spawn LIGO’s Gravitational Waves?

May 29, 2017
Globular cluster

Much to their surprise, scientists are finding dozens of black holes deep within densely packed collections of stars called globular clusters. We spoke to three astrophysicists—Rainer Spurzem, Carl Rodriguez and Jay Strayder—who are using a record-breaking computer simulation, and other methods, to learn the clusters’ secrets, including whether they gave rise to recently observed ripples in space-time. 

Will a New Discovery Fast-track Our Understanding of the Origins of Galaxies and Gargantuan Black Holes?

Mar 07, 2017
Telescope

The Kavli Foundation spoke with three astrophysicists—Roberto Maiolino, Linhua Jiang and Marta Volonteri—about how a record haul of new, ultra-distant quasars will transform what we know about the early universe.

Why Dead Galaxies ‘Rest in Peace,’ Never to Form Stars Again

Sep 15, 2016
Red geyser galaxy

Scientists are discovering how powerful eruptions from monster black holes ensure dead galaxies cannot resurrect and make new stars. In a roundtable discussion, astrophysicists Edmond Cheung, Kevin Bundy and Christy Tremonti explain.

Spotlight Live: Coming Face to Face with an Asteroid

Sep 07, 2016
OSIRIS-REx

On September 27, scientists Richard Binzel, Beth Ellen Clark and Bashar Rizk discussed NASA's newly launched OSIRIS-REx asteroid-sampling mission and what it could reveal about life and death in the Solar System.    

2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics: A Discussion with Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss

Aug 15, 2016
Two black holes merging

Two winners of the 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics, Kip S. Thorne and Rainer Weiss, discuss the impact of discovering gravitational waves with the enormous detector they spent more than 40 years developing.

Galactic 'Gold Mine' Explains the Origin of Nature's Heaviest Elements

May 10, 2016
Neutron star collision

Three astrophysicists—Anna Frebel, Alexander Ji and Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz—discuss the answer to a 60-year-old cosmic mystery: the origin of some of the most precious elements in the universe.

The Origin of Worlds: Astrophysicists Zero in on How Planets Form

Feb 24, 2016
Exoplanet

Three planetary formation experts — Kate Follette, Bruce Macintosh and Ruth Murray-Clay — joined a roundtable discussion on new ways of studying how planets form and whether they can explain the rise of our Solar System.

Ripple Effect: Gravitational Waves Begin to Reveal a Hidden Universe

Feb 11, 2016
A visualization of a supercomputer simulation of merging black holes sending out gravitational waves. (Credit: NASA/C. Henze)

Three principal researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)—Nergis Mavalvala, Rainer Weiss and Matthew Evans—reflect on the epic discovery of gravitational waves and how it will transform the way we see the cosmos.

Crowdsourcing the Universe: How Citizen Scientists are Driving Discovery

Jan 13, 2016
Gravitational lenses

Legions of volunteer, 'citizen scientists' are training their eyes on the sky and sharing in the thrill of discovery. In this Kavli roundtable, Citizen science leader Chris Lintott joins Anupreeta More and Aprajita Verma of the Space Warps project to discuss the exciting endeavor.

Getting Up Close and Personal with an Earth-Sized Exoplanet

Nov 09, 2015
Transiting exoplanet

A newfound alien world orbiting a small, nearby star could be one of the first exoplanets scientists get to investigate in detail. Two of the astronomers who made the discovery—MKI's Zachory Berta-Thompson and Elisabeth Newton–discuss what they might encounter there with Rory Barnes from the University of Washington.

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