Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Science Updates


The Pipe Nebula is a prominent dark molecular cloud located about 430 light-years from us. It contains about ten thousand solar-masses of material, making it one of the closest giant molecular complexes to us, and with dimensions of about 10 by 46 light-years, one of the largest.


A blazar is a galaxy whose central, supermassive black hole shines intensely as it accretes material from the surrounding region. Although black hole accretion happens in many galaxies and situations, in blazars the infalling material erupts into a powerful, narrow beam of high velocity charged particles that are fortuitously pointed in our direction.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a "research institute" of the Smithsonian Institution. It is joined with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Because these research activities share Harvard and Smithsonian staff and resources, the links at this website will take you to information posted on the "CfA" pages.