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  • richardmitnick 1:22 pm on October 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ART- Anomalous radiative trapping, , , , , , Exawatt Center for Extreme Light Studies, , QED’s double-edged sword, The ART of gamma-ray creation, Toward a Better Gamma-Ray Source?   

    From Optics & Photonics: “Toward a Better Gamma-Ray Source?” 

    Optics & Photonics

    Stewart Wills

    In the Chalmers team’s concept, electrons and positrons (green) trapped in a petawatt-power laser field (surfaces in red, orange and yellow) are oscilated to produce cascades of high-energy gamma-ray photons (pink). The team’s concept relies on careful control of laser pulse duration and peak power, as well as density of charged particles, to maximize gamma ray production and energy. [Image: Arkady Gonoskov]

    The advent of lasers of petawatt peak powers, at facilities such as those of the European Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI), has physicists licking their chops for a previously unavailable, extremely bright source of high-energy gamma-ray photons for new kinds of experiments. But just how “high” can “high-energy” be?

    European Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI)

    Previous simulations have suggested that as laser peak powers reach lofty petawatt levels, the laser field itself can start to run into fundamental limits. Those limits are tied to strong-field quantum electrodynamic (QED) effects, which can, through complex feedbacks, eventually sap the energy of the laser field driving them. As a result, it’s generally been assumed that efficient gamma-ray production from these new petawatt-peak-power lasers would be limited to energies well under a billion electron volts (GeV).

    Now, researchers from Sweden, Russia and the United Kingdom have re-crunched the numbers, and suggested that this fundamental limit might not be so fundamental after all (Phys. Rev. X, doi: 10.1103/PhysRevX.7.041003). The team’s modeling suggests that, by tweaking the laser pulse intensity and duration in the right way, it’s possible to tune the system to minimize the energy-depleting effects and maximize the creation of gamma rays. This, says the team, would allow the radiation from the high-power laser to be “converted into a well-collimated flash of GeV photons.”

    Thus far, the scenario, requiring lasers with peak powers on the order of 10 PW, has been proved out only on the computer. But the authors hope to see it verified in practice as such powerful lasers start come on line with the maturing of the ELI and other projects—a development that, they maintain, “could enable a new era of experiments in photonuclear and quark-nuclear physics.”

    QED’s double-edged sword

    One reason for doubts about maximum attainable energy has to do with the previously inaccessible physics of strong-field QED that petawatt-peak-power lasers will suddenly put on the table. On the plus side, the strong fields of 10-PW-plus lasers, interacting with and accelerating particles in an electron–positron plasma, can cause those particles to radiate a large fraction of their energy as energetic gamma-ray photons. That, in turn, has raised considerable anticipation that these soon-to-be-launched high-peak-power lasers could provide a source for high-energy gamma rays for new kinds of experiments.

    But there’s a catch. As the flux of gamma-ray photons produced by these light–matter interactions increases, a significant share of those high-energy photons would themselves interact with the laser field to create a cascade of electron–positron pairs, through the QED process of pair production. The result would be an increasingly dense plasma cloud in the laser field that would rapidly pull energy out of the field itself, quickly erasing its ability to create additional gamma-ray photons and preventing its use as a sustainable a gamma-ray source above a certain energy threshold.

    The ART of gamma-ray creation

    The team behind the new research—led by physicist Arkady Gonoskov of Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, along with colleagues at Chalmers, the Russian Academy of Sciences, Lobachevsky State University in Russia, and the University of Plymouth in the U.K.—sought to get around that limit. To do so, they looked in detail at the interaction of the electron–positron cascade with another process in these high-energy laser fields, so-called anomalous radiative trapping (ART).

    In ART, using a complex set of parabolic mirrors, 12 laser pulses can be focused into a dipole standing wave that traps electrons and positrons. The trapped particles are then oscillated in the wave in such a way that they gain substantial energy and have a high probability of emitting a substantial part of that gained energy in a single gamma-ray photon.

    As with other approaches to gamma-ray creation, the increasing gamma-ray flux from ART leads to a pair-production cascade and a growing plasma cloud of electrons and positrons. But using advanced 3-D QED particle-in-cell (PIC) numerical simulations, the Gonoskov team was able to establish that, at laser powers above around 7 PW, it’s possible to keep that cascade from putting a lid on the laser field’s energy for gamma-ray production.

    The trick, according to the team is to tune the ART setup’s pulse duration, peak power and initial particle density to maximize the field intensity, and thus the gamma-ray production, just before the plasma effects from the cascade start to reduce the energy of the generated photons. This, according to the researchers, allows “a maximal number of particles to interact with the most intense part of the laser pulses, and emit a large number of high-energy photons.”

    From simulation to reality?

    In their comprehensive PIC simulation, the researchers found that an experiment using 12 laser pulses with a total peak power of 40 PW could result in a well-collimated gamma-ray beam with an energy greater than 2 GeV, and “the unique capability of achieving high peak brilliance in an energy range unachievable for conventional sources.” As such, it could offer “a powerful tool for studying fundamental electromagnetic processes, and will open qualitatively new possibilities for studying photonuclear processes.”

    Putting the that promise to the test outside of numerical experiments, of course, must await the full production implementation of petawatt-scale lasers in ELI and elsewhere. In a press release accompanying the study, Gonoskov noted that the team’s concept “is already part of the experimental program proposed for one such facility: the Exawatt Center for Extreme Light Studies in Russia,” currently under construction.

    Exawatt Center for Extreme Light Studies, Russia

    See the full article here .

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    Optics & Photonics News (OPN) is The Optical Society’s monthly news magazine. It provides in-depth coverage of recent developments in the field of optics and offers busy professionals the tools they need to succeed in the optics industry, as well as informative pieces on a variety of topics such as science and society, education, technology and business. OPN strives to make the various facets of this diverse field accessible to researchers, engineers, businesspeople and students. Contributors include scientists and journalists who specialize in the field of optics. We welcome your submissions.

  • richardmitnick 10:08 am on October 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From LBNL: “Experiment Provides Deeper Look into the Nature of Neutrinos” 

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    Berkeley Lab

    October 23, 2017
    Glenn Roberts Jr.
    (510) 486-5582

    The first glimpse of data from the full array of a deeply chilled particle detector operating beneath a mountain in Italy sets the most precise limits yet on where scientists might find a theorized process to help explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe.

    This new result, submitted today to the journal Physical Review Letters, is based on two months of data collected from the full detector of the CUORE (Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events) experiment at the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics’ (INFN’s) Gran Sasso National Laboratories (LNGS) in Italy. CUORE means “heart” in Italian.

    The CUORE detector array, shown here in this rendering is formed by 19 copper-framed “towers” that each house a matrix of 52 cube-shaped crystals Credit CUORE collaboration

    CUORE experiment UC Berkeley, experiment at the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics’ (INFN’s) Gran Sasso National Laboratories (LNGS), a search for neutrinoless double beta decay

    Gran Sasso LABORATORI NAZIONALI del GRAN SASSO, located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy

    The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) leads the U.S. nuclear physics effort for the international CUORE collaboration, which has about 150 members from 25 institutions. The U.S. nuclear physics program has made substantial contributions to the fabrication and scientific leadership of the CUORE detector.

    CUORE is considered one of the most promising efforts to determine whether tiny elementary particles called neutrinos, which interact only rarely with matter, are “Majorana particles” – identical to their own antiparticles. Most other particles are known to have antiparticles that have the same mass but a different charge, for example. CUORE could also help us home in on the exact masses of the three types, or “flavors,” of neutrinos – neutrinos have the unusual ability to morph into different forms.

    “This is the first preview of what an instrument this size is able to do,” said Oliviero Cremonesi, a senior faculty scientist at INFN and spokesperson for the CUORE collaboration. Already, the full detector array’s sensitivity has exceeded the precision of the measurements reported in April 2015 after a successful two-year test run that enlisted one detector tower. Over the next five years CUORE will collect about 100 times more data.

    Yury Kolomensky, a senior faculty scientist in the Nuclear Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and U.S. spokesperson for the CUORE collaboration, said, “The detector is working exceptionally well and these two months of data are enough to exceed the previous limits.” Kolomensky is also a professor in the UC Berkeley Physics Department.

    The new data provide a narrow range in which scientists might expect to see any indication of the particle process it is designed to find, known as neutrinoless double beta decay.

    “CUORE is, in essence, one of the world’s most sensitive thermometers,” said Carlo Bucci, technical coordinator of the experiment and Italian spokesperson for the CUORE collaboration. Its detectors, formed by 19 copper-framed “towers” that each house a matrix of 52 cube-shaped, highly purified tellurium dioxide crystals, are suspended within the innermost chamber of six nested tanks.

    Cooled by the most powerful refrigerator of its kind, the tanks subject the detector to the coldest known temperature recorded in a cubic meter volume in the entire universe: minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit (10 milliKelvin).

    The detector array was designed and assembled over a 10-year period. It is shielded from many outside particles, such as cosmic rays that constantly bombard the Earth, by the 1,400 meters of rock above it, and by thick lead shielding that includes a radiation-depleted form of lead rescued from an ancient Roman shipwreck. Other detector materials were also prepared in ultrapure conditions, and the detectors were assembled in nitrogen-filled, sealed glove boxes to prevent contamination from regular air.

    “Designing, building, and operating CUORE has been a long journey and a fantastic achievement,” said Ettore Fiorini, an Italian physicist who developed the concept of CUORE’s heat-sensitive detectors (tellurium dioxide bolometers), and the spokesperson-emeritus of the CUORE collaboration. “Employing thermal detectors to study neutrinos took several decades and brought to the development of technologies that can now be applied in many fields of research.”

    Together weighing over 1,600 pounds, CUORE’s matrix of roughly fist-sized crystals is extremely sensitive to particle processes, especially at this extreme temperature. Associated instruments can precisely measure ever-slight temperature changes in the crystals resulting from these processes.

    Berkeley Lab and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists supplied roughly half of the crystals for the CUORE project. In addition, the Berkeley Lab team designed and fabricated the highly sensitive temperature sensors – called neutron transmutation doped thermistors – invented by Eugene Haller, a senior faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley faculty member.

    CUORE was assembled in this specially designed clean room to help protect it from contaminants. (Credit: CUORE collaboration)

    Berkeley Lab researchers also designed and built a specialized clean room supplied with air depleted of natural radioactivity, so that the CUORE detectors could be installed into the cryostat in ultraclean conditions. And Berkeley Lab scientists and engineers, under the leadership of UC Berkeley postdoc Vivek Singh, worked with Italian colleagues to commission the CUORE cryogenic systems, including a uniquely powerful cooling system called a dilution refrigerator.

    Former UC Berkeley postdoctoral students Tom Banks and Tommy O’Donnell, who also had joint appointments in the Nuclear Science Division at Berkeley Lab, led the international team of physicists, engineers, and technicians to assemble over 10,000 parts into towers in nitrogen-filled glove boxes. They bonded almost 8,000 gold wires, measuring just 25 microns in diameter, to 100-micron sized pads on the temperature sensors, and on copper pads connected to detector wiring.

    CUORE measurements carry the telltale signature of specific types of particle interactions or particle decays – a spontaneous process by which a particle or particles transform into other particles.

    In double beta decay, which has been observed in previous experiments, two neutrons in the atomic nucleus of a radioactive element become two protons. Also, two electrons are emitted, along with two other particles called antineutrinos.

    Neutrinoless double beta decay, meanwhile – the specific process that CUORE is designed to find or to rule out – would not produce any antineutrinos. This would mean that neutrinos are their own antiparticles. During this decay process the two antineutrino particles would effectively wipe each other out, leaving no trace in the CUORE detector. Evidence for this type of decay process would also help scientists explain neutrinos’ role in the imbalance of matter vs. antimatter in our universe.

    Neutrinoless double beta decay is expected to be exceedingly rare, occurring at most (if at all) once every 100 septillion (1 followed by 26 zeros) years in a given atom’s nucleus. The large volume of detector crystals is intended to greatly increase the likelihood of recording such an event during the lifetime of the experiment.

    There is growing competition from new and planned experiments to resolve whether this process exists using a variety of search techniques, and Kolomensky noted, “The competition always helps. It drives progress, and also we can verify each other’s results, and help each other with materials screening and data analysis techniques.”

    Lindley Winslow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who coordinated the analysis of the CUORE data, said, “We are tantalizingly close to completely unexplored territory and there is great possibility for discovery. It is an exciting time to be on the experiment.”

    CUORE is supported jointly by the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Physics, the National Science Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in the U.S. The CORE collaboration includes about 150 scientists from Italy, U.S., China, France, and Spain, and is based in the underground Italian facility called INFN Gran Sasso National Laboratories (LNGS) of the INFN.

    CUORE collaboration members include: Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), University of Bologna, University of Genoa, University of Milano-Bicocca, and Sapienza University in Italy; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; Berkeley Lab; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of South Carolina; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Yale University in the US; Saclay Nuclear Research Center (CEA) and the Center for Nuclear Science and Materials Science (CNRS/IN2P3) in France; and the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

    The U.S.-CUORE team was lead by late Prof. Stuart Freedman until his untimely passing in 2012. Other current and former Berkeley Lab members of the CUORE collaboration not previously mentioned include US Contractor Project Manager Sergio Zimmermann (Engineering Division), former U.S. Contractor Project Manager Richard Kadel, staff scientists Jeffrey Beeman, Brian Fujikawa, Sarah Morgan, Alan Smith, postdocs Giovanni Benato, Raul Hennings-Yeomans, Ke Han, Yuan Mei, Bradford Welliver, Benjamin Schmidt, graduate students Adam Bryant, Alexey Drobizhev, Roger Huang, Laura Kogler, Jonathan Ouellet, and Sachi Wagaarachchi, and engineers David Biare, Luigi Cappelli, Lucio di Paolo, and Joseph Wallig.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on October 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , But no matter how when and where a new exoplanet is discovered there’s always that question burning at the back of our minds: could this exoplanet have Earth-like life?, , Modeling Limitless Skies   

    From astrobites: “Modeling Limitless Skies” 

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    Title: Redox Evolution via Gravitational Differentiation on Low Mass Planets: Implications for Biosignatures, Water Loss and Habitability
    Authors: R. Wordsworth, L. Schaefer, R. Fischer
    First Author’s Institution: School of Engineering and Applied Sciences & Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

    Status: Submitted to ApJ [open access]

    Looking for life

    If you’ve been tuning into astronomy news lately, you’ve probably heard about a number of the cool new exoplanet discoveries, like those in the TRAPPIST-1 system, continuously rolling in from our telescopes hard at work.

    A size comparison of the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system, lined up in order of increasing distance from their host star. The planetary surfaces are portrayed with an artist’s impression of their potential surface features, including water, ice, and atmospheres. NASA

    The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultracool dwarf, is orbited by seven Earth-size planets (NASA).

    But no matter how, when, and where a new exoplanet is discovered, there’s always that question burning at the back of our minds: could this exoplanet have Earth-like life?

    See the full article here .

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    What do we do?

    Astrobites is a daily astrophysical literature journal written by graduate students in astronomy. Our goal is to present one interesting paper per day in a brief format that is accessible to undergraduate students in the physical sciences who are interested in active research.
    Why read Astrobites?

    Reading a technical paper from an unfamiliar subfield is intimidating. It may not be obvious how the techniques used by the researchers really work or what role the new research plays in answering the bigger questions motivating that field, not to mention the obscure jargon! For most people, it takes years for scientific papers to become meaningful.
    Our goal is to solve this problem, one paper at a time. In 5 minutes a day reading Astrobites, you should not only learn about one interesting piece of current work, but also get a peek at the broader picture of research in a new area of astronomy.

  • richardmitnick 9:47 am on October 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , “This shows we can electrically control the electrons in graphene” said Eva Y. Andrei, , , Now it may become possible to realize a graphene nano-scale transistor Andrei said, , Taming "Wild" Electrons in Graphene   

    From Rutgers: “Taming “Wild” Electrons in Graphene” 

    Rutgers University
    Rutgers University

    A sharp tip creates a force field that can trap electrons in graphene or modify their trajectories, similar to the effect a lens has on light rays. Yuhang Jiang/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

    Graphene – a one-atom-thick layer of the stuff in pencils – is a better conductor than copper and is very promising for electronic devices, but with one catch: Electrons that move through it can’t be stopped.

    Until now, that is. Scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick have learned how to tame the unruly electrons in graphene, paving the way for the ultra-fast transport of electrons with low loss of energy in novel systems. Their study was published online in Nature Nanotechnology.

    “This shows we can electrically control the electrons in graphene,” said Eva Y. Andrei, Board of Governors professor in Rutgers’ Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences and the study’s senior author. “In the past, we couldn’t do it. This is the reason people thought that one could not make devices like transistors that require switching with graphene, because their electrons run wild.”

    Now it may become possible to realize a graphene nano-scale transistor, Andrei said. Thus far, graphene electronics components include ultrafast amplifiers, supercapacitors and ultralow resistivity wires. The addition of a graphene transistor would be an important step towards an all-graphene electronics platform. Other graphene-based applications include ultrasensitive chemical and biological sensors, filters for desalination and water purification. Graphene is also being developed in flat flexible screens, and paintable and printable electronic circuits.

    Graphene is a nano-thin layer of the carbon-based graphite that pencils write with. It is far stronger than steel and a great conductor. But when electrons move through it, they do so in straight lines and their high velocity does not change. “If they hit a barrier, they can’t turn back, so they have to go through it,” Andrei said. “People have been looking at how to control or tame these electrons.”

    Graphene’s unique properties enable applications in diverse areas including electronics, sensing, medicine and filtration.
    Tatiana Shepeleva/Shutterstock

    Her team managed to tame these wild electrons by sending voltage through a high-tech microscope with an extremely sharp tip, also the size of one atom. They created what resembles an optical system by sending voltage through a scanning tunneling microscope, which offers 3-D views of surfaces at the atomic scale. The microscope’s sharp tip creates a force field that traps electrons in graphene or modifies their trajectories, similar to the effect a lens has on light rays. Electrons can easily be trapped and released, providing an efficient on-off switching mechanism, according to Andrei.

    “You can trap electrons without making holes in the graphene,” she said. “If you change the voltage, you can release the electrons. So you can catch them and let them go at will.”

    The next step would be to scale up by putting extremely thin wires, called nanowires, on top of graphene and controlling the electrons with voltages, she said.

    The study’s co-lead authors are Yuhang Jiang and Jinhai Mao, Rutgers postdoctoral fellows, and a graduate student at Universiteit Antwerpen in Belgium. The other Rutgers co-author is Guohong Li, a research associate.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:25 am on October 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From FNAL: “Three Fermilab scientists awarded $17.5 million in SciDAC funding” 

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

    October 23, 2017
    Troy Rummler

    Three Fermilab-led collaborations have been awarded a combined $17.5 million over three years by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program. Researchers James Amundson, Giuseppe Cerati and James Kowalkowski will use the funds to support collaborations with external partners in computer science and applied mathematics to address problems in high-energy physics with advanced computing solutions.

    The awards, two of which can be extended to five years, mark the fourth consecutive cycle of successful bids from Fermilab scientists, who this year also bring home the majority of high-energy physics SciDAC funding disbursed. The series of computational collaborations has enabled Fermilab to propose progressively more sophisticated projects. One, an accelerator simulation project, builds directly on previous SciDAC-funded projects, while the other two projects are new: one to speed up event reconstruction and one to design new data analysis workflows.

    “Not only have we had successful projects for the last decade,” said Panagiotis Spentzouris, head of Fermilab’s Scientific Computing Division, “but we acquired enough expertise that we’re now daring to do things that we wouldn’t have dared before.”

    James Amundson

    SciDAC is enabling James Amundson and his team to enhance both the depth and accuracy of simulation software to meet the challenges of emerging accelerator technology.

    His project ComPASS4 will do this by first developing integrated simulations of whole accelerator complexes, ensuring the success of PIP-II upgrades, for example, by simulating the effects of unwanted emitted radiation. PIP-II is the lab’s plan for providing powerful, high-intensity proton beams for the international Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. The work also supports long-term goals for accelerators now in various stages of development.

    “We will be able to study plasma acceleration in much greater detail than currently possible, then combine those simulations with simulations of the produced beam in order to create a virtual prototype next-generation accelerator,” Amundson said. “None of these simulations would have been tractable with current software and high-performance computing hardware.”

    Giuseppe Cerati

    The next generation of high-energy physics experiments, including the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, will produce an unprecedented amount of data, which needs to be reconstructed into useful information, including a particle’s energy and trajectory. Reconstruction takes an enormous amount of computing time and resources.

    “Processing this data in real time, and even offline, will become unsustainable with the current computing model,” Giuseppe Cerati said. He, therefore, has proposed to lead an exploration into modern computing architectures to speed up reconstruction.

    “Without a fundamental transition to faster processing, we would face significant reductions in efficiency and accuracy, which would have a big impact on an experiment’s discovery potential,” he added.

    James Kowalkowski

    James Kowalkowski’s group will aim to redefine data analysis, enhancing optimization procedures to use computing resources in ways that have been unavailable in the past. This means fundamental changes in computational techniques and software infrastructure.

    In this new way of working, rather than treating data sets as collections of files, used to transfer chunks of information from one processing or analysis stage to the next, researchers can view data as immediately available and moveable around a unified, large-scale distributed application. This will permit scientists within collaborations to process large portions of collected experimental data in short order — nearly on demand.

    “Without the special funding from SciDAC to pull people from diverse backgrounds together, it would be nearly impossible to carry out this work,” Kowalkowski said.

    See the full article here .

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    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. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
    collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

  • richardmitnick 8:13 am on October 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Antennas, , “Specific radiation efficiency”, , , Nanotube fiber antennas as capable as copper, ,   

    From Rice: “Nanotube fiber antennas as capable as copper” 

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    Rice University

    October 23, 2017
    Mike Williams

    Rice University graduate student Amram Bengio sets up a nanotube fiber antenna for testing. Scientists at Rice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have determined that nanotube fibers made at Rice can be as good as copper antennas but 20 times lighter. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Rice researchers show their flexible fibers work well but weigh much less

    Fibers made of carbon nanotubes configured as wireless antennas can be as good as copper antennas but 20 times lighter, according to Rice University researchers. The antennas may offer practical advantages for aerospace applications and wearable electronics where weight and flexibility are factors.

    The research appears in Applied Physics Letters.

    The discovery offers more potential applications for the strong, lightweight nanotube fibers developed by the Rice lab of chemist and chemical engineer Matteo Pasquali. The lab introduced the first practical method for making high-conductivity carbon nanotube fibers in 2013 and has since tested them for use as brain implants and in heart surgeries, among other applications.

    The research could help engineers who seek to streamline materials for airplanes and spacecraft where weight equals cost. Increased interest in wearables like wrist-worn health monitors and clothing with embedded electronics could benefit from strong, flexible and conductive fiber antennas that send and receive signals, Pasquali said.

    The Rice team and colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed a metric they called “specific radiation efficiency” to judge how well nanotube fibers radiated signals at the common wireless communication frequencies of 1 and 2.4 gigahertz and compared their results with standard copper antennas. They made thread comprising from eight to 128 fibers that are about as thin as a human hair and cut to the same length to test on a custom rig that made straightforward comparisons with copper practical.

    “Antennas typically have a specific shape, and you have to design them very carefully,” said Rice graduate student Amram Bengio, the paper’s lead author. “Once they’re in that shape, you want them to stay that way. So one of the first experimental challenges was getting our flexible material to stay put.”

    Bengio prepares a sample nanotube fiber antenna for evaluation. The fibers had to be isolated in Styrofoam mounts to assure accurate comparisons with each other and with copper. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

    Contrary to earlier results by other labs (which used different carbon nanotube fiber sources), the Rice researchers found the fiber antennas matched copper for radiation efficiency at the same frequencies and diameters. Their results support theories that predicted the performance of nanotube antennas would scale with the density and conductivity of the fiber.

    “Not only did we find that we got the same performance as copper for the same diameter and cross-sectional area, but once we took the weight into account, we found we’re basically doing this for 1/20th the weight of copper wire,” Bengio said.

    “Applications for this material are a big selling point, but from a scientific perspective, at these frequencies carbon nanotube macro-materials behave like a typical conductor,” he said. Even fibers considered “moderately conductive” showed superior performance, he said.

    Although manufacturers could simply use thinner copper wires instead of the 30-gauge wires they currently use, those wires would be very fragile and difficult to handle, Pasquali said.

    “Amram showed that if you do three things right — make the right fibers, fabricate the antenna correctly and design the antenna according to telecommunication protocols — then you get antennas that work fine,” he said. “As you go to very thin antennas at high frequencies, you get less of a disadvantage compared with copper because copper becomes difficult to handle at thin gauges, whereas nanotubes, with their textile-like behavior, hold up pretty well.”

    Co-authors of the paper are, from Rice, graduate students Lauren Taylor and Peiyu Chen, alumnus Dmitri Tsentalovich and Aydin Babakhani, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and, from NIST in Boulder, Colo., postdoctoral researcher Damir Senic, research engineer Christopher Holloway, physicist Christian Long, research scientists David Novotny and James Booth and physicist Nathan Orloff. Pasquali is a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry.

    The U.S. Air Force supported the research.

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    Rice U campus

    In his 1912 inaugural address, Rice University president Edgar Odell Lovett set forth an ambitious vision for a great research university in Houston, Texas; one dedicated to excellence across the range of human endeavor. With this bold beginning in mind, and with Rice’s centennial approaching, it is time to ask again what we aspire to in a dynamic and shrinking world in which education and the production of knowledge will play an even greater role. What shall our vision be for Rice as we prepare for its second century, and how ought we to advance over the next decade?

    This was the fundamental question posed in the Call to Conversation, a document released to the Rice community in summer 2005. The Call to Conversation asked us to reexamine many aspects of our enterprise, from our fundamental mission and aspirations to the manner in which we define and achieve excellence. It identified the pressures of a constantly changing and increasingly competitive landscape; it asked us to assess honestly Rice’s comparative strengths and weaknesses; and it called on us to define strategic priorities for the future, an effort that will be a focus of the next phase of this process.

  • richardmitnick 10:07 am on October 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From T3 – Technion Technology Transfer: “World-class Sponsorship for Technion DRIVE” 

    Technion T3 Technology Transfer

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    World-class Sponsorship for Technion DRIVE

    Technion DRIVE Accelerator, a 9 month acceleration program for pre-seed and seed companies.

    The Technion DRIVE Accelerator Is successfully completing its first year of operation. Its impressive list of sponsors includes WeHealth by Servier and L’Oreal. WeHealth by Servier works in cooperation with startup partners to create innovative medical services and devices to improve patient care in targeted areas. L’Oreal has a pioneering innovation model which involves responsibility, global networking and sponsorship of research.

    “The participation of Servier and L’Oréal in the Technion DRIVE Accelerator shows their strong interest in being active players in Technion Innovation,” says Muriel Touaty, Director General of Technion France. “We are delighted that these two influential global companies are part of the initiative to accelerate startups born from the Technion innovation ecosystem,” adds CEO of T³ Benny Soffer.

    The Technion DRIVE Accelerator is a pre-seed and seed acceleration program that maximizes innovation potential from Technion’s global ecosystem – which includes faculty, researchers, students and alumni. In addition to seed funding, the accelerator offers business mentoring; office space; and access to Technion’s resources, research facilities, infrastructure and equipment. At Technion, the DRIVE embodies both the Technion vision of world-class research and the T³ mission of facilitating successful new ventures.

    After one year of operation the Drive already has a spread of fifteen pioneering start-ups. Among them are Mobility Insight – that is on its way to raising $5 million for its vehicle fleet and transportation management solution. In the area of autonomous systems, two companies address the challenges of drone technology. The first, Convexum, offers a cybersecurity platform for taking over and landing malicious drones and RegulusX Cyber Ltd that offers off-the-shelf security suite to protect drones from cyber-attacks and other system breaches. Another company – Feelit – is bringing the sense of touch to robotics with flexible sensing patch solutions that aim to exceed the sensitivity of human touch.

    Fields of innovation supported by the DRIVE include DIgital Health, Materials, ICT, Robotics, Augmented Reality, Big Data, FinTech and Autonomous Vehicles.

    L’Oreal and WeHealth by Servier are part of a global network of sponsors: LH Financial; FineTech Pharmaceutical; Global IoT Technology Ventures, Inc. (GiTV); FengHe Group; Cybele holdings; Liberty Mutual Insurance; Goodwin; and Shibolet & Co.

    Technion DRIVE Accelerator

    See the full article here .

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    Technion Campus

    A science and technology research university, among the world’s top ten,
    dedicated to the creation of knowledge and the development of human capital and leadership,
    for the advancement of the State of Israel and all humanity.

    T³ – Technion Technology Transfer

    T³ is the technology transfer office of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Entrepreneurship and commercialization are at the core of Technion innovation. As part of the Technion R&D Foundation (TRDF), T³ is a one-stop-shop for innovation and the expansion of Technion as a global hub for entrepreneurship, startups and commercialization.
    At T³, we commercialize cutting edge technologies developed by Technion researchers, students and alumni. T³’s mission is to facilitate and support the transformation of scientific discoveries into applied solutions. By creating optimal alliances between scientists, industrial partners, entrepreneurs, and investors, T³ enables a smooth transfer of technology to the world. Through its activities, T³ ensures that Technion IP and knowhow contributes to Israel’s economy and improves the quality of life worldwide.

  • richardmitnick 9:38 am on October 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , New Life Found That Lives Off Electricity, , , The electricity-eating microbes that the researchers were hunting for belong to a larger class of organisms that scientists are only beginning to understand   

    From Quanta: “New Life Found That Lives Off Electricity” 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    June 21, 2016 [Just found in social media. Where has it been?]
    Emily Singer

    Yamini Jangir and Moh El-Naggar

    Last year, biophysicist Moh El-Naggar and his graduate student Yamini Jangir plunged beneath South Dakota’s Black Hills into an old gold mine that is now more famous as a home to a dark matter detector.

    A bottom-up view inside the Large Underground Xenon dark matter experiment, which is located a mile beneath the surface in the Black Hills of South Dakota. LUX Dark Matter.

    Unlike most scientists who make pilgrimages to the Black Hills these days, El-Naggar and Jangir weren’t there to hunt for subatomic particles. They came in search of life.

    In the darkness found a mile underground, the pair traversed the mine’s network of passages in search of a rusty metal pipe. They siphoned some of the pipe’s ancient water, directed it into a vessel, and inserted a variety of electrodes. They hoped the current would lure their prey, a little-studied microbe that can live off pure electricity.

    The electricity-eating microbes that the researchers were hunting for belong to a larger class of organisms that scientists are only beginning to understand. They inhabit largely uncharted worlds: the bubbling cauldrons of deep sea vents; mineral-rich veins deep beneath the planet’s surface; ocean sediments just a few inches below the deep seafloor. The microbes represent a segment of life that has been largely ignored, in part because their strange habitats make them incredibly difficult to grow in the lab.

    Yet early surveys suggest a potential microbial bounty. A recent sampling of microbes collected from the seafloor near Catalina Island, off the coast of Southern California, uncovered a surprising variety of microbes that consume or shed electrons by eating or breathing minerals or metals. El-Naggar’s team is still analyzing their gold mine data, but he says that their initial results echo the Catalina findings. Thus far, whenever scientists search for these electron eaters in the right locations — places that have lots of minerals but not a lot of oxygen — they find them.

    As the tally of electron eaters grows, scientists are beginning to figure out just how they work. How does a microbe consume electrons out of a piece of metal, or deposit them back into the environment when it is finished with them? A study published last year revealed the way that one of these microbes catches and consumes its electrical prey. And not-yet-published work suggests that some metal eaters transport electrons directly across their membranes — a feat once thought impossible.

    The Rock Eaters

    Though eating electricity seems bizarre, the flow of current is central to life. All organisms require a source of electrons to make and store energy. They must also be able to shed electrons once their job is done. In describing this bare-bones view of life, Nobel Prize-winning physiologist Albert Szent-Györgyi once said, “Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest.”

    Humans and many other organisms get electrons from food and expel them with our breath. The microbes that El-Naggar and others are trying to grow belong to a group called lithoautotrophs, or rock eaters, which harvest energy from inorganic substances such as iron, sulfur or manganese. Under the right conditions, they can survive solely on electricity.

    The microbes’ apparent ability to ingest electrons — known as direct electron transfer — is particularly intriguing because it seems to defy the basic rules of biophysics. The fatty membranes that enclose cells act as an insulator, creating an electrically neutral zone once thought impossible for an electron to cross. “No one wanted to believe that a bacterium would take an electron from inside of the cell and move it to the outside,” said Kenneth Nealson, a geobiologist at the University of Southern California, in a lecture to the Society for Applied Microbiology in London last year.

    Ken Nealson – Environmental Microbiology Annual Lecture 2015: Extracellular electron transport (EET): opening new windows of metabolic opportunity for microbes.
    For more information about Environmental Microbiology
    visit http://goo.gl/7ZJOc6 For more information about Environmental Microbiology Reports
    visit http://goo.gl/NBdORV

    Lucy Reading-Ikkanda/Quanta Magazine

    In the 1980s, Nealson and others discovered a surprising group of bacteria that can expel electrons directly onto solid minerals. It took until 2006 to discover the molecular mechanism behind this feat: A trio of specialized proteins [PubMed] sits in the cell membrane, forming a conductive bridge that transfers electrons to the outside of cell. (Scientists still debate whether the electrons traverse the entire distance of the membrane unescorted.)

    Inspired by the electron-donators, scientists began to wonder whether microbes could also do the reverse and directly ingest electrons as a source of energy. Researchers focused their search on a group of microbes called methanogens, which are known for making methane. Most methanogens aren’t strict metal eaters. But in 2009, Bruce Logan, an environmental engineer at Pennsylvania State University, and collaborators showed for the first time that a methanogen could survive using only energy from an electrode [PubMed]. The researchers proposed that the microbes were directly sucking up electrons, perhaps via a molecular bridge similar to the ones the electron-producers use to shuttle electrons across the cell wall. But they lacked direct proof.

    Then last year, Alfred Spormann, a microbiologist at Stanford University, and collaborators poked a hole in Logan’s theory. They uncovered a way [PubMed] that these organisms can survive on electrodes without eating naked electrons.

    The microbe Spormann studied, Methanococcus maripaludis, excretes an enzyme that sits on the electrode’s surface. The enzyme pairs an electron from the electrode with a proton from water to create a hydrogen atom, which is a well-established food source among methanogens. “Rather than having a conductive pathway, they use an enzyme,” said Daniel Bond, a microbiologist at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. “They don’t need to build a bridge out of conductive materials.”

    Though the microbes aren’t eating naked electrons, the results are surprising in their own right. Most enzymes work best inside the cell and rapidly degrade outside. “What’s unique is how stable the enzymes are when they [gather on] the surface of the electrode,” Spormann said. Past experiments suggest these enzymes are active outside the cell for only a few hours, “but we showed they are active for six weeks.”

    Spormann and others still believe that methanogens and other microbes can directly suck up electricity, however. “This is an alternative mechanism to direct electron transfer, it doesn’t mean direct electron transfer can’t exist,” said Largus Angenent, an environmental engineer at Cornell University, and president of the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology. Spormann said his team has already found a microbe capable of taking in naked electrons. But they haven’t yet published the details.

    Microbes on Mars

    Only a tiny fraction — perhaps 2 percent — of all the planet’s microorganisms can be grown in the lab. Scientists hope that these new approaches — growing microbes on electrodes rather than in traditional culture systems — will provide a way to study many of the microbes that have been so far impossible to cultivate.

    “Using electrodes as proxies for minerals has helped us open and expand this field,” said Annette Rowe, a postdoctoral researcher at USC working with El-Naggar. “Now we have a way to grow the bacteria and monitor their respiration and really have a look at their physiology.”

    Rowe has already had some success.

    In 2013, she went on a microbe prospecting trip to the iron-rich sediments that surround California’s Catalina Island. She identified at least 30 new varieties [PubMed]of electric microbes in a study published last year. “They are from very diverse groups of microbes that are quite common in marine systems,” Rowe said. Before her experiment, no one knew these microbes could take up electrons from an inorganic substrate, she said. “That’s something we weren’t expecting.”

    Just as fishermen use different lures to attract different fish, Rowe set the electrodes to different voltages to draw out a rich diversity of microbes. She knew when she had a catch because the current changed — metal eaters generate a negative current, as the microbes suck electrons from the negative electrode.

    Yamini Jangir, then a graduate student in Moh El-Naggar’s lab at the University of Southern California, collects water from a pipe at the Sanford Underground Research Facility nearly a mile underground. Connie A. Walter and Matt Kapust

    SURF-Sanford Underground Research Facility

    SURF Above Ground

    SURF Out with the Old

    SURF An Empty Slate

    SURF Carving New Space

    SURF Shotcreting

    SURF Bolting and Wire Mesh

    SURF Outfitting Begins

    SURF circular wooden frame was built to form a concrete ring to hold the 72,000-gallon (272,549 liters) water tank that would house the LUX dark matter detector

    SURF LUX water tank was transported in pieces and welded together in the Davis Cavern

    SURF Ground Support

    SURF Dedicated to Science

    SURF Building a Ship in a Bottle

    SURF Tight Spaces

    SURF Ready for Science

    SURF Entrance Before Outfitting

    SURF Entrance After Outfitting

    SURF Common Corridior

    SURF Davis

    SURF Davis A World Class Site

    SURF Davis a Lab Site

    SURF DUNE LBNF Caverns at Sanford Lab

    FNAL LBNF/DUNE from FNAL to SURF, Lead, South Dakota, USA

    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF

    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford

    U Washington LUX Xenon experiment at SURF

    SURF Before Majorana

    U Washington Majorana Demonstrator Experiment at SURF

    The different varieties of bacteria that Rowe collected thrive under different electrical conditions, suggesting they employ different strategies for eating electrons. “Each bacteria had a different energy level where electron uptake would happen,” Rowe said. “We think that is indicative of different pathways.”

    Rowe is now searching new environments for additional microbes, focusing on fluids from a deep spring with low acidity. She’s also helping with El-Naggar’s gold mine expedition. “We are trying to understand how life works under these conditions,” said El-Naggar. “We now know that life goes far deeper than we thought, and there’s a lot more than we thought, but we don’t have a good idea for how they are surviving.”

    El-Naggar emphasizes that the field is still in its infancy, likening the current state to the early days of neuroscience, when researchers poked at frogs with electrodes to make their muscles twitch. “It took a long time for the basic mechanistic stuff to come out,” he said. “It’s only been 30 years since we discovered that microbes can interact with solid surfaces.”

    Given the bounty from these early experiments, it seems that scientists have only scratched the surface of the microbial diversity that thrives beneath the planet’s shallow exterior. The results could give clues to the origins of life on Earth and beyond. One theory for the emergence of life suggests it originated on mineral surfaces, which could have concentrated biological molecules and catalyzed reactions. New research could fill in one of the theory’s gaps — a mechanism for transporting electrons from mineral surfaces into cells.

    Moreover, subsurface metal eaters may provide a blueprint for life on other worlds, where alien microbes might be hidden beneath the planet’s shallow exterior. “For me, one of the most exciting possibilities is finding life-forms that might survive in extreme environments like Mars,” said El-Naggar, whose gold mine experiment is funded by NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. Mars, for example, is iron-rich and has water flowing beneath its surface. “If you have a system that can pick up electrons from iron and have some water, then you have all the ingredients for a conceivable metabolism,” said El-Naggar. Perhaps a former mine a mile underneath South Dakota won’t be the most surprising place that researchers find electron-eating life.

    See the full article here .

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    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

  • richardmitnick 8:52 am on October 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A galactic embrace, , , , ,   

    From ESO via Manu: “A galactic embrace” 

    Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    11 July 2011
    No writer credit

    Capturing a fusion between galaxies.
    Two galaxies, about 50 million light years away are literally woven into a galactic embrace. Seyfert Galaxy NGC 1097 in the constellation Fornax (Furnace), seen in this photograph taken with VIMOS instrument on Very Large Telescope (VLT). A companion, and comparatively small elliptical galaxy NGC 1097A , is also visible in the upper right. There is evidence that NGC 1097 and NGC 1097A have been interacting in the recent past.
    Although NGC 1097 seems to be wrapping its companion in its spiral arms, this is no gentle motherly giant. The larger galaxy also has four faint jets — too extended and faint to be seen in this image — that emerge from its centre, forming an X-shaped pattern, and which are the longest visible-wavelength jets of any known galaxy. The jets are thought to be the remnants of a dwarf galaxy that was disrupted and cannibalised by the much larger NGC 1097 up to a few billion years ago.

    These unusual jets are not the galaxy’s only intriguing feature. As previously mentioned, NGC 1097 is a Seyfert galaxy, meaning that it contains a supermassive black hole in its centre. However, the core of NGC 1097 is relatively faint, suggesting that the central black hole is not currently swallowing large quantities of gas and stars. Instead, the most striking feature of the galaxy’s centre is the ring of bright knots surrounding the nucleus. These knots are thought to be large bubbles of glowing hydrogen gas about 750–2500 light-years across, ionised by the intense ultraviolet light of young stars, and they indicate that the ring is a site of vigorous star formation

    With this distinctive central star-forming ring, and the addition of numerous bluish clusters of hot, young stars dotted through its spiral arms, NGC 1097 makes a stunning visual object.

    The data were originally taken in 2004 (see eso0438) with the VIMOS instrument on the VLT, and additional colour information from an image taken by amateur astronomer Robert Gendler has been superimposed. The VLT data were taken through three visible-light filters: R (at a wavelength of 652 nanometres, and shown here in red), V (a wavelength of 540 nanometres, shown in green), and B (456 nanometres, shown in blue). The image covers a region of approximately 7.7 x 6.6 arcminutes on the sky.


    ESO/R. Gendler

    See the full article here .

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    ESO Bloc Icon

    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres.

    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m.

    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

  • richardmitnick 8:32 pm on October 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Juan Valderrama y Aguilar, , Solar flare,   

    From Science Alert: “A 17-Year-Old Astronomer Recorded an Astonishing Rare Solar Flare Back in 1886” 


    Science Alert

    And then history forgot about him.

    20 OCT 2017

    Vaquero et al, Sol Phys (2017)

    If you’ve never heard of Juan Valderrama y Aguilar, you’re not alone. As it turns out, this amateur astronomer from Spain made history when he was just 17 years old.

    Back in 1886, Valderrama observed the third-ever recorded instance of an exceptionally bright solar flare, and even got his results published in an academic journal. But due to historical circumstance, we’re only hearing about this more than 100 years after his death.

    There’s plenty of turbulent magnetic activity happening on the surface of our Sun. Concentration of that energy can cause dark sunspots, characterised by a dip in the surface temperature. And when that magnetic energy suddenly explodes, we get fantastic solar flares.

    Despite risking damage to their retinas, humans have been watching sunspots for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until 1859 – more than 200 years after the advent of the telescope – when English astronomer Richard Carrington lucked out and became the first human in history to observe a solar flare.

    The following solar storm was the biggest one recorded to this day – and if it were to happen today, it would wipe out a great deal of our communications technology.

    Thirteen years later, Italian astronomer Pietro Angelo Secchi scored a glimpse at a solar flare as well, thus joining Carrington’s extremely exclusive club.

    The third man to set his eyes on this remarkable sight was an unknown teen from Madrid, Spain. Unlike the fancy astronomers before him, all Valderrama had was a small backyard telescope with an aperture of just 6.6 centimetres (2.6 inches) and a strong filter to allow a look at the Sun.

    He kept detailed logs of his sunspot observations. And then on 10 September 1886, his amateur efforts were rewarded with something truly spectacular.

    “In the eastern region of the southern hemisphere a huge, beautiful sunspot was formed from yesterday to today,” he wrote in his logbook.

    “By looking at it carefully I noticed an extraordinary phenomenon on her, on the penumbra to the west of the nucleus, and almost in contact with it, a very bright object was distinguishable, producing a shadow clearly visible on the sunspot penumbra.

    “This object had an almost circular shape, and a light beam came out from its eastern part that crossed the sunspot to the south of the nucleus.”

    Astonished by the bright flash he’d seen, Valderrama captured the details in a meticulous drawing, and sent the information to an academic journal in France, L’Astronomie.

    Valderrama’s drawing. (Vaquero et al., Sol Phys 2017)

    But despite earning this publication, his achievement was lost in the annals of history and we probably still wouldn’t know about it, if a team of Spanish researchers hadn’t been researching historical records of solar observations.

    “The case of Valderrama is very unique, as he was the only person in the world more than a century ago to observe a relatively rare phenomenon: a white-light solar flare. And until now no one had realised,” says one of the team, José Manuel Vaquero from the University of Extremadura in Spain.

    Back then, these white-light flares were considered exceptional, and it’s only with the advent of modern, much more sensitive telescopes that we know that most solar flares are actually accompanied with such bright emissions of light.

    “It is extraordinary that in the Spain of the 19th century, a 17-year old kid would make such a scientific discovery, and it is even more impressive that he had the courage of submitting it for publication to a foreign scientific journal,” says one of the researchers, Jorge Sánchez Almeida from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in Spain.

    Photo from Ogyalla observatory dating to 10 Sept 1886, marked up by researchers to show the flare. (Vaquero et al, Sol Phys 2017)

    Valderrama’s logbooks, spanning observations from December 1885 to April 1888, were preserved at the library of IAC, but very little is known about his life.

    According to Almeida’s personal website, the team is currently working on publishing a biography of Valderrama. “Who was this guy? If you are interested … stay tuned,” writes Almeida.

    We’re certainly interested.

    The findings were published in Solar Physics earlier this year.

    See the full article here .

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