Unlocking the Secrets of the Universe

Is there another planet like Earth? Why is it important to study the stars?

Ask an astronomer at NYU Abu Dhabi and you won’t need gravity to stay glued to your seat.

Space science experts from around the world have come to NYU Abu Dhabi to pursue fascinating, significant research about the Sun, stars, and other mysterious space phenomena. Their work within the Science Division and at the Research Institute's Center for Space Science is helping position the University as a leader in scientific discovery, and contributes to the UAE’s growing vision for space exploration.

Rossby Waves

Gigantic planetary waves of vorticity similar to those that influence weather on Earth also exist on the Sun. Rossby waves are a natural phenomenon in the atmospheres and oceans of planets that form in response to the rotation of the planet. Solar Rossby waves move opposite to the Sun’s rotation and are located only in the equatorial regions.

Earth 2.0

The presence of giant neighboring planets reduces a terrestrial planet's chance of remaining habitable. However, under certain conditions the presence of a giant planet can actually increase the size of the habitable zone, where there’s enough starlight to sustain liquid water - a remarkable discovery since the gravitational pull of giant planets on their terrestrial neighbors mostly spells trouble for habitability. If we can understand precisely when giant planets become so-called bad neighbors, we can identify prime targets in the search for a second Earth.

How Stars Spin

Sun-like stars rotate up to two and a half times faster at the equator than at higher latitudes. Studying how the Sun and stars rotate can improve scientific knowledge about the generation of their global magnetic fields by dynamo action. Magnetic fields on the Sun are known to cause enormous solar storms that frequently disrupt space satellites and have knocked out power grids on Earth.

Milky Way Magnetar

The strongest magnetic fields in the universe are found in magnetars, a rare, scientifically exotic class of neutron stars, about the size of Abu Dhabi Island. Joseph Gelfand, assistant professor of physics, says neutron stars can be extremely variable across the electromagnetic spectrum, and magnetars are renowned for their so-called activation events where X-ray (and possibly radio) flux suddenly increase significantly. A study of the magnetar discovered near the center of the Milky Way suggests its highly variable radio emission is somehow produced in the star’s magnetosphere, instead of its surroundings as suggested.