Stars, Planets and Origins

When we look up at the sky at night, we see light produced by stars. The Moon and the planets shine by reflected starlight. The light from distant galaxies is the light from hundreds of billions of stars. Stars form in large clouds of gas and dust. Planets grow in the circumstellar disk that surrounds every newborn star. To learn how stars form, CfA scientists study the structure of dark clouds and the young stars within the clouds. To study the birth of planets, CfA scientists examine the structure of circumstellar disks and outflowing jets associated with the youngest stars. Once a star is mature, its brightness is fairly steady for hundreds of millions to tens billions of years. This steadiness allows planets orbiting a star to develop stable surfaces that might allow life to develop and perhaps flourish. CfA scientists study the structure and evolution of stable (and unstable stars) and search for planets orbiting around them.