Department News

  • Closest, brightest supernova in decades is also a little weird

    February 27, 2014

    A supernova discovered by Alex Filippenko and his research team is causing scientists to ask new questions about exploding stars and how we currently understand the expanding universe. Full article found here.

  • Cosmic Census Finds Billions of Planets That Could Be Like Earth

    November 4, 2013

    "One out of every five sunlike stars in the galaxy has a planet the size of Earth circling it in the Goldilocks zone — not too hot, not too cold — where surface temperatures should be compatible with liquid water, according to a herculean three-year calculation based on data from the Kepler spacecraft by Erik Petigura, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Petigura’s analysis represents a major step toward the main goal of the Kepler mission, which was to measure what fraction of sunlike stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets. Sometimes called eta-Earth, it is an…

  • Astronomers answer key question: How common are habitable planets?

    November 4, 2013

    NASA’s Kepler space telescope, now crippled and its four-year mission at an end, nevertheless provided enough data to answer its main research question: How many of the 200 billion stars in our galaxy have potentially habitable planets? Based on a statistical analysis of all the Kepler observations, astronomers at UC Berkeley and University of Hawaii, Manoa now estimate that one in five stars like the sun have planets about the size of Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life. Full article can be found here.

  • Intelligent civilizations rarer than one in a million

    February 8, 2013

    "Scientists at UC Berkeley have now used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to look for intelligent radio signals from planets around 86 of these stars. While discovering no telltale signs of life, the researchers calculate that fewer than one in a million stars in the Milky Way Galaxy have planetary civilizations advanced enough to transmit beacons we could detect. “We didn’t find ET, but  we were able to use this statistical sample to, for the first time, put rather explicit limits on the presence of intelligent civilizations transmitting in the radio band where we searched,” said Andrew Siemion,…

  • Planet makes weird loops around dusty star

    January 13, 2013

    "Newly released NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of a vast debris disk encircling the nearby star Fomalhaut and a mysterious planet circling it may provide forensic evidence of a titanic planetary disruption in the system. Astronomers are surprised to find the debris belt is wider than previously known, spanning a section of space from 14 to nearly 20 billion miles from the star. Even more surprisingly, the latest Hubble images have allowed a team of astronomers to calculate the planet follows an unusual elliptical orbit that carries it on a potentially destructive path through the vast dust ring. The planet,…

  • Alex Filippenko Flies with the Blue Angels!

    October 12, 2012

    Faculty member Alex Filippenko took to the skies with the Blue Angels during this years fleet week; in a jet piloted by Navy Lt. Mark Tedrow, Filippenko took the opportunity to film lessons on gravity and force during his flight to enhance his popular Astronomy C10 course. You can find the full article here.

  • Kinematic SZ effect observation highlighted by Physics World

    July 15, 2012

    Nick Hand from the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues at the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) and the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) were named by Physics World as one of the top 10 breakthroughs in 2012 for being the first to detect the large-scale motion of galaxy clusters. The motions of distant galaxy clusters tell us much about how the universe formed and sheds light on the mysterious dark matter and dark energy. Some 40 years ago, the Russian physicists Rashid Sunyaev and Yakov Zel'dovich discovered that this motion could be observed by measuring a slight temperature shift in…

  • Record massive black holes discovered lurking in monster galaxies

    December 5, 2011

    "University of California, Berkeley, astronomers have discovered the largest black holes to date ‑- two monsters with masses equivalent to 10 billion suns that are threatening to consume anything, even light, within a region five times the size of our solar system. These black holes are at the centers of two galaxies more than 300 million light years from Earth, and may be the dark remnants of some of the very bright galaxies, called quasars, that populated the early universe. “In the early universe, there were lots of quasars or active galactic nuclei, and some were expected to be powered…

  • UC Berkeley Physics Professor and Former Berkeley Astronomy Miller Fellow Win Nobel Prize in Physics

    October 4, 2011

    "Saul Perlmutter, who led one of two teams that simultaneously discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe, has been awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, to be shared with two members of the rival team. Perlmutter, 52, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), led the Supernova Cosmology Project that, in 1998, discovered that galaxies are receding from one another faster now than they were billions of years ago. He will share the prize with Adam G. Riess, 41, of The Johns Hopkins University and…

  • ‘Supernova of a generation’ discovered by Berkeley scientists

    August 25, 2011

    "A supernova discovered yesterday is closer to Earth — approximately 21 million light-years away — than any other of its kind in a generation. Astronomers believe they caught the supernova within hours of its explosion, a rare feat made possible with a specialized survey telescope and state-of-the-art computational tools. The finding of such a supernova so early and so close has energized the astronomical community as they are scrambling to observe it with as many telescopes as possible, including the Hubble Space Telescope. Joshua Bloom, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, called it “the supernova of…