UW News


February 7, 2019

All the data in the sky, alerted via UW eyes

An image of a galaxy.

The Zwicky Transient Facility, based at the Palomar Observatory, has identified over a thousand new objects and phenomena in the night sky, including more than 1,100 new supernovae and 50 near-Earth asteroids. University of Washington scientists are part of the ZTF team and led the development of the collaboration’s alert system, which informs science teams of possible new objects or changes to known objects in the sky.

January 30, 2019

UW-based group launches national challenge to recreate first moon landing — with drones and Lego robots

robot with lunar lander

A UW-based group is launching a national student challenge to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo moon landing.

January 10, 2019

Astronomers find signatures of a ‘messy’ star that made its companion go supernova

An image of a galaxy in outer space, with a bright supernova visible at its outer edge.

On Jan. 10 at the 2019 American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, an international team of astronomers announced that they have identified the type of companion star that made its partner in a binary system, a carbon-oxygen white dwarf star, explode. Through repeated observations of SN 2015cp, a supernova 545 million light years away, the team detected hydrogen-rich debris that the companion star had shed prior to the explosion.

January 8, 2019

Triangulum Galaxy shows stunning face in detailed Hubble portrait

An image of a nearby galaxy called M33.

As part of a University of Washington-led project, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has produced a stunningly detailed portrait of the Triangulum Galaxy, displaying a full spiral face aglow with the light of nearly 25 million individually resolved stars.

April 2, 2018

Earth’s stable temperature past suggests other planets could also sustain life

image of early Earth with thermometer and pH strip overlaid

Earth has had moderate temperatures throughout its early history, and neutral seawater acidity. This means other rocky planets could likely also maintain this equilibrium and allow life to evolve.

March 29, 2018

Stellar break-up likely behind ‘runaway’ star’s fast pace, researcher says

An image of a galaxy taken from Earth.

During a recent survey of supermassive stars, an international team of astronomers discovered a star that is in quite a hurry. As they report in a new paper, the team tracked one yellow supergiant star cruising along at about 300,000 miles per hour, a velocity that would get you from the Earth to the Moon in about 48 minutes.

January 24, 2018

A new ‘atmospheric disequilibrium’ could help detect life on other planets

illustration of telescope and planets

A University of Washington study has found a simple approach to look for life that might be more promising than just looking for oxygen.

November 30, 2017

Giant black hole pair photobombs Andromeda Galaxy


A cosmic photobomb found as a background object in images of the nearby Andromeda galaxy has revealed what could be the most tightly coupled pair of supermassive black holes ever seen.

November 14, 2017

With launch of new night sky survey, UW researchers ready for era of ‘big data’ astronomy


The first astronomers had a limited toolkit: their eyes. They could only observe those stars, planets and celestial events bright enough to pick up unassisted. But today’s astronomers use increasingly sensitive and sophisticated instruments to view and track a bevy of cosmic wonders, including objects and events that were too dim or distant for their…

October 16, 2017

UW researchers mark first detection of gravitational waves from collision of two neutron stars


For the first time, scientists have detected gravitational waves from the merger of two neutron stars.

July 24, 2017

Dark matter is likely ‘cold,’ not ‘fuzzy,’ scientists report after new simulations

the empty space between galaxies

Scientists have used data from the intergalactic medium — the vast, largely empty space between galaxies — to narrow down what dark matter could be.

February 12, 2016

Caught in the act: UW astronomers find a rare supernova ‘impostor’ in a nearby galaxy

The galaxy NGC 300

UW astronomers Breanna Binder and Ben Williams have identified a rare type of ‘supernova impostor’ in a nearby galaxy, with implications for how scientists look at the short, complex lives of massive stars.

February 11, 2016

Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein’s prediction

The LIGO facility in Hanford, Washington. Over 1,000 scientists from 15 countries make up the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

January 8, 2016

Quiet quasar has apparently eaten its fill

quasar and spectrum

Astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) announced that a distant quasar ran out of gas. Their conclusions, reported Jan. 8 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Kissimmee, Florida, clarify why quasar SDSS J1011+5442 changed so dramatically in the handful of years between observations.

July 23, 2015

UW astronomer, students report irregularities in ‘rare, exotic’ binary system

The galaxy NGC 300

UW astronomers were recently reminded that the diplomatic axiom to “trust, but verify” also applies to scientific inquiry when they analyzed fresh data from a distant galaxy. As they reported in July in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a puzzling stellar phenomenon may not be what other astronomers had reported. They studied…

January 8, 2014

Astronomers measure far-off galaxies to 1 percent precision

An artist's concept of the latest, highly accurate measurement of the universe from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey. The spheres show the current size of the "baryon acoustic oscillations" from the early universe, which now can be used as a "standard ruler" (white line) to measure the distances to all the galaxies in the universe.

University of Washington astronomers and colleagues have measured the distance to galaxies six billion light-years away — about halfway back to the Big Bang — to an accuracy of just 1 percent.

November 6, 2013

A shot in the dark: Detector at UW on the hunt for dark matter

Physicists examine components of the axion detector at the University of Washington.

Physicists are using a detector at the UW to search for a particle called an axion, which would be the first physical evidence of the universe’s dark matter.