Sometimes we must look to the heavens to understand our own planet. In the 17th century, Johannes Kepler’s insight that planets move in elliptical orbits around the sun led to a deeper understanding of gravity, the force that determines Earth’s tides. In the 19th century, scientists studied the color of sunlight, whose distinctive properties helped reveal the quantum structure of the atoms that make up the star—and all matter around us. In 2017, the detection of gravitational waves showed that much of the gold, platinum, and other heavy elements on our planet are forged in the collisions of neutron stars.
Michael Murphy studies stars in this tradition. An astrophysicist at
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