Milky Way

Astronomy Magazine Talks to the Team Who Discovered the Radcliffe Wave

December 1, 2020

Astronomy Magazine talks to the team from Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) about their serendipitous discovery of the Radcliffe Wave, a massive interconnected stream of stellar nurseries, molecular clouds, and supernovae that snakes through the Milky Way galaxy - and how history, art and science came together to enable this paradigm-changing discovery.  Read the full article ...

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glue-ing Together the Universe, at Microsoft New England Research Division, Cambridge, MA , Friday, March 6, 2020:

Astronomers have a long history of visualization. Going back only as far as Galileo, discoveries were made using sketches of celestial objects moving over time. Today, Astronomy inquiries can, and often do, make use of petabytes of data at once. Huge surveys are analyzed statistically to understand tiny fluctuations that hint at the fundamental nature of the Universe, and myriad data sets, from telescopes across the globe and in space are brought together to solve problems ranging from the nature of black holes to the structure of the Milky Way to the origins of planets like Earth. In...

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Pecan Pie Logo for "PRISEd Conversation 2020" with photo of Dr. Goodman

Blog Feature: Dr. Alyssa Goodman talks with the The Harvard College Program in Science and Engineering (PRISE)

September 23, 2020

Dr. Alyssa Goodman talks with Felicia Ho, PRISE, Harvard College '23 about Jacques Cousteau, data visualization, climate change, prediction science, and the wide arc of influences that have shaped her multifaceted career as the Robert Wheeler Wilson Professor of Applied Astronomy at Harvard. 


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Catherine Zucker, Joshua S. Speagle, Edward F. Schlafly, Gregory M. Green, Douglas P. Finkbeiner, Alyssa Goodman, and João Alves. 1/2020. “A Compendium of Distances to Molecular Clouds in the Star Formation Handbook.” Astronomy and Astrophysics, 633, Pp. A51.Abstract
Accurate distances to local molecular clouds are critical for understanding the star and planet formation process, yet distance measurements are often obtained inhomogeneously on a cloud-by-cloud basis. We have recently developed a method that combines stellar photometric data with Gaia DR2 parallax measurements in a Bayesian framework to infer the distances of nearby dust clouds to a typical accuracy of ∼5%. After refining the technique to target lower latitudes and incorporating deep optical data from DECam in the southern Galactic plane, we have derived a catalog of distances to molecular clouds in Reipurth (2008, Star Formation Handbook, Vols. I and II) which contains a large fraction of the molecular material in the solar neighborhood. Comparison with distances derived from maser parallax measurements towards the same clouds shows our method produces consistent distances with ≲10% scatter for clouds across our entire distance spectrum (150 pc-2.5 kpc). We hope this catalog of homogeneous distances will serve as a baseline for future work. Table A.1 is also available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to ( or via bin/cat/J/A+A/633/A51. It is also available on the Harvard Dataverse at http:// 0.7910/DVN/07L7YZ An interactive 3D version of Fig. 2 is available at http://
Photo of Astronomer João Alves

Radcliffe Fellow Dr. João Alves On Discovering the "Radcliffe Wave"

June 30, 2020

Astronomer João Alves came to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to create a 3D map of the sky, but what he discovered overturned the common conception of how stars are born and compelled scientists to rethink the framework of the galaxy.

A professor of stellar astrophysics at the University of Vienna, Alves focuses on understanding how natural processes change large interplanetary clouds of gas into stars and planets, and ultimately form life. He chose to pursue his research at Radcliffe because of its creative, multidisciplinary approach to collaboration. ...

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