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Kavli Institute

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The Boston Globe

Researchers at MIT have discovered 18 supermassive black holes that “are tearing apart nearby stars in ‘oddball’ tidal disruption events,” reports Ava Berger for The Boston Globe. Graduate student Megan Masterson says, “the events are powerful tools to understand the most extreme parts of our universe. They happen about once every 50,000 years, and help scientists learn more about the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and black holes in general.”

Newsweek

MIT researchers have discovered 18 new tidal disruption events (TDEs), “which are huge bursts of energy released as a star is shredded by a black hole,” reports Jess Thomson for Newsweek. “These new discoveries have also helped scientists learn more about what TDEs really are and where they occur,” explains Thomson. “The previous stock of TDEs had only been found in a rare form of galaxy known as a ‘post-starburst’ system, which once created a number of stars but has since stopped.”

Newsweek

MIT researchers have discovered that “stars at the edge of our home galaxy appear to be moving more slowly than expected,” reports Jess Thomson. This discovery “implies that the galaxy itself may be structured differently from how scientists first thought, with the core of the Milky Way possibly containing less dark matter and, therefore, being lighter in mass than first assumed,” explains Thomson.

Forbes

Forbes contributor Jamie Carter spotlights a new study co-authored by MIT scientists that suggests, “the absence of carbon dioxide in a rocky planet’s atmosphere—relative to others in the same star system—may indicate the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface.”

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter George Dvorsky spotlights the Venus Life Finder mission, developed by researchers from MIT and Rocket Lab, which will be launching no earlier than December 2024. “The mission will send a small probe, equipped with a single science instrument, to analyze organic molecules and potential signs of life in the Venusian atmosphere,” writes Dvorsky.

Quanta Magazine

Using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), astronomers at MIT and elsewhere have discovered that the young cosmos hosted a large number of tempestuous galaxies with large black holes at their cores, reports Charlie Wood for Quanta Magazine. “The exact numbers and the details of each object remain uncertain, but it’s very convincing that we’re finding a large population of accreting black holes,” says Prof. Anna-Christina Eilers. “JWST has revealed them for the first time, and that’s very exciting.”

Science News

Science News reporter James Riordon writes that by employing a new technology called frequency-dependent squeezing, LIGO detectors should now be able to identify about 60 more mergers between massive objects like black holes and neutron stars than before the upgrade. Senior research scientist Lisa Barsotti, who oversaw the development of this new technology, notes that even next-generation gravitational wave detectors will be able to benefit from quantum squeezing. “The beauty is you can do both. You can push the limit of what is possible from the technology of laser power and mirror [design],” Barsotti explains, “and then do squeezing on top of that.”

Curiosity Stream

MIT researchers Lisa Barsotti, Deep Chatterjee and Victoria Xu speak with Curiosity Stream about how developments in gravitational wave detection are enabling a better understanding of the universe. Barsotti notes that in the future, gravitational wave science should help enable us to, “learn more about dark matter about primordial black holds to try to solve some of the biggest mysteries in our universe.” Xu notes, “the detection of gravitational waves is a completely new window that has opened into our universe.”

Forbes

MIT researchers are leading three missions over the next decade to characterize Venus’ atmosphere for habitability, reports Bruce Dorminey for Forbes. “Understanding Venus is key to understanding exo-earths,” writes Dorminey.

Scientific American

Prof. Tracy Slatyer and Prof. Janet Conrad speak with Scientific American reporter Clara Moskowitz about their favorite discoveries in the field of physics. Slatyer notes that “the accelerating expansion of the universe has to be a strong contender.” For Conrad, “I think my favorite event in physics was the prediction of the existence of the neutrino [a subatomic particle with no charge and very little mass] because so much of our fundamental approach to physics today grew out of that moment.”

Scientific American

Postdoc Josh Borrow and his colleagues used simulations to explore how early-universe galaxies born inside alternative dark matter halos start out, and what happens as they grow, reports Lyndie Chiou for Scientific American. “The simulations also revealed a new discovery: a connection between alternative dark matter types and starbursts, periods of extremely rapid star formation inside a galaxy.”

Nature

Prof. Nergis Mavalvala, dean of the MIT School of Science, and postdoc Victoria Xu speak with Nature reporter Davide Castelvecchi about the upgrades to the LIGO gravitational wave detectors that have significantly increased their sensitivity. “The improvements should allow the facility to pick up signals of colliding black holes every two to three days, compared with once a week or so during its previous run." 

The Conversation

Upgrades made to the LIGO gravitational wave detectors “will significantly boost the sensitivity of LIGO and should allow the facility to observe more-distant objects that produce smaller ripples in spacetime,” writes Pennsylvania State University Prof. Chad Hanna in a piece for The Conversation.

Scientific American

Using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), postdoc Rohan Naidu and his colleagues will be using a giant cluster of galaxies to “gravitationally magnify the light of some smaller objects up to 750 million years after the big bang,” reports Jonathan O’Callaghan for Scientific American. “The goal is to look for clumps of primordial gas, which could contain clusters of Population III stars—the first stellar generation thought to have lit up the universe,” writes O’Callaghan.

Mashable

Astronomers from MIT and elsewhere have become the first to witness a star consume an entire planet, reports Elisha Sauers for Mashable. “The new study confirms that when a sun-like star nears the end of its life, it expands into a red giant, 100 to 1,000 times its original size, eventually overtaking nearby planets,” explains Sauers. “Such events are thought to be rare, occurring only a few times each year throughout the galaxy.”