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  • richardmitnick 8:06 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “ESOcast 69: Revolutionary ALMA Image Reveals Planetary Genesis “ 

    European Southern Observatory

    ESOcast 69 presents the result of the latest ALMA observations, which reveal extraordinarily fine detail that has never been seen before in the planet-forming disc around the young star HL Tauri.

    This revolutionary image is the result of the first observations that have used ALMA with its antennas at close to the widest configuration possible. As a result, it is the sharpest picture ever made at submillimetre wavelengths.

    Watch, enjoy, learn.

    See the full article here.

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    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.

  • richardmitnick 7:36 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From BNL: “X-Ray Powder Diffraction Beamline at NSLS-II Takes First Beam and First Data” 

    Brookhaven Lab

    November 26, 2014
    Chelsea Whyte

    On November 6, Eric Dooryhee walked into a crowd of people excitedly talking at the X-ray Powder Diffraction (XPD) beamline beaming an enormous smile. The group broke into applause for the enormous achievement they had gathered to celebrate: the operators had opened a shutter to the electron storage ring of the National Synchrotron Light Source II and captured light for the first time at the XPD beamline. It was the second beamline at NSLS-II to achieve x-ray beam.

    BNL NSLS II Photo
    BNL NSLS Interior

    The beamline group at XPD during their open house for first light at the beamline. They are led by Eric Dooryhee, the Powder Diffraction Beamline Group Leader, and Associate Laboratory Director for Photon Sciences and NSLS-II Project Director Steve Dierker. Within the beamline hutch behind them stands the specially designed robotic sample changer, which will allow for high through-put data collection at the beamline.

    “This is a big day for all of us,” said Dooryhee, the Powder Diffraction Beamline Group Leader. The list of acknowledgements he made reflected the huge effort of many support groups across the Photon Sciences Directorate and beyond, that made the milestone possible: administration and procurement staff, surveyors, riggers, carpenters, vacuum specialists, mechanical and electrical utilities technicians, equipment protection and personnel safety staff, x-ray optics metrology experts, scientists, designers, and engineers. “We couldn’t have achieved our first light without the commitment and support of many collaborators around the Lab, including work with Peter Siddons and his group, who are developing several state-of-the-art detectors for XPD.”

    The XPD core team includes Sanjit Ghose, beamline scientist in charge of operating XPD and consolidating its research program; Hengzi Wang, mechanical engineer; John Trunk, beamline technician; Andrew DeSantis, mechanical designer; and Wayne Lewis, controls engineer.

    The complexity of this accomplishment came through when Dooryhee talked about the effort put in by Wayne Lewis, the controls engineer for XPD.

    “How many motors, vacuum gauges and sensors did you have to take ownership of? Hundreds?” Dooryhee asked. Lewis wryly smiled and responded, “Yeah, a few.”

    It was Lewis who ultimately opened the shutter, allowing the white x-ray beam for the first time to travel through a diamond window and several other components until it was purposely intercepted by a beam stop. Both the window and the beamstop emitted a bright fluorescent light once struck by the x-rays, and the x-ray footprint at several locations down the beam pipe could thus be imaged and shown on large screens to everyone present.

    Eventually, once commissioning starts, a monochromator will select one part of the white beam at a particular color (or wavelength). This one-color (monochromatic) x-ray beam will go past the white beam stop and will be reflected off a four-and-a-half-foot long mirror and over to the sample.

    “As we open the shutter, the beam is spot on,” said Dooryhee. “We find the beam is very stable, and we are extremely happy with these start-up conditions, thanks to the work accomplished by the Accelerator Division. This concludes 5 years of preparation and installation, and now is the beginning of a new phase for us. We have to commission the entire beamline with the x-rays on, get beam safely into the experimental station, and transition to science as soon as we can.”

    Part of this “open house” celebration at XPD was a demonstration of the 250-pound robotic sample changer, which will operate within the lead-lined hutch while the x-ray beam is on. This robot will be able to perform unmanned and repetitive collection of data on a variety of sample holders in a reliable, reproducible and fast way. XPD is designed with high throughput efficiency in mind.

    The robot will also enable landmark experiments of radioactive samples, like those proposed by Lynne Ecker of Brookhaven’s Nuclear Science and Technology Department. Ecker was awarded $980,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies program that will enable cross-cutting research at XPD and will fundamentally improve the safety and performance of nuclear reactors.

    “BNL is a truly outstanding environment and our chance with NSLS-II is to interact with very high-level scientific collaborators across the Laboratory, that will enable XPD to host premier work from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, the Nuclear Energy group, Chemistry, and Physics,” said Dooryhee. “And XPD is also planning to accommodate a part of the high-pressure program at NSLS-II that includes a large volume press and diamond-anvil cells that were previously in use at NSLS, in collaboration with the COMPRES consortium and Stony Brook University.”

    The XPD beamline research will focus on studies of catalysts, batteries, and other functional and technological materials under the conditions of synthesis and operation, and Dooryhee is optimistic about the science to come. He is also excited about the intersection of XPD’s scientific program with Brookhaven’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. “Young, active, committed scientists will have access to our beamline, and will help us develop new capabilities. Current LDRD-XPD partnerships have already led to the invention of a novel slit system for probing the sample with x-rays at well controlled locations and are helping develop a new method called “Modulation Enhanced Diffraction.”

    NSLS-II diffraction image

    Just before publication of this feature, Dooryhee reported that the XPD team managed to condition and focus the x-ray monochromatic beam after only three weeks of commissioning. Shown here is the first diffraction image from NSLS-II:

    The very first scientific sample run on XPD is a new material system, “TaSe2-xSx ” — Sulfur-doped Tantalum Selenide — that is being studied by Cedomir Petrovic in the Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Sciences department at Brookhaven.

    At low temperature, electrons in both the pure TaSe2 and TaS2 compounds spontaneously form into charge density waves (CDWs), like ripples on the surface of a pond, but characteristics of the waves (such as the wavelength) are different. The question is, when you vary composition smoothly from one end of the series to the other end (meaning vary x in TaSe2-xSx), how do the waves cross over from one to the other? The surprise is that in between the waves disappear and are replaced by superconductivity – the ability of the material to conduct electricity with no resistance.

    “It is like mixing red paint and white paint, and instead of getting pink you get blue after mixing,” said professor Simon Billinge, joint appointee with Brookhaven and Columbia University, who has been the spokesperson and the chair of the beamline advisory team for the XPD beamline since the inception of the project. “The data from XPD provides crucial information about how the atomic structure varies with composition which is used to understand the delicate interplay of CDW and superconducting behavior in these materials.”

    “As well as being interesting in their own right, these studies at XPD are important to understand the phenomenon of unconventional high-temperature superconductivity, currently our best hope for technological devices for low loss power transmission, where a similar interplay of CDW and superconductivity is seen,” added Dooryhee.

    See the full article here.

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    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world.Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 5:45 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Basic Research, , ESA European Service Module,   

    From ESA: “European Service Module gets real” 

    European Space Agency

    26 Nov 2014

    On 17 November, ESA signed a contract in Berlin with the Airbus Defence and Space division to develop and build the European Service Module for Orion, NASA’s new crewed spacecraft. It is the first time that Europe will provide system-critical elements for an American space transportation vehicle.

    Credits: NASA

    NASA Orion Spacecraft
    NASA Orion spacecraft

    NASA intends to use this service module for the 2017 unmanned flight of Orion. The vehicle will perform a high-altitude orbital mission around the Moon. This flight will be a precursor for future Orion human space exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

    The official name of Orion is ‘Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle’, because the spacecraft can be used to conduct different missions. Eventually, NASA will use Orion to send astronauts to Mars.

    The design of the European Service Module (ESM) is based on the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the European supply craft for the International Space Station. It is a major achievement, as this is the first European development of a human spacecraft operating beyond Earth orbit.

    ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle

    “Being selected by NASA to develop critical elements for the Orion project – currently their most important exploration project – is a clear recognition of Europe’s performance in the frame of the ATV programme,” says Nico Dettmann, Head of ESA’s Space Transportation Department.

    “Cooperation with NASA is going well. It is fruitful and is happening with the same good spirit as with the International Space Station partnership,” he adds.

    The ESM is a cylindrical module with a diameter of 4.5 metres and a total length – main engine excluded – of 2.7 metres. It is fitted with four solar array ‘wings’ with a span of 18.8 metres. Its dry mass is 3.5 metric tons and it can carry 8.6 tons of propellant. Besides propulsion and power, ESM carries consumables.

    The Critical Design Review (CDR) is planned for 2015.

    See the full article here.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 5:29 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Basic Research, , Magnetosphere,   

    From NASA/Goddard: “NASA’s Van Allen Probes Spot an Impenetrable Barrier in Space” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    November 26, 2014

    Karen C. Fox
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    Two donuts of seething radiation that surround Earth, called the Van Allen radiation belts, have been found to contain a nearly impenetrable barrier that prevents the fastest, most energetic electrons from reaching Earth.

    NASA Van Allen Probes
    A NASA Van Allen probe

    A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth’s radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet.
    Image Credit: NASA/Goddard

    The Van Allen belts are a collection of charged particles, gathered in place by Earth’s magnetic field. They can wax and wane in response to incoming energy from the sun, sometimes swelling up enough to expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation. The discovery of the drain that acts as a barrier within the belts was made using NASA’s Van Allen Probes, launched in August 2012 to study the region. A paper on these results appeared in the Nov. 27, 2014, issue of Nature magazine.

    “This barrier for the ultra-fast electrons is a remarkable feature of the belts,” said Dan Baker, a space scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder and first author of the paper. “We’re able to study it for the first time, because we never had such accurate measurements of these high-energy electrons before.”

    Understanding what gives the radiation belts their shape and what can affect the way they swell or shrink helps scientists predict the onset of those changes. Such predictions can help scientists protect satellites in the area from the radiation.

    The Van Allen belts were the first discovery of the space age, measured with the launch of a US satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. In the decades since, scientists have learned that the size of the two belts can change – or merge, or even separate into three belts occasionally. But generally the inner belt stretches from 400 to 6,000 miles above Earth’s surface and the outer belt stretches from 8,400 to 36,000 miles above Earth’s surface.

    NASA Explorer 1
    NASA/Explorer 1

    A slot of fairly empty space typically separates the belts. But, what keeps them separate? Why is there a region in between the belts with no electrons?

    Enter the newly discovered barrier. The Van Allen Probes data show that the inner edge of the outer belt is, in fact, highly pronounced. For the fastest, highest-energy electrons, this edge is a sharp boundary that, under normal circumstances, the electrons simply cannot penetrate.

    “When you look at really energetic electrons, they can only come to within a certain distance from Earth,” said Shri Kanekal, the deputy mission scientist for the Van Allen Probes at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and a co-author on the Nature paper. “This is completely new. We certainly didn’t expect that.”

    The team looked at possible causes. They determined that human-generated transmissions were not the cause of the barrier. They also looked at physical causes. Could the very shape of the magnetic field surrounding Earth cause the boundary? Scientists studied but eliminated that possibility. What about the presence of other space particles? This appears to be a more likely cause.

    This [animation] shows how particles move through Earth’s radiation belts, the large donuts around Earth. The sphere in the middle shows a cloud of colder material called the plasmasphere. New research shows that the plasmasphere helps keep fast electrons from the radiation belts away from Earth.
    Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Scientific Visualization Studio


    The radiation belts are not the only particle structures surrounding Earth. A giant cloud of relatively cool, charged particles called the plasmasphere fills the outermost region of Earth’s atmosphere, beginning at about 600 miles up and extending partially into the outer Van Allen belt. The particles at the outer boundary of the plasmasphere cause particles in the outer radiation belt to scatter, removing them from the belt.

    This scattering effect is fairly weak and might not be enough to keep the electrons at the boundary in place, except for a quirk of geometry: The radiation belt electrons move incredibly quickly, but not toward Earth. Instead, they move in giant loops around Earth. The Van Allen Probes data show that in the direction toward Earth, the most energetic electrons have very little motion at all – just a gentle, slow drift that occurs over the course of months. This is a movement so slow and weak that it can be rebuffed by the scattering caused by the plasmasphere.

    This also helps explain why – under extreme conditions, when an especially strong solar wind or a giant solar eruption such as a coronal mass ejection sends clouds of material into near-Earth space – the electrons from the outer belt can be pushed into the usually-empty slot region between the belts.

    “The scattering due to the plasmapause is strong enough to create a wall at the inner edge of the outer Van Allen Belt,” said Baker. “But a strong solar wind event causes the plasmasphere boundary to move inward.”

    A massive inflow of matter from the sun can erode the outer plasmasphere, moving its boundaries inward and allowing electrons from the radiation belts the room to move further inward too.

    The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, built and operates the Van Allen Probes for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The mission is the second in NASA’s Living With a Star program, managed by Goddard.

    For more information about the Van Allen Probe, visit:


    See the full article here.

    This post is dedicated to A.A., whose posts are filled with great NASA data and graphics.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.


  • richardmitnick 4:49 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research,   

    From isgtw: “HPC matters: Funding, collaboration, innovation” 

    international science grid this week

    November 26, 2014
    Amber Harmon

    This month US energy secretary Ernest Moniz announced the Department of Energy will spend $325m to research extreme-scale computing and build two new GPU-accelerated supercomputers. The goal: to put the nation on a fast-track to exascale computing, and thereby leading scientific research that addresses challenging issues in government, academia, and industry.

    Horst Simon, deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California, US. Image courtesy Amber Harmon.

    Moniz also announced funding awards, totaling $100m, for partnerships with HPC companies developing exascale technologies under the FastForward 2 program managed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, US.

    The combined spending comes at a critical juncture, as just last week the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its 2014 Science, Technology and Industry Outlook report. With research and development budgets in advanced economies not yet fully recovered from the 2008 economic crisis, China is on track to lead the world in R&D spending by 2019.

    The DOE-sponsored collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Lawrence Livermore (CORAL) national labs will ensure each is able to deploy a supercomputer expected to provide about five times the performance of today’s top systems.

    The Summit supercomputer will outperform Titan, the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s (OLCF) current flagship system. Research pursuits include combustion and climate science, as well as energy storage and nuclear power. “Summit builds on the hybrid multi-core architecture that the OLCF pioneered with Titan,” says Buddy Bland, director of the Summit project.

    IBM Summit & Sierra Supercomputers
    IBM new exascale supercomputer

    The other system, Sierra, will serve the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program. “Sierra will allow us to begin laying the groundwork for exascale systems,” says Bob Meisner, ASC program head, “as the heterogeneous accelerated node architecture represents one of the most promising architectural paths.” Argonne is expected to finalize a contract for a system at a later date.

    IBM Sierra supercomputer
    IBM Sierra supercomputer

    The announcements came just ahead of the 2014 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC14). Also ahead of SC14, organizers launched the HPC Matters campaign and announced the first HPC Matters plenary, aimed at sharing real stories about how HPC makes an everyday difference.

    When asked why the US was pushing the HPC Matters initiative, conference advisor Wilfred Pinfold, director of research and advanced technology development at Intel Federal, focused on informing and educating a broader audience. “To a large extent, growth in the use of HPC — and the benefits that come from it — will develop as more people understand in detail those benefits.” Pinfold also noted the effort the US must make to continue to lead in HPC technology. “I think other countries are catching up and there is real competition ahead — all of which is good.”

    The HPC domain is in many ways defined by two sometimes opposing drives: the push of international collaborations to solve fundamental societal issues, and the pull of national security, innovation, and economic competitiveness — a point that Horst Simon, deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California, US, says we shouldn’t shy away from. Simon participated in an SC14 panel discussion of international funding strategies for HPC software, noting issues the discipline needs to overcome.

    “In principle all supercomputers are easily accessible worldwide. But while our openness as an international community in principal makes it easier, it is less of a necessity that we work out how to actually work together.” This results in very soft collaboration agreements, says Simon, that go nowhere without grassroots efforts by researchers who already have relationships and are interested in working together.

    According to Irene Qualters, division director of advanced cyberinfrastructure at the US National Science Foundation, expectations are increasing. “The community we support is not only multidisciplinary and highly internationally collaborative, but researchers expect their work to have broad societal impact.” Collective motivation is so strong, Qualters notes, that we’re moving away from a history of bilateral agreements. “The ability to do multilateral and broader umbrella agreements is an important efficiency that we’re poised for.”

    See the full article here.

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    iSGTW is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

    In its current incarnation, iSGTW is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

    You can read iSGTW via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

  • richardmitnick 4:19 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Keck: “‘Eye of Sauron’ Provides New Way of Measuring Distances to Galaxies” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory

    November 26, 2014
    No Writer Credit

    A team of scientists, led by Dr. Sebastian Hoenig from the University of Southampton, has accurately measured the distance to the nearby NGC 4151 galaxy, using the W. M. Keck Observatory Interferometer. The team employed a new technique they developed, which allows them to measure precise distances to galaxies tens of millions of light years away. The research was published today in the journal Nature.

    Keck Interferometer
    Interferometry at Keck

    NGC 4151
    This composite image shows the central region of the spiral galaxy NGC 4151, dubbed the “Eye of Sauron” by astronomers for its similarity to the eye of the malevolent character in The Lord of the Rings. In the “pupil” of the eye, X-rays (blue) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are combined with optical data (yellow) showing positively charged hydrogen (“H II”) from observations with the 1-meter Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope on La Palma. The red around the pupil shows neutral hydrogen detected by radio observations with the NSF’s Very Large Array. This neutral hydrogen is part of a structure near the center of NGC 4151 that has been distorted by gravitational interactions with the rest of the galaxy, and includes material falling towards the center of the galaxy. The yellow blobs around the red ellipse are regions where star formation has recently occurred.
    Date 27 March 2008
    Source http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2011/n4151/
    Author X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/J.Wang et al.; Optical: Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, La Palma/Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope, Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA Chandra schematic

    Isaac Newton Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope Telescope
    Isaac Newton Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope interior
    Isaac Newton Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope


    The new technique is similar to that used by land surveyors on earth, who measure both the physical and angular – or ‘apparent’ – size of a distant object, to calculate its distance from Earth.

    Previous reported distances to NGC 4151, which contains a supermassive black hole, ranged from 4- to 29-megaparsecs, but using this new, more accurate method, the researchers calculated the distance to the supermassive black hole as 19 megaparsecs.

    The galaxy NGC415 is dubbed the Eye of Sauron by astronomers for the similarity to its namesake in the film trilogy The Lord of the Rings. As in the famous saga, a ring plays a crucial role in this new measurement. All big galaxies in the universe host a supermassive black hole in their center and in about 10 percent of all galaxies, these supermassive black holes are growing by swallowing huge amounts of gas and dust from their surrounding environments. In this process, the material heats up and becomes very bright — becoming the most energetic sources of emission in the universe known as active galactic nuclei (AGN).

    This hot dust forms a ring around the supermassive black hole and emits infrared radiation, which the researchers used as the ruler. However, the apparent size of the Eye of Sauron’s ring is so small, the observations were carried out using the Keck Interferometer, which combines Keck Observatory’s twin 10-meter telescopes — already the largest telescopes on Earth — to achieve the resolving power of an 85m telescope.

    To measure the physical size of the dusty ring, the researchers measured the time delay between the emission of light from close to the black hole and the more distant infrared emission. The distance from the center to the hot dust is simply this delay divided by the speed of light.

    By combining the physical size of the dust ring with the apparent size measured with the Keck Interferometer, the researchers were able to determine a distance to NGC 4151.

    “One of the key findings is that the distance determined in this new fashion is quite precise — with 90 percent accuracy,” Hoenig said. “In fact, this method, based on simple geometrical principles, gives the most precise distances for remote galaxies. Moreover, it can be readily used on many more sources than current methods. Such distances are key in pinning down the cosmological parameters that characterize our universe or in accurately measuring black hole masses. Indeed, NGC 4151 is a key to calibrating various techniques of estimating black hole masses. Our new distance implies that these masses may have been systematically underestimated by 40 percent.”

    Hoenig, together with colleagues in Denmark and Japan, is currently setting up a new program to extend their work to many more AGN. The goal is to establish precise distances to a dozen galaxies using this technique and use them to constrain cosmological parameters to within few per cent. Combined with other measurements, this will provide a better understanding of the history of expansion of our universe.

    The Keck Interferometer began construction in 1997, and finished its mission in 2012. It was funded by NASA and managed by JPL. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

    Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    See the full article here.

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    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.
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    Keck Caltech

  • richardmitnick 3:32 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research, , M.I.T.   

    From LC Newsline: “Vertical wonder” 

    Linear Collider Collaboration header
    Linear Collider Collaboration

    26 November 2014
    Joykrit Mitra

    In 2006, Fermilab’s Particle Physics Division teamed up with MIT’s Lincoln Labs to start work on the first iteration of a new kind chip for the proposed International Linear Collider’s vertex detector. A new way to slim down chips was emerging in the semiconductor industry, one that could potentially make it easier to measure the properties of incoming particles. Eight years and several iterations later, the chip is now close to being complete, and the ILC vertex detector is another step closer to being an engineering reality.

    Fermilab’s vertically stacked chips bonded onto sensor wafers. Photo Credit: Reidar Hahn

    In old-fashioned circuit boards, components are arranged side by side on a flat surface. An electrical signal has to travel a long distance to reach the processor, and generates excess electrical noise in the process, reducing the clarity of the output. To solve this problem, the semiconductor industry started vertically stacking wafer-like silicon layers — each thinner than a human hair—and bonding them together chemically. The stacked arrangement is called a 3-D integrated circuit.

    A 3-D arrangement is especially useful for the ILC vertex detector, where the chip and its associated sensor need to be as thin as practicable so as not to disrupt the path of the incoming particles too much and interfere with their properties. Furthermore, the circuitry needs to make do with limited power and still manage to capture a particle’s position, time stamp of arrival and charge at a good resolution.

    Lincoln Labs and Fermilab collaborated to build this kind of a chip. The first iteration, VIP I – or vertically integrated pixel chip – was assembled in Lincoln Labs with three layers stacked together. The two labs went on to design a successor, VIP II-a.

    “When we originally started working on it, our goals were pretty ambitious,” said Ron Lipton of Fermilab’s Particle Physics Division who worked on detector R&D for the ILC and worked with the engineers designing the chip. “But it was clear that if you wanted to really make progress, you had to have commercial technology.”

    At this stage Tezzaron, based in Naperville, Illinois, and Ziptronix of Morrisville, North Carolina, were brought in to help develop VIP II-b, in which each wafer had a 192-by-192-pixel arrangement and greater resolution than its predecessors.

    Tezzaron had created a working 3-D prototype in 2004 connecting two wafers with tungsten contacts embedded in the silicon, and Ziptronix had found a way to get rid of the 50-micron- thick solder bumps being used industrially to connect each pixel on a chip surface to the sensor. Ziptronix engineers had replaced the bumps with metal cylinders only 5 microns in diameter and 1 micron high embedded in a glass insulator, decreasing the distance between pixel and sensor by a factor greater than 10. These advances were integrated into the latest iteration of the VIP.

    Tungsten mask of the Fermilab logo rendered using the VIP II-b chip. Photo Credit: Ron Lipton

    So far VIP II-b has been tested qualitatively. A mask of the Fermilab logo made of tungsten, 400 microns thick, was pressed against the chip and bombarded with a radioactive source, and the chip was able to reproduce a readout of the pattern at a high resolution with relatively low noise. The result showcases the device’s abilities and serves as testament that the basic circuitry works.

    Next up is detecting an actual particle beam. A collaboration between Argonne National Laboratory, Brown University and Fermilab to optimize the chip quantitatively for such a setup is under way.

    “We have all of the pieces necessary to build a functional prototype for the vertex detector,” Lipton said. “The next step will depend on how the ILC project proceeds.”

    See the full article here.

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    The Linear Collider Collaboration is an organisation that brings the two most likely candidates, the Compact Linear Collider Study (CLIC) and the International Liner Collider (ILC), together under one roof. Headed by former LHC Project Manager Lyn Evans, it strives to coordinate the research and development work that is being done for accelerators and detectors around the world and to take the project linear collider to the next step: a decision that it will be built, and where.

    Some 2000 scientists – particle physicists, accelerator physicists, engineers – are involved in the ILC or in CLIC, and often in both projects. They work on state-of-the-art detector technologies, new acceleration techniques, the civil engineering aspect of building a straight tunnel of at least 30 kilometres in length, a reliable cost estimate and many more aspects that projects of this scale require. The Linear Collider Collaboration ensures that synergies between the two friendly competitors are used to the maximum.

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  • richardmitnick 3:18 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Basic Research, ,   

    From FNAL: “From the Scientific Computing Division – Strengthening the computing foundation of Fermilab” 

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

    Panagiotis Spentzouris, head of the Scientific Computing Division, wrote this column.

    Scientific computing, through the process of numerical modeling and simulation, complements theory and experiment as a way to obtain scientific knowledge. But computing is more than the third leg of the discovery stool. Scientific computing also supports and enables the other two through data collection, reconstruction and analytics. It has always been an essential part of the Fermilab physics program.

    FNAL Scientific Computing

    Every time I see a picture of an event from the Large Hadron Collider’s CMS experiment or, in more recent times, a NOvA event, I think of our Scientific Computing Division’s contributions. NOvA hit the ground running, collecting data with an SCD-designed and -commissioned data acquisition system, processing data with SCD-developed software, and running on computing resources supported by SCD workflow management services and operations. SCD also develops and supports tools and applications for detector and accelerator simulation and physics generation.

    CERN CMS New
    CMS in the LHC at CERN


    All in all, SCD has been exceedingly successful in delivering world-class computing services, operations and software engineering support to Fermilab-based experiments, CMS and the high-energy physics community at large, working closely with our users. However, as Fermilab moves forward with the P5 plan, we face many scientific computing challenges.

    First, we must provide the same high level of support to various experiments with different timelines and priorities. In addition, as computing architectures evolve, we must change the paradigms for how we construct our algorithms, write our codes and organize our analysis flows. Also, while new technologies, such as more accessible cloud computing, provide attractive possibilities for deploying computing resources, they require us to develop new services for on-demand reliable resource allocation.

    In order to meet these challenges and continue to serve the needs of our user community, we have reorganized SCD and aligned our activities across three major areas. One is development, integration and research, in which we create the products that run on our facilities. The second is facilities, where we operate the services that run these products. The third is science operations and workflows, through which we tailor applications of the facility services to our experiments and projects and assist with operations.

    Of course, no organization can be successful without its people. In the nearly three months since I became division head, my interactions with all parts of SCD have reinforced this belief. SCD members have unique and diverse skills in a variety of professions, including scientists, engineers, software architects and developers, and experts in using and operating high-performance and high-throughput computing systems.

    It is very exciting to be at Fermilab now. The Fermilab neutrino program is on its way with more experiments to come online; CMS is about to restart taking data; the muon program will start soon; and our accelerator complex upgrades are well under way. We in SCD are looking forward to working with the rest of the laboratory to make this program a great success. Happy Thanksgiving!

    FNAL Muon G-2 Magnet
    The Muon G2 magnet

    See the full article here.

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    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics.

  • richardmitnick 2:46 pm on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research, , , Scintillators   

    From FNAL: “Scintillator extruded at Fermilab detects particles around the globe” 

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014
    Troy Rummler

    Small, clear pellets of polystyrene can do a lot. They can help measure cosmic muons at the Pierre Auger Observatory, search for CP violation at KEK in Japan or observe neutrino oscillation at Fermilab. But in order to do any of these they have to go through Lab 5, located in the Fermilab Village, where the Scintillation Detector Development Group, in collaboration with the Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Design (NICADD), manufactures the exclusive source of extruded plastic scintillator.

    The plastic scintillator extrusion line, shown here, produces detector material for export to experiments around the world. Photo: Reidar Hahn

    Like vinyl siding on a house, long thin blocks of plastic scintillator cover the surfaces of certain particle detectors. The plastic absorbs energy from collisions and releases it as measurable flashes of light. Fermilab’s Alan Bross and Anna Pla-Dalmau first partnered with local vendors to develop the concept and produce cost-effective scintillator material for the MINOS neutrino oscillation experiment. Later, with NIU’s Gerald Blazey, they built the in-house facility that has now exported high-quality extruded scintillator to experiments worldwide.

    “It was clear that extruded scintillator would have a big impact on large neutrino detectors,” Bross said, “but its widespread application was not foreseen.”

    Industrially manufactured polystyrene scintillators can be costly — requiring a labor-intensive process of casting purified materials individually in molds that have to be cleaned constantly. Producing the number of pieces needed for large-scale projects such as MINOS through casting would have been prohibitively expensive.

    Extrusion, in contrast, presses melted plastic pellets through a die to create a continuous noodle of scintillator (typically about four centimeters wide by two centimeters tall) at a much lower cost. The first step in the production line mixes into the melted plastic two additives that enhance polystyrene’s natural scintillating property. As the material reaches the die, it receives a white, highly reflective coating that holds in scintillation light. Two cold water tanks respectively bathe and shower the scintillator strip before it is cool enough to handle. A puller controls its speed, and a robotic saw finally cuts it to length. The final product contains either a groove or a hole meant for a wavelength-shifting fiber that captures the scintillation light and sends the signal to electronics in the most useful form possible.

    Bross had been working on various aspects of the scintillator cost problem since 1989, and he and Pla-Dalmau successfully extruded experiment-quality plastic scintillator with their vendors just in time to make MINOS a reality. In 2003, NICADD purchased and located at Lab 5 many of the machines needed to form an in-house production line.

    “The investment made by Blazey and NICADD opened extruded scintillators to numerous experiments,” Pla-Dalmau said. “Without this contribution from NIU, who knows if this equipment would have ever been available to Fermilab and the rest of the physics community?”

    Blazey agreed that collaboration was an important part of the plastic scintillator development.

    “Together the two institutions had the capacity to build the resources necessary to develop state-of-the-art scintillator detector elements for numerous experiments inside and outside high-energy physics,” Blazey said. “The two institutions remain strong collaborators.”

    Between their other responsibilities at Fermilab, the SDD group continues to study ways to make their scintillator more efficient. One task ahead, according to Bross, is to work modern, glass wavelength-shifting fibers into their final product.

    “Incorporation of the fibers into the extrusions has always been a tedious part of the process,” he said. “We would like to change that.”

    See the full article here.

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    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics.

  • richardmitnick 9:12 am on November 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Basic Research, ,   

    From ESO: “A Colourful Gathering of Middle-aged Stars” 

    European Southern Observatory

    26 November 2014
    Richard Hook
    ESO, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    The MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has captured a richly colourful view of the bright star cluster NGC 3532. Some of the stars still shine with a hot bluish colour, but many of the more massive ones have become red giants and glow with a rich orange hue.


    ESO 2.2 meter telescope
    ESO 2.2 meter telescope interior
    ESO 2.2 Meter Telescope at LaSilla

    ESO LaSilla Long View

    NGC 3532 is a bright open cluster located some 1300 light-years away in the constellation of Carina (The Keel of the ship Argo). It is informally known as the Wishing Well Cluster, as it resembles scattered silver coins which have been dropped into a well. It is also referred to as the Football Cluster, although how appropriate this is depends on which side of the Atlantic you live. It acquired the name because of its oval shape, which citizens of rugby-playing nations might see as resembling a rugby ball.

    This very bright star cluster is easily seen with the naked eye from the southern hemisphere. It was discovered by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille whilst observing from South Africa in 1752 and was catalogued three years later in 1755. It is one of the most spectacular open star clusters in the whole sky.

    NGC 3532 covers an area of the sky that is almost twice the size of the full Moon. It was described as a binary-rich cluster by John Herschel who observed “several elegant double stars” here during his stay in southern Africa in the 1830s. Of additional, much more recent, historical relevance, NGC 3532 was the first target to be observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, on 20 May 1990.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA Hubble schematic
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    This grouping of stars is about 300 million years old. This makes it middle-aged by open star cluster standards [1]. The cluster stars that started off with moderate masses are still shining brightly with blue-white colours, but the more massive ones have already exhausted their supplies of hydrogen fuel and have become red giant stars. As a result the cluster appears rich in both blue and orange stars. The most massive stars in the original cluster will have already run through their brief but brilliant lives and exploded as supernovae long ago. There are also numerous less conspicuous fainter stars of lower mass that have longer lives and shine with yellow or red hues. NGC 3532 consists of around 400 stars in total.

    The background sky here in a rich part of the Milky Way is very crowded with stars. Some glowing red gas is also apparent, as well as subtle lanes of dust that block the view of more distant stars. These are probably not connected to the cluster itself, which is old enough to have cleared away any material in its surroundings long ago.

    This image of NGC 3532 was captured by the Wide Field Imager instrument at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in February 2013.

    ESO Wide Field Imager 2.2m LaSilla
    WFI at LaSilla


    [1] Stars with masses many times greater than the Sun have lives of just a few million years, the Sun is expected to live for about ten billion years and low-mass stars have expected lives of hundreds of billions of years — much greater than the current age of the Universe.

    See the full article here.

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    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.

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