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. 

Turning Data Into Wild Rides Through Dark Domes

Jul 27, 2011

From their seats in the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, visitors swoop through a redwood forest, into a single redwood leaf and finally into an individual cell to watch photosynthesis take place. Then they travel back billions of years to watch the first stars wink on, heat up and explode, scattering into space many of life’s essential chemical elements.

Exoplanets: How the Milky Way is Surprising Scientists

Jul 21, 2011
Exoplanets

Three prominent researchers discuss how recent findings from the Kepler mission are deepening our understanding of planets beyond our solar system, and expanding our view of where life may exist in the Milky Way Galaxy.

The Hunt for Dark Matter in the Universe

Jun 02, 2011
Juan Collar

A dark matter detector about 700 meters below the ground in a Minnesota mine has recorded a seasonal modulation in staggeringly faint electrical pulses – the possible result of dark matter particles called WIMPs that envelope the Milky Way galaxy and collide with atoms in the detector’s germanium crystal. The head of the research team, KICP's Juan Collar, discusses the meaning of the results.

Nano Meets Astro: A Dialogue with MacArthur Recipients Michal Lipson and Nergis Mavalvala

Jan 02, 2011

A conversation with Michal Lipson of Cornell University and Nergis Mavalvala of MIT, 2010 MacArthur Fellowship winners, on the intersections between nanoscience and astrophysics.

In Search of Another Earth

Dec 27, 2010
Artist's rendition of Kepler spacecraft.

In a three-part series, MIT News explored MIT researchers’ roles in the quest to find an Earth twin and the effort to make sense of the 500 exoplanets that have been discovered since 1995.

A New Job For Telescopes - Making Solar Energy

Dec 21, 2010

J. Roger Angel is one of the three 2010 Kavli Prize Laureates in Astrophysics who share the prize for their respective innovations in the field of telescope design -- allowing us to glimpse ever more distant and ancient objects and events in the remote corners of the Universe.

ASTRO 2010: Charting the Next Decade in Astronomy

Aug 27, 2010
Chicago
Stanford

Following the release of the National Research Council's Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey, survey chairman Roger Blandford and committee member Michael Turner discuss Astro2010, as well as the current and future directions of the fields.

The Future of Computing, from Extreme to Green

Aug 18, 2010

In September, 2010, leading scientists across several disciplines will gather for the next Kavli Futures Symposium to discuss what science needs from computing. In advance of this meeting, four of the participants discuss those needs, how current computing advances are impacting research, and how the future of computing is not only looking extreme and green, but is moving closer to how the brain computes.

Primordial Portrait of the Universe

Jul 14, 2010
Planck space telescope

Central to the science of cosmology is the zeal to build better time machines. These are not designed literally to travel to the distant past, of course, but to get a better look at it. The latest of these is the Planck Surveyor satellite. 

Wonder as a Motivator

May 20, 2010

In a special essay, KIPAC Director Roger Blandford discusses how wonder and curiosity has inspired his own life, and serves as a creative force to both science and the humanities.

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