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. 

The Extraterrestrial Next Door

Nov 29, 2018
Search for life beyond Earth

Researchers Sukrit Ranjan, Morgan Cable and Andrew Steele discuss new signs of chemistry favorable to life at Mars, Europa, and Enceladus—plus how to probe for its presence with interplanetary missions.

2018 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics: A Conversation with Ewine van Dishoeck

Sep 10, 2018
Astrochemistry

From serendipitous camping trips to forging international consensus on big-budget observatories, the 2018 Kavli Prize laureate Ewine van Dishoeck discusses her personal and professional journey into the field of astrochemistry.

Planets Aplenty with the TESS Mission: An Interview with the Director of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

Apr 23, 2018
Jacqueline Hewitt and TESS

In this Kavli Q&A, astrophysicist Jacqueline Hewitt, director of the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, discusses how the TESS exoplanet mission has already changed the Institute and will bring about further evolution in the years to come.

To Seek Out New Life: How the TESS Mission Will Accelerate the Hunt for Livable Alien Worlds

Apr 18, 2018
TESS

The just-launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) could soon provide the breakthrough identification of dozens of potentially habitable exoplanets right in our cosmic backyard. Two TESS scientists—Greg Berthiaume and Diana Dragomir—provide an inside look at the mission's development and revolutionary science. ​

A "Living Dead" Star that Could Shed Light on the Early Universe

Feb 16, 2018
Supernova

A newfound star in a nearby galaxy appears to have cheated death by exploding at least twice as a supernova. It could be a throwback to the first stars that ever formed in the cosmos. We spoke to three astrophysicists—Iair Arcavi, Emily Levesque and Lars Bildsten—about this "living dead' star.

New Map of Dark Matter Puts the Big Bang Theory on Trial

Oct 26, 2017
Cero Tololo Inter-American Observatory

The prevailing view of the universe has just passed a rigorous new test, but the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy remain frustratingly unsolved. Three astrophysicists—Scott Dodelson, Risa Wechsler and George Efstathiou—discuss the implications. 

Extreme Astrophysics: Life at the World’s Remotest Telescopes

Aug 25, 2017
Astrophysicist Amy Bender at the South Pole Telescope

From oxygen-thin mountain tops to barren deserts to the South Pole, many of the world’s most powerful telescopes are in distant, inhospitable environments. Three researchers—Amy Bender, Naoyuki Tamura and John Richer—share their adventures pursuing science at the farthest corners of the world. 

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.

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