Learn from the Best: Notable Professors at Top Research Universities
Academic research is a driving force behind innovation in science, technology, and culture. The studies being conducted at the top universities today have the potential to yield new knowledge that could influence the day to day lives of millions or billions of people. While doctoral and post-doctoral studies can be a long, difficult path, the appeal of making new discoveries and working with the brightest intellects in the world offers plenty of motivation for many students.

This list comprises notable professors who are conducting compelling research in disparate fields at some of the top research universities in the U.S. They all work at universities that are designated as "High Research Activity" or "Very High Research Activity" [Click here to see the full list]


Astronomers Discover Impossible Binary Systems
Bibliographic information: Nefs SV et al. 2012. Four ultra-short period eclipsing M-dwarf binaries in the WFCAM Transit Survey. Accepted for publication in Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc.; arXiv:1206.1200v1

Astronomers working with the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope on Hawaii have discovered four pairs of stars that orbit each other in less than 4 hours.
This artist's impression shows the tightest of the new record breaking binary systems. Two active M4 type red dwarfs orbit each other every 2.5 hours, as they continue to spiral inwards. Eventually they will coalesce into a single star (J. Pinfield / RoPACS network)
Until now it was thought that such close-in binary stars could not exist. [More...]


Predicting Changes in Earth Orientation - Dynamic Versus Static Solar System Model

Long term predictions of changes in the earth’s orientation to VLBI sources have been historically unreliable. The IAU has found that current methods are “not consistent with dynamical theory”. Part of the problem appears to be that measurements of the precession observable are made to points outside the moving frame of the solar system yet do not account for motion of the solar system relative to those reference points. We have found that by separating the motions of the earth within the local frame (of the solar system), from the motion of the frame relative to external reference points (outside the moving frame), long term measurements of the earth’s changing orientation may be simplified and predicted with a higher degree of accuracy. Click here to download full length paper.

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Interstellar Space Beyond Our Solar System Stranger Than Expected - From Dave McComas, IBEX Principal Investigator January 31, 2012

IBEX PI Dave McComasBack in October 2009, we announced IBEX's first major science results, including the observation of what has become known as the "IBEX Ribbon." Since that time, IBEX has been detecting energetic neutral atoms coming from the boundary of our Solar System and from regions of our Earth's magnetosphere, and we have periodically updated the IBEX website with information on these topics.

In those first 2009 science results, we also announced the first–ever direct observations of neutral hydrogen and oxygen atoms drifting in from the interstellar medium, outside our heliosphere. Our talented science team has continued to make observations of these – and other – interstellar neutrals, and we are proud to showcase their work, published as a set of six papers in the February issue of Astrophysical Journal Supplements as a special section titled "IBEX Direct Observations of Interstellar Neutrals." I hope you will enjoy learning more about this fascinating aspect of IBEX's exquisite capabilities, which are even allowing us to probe the local region outside our heliosphere. [More...]

Response to The Precession Dialogues - BAUT Forum post
By Walter Cruttenden, July 16, 2009

Several posters on the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum (BAUT) have expressed doubts about the non-conventional “binary model” of precession. The main critic is a poster that goes by the name of “Celestial Mechanic” (CM) who has called the binary model “rubbish, pure and simple”. While this is not the most constructive way to frame a scientific discussion it does express the current attitude of most astronomers when it comes to non-conventional theories of precession. It also hints at why several seemingly unrelated solar system problems (such as the sun’s lack of angular momentum relative to the planets) have gone unresolved. [More...]

NASA Baffled by Unexplained Force Acting on Space Probes
Mysteriously, four spacecraft that flew past the Earth have each displayed unexpected anomalies in their motions. These newfound enigmas join the so-called "Pioneer anomaly" as hints that unexplained forces may appear to act on spacecraft. A decade ago, after rigorous analyses, anomalies were seen with the identical Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft as they hurtled out of the solar system. Both seemed to experience a tiny but unexplained constant acceleration toward the sun. [More...] via Space.com

MIT Instrument Finds Surprises at Solar System's Edge
The Voyager 2 spacecraft's Plasma Science instrument, developed at MIT in the 1970s, has turned up surprising revelations about the boundary zone that marks the edge of the sun's influence in space. The unexpected findings emerged in the last few weeks as the spacecraft traversed the termination shockwave formed when the flow of particles constantly streaming out from the sun--the solar wind--slams into the surrounding thin gas that fills the space between stars. [More...] via MIT

Asymmetrical Shape of Heliosphere Raises Questions
By Walter Cruttenden, July 7, 2008

Ever since the Voyager 2 data confirmed the nonsymmetrical shape of the solar system scientists have pondered its cause (i). In summary, the edge of the heliosphere (the place where the solar wind slows to sub sonic speeds) appears to be 1.2 billion kilometers shorter on the south side of the solar system (and in the general direction of the winter solstice, the direction of Voyager 2), than it is on the edge of the planetary plane (where Voyager 1 exited approximately a year earlier). This indicates the heliosphere is not a sphere at all but a bullet shape. More data is required to determine the exact shape in all directions. [More...]