News and Events

Thursday, February 12, 2015

In a first, astronomers catch a  multiple star system in the process of forming.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Professor Emeritus William Irvine of the Astronomy Department is the Co-Chief Editor of the soon to appear Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, being produced by the publisher Springer. The science of astrobiology is concerned with the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. It is an extremely interdisciplinary field, combining aspects of physics, astronomy, chemistry, geoscience, biology, microbiology, planetary science, and the history of science. The new, 2nd edition, of the Encyclopedia of Astrobiology contains some 2000 entries by more than 400 authors from institutions around the world, the articles ranging from short entries of 200-500 words to overviews of more than 6000 words. The Encyclopedia will be produced in both 4 volumes of printed text and in an on-line version. Professor Irvine has been selected to be on the editorial board of the Japanese journal Progress in Earth and Planetary Science.

Monday, January 26, 2015

From NBC News --  Rosetta's Comet Revealed: It's Dry on the Outside, Fluffy on the Inside.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Astronomer Peter Schoerb, part of an international team, takes a close-up look at a comet.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

James Lowenthal, Professor of Astronomy at Smith College, has shared a link to some photos and videos from the  from his 7-night run at the facility in December 2014.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Sunwheel and Sky-Watching events mark the winter solstice on December 21, 2014.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of an agreement to build the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) as a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE) in Mexico was held on November 18 and 19 at INAOE in Tonantzintla, just outside the city of Puebla, Mexico. The LMT is the largest radio telescope of its kind in the world, and it is now producing its first scientific results. Professors Peter Schloerb, Steve Schneider and Bill Irvine from the UMass Astronomy Department were invited attendees at the conference. Schneider, Head of Astronomy, presented greetings and congratulations from the UMass administration; while Schloerb, UMass PI on the project, described the ambition, dedication, and collaboration that were required to bring to the telescope to fruition.
The meeting’s first day was devoted to a review of the development, achievement, and impact of the LMT project, including talks by officials from CONACyT (the “Mexican NSF”) and the Mexican Space Agency, representatives of several of the major companies participating in the project, and senior astronomers from UMass and INAOE. The second day featured some of the first scientific data from observations with the LMT, with UMass professor Daniel Wang and Astronomy graduate student Allison Kirkpatrick (lead author on the first published paper based on LMT results) participating from the US by SKYPE. The LMT is about to begin the third round of “early science”, in which scientists from UMass, INAOE and their collaborators from around the world use the telescope to study fundamental processes of star formation and the structure of galaxies, from our own Milky Way to the most distant objects in the universe. This third round of science received 65 proposals for observations with the LMT, involving almost 300 astronomers form some 100 scientific institutions.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

As part of a recent trip to Japan for an astrobiology conference held in the ancient city of Nara, microbiologist Susan Leschine (Veterinary & Animal Sciences) and astronomer William Irvine (Astronomy) spent an informative and enjoyable afternoon visiting Hokkaido University on July 16.

Leschine and Hokkaido Professors Kozo Asano and Teruo Sone shared their common interests in microbial diversity and applications of bacteria and fungi in food processing and in animal and human health. Sone, who donned a shirt with an image of Aspergillus, related the important role of this fungus in food fermentations and as a source of biologically active compounds for pharmaceuticals and for controlling plant pests. As a leader in applied microbiology and the probiotic effects of intestinal bacteria, Asono described novel microbial technologies for complex carbohydrate production and implications for human health. The recent discovery by Asano and Sone of Tomitella biformata, a bacterium isolated from 25,000-year-old Alaskan permafrost, and its astrobiological significance also were discussed.

Irvine’s recent research interests have been in the study of chemistry in interstellar clouds and in comets, so it was very interesting to visit the laboratory of Professor Naoki Watanabe, a world leader in laboratory astrochemistry. In particular, Professor Watanabe uses his state of the art equipment to analyze chemical processes on analogs of interstellar ices, including the important conversion between ortho- and para- states of key molecules present in interstellar molecular clouds.

The visit also included discussions of astrophysics, particularly of galactic structure and star formation, with Professors Asao Habe and Elizabeth Tasker, and their students and research associates.

Professor Hideki Takahashi provided a tour of the Hokkaido University Museum with its beautiful exhibits that inspire the imagination. Botanist Takahashi was instrumental in establishing one such exhibit featuring specimens on loan from the UMass Amherst Herbarium, including plants and lichens that had been collected more than a hundred years ago by William S. Clark. Clark was the third president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, which later became the University of Massachusetts, and the first president to appoint a faculty and admit a class of students, 56 to be exact. The Hokkaido Museum exhibit includes excerpts from Clark’s letters and information about Amherst. Irvine commented, “The museum is fascinating, particularly to anyone from UMass, since there is an extensive exhibit on President Clark and his UMass colleagues who helped found Hokkaido University. In fact, President Clark’s image and his closing words to Hokkaido students (“Boys, be ambitious!”) are everywhere in Japan, even in taxis, on wine bottles, and at the Sapporo Airport!”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The first LMT science paper has been accepted for publication in ApJ. There are also two Mexican press releases, one from, and the other at

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Professor Daniela Calzetti has been invited as Distinguished Visitor for the 2014-2015 Academic Year to the Australian Astronomical Observatory in Sydney and to the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University in Canberra. She will be spending a few weeks at those two locations over the Spring 2015.