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  • richardmitnick 9:59 pm on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Basic Research, ,   

    From ALMA: “Violent Origins of Pancake Galaxies Probed by ALMA” 

    ESO ALMA Array

    Wednesday, 17 September 2014


    Junko Ueda
    JSPS postdoctoral fellow/NAOJ
    Tel: +88 422 34 3117
    Email: junko.ueda@nao.ac.jp

    Lars Lindberg Christensen
    Head of ESO ePOD
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
    Cell: +49 173 3872 621
    Email: lars@eso.org

    Masaaki Hiramatsu
    NAOJ Chile Observatory EPO officer
    Tel: +88 422 34 3630
    Email: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

    New observations explain why Milky Way-like galaxies are so common in the Universe

    For decades scientists have believed that galaxy mergers usually result in the formation of elliptical galaxies. Now, for the the first time, researchers using ALMA and a host of other radio telescopes have found direct evidence that merging galaxies can instead form disc galaxies, and that this outcome is in fact quite common. This surprising result could explain why there are so many spiral galaxies like the Milky Way in the Universe.

    Distribution of gas in merging galaxies observed by radio telescopes. Contours indicate the radio intensity emitted from CO gas. The colour shows the motion of gas. The red color indicates gas is moving away from us while the blue colour is coming closer to us. The gradation from red to blue means that gas is rotating in a disc-like manner around the centre of the galaxy. | Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/SMA/CARMA/IRAM/J. Ueda et al

    Example of disc galaxy, The Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253)
    Atlas Image [or Atlas Image mosaic] courtesy of 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/http://www.nsf.gov/

    An international research group led by Junko Ueda, a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science postdoctoral fellow, has made surprising observations that most galaxy collisions in the nearby Universe — within 40–600 million light-years from Earth — result in so-called disc galaxies. Disc galaxies — including spiral galaxies like the Milky Way and lenticular galaxies — are defined by pancake-shaped regions of dust and gas, and are distinct from the category of elliptical galaxies.

    It has, for some time, been widely accepted that merging disc galaxies would eventually form an elliptically shaped galaxy. During these violent interactions the galaxies do not only gain mass as they merge or cannibalise each-other, but they are also changing their shape throughout cosmic time, and therefore changing type along the way.

    Computer simulations from the 1970s predicted that mergers between two comparable disc galaxies would result in an elliptical galaxy. The simulations predict that most galaxies today are elliptical, clashing with observations that over 70% of galaxies are in fact disc galaxies. However, more recent simulations have suggested that collisions could also form disc galaxies.

    To identify the final shapes of galaxies after mergers observationally, the group studied the distribution of gas in 37 galaxies that are in their final stages of merging. The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) and several other radio telescopes were used to observe emission from carbon monoxide (CO), an indicator of molecular gas.

    The team’s research is the largest study of molecular gas in galaxies to date and provides unique insight into how the Milky Way might have formed. Their study revealed that almost all of the mergers show pancake-shaped areas of molecular gas, and hence are disc galaxies in the making. Ueda explains: “For the first time there is observational evidence for merging galaxies that could result in disc galaxies. This is a large and unexpected step towards understanding the mystery of the birth of disc galaxies.”

    Nonetheless, there is a lot more to discover. Ueda added: “We have to start focusing on the formation of stars in these gas discs. Furthermore, we need to look farther out in the more distant Universe. We know that the majority of galaxies in the more distant Universe also have discs. We however do not yet know whether galaxy mergers are also responsible for these, or whether they are formed by cold gas gradually falling into the galaxy. Maybe we have found a general mechanism that applies throughout the history of the Universe.”

    The team is composed of Junko Ueda (JSPS postdoctoral fellow/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan [NAOJ]), Daisuke Iono (NAOJ/The Graduate University for Advanced Studies [SOKENDAI]), Min S. Yun (The University of Massachusetts), Alison F. Crocker (The University of Toledo), Desika Narayanan (Haverford College), Shinya Komugi (Kogakuin University/ NAOJ), Daniel Espada (NAOJ/SOKENDAI/Joint ALMA Observatory), Bunyo Hatsukade (NAOJ), Hiroyuki Kaneko (University of Tsukuba), Yoichi Tamura (The University of Tokyo), David J. Wilner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), Ryohei Kawabe (NAOJ/ SOKENDAI/The University of Tokyo) and Hsi-An Pan (Hokkaido University/SOKENDAI/NAOJ)

    The data were obtained by ALMA, the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy: a millimeter array consisting of 23 parabola antennas in California, the Submillimeter Array a submillimeter array consisting of eight parabola antennas in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Plateau de Bure Interferometer, the NAOJ Nobeyama Radio Observatory 45m radio telescope, USA’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory 12m telescope, USA’s Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory 14m telescope, IRAM’s 30m telescope, and the Swedish-ESO Submillimeter Telescope as a supplement.

    CARMA Array

    Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO
    SAO Submillimeter Array on Mauna Kea

    IRAM Interferometer Submillimeter Array of Radio Telescopes
    IRAM Interferometer

    NAOJ Nobeyama Radio Observatory 45m radio telescope

    ARO KP12M Radio Telescope

    IRAM 30m Radio telescope
    IRAM 30m Radio Telescope

    Swedish-ESO Submillimeter Telescope

    See the full article, with notes, here.

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

    NRAO Small

    ESO 50


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  • richardmitnick 3:55 pm on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    About SKA in Botswana: “Botswana to play part in SKA project ” 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array



    Sept. 15, 2014
    John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

    Botswana has confirmed its participation in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Astronomy project. This was revealed by the Minister of Infrastructure Science and Technology Johnny Swartz during the International Association of Science and Technology for Development Africa (IASTED) conference recently.


    Swartz told participants that Botswana would “host a subset of radio telescope dishes as part of a 3000-strong compliment of dishes stretching across Southern and East Africa.” According to the minister, taking part in the SKA project will enable the country participate in and contribute to frontier fundamental science research as well as enhance its scientific capacity. In addition, Swartz said this will help build related infrastructure and advance other areas such as high performance computing for the analysis of large data sets generated by telescopes. Swartz has met with the South African minister responsible for Science and Technology more than once, both in Botswana and South Africa.

    Earlier he explained that the government had introduced several programmes in an effort to create an enabling environment for research science and technology as well as innovation.

    “This shows Botswana’s commitment in prioritizing and placing science and technology as a major driver of our economy.” The policies alluded to by the Minister include the ‘Revised National Infrastructure and Communications Policy and the Research, Science, Technology and Innovation Policy of 2012.’

    The government was also in the process of formulating strategies to speed up the transformation of the country from being a natural-resource driven to a technology-driven and knowledge-driven economy.

    Meanwhile, in a related development, the Ministry of Transport and Communication (MTC) through its department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) has established collaboration with IST-Africa consortium. IST-Africa consortium is a strategic partnership between international Information Management Corporation of Ireland and Ministries and National Councils responsible for ICT in 18 African countries, supported by the European Union and the African Union Commission.

    “This programme will facilitate the development of Botswana’s research sector through collaboration and funding. Its main objectives are to promote International Research Cooperation, Innovation and entrepreneurship as well as knowledge sharing and Skills Transfer between IST-Africa partners.

    In November 2013 MCT hosted two IST-Africa training workshops focused on Research Collaboration under programmes of Horizon 2020 and Living Labs. “The workshops helped in guiding relevant organisations on processes in place used to acquire funds from European organs during open calls,” said an official from DTPS.

    See the full article here.

    SKA Banner

    About SKA

    The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. The SKA will be built in Southern Africa and in Australia. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of 3 000 km from the central regions. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. Construction of phase one of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2016. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project.

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  • richardmitnick 12:48 pm on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Basic Research, , , ,   

    From phys.org: “Neutrino trident production may offer powerful probe of new physics” 


    September 15, 2014
    Lisa Zyga

    The standard model (SM) of particle physics has four types of force carrier particles: photons, W and Z bosons, and gluons. But recently there has been renewed interest in the question of whether there might exist a new force, which, if confirmed, would result in an extension of the SM. Theoretically, the new force would be carried by a new gauge boson called Z’ or the “dark photon” because this “dark force” would be difficult to detect, as it would affect only neutrinos and unstable leptons.

    The Standard Model of elementary particles, with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    “Much of the complexity and beauty of our physical world depends on only four forces,” Wolfgang Altmannshofer, a researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, told Phys.org. “It stands to reason that any additional new force discovered will bring with it interesting and unexpected phenomena, although it might take some time to fully appreciate and understand its implications.”

    Now in a new study published in Physical Review Letters, Altmannshofer and his coauthors from the Perimeter Institute have shown that the parameter space where a new dark force would exist is significantly restricted by a rare process called neutrino trident production, which has only been experimentally observed twice.

    Parameter space for the Z’ gauge boson. The light gray area is excluded at 95% C.L. by the CCFR measurement of the neutrino trident cross section. The dark gray region with the dotted contour is excluded by measurements of the SM Z boson decay to four leptons at the LHC. The purple region is the area favored by the muon g-2 discrepancy that has not yet been ruled out, but future high-energy neutrino experiments are expected to be highly sensitive to this low-mass region. Credit: Altmannshofer, et al. ©2014 American Physical Society

    In neutrino trident production, a pair of muons is produced from the scattering of a muon neutrino off a heavy atomic nucleus. If the new Z’ boson exists, it would increase the rate of neutrino trident production by inducing additional particle interactions that would constructively interfere with the expected SM contribution.

    The new force could also solve a long-standing discrepancy in the [Fermilab] muon g-2 experiment compared to the SM prediction. By coupling to muons, the new force might solve this problem.

    However, the two existing experimental results of neutrino trident production (performed by the CHARM-II collaboration and the CCFR collaboration) are both in good agreement with SM predictions, which places strong constraints on any possible contributions from a new force.

    In the new paper, the physicists have analyzed the two experimental results and extended the support for ruling out a dark force, at least over a large portion of the parameter space relevant to solving the muon g-2 discrepancy (when the mass of the Z’ boson is greater than about 400 MeV). The results not only constrain the dark force, but more generally any new force that couples to both muons and muon neutrinos.

    “We showed that neutrino trident production is the most sensitive probe of a certain type of new force,” Altmannshofer said. “Particle physics is driven by the desire to discover new building blocks of nature, and ultimately the principles that organize these building blocks. Our findings establish a new direction where new forces can be searched for, and highlight the planned neutrino facility at Fermilab (the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment [LBNE]) as a potentially powerful experiment where such forces can be searched for in the future.”

    Overall, the current results suggest that LBNE would have very favorable prospects for searching for the Z’ boson in the relevant, though restricted, regions of parameter space.

    See the full article here.

    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

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  • richardmitnick 12:15 pm on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Basic Research, , ,   

    From Science Daily: “Martian meteorite yields more evidence of the possibility of life on Mars” 

    ScienceDaily Icon

    Science Daily

    September 15, 2014
    Source: Manchester University
    Katie Brewin/Aeron Haworth
    Media Relations Officer
    The University of Manchester

    A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists.

    The finding of a ‘cell-like’ structure, which investigators now know once held water, came about as a result of collaboration between scientists in the UK and Greece. Their findings are published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology.

    While investigating the Martian meteorite, known as Nakhla, Dr Elias Chatzitheodoridis of the National Technical University of Athens found an unusual feature embedded deep within the rock. In a bid to understand what it might be, he teamed up with long-time friend and collaborator Professor Ian Lyon at the University of Manchester.

    Nakhla meteorite (BM1913,25): two sides and its inner surfaces after breaking it in 1998

    Professor Lyon, based in Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences explains: “In many ways it resembled a fossilized biological cell from Earth but it was intriguing because it was undoubtedly from Mars. Our research found that it probably wasn’t a cell but that it did once hold water, water that had been heated, probably as a result of an asteroid impact.”

    These findings are significant because they add to increasing evidence that beneath the surface, Mars does provide all the conditions for life to have formed and evolved. It also adds to a body of evidence suggesting that large asteroids hit Mars in the past and produce long-lasting hydrothermal fields that could sustain life on Mars, even in later epochs, if life ever emerged there.

    As part of the research, the feature was imaged in unprecedented detail by Dr Sarah Haigh of The University of Manchester whose work usually involves high resolution imaging for next generation electronic devices ,which are made by stacking together single atomic layers of graphene and other materials with the aim of making faster, lighter and bendable mobile phones and tablets. A similar imaging approach was able to reveal the atomic layers of materials inside the meteorite.

    Together their combined experimental approach has revealed new insights into the geological origins of this fascinating structure.

    Professor Lyon said: “We have been able to show the setting is there to provide life. It’s not too cold, it’s not too harsh. Life as we know it, in the form of bacteria, for example, could be there, although we haven’t found it yet. It’s about piecing together the case for life on Mars — it may have existed and in some form could exist still.”

    Now, the team is using these and other state-of-the-art techniques to investigate new secondary materials in this meteorite and search for possible bio signatures which provide scientific evidence of life, past or present. Professor Lyon concluded: “Before we return samples from Mars, we must examine them further, but in more delicate ways. We must carefully search for further evidence.”

    See the full article here.

    ScienceDaily is one of the Internet’s most popular science news web sites. Since starting in 1995, the award-winning site has earned the loyalty of students, researchers, healthcare professionals, government agencies, educators and the general public around the world. Now with more than 3 million monthly visitors, ScienceDaily generates nearly 15 million page views a month and is steadily growing in its global audience.

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  • richardmitnick 11:14 am on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From RAS: “219 million stars: a detailed catalogue of the visible Milky Way” 

    Royal Astronomical Society

    Royal Astronomical Society

    16 September 2014
    Media contact

    Dr Robert Massey
    Royal Astronomical Society
    Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307
    Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035

    Science contacts

    Dr Geert Barentsen
    University of Hertfordshire
    Tel: +44 (0)1707 284603

    Prof. Janet Drew
    University of Hertfordshire
    Tel: +44 (0)1707 286576

    A new catalogue of the visible part of the northern part of our home Galaxy, the Milky Way, includes no fewer than 219 million stars. Geert Barentsen of the University of Hertfordshire led a team who assembled the catalogue in a ten year programme using the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) on La Palma in the Canary Islands. Their work appears today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    Isaac Newton 2.5m telescope
    Isaac Newton 2.5m telescope interior
    Isaac Newton Telescope

    A density map of part of the Milky Way disk, constructed from IPHAS data. The axes show galactic latitude and longitude, coordinates that relate to the position of the centre of the galaxy. The mapped data are the counts of stars detected in i, the longer (redder) wavelength broad band of the survey, down to a faint limit of 19th magnitude. Although this is just a small section of the full map, it portrays in exquisite detail the complex patterns of obscuration due to interstellar dust. Credit: Hywel Farnhill, University of Hertfordshire.

    From dark sky sites on Earth, the Milky Way appears as a glowing band stretching across the sky. To astronomers, it is the disk of our own galaxy, a system stretching across 100,000 light-years, seen edge-on from our vantage point orbiting the Sun. The disk contains the majority of the stars in the galaxy, including the Sun, and the densest concentrations of dust and gas.

    The unaided human eye struggles to distinguish individual objects in this crowded region of the sky, but the 2.5-metre mirror of the INT enabled the scientists to resolve and chart 219 million separate stars. The INT programme charted all the stars brighter than 20th magnitude – or 1 million times fainter than can be seen with the human eye.

    Using the catalogue, the scientists have put together an extraordinarily detailed map of the disk of the Galaxy that shows how the density of stars varies, giving them a new and vivid insight into the structure of this vast system of stars, gas and dust.

    The image included here, a cut-out from a stellar density map mined directly from the released catalogue, illustrates the new view obtained. The Turner-like brush strokes of dust shadows would grace the wall of any art gallery. Maps like these also stand as useful tests of new-generation models for the Milky Way.

    The production of the catalogue, IPHAS DR2 (the second data release from the survey programme The INT Photometric H-alpha Survey of the Northern Galactic Plane, IPHAS), is an example of modern astronomy’s exploitation of ‘big data’. It contains information on 219 million detected objects, each of which is summarised in 99 different attributes.

    With this catalogue release, the team are offering the world community free access to measurements taken through two broad band filters capturing light at the red end of the visible spectrum, and in a narrow band capturing the brightest hydrogen emission line, H-alpha. The inclusion of H-alpha also enables exquisite imaging of the nebulae (glowing clouds of gas) found in greatest number within the disk of the Milky Way. The stellar density map illustrated here is derived from the longest (reddest) wavelength band in which the darkening effect of the dust is moderated in a way that brings out more of its structural detail, compared to maps built at shorter (bluer) wavelengths.

    See the full article here.

    The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science.

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  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research, , , New Scientist, ,   

    From New Scientist: “Curtain closing on Higgs boson photon soap opera” 


    New Scientist

    15 September 2014
    Michael Slezak

    It was the daytime soap opera of particle physics. But the final episode of the first season ends in an anticlimax. The Higgs boson‘s decay into pairs of photons – the strongest yet most confusing clue to the particle’s existence – is looking utterly normal after all.

    Experiments don’t detect the Higgs boson directly – instead, its existence is inferred by looking at the particles left behind when it decays. One way it made itself known at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, two years ago was by decaying into pairs of photons. Right at the start, there were so many photons that physicists considered it a “deviant decay” – and a possible window into new laws of physics, which could help explain the mysteries of dark energy and the like.

    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC at CERN

    Even as other kinks in the data got ironed out, the excess of photons remained. At the time, physicists speculated that it could be due to a mysterious second Higgs boson being created, or maybe the supersymmetric partner of the top quark.

    Supersymmetry standard model
    Standard Model showing Supersymmetric Particles

    Identity crisis

    If unheard of particles and physical laws weren’t dramatic enough, six months later, the decay into photons was giving the Higgs an identity crisis. When physicists measured the Higgs mass by observing it decaying into another type of particle, called a Z boson, it appeared lighter than when doing a similar calculation using the decay into photons. “The results are barely consistent,” Albert de Roeck, one of the key Higgs hunters at CERN’s CMS experiment, said at the time.

    But over the past year, physicists at CERN have found that the Higgs boson is acting exactly as the incomplete standard model of particle physics predicts, leaving us with no clues about how to extend it.

    Now, in an anticlimactic summary on the two photon decay, both big experiments at the LHC have posted results showing the photons are, after all the fuss, also doing exactly what the standard model predicts.

    Powering up

    “This is probably the final word,” wrote CERN physicist Adam Falkowski on his blog.

    Ever the optimist, de Roeck thinks there’s still room in the data for the two photon decay channel to be caught misbehaving. Our present outlook is due to our relatively fuzzy view of the behaviour so far, he says. When the LHC is switched back on next year after an upgrade, it will be smashing protons together with double the previous energy.

    With that kind of power, the measurements will be more exact, and any small deviations from standard model predictions could emerge. “It is most likely the last word for run one of the LHC, but definitely not the last word,” de Roeck says. “I still believe ultimately we will find significant deviations or something unexpected in the Higgs sector. Then all hell will break loose.”

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From SPACE.com: “US Military’s Meteor Explosion Data Can Help Scientists Protect Earth” 

    space-dot-com logo


    September 15, 2014
    Leonard David

    The U.S. Air Force and NASA have ironed out problems that prevented scientists from obtaining a steady stream of military tracking data on meteor explosions within Earth’s atmosphere.

    Ever since the meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013, scientists have been hungry for data that can help them assess the threat of fireballs, meteors and near-Earth objects (NEOs).

    Meteor detonations within Earth’s atmosphere can be seen by U.S. military sensors on secretive spacecraft. Using this government data, in early 2013, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) launched a new website to share the details of meteor explosion events.

    But earlier this year, the site became stagnant, with no new updates. Due to budget cuts and personnel reductions, NASA’s military partner was no longer able to carry out the work.

    Repairing the meteor explosions pipeline

    However, documents are now in place to ensure that the site is updated with a constant stream of data on meteor explosions, which are also known as bolides. In January 2013, the Air Force Space Command’s Air, Space and Cyberspace Operations directorate formalized its work with NASA’s Science Mission directorate with a memorandum of agreement (MOA).

    Artist’s view of 2013 fireball explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia — termed a “superbolide” event. Credit: Don Davis

    “The MOA was amended effective June 24, 2014, in order to ensure that the flow of bolide data to the scientific community is uninterrupted,” a representative for the U.S. Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), which oversees military space systems, told Space.com. “With added language to the formal MOA, SMC will provide bolide data on a consistent basis and alleviate any concerns of data flow getting cut off.”

    Furthermore, there is a separate SMC team at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado that’s responsible for the processing and dissemination of the data, the SMC representative said.

    Trove of data

    Data gleaned from hush-hush satellite sensors can be folded into other data sets to better model just how much the Earth is on the receiving end of incoming natural objects. Picture shows Sandia National Laboratories researcher Mark Boslough reviewing a supercomputer simulation of an asteroid fireball exploding in Earth’s atmosphere. Credit: Randy Montoya/Sandia

    One big reason why the military data on bolides is so important is that there is increasing evidence that Earth is on the receiving end of a sizable amount of natural asteroid/comet material, otherwise known as “spacefall.”

    By reviewing military-sensor data collected over the years, scientists hope to better understand spacefall rates. However, all of the data isn’t available just yet.

    “The plan is to release all appropriate data, although it will take some time for processing to occur,” the SMC representative told Space.com. “The Air Force has maintained a database of all detected events. The archived raw data requires very intricate and specific processing through a software program so that it can be useful to an external organization.”

    The data will give scientists a better idea of the population of very small asteroids that regularly encounter the Earth, and help researchers estimate how many larger objects may exist, said Lindley Johnson, NEO program executive within the Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

    Peter Brown, director of the Center for Planetary Science and Exploration at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, called the partnership a “major step forward.”

    “Speaking from the science community perspective, I would say this partnership and agreement between Air Force Space Command and NASA is a major step forward in terms of being able to study and analyze small impactors,” Brown told Space.com.

    For example, the data from the JPL fireball website helps correlate U.S. government sensor observations of fireballs with infrasound detections by the International Monitoring System (IMS), a network overseen by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

    Independent check

    Researchers can calibrate the current global detection efficiency of the IMS, Brown said. This U.S. government sensor-infrasound comparison also provides an independent check on the fireball energies and flags unusual events, he said.

    “The timely release of this information on the JPL website now also permits rapid follow-up of interesting bolides to facilitate time-sensitive studies, such as meteorite or airborne dust recovery, for the first time,” Brown said.

    In addition, the data contain a “potential goldmine of information,” particularly regarding meteorite-producing fireballs and their pre-atmospheric orbits, as well as information that helps address the general question of meteorite-asteroid linkages, he said.

    Regular space rock reports

    But in order for the data to be useful, it must be distributed regularly, scientists say.

    “The [Air Force] responses sound positive,” said Clark Chapman, asteroid expert with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.”But the proof of any change in practices will come with actual, regular distribution of such information to interested scientists, hopefully very shortly after a detected event,” he told Space.com.

    Chapman said he and other specialists look forward to receiving timely and regular reports of bolide events via the Air Force/NASA relationship.

    To view the “Fireball and Bolide Reports” website, overseen by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program, visit http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/fireballs/.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 9:43 am on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From astrobio.net: “NASA Research Helps Unravel Mysteries Of The Venusian Atmosphere” 

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Astrobiology Magazine

    NASA Research Helps Unravel Mysteries Of The Venusian Atmosphere
    Sep 15, 2014
    Source: NASA
    Karen C. Fox NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    Earth and Venus – worlds apart. Credits: Earth: NASA; Venus: Magellan Project/NASA/JPL

    Underscoring the vast differences between Earth and its neighbor Venus, new research shows a glimpse of giant holes in the electrically charged layer of the Venusian atmosphere, called the ionosphere. The observations point to a more complicated magnetic environment than previously thought – which in turn helps us better understand this neighboring, rocky planet.

    Planet Venus, with its thick atmosphere made of carbon dioxide, its parched surface, and pressures so high that landers are crushed within a few hours, offers scientists a chance to study a planet very foreign to our own. These mysterious holes provide additional clues to understanding Venus’s atmosphere, how the planet interacts with the constant onslaught of solar wind from the sun, and perhaps even what’s lurking deep in its core.

    “This work all started with a mystery from 1978,” said Glyn Collinson, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is first author of a paper on this work in the Journal of Geophysical Research. “When Pioneer Venus Orbiter moved into orbit around Venus, it noticed something very, very weird – a hole in the planet’s ionosphere. It was a region where the density just dropped out, and no one has seen another one of these things for 30 years.”

    NASA Pioneer Venus Orbiter
    NASA/Pioneer Venus Orbiter

    Until now.

    New research shows giant holes in Venus’ atmosphere – which serve as extra clues for understanding this planet so different from our own. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/G. Duberstein

    Collinson set out to search for signatures of these holes in data from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express. Venus Express, launched in 2006, is currently in a 24-hour orbit around the poles of Venus. This orbit places it in much higher altitudes than that of the Pioneer Venus Orbiter, so Collinson wasn’t sure whether he’d spot any markers of these mysterious holes. But even at those heights the same holes were spotted, thus showing that the holes extended much further into the atmosphere than had been previously known.

    ESA/Venus Express

    The observations also suggested the holes are more common than realized. Pioneer Venus Orbiter only saw the holes at a time of great solar activity, known as solar maximum. The Venus Express data, however, shows the holes can form during solar minimum as well.

    Interpreting what is happening in Venus’s ionosphere requires understanding how Venus interacts with its environment in space. This environment is dominated by a stream of electrons and protons – a charged, heated gas called plasma — which zoom out from the sun. As this solar wind travels it carries along embedded magnetic fields, which can affect charged particles and other magnetic fields they encounter along the way. Earth is largely protected from this radiation by its own strong magnetic field, but Venus has no such protection.

    What Venus does have, however, is an ionosphere, a layer of the atmosphere filled with charged particles. The Venusian ionosphere is bombarded on the sun-side of the planet by the solar wind. Consequently, the ionosphere, like air flowing past a golf ball in flight, is shaped to be a thin boundary in front of the planet and to extend into a long comet-like tail behind. As the solar wind plows into the ionosphere, it piles up like a big plasma traffic jam, creating a thin magnetosphere around Venus – a much smaller magnetic environment than the one around Earth.

    Venus Express aerobraking. Credit: ESA

    Venus Express is equipped to measure this slight magnetic field. As it flew through the ionospheric holes it recorded a jump in the field strength, while also spotting very cold particles flowing in and out of the holes, though at a much lower density than generally seen in the ionosphere.

    The Venus Express observations suggest that instead of two holes behind Venus, there are in fact two long, fat cylinders of lower density material stretching from the planet’s surface to way out in space. Collinson said that some magnetic structure probably causes the charged particles to be squeezed out of these areas, like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube.

    The next question is what magnetic structure can create this effect? Imagine Venus standing in the middle of the constant solar wind like a lighthouse erected in the water just off shore. Magnetic field lines from the sun move toward Venus like waves of water approaching the lighthouse. The far sides of these lines then wrap around the planet leading to two long straight magnetic field lines trailing out directly behind Venus. These lines could create the magnetic forces to squeeze the plasma out of the holes.

    But such a scenario would place the bottom of these tubes on the sides of the planet, not as if they were coming straight up out of the surface. What could cause magnetic fields to go directly in and out of the planet? Without additional data, it’s hard to know for sure, but Collinson’s team devised two possible models that can match these observations.

    In one scenario, the magnetic fields do not stop at the edge of the ionosphere to wrap around the outside of the planet, but instead continue further.

    “We think some of these field lines can sink right through the ionosphere, cutting through it like cheese wire,” said Collinson. “The ionosphere can conduct electricity, which makes it basically transparent to the field lines. The lines go right through down to the planet’s surface and some ways into the planet.”

    Venus cloud tops. Credit: ESA/MPS/DLR/IDA

    In this scenario, the magnetic field travels unhindered directly into the upper layers of Venus. Eventually, the magnetic field hits Venus’ rocky mantle – assuming, of course, that the inside of Venus is like the inside of Earth. A reasonable assumption given that the two planets are the same mass, size and density, but by no means a proven fact.

    A similar phenomenon does happen on the moon, said Collinson. The moon is mostly made up of mantle and has little to no atmosphere. The magnetic field lines from the sun go through the moon’s mantle and then hit what is thought to be an iron core.

    In the second scenario, the magnetic fields from the solar system do drape themselves around the ionosphere, but they collide with a pile up of plasma already at the back of the planet. As the two sets of charged material jostle for place, it causes the required magnetic squeeze in the perfect spot.

    Either way, areas of increased magnetism would stream out on either side of the tail, pointing directly in and out of the sides of the planet. Those areas of increased magnetic force could be what squeezes out the plasma and creates these long ionospheric holes.

    Scientists will continue to explore just what causes these holes. Confirming one theory or the other will, in turn, help us understand this planet, so similar and yet so different from our own.

    See the full article here.


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  • richardmitnick 7:54 am on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Basic Research, , ,   

    About SKA from The Register 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array



    Australia’s first pass at the Square Kilometre Array – the Boolardy Engineering Test Array – is about to get commissioned into a fully-live system.


    The test array, known naturally enough as BETA, is part of the science-before-the-science: a proving ground for some of the new technologies being used for the SKA project, in particular, the Phased Array Feeds.

    Those feeds represent a new way of getting signals from the parabolic dishes of the array: instead of the waveguides that collect signals in an old style dish (like The Dish, which recently had to cut back the number of frequencies it would install waveguides for as a cost-saving measure), PAFs put an array of receptors at the focal plane.

    As BETA’s operators explain in this Arxiv paper, that arrangement lets “multiple independently steerable primary beams to be synthesised electronically”, but because it’s never been done before, the test deployment existed for tasks like working out how to form the beams for particular imaging tasks, measuring the pattern stability of the beams, and working out how best to arrange multiple beams into a large field of view.

    Along the way, BETA is also showing off some of the other technologies that’ll be fundamental for the SKA. Once signals from the telescopes have been digitised (using CSIRO-designed boards dubbed DragonFly-2), they’re sent from the telescopes to a central facility for processing.

    With just six antennas in place, the central processing (handled by another board from CSIRO called Redback-2) has plenty to work with: each PAF port on each antenna produces 304 individual 1 MHz channels, with each antenna needing 16 of the Redback-2 boards and 10 GB/second communications.

    Each 12 hour observation run of BETA is good for dumping nearly 154 MB/second on the facility’s disk, for a total of 816 GB. The ASKAP central processor, a 472-node Cray XC30 at Perth’s Pawsey Centre, is currently working hard to fill the 10 PB of Spectra Logic tape storage (duplicated for insurance) available for the facility, and that’s slated for expansion to 50 PB. ®

    See the full article here.

    SKA Banner

    About SKA

    The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. The SKA will be built in Southern Africa and in Australia. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of 3 000 km from the central regions. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. Construction of phase one of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2016. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project.

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  • richardmitnick 3:27 pm on September 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research, , , , PETRA III   

    From DESY: “Double topping-out celebrations at DESY” 


    Two new experimental halls for research light source PETRA III

    Today DESY celebrates the topping-out of two large experimental halls for the research light source PETRA III.Ten additional beamlines, which will serve in the PETRA III particle accelerator’s high intensity X-ray experiments, are under construction in a space measuring approximately 6000 square meters; the facility will also include en-suite offices and laboratory spaces for scientists.The experimentation capabilities at the PETRA III synchrotron radiation source will be considerably increased due to the expansion project.The first new beamlines of the 80-million-Euro-project will be ready for operation beginning in autumn 2015.
    Zoom (17 KB)


    “With the new experimental stations, we are significantly expanding the research capabilities of PETRA III, for example, with new nanospectroscopy and materials research technologies,” says Chairman of the DESY Board of Directors Professor Helmut Dosch at the event. “At the same time, we will be fulfilling the enormous worldwide scientific demand for the best synchrotron radiation source in the world.”

    Hamburg´s Science Senator Dr. Dorothee Stapelfeldt says: “The senate’s aim is to develop Hamburg into one of the leading locations for research and innovation in Europe.In order to do so, it is essential to further raise the profiles of universities and research institutions in close dialogue with all stakeholders.Hamburg already occupies a leading position in structural research.The ground-breaking cooperation between DESY, the university and their partners at the Bahrenfeld research campus has been clearly recognized internationally.With the two new experimental halls, PETRA’s synchrotron radiation will be made available to even more researchers from all over the world in the future.”

    “With a total of ten new beamlines, the allure of Hamburg as a location for cutting-edge research will continue to increase, nationally and internationally,” says Dr. Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph (BMBF), Chairperson of the DESY Foundation Council. “With its excellent research opportunities, PETRA III contributes to rapidly transfering the results of basic research into application while also strengthening the innovative power of Germany.”

    DESY’s 2.3-kilometre-long PETRA III ring accelerator produces high intensity, highly collimated X-ray pulses for a diverse range of physical, biological and chemical experiments.Fourteen measuring stations, which can accommodate up to thirty experiments, already exist in an approximately 300-metre-long experimental hall.The properties of light pulses, which PETRA delivers to the different measuring stations, are thereby precisely attuned to the different research disciplines.Using the extremely brilliant X-rays, researchers study, for example, innovative solar cells, observe the dynamics of cell membranes and analyse fossilised dinosaur eggs.

    PETRA III, the world´s best X-ray source of its kind, has been heavily over-booked since it began operations in 2009.The PETRA III Extension Project was begun in December 2013 to give more scientists access to the unique experimental possibilities of this research light source and to broaden PETRA III’s research portfolio in experimental technologies:measuring approximately 6000 square meters in their entirety, the two new experimental halls house enough space for technical installations of up to ten additional beam lines, and an additional 1400 square metres provide office and laboratory space for the scientists.The beam lines and measuring instruments in the new halls are under construction in close cooperation with the future user community and are, in part, collaborative research projects.Three of the future PETRA beamlines will be constructed as an international partnership with Sweden, India and Russia.

    Altogether approximately 170 metres of the PETRA tunnel and accelerator have been dismantled since February to build the new experimental halls. Since August, the accelerator, equipped with special magnets for producing X-ray radiation, has been under reconstruction within the new tunnel areas that have already been completed.After the preliminary construction phase of the experimental halls, they are to be developed further from December 2014 onward; the accelerator will at the same time resume operation.The experiments will re-start in the PETRA III experimental hall “Max von Laue” beginning in April 2015 and the first measuring stations in the new, still unnamed halls should gradually become ready for operation in autumn 2015 and the start of 2016.

    The extension’s total budget of approximately 80 million Euros stems in large part from the Helmholtz Association’s expansion funds as well as funds from the Federal Ministry of Research, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and DESY.Collaborative partners from Germany and abroad cover approximately one third of the costs.

    See the full article here.


    DESY is one of the world’s leading accelerator centres. Researchers use the large-scale facilities at DESY to explore the microcosm in all its variety – from the interactions of tiny elementary particles and the behaviour of new types of nanomaterials to biomolecular processes that are essential to life. The accelerators and detectors that DESY develops and builds are unique research tools. The facilities generate the world’s most intense X-ray light, accelerate particles to record energies and open completely new windows onto the universe. 
That makes DESY not only a magnet for more than 3000 guest researchers from over 40 countries every year, but also a coveted partner for national and international cooperations. Committed young researchers find an exciting interdisciplinary setting at DESY. The research centre offers specialized training for a large number of professions. DESY cooperates with industry and business to promote new technologies that will benefit society and encourage innovations. This also benefits the metropolitan regions of the two DESY locations, Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin.

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