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From the College of Natural Sciences
A Young Sub-Neptune-sized Planet Sheds Light onto How Planets Form and Evolve

A Young Sub-Neptune-sized Planet Sheds Light onto How Planets Form and Evolve

New detailed observations from the Habitable Zone Planet Finder on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, as well as NSF’s NOIRLab facilities, reveal a young exoplanet, orbiting a young star in the Hyades cluster, that is unusually dense for its size and age. Slightly smaller than Neptune, K2-25b orbits an M-dwarf star — the most common type of star in the galaxy — every 3.5 days. Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. Pollard

A team of astronomers including McDonald Observatory's Bill Cochran have made a detailed study of a young planet slightly smaller than Neptune with the Habitable-zone Planet Finder at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory. They characterized the planet's mass, radius, and the tilt of its orbit. This work provides insight into how such planets form and evolve, and has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

The Universe Doesn’t Stop for the Pandemic

The Universe Doesn’t Stop for the Pandemic

Hobby-Eberly Telescope stands a silent sentinel at McDonald Observatory.

Under one of the darkest skies in the world, in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, a telescope operator at the McDonald Observatory walks alone under the bright stars toward the massive Hobby-Eberly Telescope. Sitting inside the dome and communicating over the internet with their counterparts back in Austin, astronomers punch coordinates into the control panel and guide the huge telescope as it probes distant galaxies and black holes.

University Welcomes New Center for Planetary Habitability

University Welcomes New Center for Planetary Habitability

Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter

​Scientists from across The University of Texas at Austin are joining forces in the hunt for life on other planets. Astronomers, geoscientists, chemists, biologists and aerospace engineers have pooled resources to form the UT Center for Planetary Systems Habitability, a cross-campus, interdisciplinary research unit.

As Remote School for Texas Kids Continues, Try These STEM Learning Resources

As Remote School for Texas Kids Continues, Try These STEM Learning Resources

With Texas' governor among those declaring that K-12 schools will remain closed through the end of the school year, many families and teachers are looking for resources to support learning from home. Several outreach programs in the College of Natural Sciences and at UT Austin support STEM learning from afar. Here are a few to check out.

Texas-Led Team Finds Earth-Sized, Habitable Zone Planet Hidden in Early NASA Kepler Data

Texas-Led Team Finds Earth-Sized, Habitable Zone Planet Hidden in Early NASA Kepler Data

A team of transatlantic scientists led by The University of Texas at Austin's Andrew Vanderburg has used reanalyzed data from NASA's Kepler space telescope to discover an Earth-size exoplanet orbiting in its star's habitable zone, the area around a star where a rocky planet could support liquid water.

Surveying Deepest Space to Understand Dark Energy

Surveying Deepest Space to Understand Dark Energy

HETDEX is the first major experiment to search for dark energy. It uses the giant Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory and a set of spectrographs to map the three-dimensional positions of one million galaxies.

Two decades ago, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Reiss shocked the world when they published research showing not only that the Universe was expanding, but that the expansion was occurring at an accelerating rate. The discovery came as a complete surprise even to the astronomers themselves, and netted them a Nobel Prize in 2011.

Public Outreach Programs Suspended in Response to COVID-19

Public Outreach Programs Suspended in Response to COVID-19

​The University of Texas at Austin's public-facing programs on campus and at museums, schools and science centers are currently suspended to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the agent causing the COVID-19 pandemic.

McDonald Observatory Hires Teznie Pugh as New Superintendent

McDonald Observatory Hires Teznie Pugh as New Superintendent

The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory has hired Teznie Pugh as its new Superintendent, responsible for managing day-to-day operations at the West Texas site.

Planet Finder Validates Its First Habitable-Zone Exoplanet, a Mini Neptune

Planet Finder Validates Its First Habitable-Zone Exoplanet, a Mini Neptune

The Habitable Zone Planet Finder instrument. (Credit: Gudmundur Stefanssonn/Penn State)

Astronomers have validated their first exoplanet with the Habitable Zone Planet Finder instrument on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, one of the world's largest telescopes, located at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory.

Distant Giant Planets Form Differently than ‘Failed Stars’

Distant Giant Planets Form Differently than ‘Failed Stars’

A team of astronomers led by Brendan Bowler of The University of Texas at Austin has probed the formation process of giant exoplanets and brown dwarfs, a class of objects that are more massive than giant planets, but not massive enough to ignite nuclear fusion in their cores to shine like true stars.