Department News

  • Flash-in-the-pan supernovas explained

    March 27, 2018

    Most exploding stars flare brightly and then slowly fade over weeks to months, but an unusual group of supernovas noticed only in the last 10 years flare up and disappear within days. Thanks to the ability of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope to precisely measure starlight over long periods of time, astronomers now have a pretty good idea what these flash-in-the-pan supernovas are: exploding stars probably too dim to be detectable until the stellar matter ejected during the explosion collides with a shell of material puffed off years earlier by the star.

  • Amateur astronomer captures rare first light from massive exploding star

    February 21, 2018

    Thanks to lucky snapshots taken by an amateur astronomer in Argentina, scientists have obtained their first view of the initial burst of light from the explosion of a massive star. During tests of a new camera, Víctor Buso captured images of a distant galaxy before and after the supernova’s “shock breakout” – when a supersonic pressure wave from the exploding core of the star hits and heats gas at the star’s surface to a very high temperature, causing it to emit light and rapidly brighten.

  • Puzzling new supernova may be from star producing antimatter

    November 14, 2017

    An exploding star that continued to shine for nearly two years — unlike most supernovae, which fade after a few weeks — is puzzling astronomers and leading theorists, including UC Berkeley astrophysicist Daniel Kasen, to suggest that the event may be an example of a star so hot that it produces antimatter in its core. Stars would have to be very massive to get this hot, Kasen said, which is why most astronomers assumed they existed, if at all, only in the early years of the universe.

  • Selections Made for the JWST Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science Program

    November 13, 2017

    Following the recommendation of the Time Allocation Committee and a thorough technical review, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) Director Ken Sembach has selected 13 science programs for the JWST Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science Program (DD-ERS).

  • Astronomers strike cosmic gold

    October 16, 2017

    The first detection of gravitational waves from the cataclysmic merger of two neutron stars, and the observation of visible light in the aftermath of that merger, finally answer a long-standing question in astrophysics: Where do the heaviest elements, ranging from silver and other precious metals to uranium, come from?

  • #MeasureEarth: a world-wide experiment to determine whether Earth is flat or round

    September 18, 2017

    Former graduate student Lauren Weiss (now a postdoc at the University of Montreal) has created a public experiment called “Measure Earth," in which ordinary citizens can measure the curvature of Earth at noon on Oct 24th. Read further to see how you can participate this worldwide experiment! 

  • How to Safely View the Eclipse: Tips from Professor Alex Filippenko

    August 8, 2017

    Anyone planning to observe the eclipse should obtain a pair of certified eclipse glasses (see American Astronomical Society recommendations). While the glasses should be removed during the couple of minutes of totality, they must be worn when looking at the eclipse leading up to and following totality, or when viewing the partial eclipse from outside the zone of totality. The total solar eclipse – the first visible from the continental U.S. since 1979 – will traverse the entire country in a band about 70 miles wide, beginning the morning of Monday, Aug. 21, on the Oregon coast and ending 90 minutes later, in mid-afternoon, off the coast of South Carolina. Many millions of people along the path of totality are expected to watch as the moon eclipses the sun, while even more outside the path of totality will see a partial solar eclipse. 

  • New Storm Makes Surprise Appearance on Neptune

    August 2, 2017

    Extremely large, bright storm system caught on camera at W. M. Keck Observatory Maunakea, Hawaii – Striking images of a storm system nearly the size of Earth have astronomers doing a double-take after pinpointing its location near Neptune’s equator, a region where no bright cloud has ever been seen before.

  • Pioneering radio astronomer Harold Weaver dies at age 99

    May 3, 2017

    Harold Francis Weaver, a pioneer of radio astronomy who discovered the first microwave laser, or maser, in space, passed away peacefully in his Kensington, California, home on April 26 at the age of 99.

  • Astronomy Crowdfunding Soft Launch Starts Now!

    March 28, 2017

    Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk on the surface of Pluto, or fly by the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy? A group of scientists in the Department of Astronomy would like to help you find out!