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  • richardmitnick 2:59 pm on May 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , Massive neutron star PSR J2215+5135, New Champion Crowned   

    From AAS NOVA: “A Massive Neutron Star with a Two-Faced Companion” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    25 May 2018
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    Artist’s impression of PSR J2215+5135 (bottom right) irradiating its binary companion star (center). New measurements of this system have suggested that PSR J2215 may be the most massive neutron star known. [G. Pérez-Díaz/IAC]

    How massive can a neutron star get? In a recent study, scientists may have identified the most massive neutron star yet — by leveraging observations of its highly irradiated companion.

    Finding the Maximum

    The maximum possible mass for a neutron star is a topic of heated debate; knowing this limit could put significant constraints on models of neutron-star interior structures and compositions, which are longstanding open questions in neutron-star studies.

    Until now, the most massive known neutron star was pulsar PSR J0348+0432, which weighs in at 2.01 solar masses. For years, scientists have been on the hunt for other massive neutron stars to push this limit even higher — and now, J0348 may finally have been dethroned.

    Led by Manuel Linares (Polytechnic University of Catalonia and the Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics, Spain), a team of scientists has used a unique approach to measure a new, intriguing heavyweight: PSR J2215+5135.

    1
    The spectra of J2215 look drastically different at different phases in its orbit: when we view its hot, irradiated side (bottom spectrum), it looks like an A5 star (2nd spectrum from bottom). When we view its dark, cool side (3rd spectrum from bottom), it looks like a G5 star (4th spectrum from bottom). [Linares et al. 2018]

    A Tricky System

    PSR J2215+5135 is a so-called “redback” system consisting of a millisecond pulsar — a rapidly spinning, highly magnetized neutron star — closely orbiting an extremely low-mass companion star; the pulsar and its companion zip around each other in just 4.14 hours.

    How can we measure PSR J2215’s mass? Ordinarily, we’d use the spectra of its companion star to identify Doppler shifts of absorption lines from the star’s atmosphere. This can reveal the star’s radial velocity, ultimately allowing us to model the system and obtain the masses of the neutron star and its companion. But PSR J2215 has thus far resisted such efforts, with different studies all finding significantly different radial-velocity measurements for the companion star. What’s going on with this tricky system?

    New Champion Crowned

    Linares and collaborators have an explanation: the companion star is being positively blasted with radiation by the nearby pulsar. As a result, the star effectively has two sides: the cool, dark side facing away from the neutron star, and the extremely hot, irradiated side facing toward it. The offset of the companion’s center of light is from its center of mass complicates efforts to reliably measure its radial velocity from its spectrum.

    3
    Model fits to the orbital light curves for J2215 in three bands. [Linares et al. 2018]

    Linares and collaborators circumvent this problem by using high-quality optical spectra from the Gran Telescopio Canarias and other telescopes to identify, for the first time, absorption lines from both the cool side and the hot side of the companion star.

    Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain, sited on a volcanic peak 2,267 metres (7,438 ft) above sea level

    The authors use these lines from opposite sides of the star to bracket the center-of-mass velocity.

    By jointly modeling both the radial-velocity data for the two star sides and the light curves in multiple bands, the authors are able to calculate the mass of the neutron star and its companion, respectively ~2.3 and ~0.33 solar masses. If verified, PSR J2215 would shatter the past record for maximum neutron-star mass, introducing new constraints to models of neutron-star equations of state.

    What’s more, the authors’ novel technique for extracting the neutron star’s mass can be applied to many similar known systems, as well as the many we expect to discover in the future. With luck, we’ll be able to continue to push the limit of the maximum neutron-star mass, learning about these compact beasts in the process.

    Citation

    M. Linares et al 2018 ApJ 859 54. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/aabde6/meta

    Related journal articles
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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

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  • richardmitnick 5:01 pm on May 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , Disentangling the History of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds   

    From AAS NOVA: “Disentangling the History of the Magellanic Clouds” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    1
    The Milky Way’s largest satellite galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, have a complicated interaction history. [ESO/S. Brunier]

    Magellanic Bridge ESA_Gaia satellite. Image credit V. Belokurov D. Erkal A. Mellinger.

    The Magellanic Clouds — two nearby dwarf galaxies easily visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere — are key to understanding the dynamics and evolution of the Local Group of galaxies. Can an in-depth look at these galaxies’ outer regions help us make sense of their complicated interaction history?

    Large Magellanic Cloud. Adrian Pingstone December 2003

    Small Magellanic Cloud. NASA/ESA Hubble and ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2

    A Closer Look at Our Galactic Neighbors

    2
    A combined optical and radio view of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Stream, shown in pink. [David L. Nidever, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF and Mellinger, Leiden/Argentine/Bonn Survey, Parkes Observatory, Westerbork Observatory, and Arecibo Observatory]

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, an aperture synthesis interferometer near World War II Nazi detention and transit camp Westerbork, north of the village of Westerbork, Midden-Drenthe, in the northeastern Netherlands

    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET

    The Small and Large Magellanic Clouds (SMC and LMC) have been well studied, but these dwarf satellite galaxies continue to inspire new discoveries. Among them is the origin of the Magellanic Stream — a swath of neutral hydrogen trailing the Magellanic Clouds and spanning more than half a million light-years.

    It was originally thought that the Magellanic Stream was the result of tidal interactions during close encounters with the Milky Way, but precise proper motion surveys revealed that the LMC and SMC are either passing near the Milky Way for the first time or are in a long (~4-billion-year) orbit around our galaxy — so the Magellanic Stream must result from interactions between the two galaxies themselves.

    How long have the LMC and SMC been interacting, and how have these interactions shaped the two galaxies? A key to understanding the history of these dwarf galaxies is mapping the weakly gravitationally bound stars at their far edges that may be pulled into tidal streams or bulges as each galaxy is distorted by the presence of the other.

    3
    A map of the density of ancient stars surrounding the Magellanic Clouds reveals extended structures to the north and south of the LMC, while the western regions of the galaxy (to the right) are truncated.[Adapted from Mackey et al. 2018]

    Mapping the Edges of Galaxies

    Dougal Mackey (Australian National University) and collaborators used visible and near-infrared images taken by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) — the workhorse instrument of the Dark Energy Survey — to map the faint outskirts of the LMC and SMC.

    Dark Energy Survey


    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL


    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam at an altitude of 7200 feet

    Though the purpose of the Dark Energy Survey is to better understand the nature of dark energy through observations of supernovae, weak gravitational lenses, and galaxy clusters, its sensitive imaging system and wide field of view (2.2 degrees in diameter) make it well-suited to exploring the faint fringes of nearby galaxies.

    The DECam images of the Magellanic Clouds probed to a surface brightness of 32 magnitudes per square arcsecond, allowing Mackey and collaborators to investigate how different stellar populations are distributed in the outer regions of these galaxies.

    4
    Stellar density maps for young (<1 Gyr) and intermediate-age (1.5–4 Gyr) populations. The young stars trace a bridge between the galaxies, while the intermediate-age stars are offset from the ancient stars in the direction of the LMC. [Adapted from Mackey et al. 2018]

    Citation

    Dougal Mackey et al 2018 ApJL 858 L21.http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/aac175/meta

    Related journal articles
    _________________________________________________
    See the full article for further references with links.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 11:26 am on May 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , When Is Moving Dust Unstable?   

    From AAS NOVA: “When Is Moving Dust Unstable?” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    1
    Astrophysical fluids are often laden with embedded dust grains, as exemplified here in this artist’s illustration of a swirling protoplanetary disk of gas and dust. A new study explores what happens when dust grains move at a different speed than the fluid that surrounds them. [University of Copenhagen/Lars Buchhave]

    What’s one thing the interstellar medium, protoplanetary disks, stellar interiors, and the environments around black holes all have in common? They all contain dust grains moving within a fluid — and two scientists from the California Institute of Technology say we’ve been missing an important part of their behavior.

    Pairing of Fluids and Dust

    2
    Hubble view of the Crab Nebula. Supernova ejecta are another instance of a coupled system of dust grains and fluid. [NASA/ESA/J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)]

    Fluids — which can refer to liquids, gases, or plasmas — rarely exist in isolation in astrophysics. More often than not, fluids come laden with dust particles; examples of dusty fluids include the environments near star-forming regions, in planetary atmospheres, in the disks surrounding young stars, or even around active galactic nuclei. Since these fluid/dust systems are abundant across the universe and are fundamental to many key astrophysical processes, it’s important that we understand how they behave.

    Caltech scientists Jonathan Squire and Philip Hopkins ask one particular question: what happens when dust particles move at a different speed than the fluid surrounding them?

    Relative Motion

    Relative motion of dust through fluid can arise naturally through many mechanisms. Radiation pressure, for instance, preferentially accelerates dust grains relative to gas in environments around active galactic nuclei or in the envelopes of stars, causing the dust to stream through the surrounding fluid. Or the fluid of a planetary atmosphere might be supported against gravity by thermal pressure, causing the heavier dust grains to settle downward through the fluid.

    In a new study, Squire and Hopkins suggest that this relative streaming motion between dust grains and fluid can easily create instabilities — and this can have profound implications for our understanding of many fields of astrophysics.

    Instabilities Found Everywhere

    The authors used analytic calculations to show that coupled fluid/dust systems can develop “resonant drag instabilities” whenever the dust grains stream faster than any wave in the fluid.

    3
    In a planetary atmosphere like the one shown in this artist’s impression, a fluid might be supported against gravity, whereas dust grains are not. This would create relative motion of the dust particles as they settle. [Max Planck Society]

    These instabilities, it turns out, are quite easy to trigger, because astrophysical fluids host a variety of waves, any of which can form the basis for a resonant drag instability. Examples include sound waves, magnetosonic waves, Brunt–Väisälä waves, epicyclic oscillations, and others. The instabilities triggered by the streaming dust in the presence of these waves grow over time, causing spatial clumping of the dust and eventually seeding turbulence if they’re strong enough.

    Squire and Hopkins present a way of calculating the growth rates and properties of these resonant drag instabilities in different fluids, and they demonstrate the behavior of the instabilities in three example fluid systems: hydrodynamic, magnetohydrodynamic, and stratified fluids.

    The authors argue that the consequences of the resonant drag instability affect regions and processes like planetesimal formation, cool-star winds, active galactic nuclei torii and winds, starburst regions, H II regions, supernovae ejecta, and the circumgalactic medium. Their work toward understanding this instability is therefore broadly applicable across astronomical fields, providing critical insight into processes in our universe.

    Citation

    J. Squire and P. F. Hopkins 2018 ApJL 856 L15.http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/aab54d/meta

    Related journal articles
    _________________________________________________
    See the full article for further references with links.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    stem

    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 3:25 pm on May 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , Insights and Challenges in a Time of Abundance, Special ApJS Issue on Data   

    From AAS NOVA-Data: “Insights and Challenges in a Time of Abundance” 

    AASNOVA

    From AAS NOVA

    11 May 2018
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    A screen capture of the user interface for WorldWide Telescope, a tool for visualizing astronomical data. [Rosenfield et al. 2018]

    WorldWide Telescope from Microsoft Research

    One of the most rapidly evolving elements of astronomy research is how we handle data. With telescopes and computer simulations progressively producing ever vaster quantities, how can we process and analyze this data? What tools can we use to turn it into new astronomical discoveries?

    The future of astronomy relies on new innovations on this front, and in a Special Issue of the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, 23 papers explore different insights and challenges related to astronomical data — presenting new workflows, software instruments, databases, and tutorials that will aid astronomers in generating novel and significant research results.

    Here are the broad categories of data in astronomy that are touched on in this special issue:

    1. Cloud-Based Research Environments for Discovery

    2
    Volume renderings from a simulation of a low metallicity star. This is an example of the data that can be analyzed using cyberhub, a web-browser-based tool for medium-sized collaborations. [Herwig et al. 2018]

    Collaborations in astronomy are often large and broadly distributed. As a result, the astronomy community needs the infrastructure to be able to access large data sets, combine them, and collaboratively process them to make discoveries. An article by Herwig et al. presents the cyberhubs system, a package for medium-sized scientific teams to collaboratively interact with data via web browser. Williams et al. discuss the challenges inherent in reducing a large photometric data set — in their case, data from the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) — on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), a commercial system of virtual computers that users can rent on demand. Heidorn et al. present Astrolabe, a cyberinfrastructure project of the University of Arizona and the American Astronomical Society that aims to ensure the long-term curation of astronomical data for future reference and use.

    2. Software Instruments for Transient Detection, Alerts, and Analysis

    3
    Just some of the time-variable sources that are detected and analyzed, and their characteristic timescales for variation. [Narayan et al. 2018]

    Given the current boom of time-domain astronomy, the development of tools for studying transient astronomical phenomena is crucial. Necessary tools include not only those that will detect transients, but also those that provide alerting for rapid followup, and those that enable analysis of the large quantities of resulting data. Law et al. discuss realfast, a fast transient search system at the Jansky Very Large Array that will look for transients in real time as data comes in, reducing the amount of data that must be stored. Guillochon et al. introduce MOSFiT, a software package that enables rapid comparison of transient data to models. And Narayan et al. present ANTARES, an automated software system that sifts through, characterizes, annotates, and prioritizes transient events for followup, allowing for rapid alerting of the community to transients that warrant additional observations.

    In addition to searching for unexpected transient events, time-domain astronomers also study the variability of single sources. He et al. describe a long-term study of magnetic-feature and flare activity of three Sun-like stars with Kepler. As for the Sun itself — studying it in detail produces terabytes-per-hour streams of data that must be captured and analyzed. Denker et al. present the challenges of managing such a stream of high-resolution observations at the GREGOR Solar Telescope, and Boubrahimi et al. explore how best to interpolate between solar data collected from a variety of ground-based and space-based solar observatories every day.

    3. Statistical Properties of Data with Uncertainties or Gaps

    How do we address the issue of incomplete or uncertain data? Correct application of statistical methods are an important aspect of data reduction. Hogg et al., Vianello, Huppenkothen et al., VanderPlas, Huijse et al., Ma et al., and Aggarwal et al. all present on methods of careful statistical handling of astronomical data — covering topics from an overview of Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods for sampling probability density functions, to a look at how we might use statistics to predict solar eruptions.

    4. New Database Releases

    4
    Blue dots represent the 838 characterized OSSOS discoveries of trans-Neptunian objects from a recent data release. [Bannister et al. 2018]

    The production of vast amounts of data isn’t enough — it must also be compiled in a useful way before it can be analyzed by the community. The regular release of large, updated databases are an important driver of astronomical discovery. In this Special Issue, Bannister et al. present the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS), a data release of more than 800 trans-Neptunian objects, and Egeland introduces sunstardb, a database useful for studying stars in analogy to the Sun.

    5. Astronomy Data in Publication

    The big-data boom produces many important questions in scientific publishing, like how data will be cited and classified, whether software instrument source codes will be made available, and what impact these references might have on the future of astronomical publication. Novacescu et al. discuss the policy of data citation — in particular, using digital object identifiers (DOIs) to refer to data both analyzed and generated by research projects. Frey et al. present an update on the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus, an effort to unite astronomers under a single vocabulary to govern keywords and classification for astronomy research. Allen et al. address the issue of source code availability: can other researchers easily access the software you used, to explore or reproduce your results? Varga examines how metrics based on references or keywords can be used to predict citation impact for scientific articles.

    6. Advances in Data Visualization

    7
    More screen captures of the WorldWide Telescope user interface. [Rosenfield et al. 2018]

    One challenge of astronomy data echoes the challenge inherent in all of science: how can we best communicate and share it? Rosenfield et al. introduce a tool for this, the American Astronomical Society’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT). This project enables terabytes of astronomical images, data, and stories to be viewed and shared among researchers, exhibited in science museums, projected into full-dome immersive planetariums and virtual reality headsets, and taught in classrooms.

    It’s evident that there are indeed many challenges raised by the production and management of vast amounts of astronomical data — but there are also many opportunities available. The articles in this Special Issue are meant to provide an introduction to some of the topics currently under consideration, but conversations will continue to evolve as we adapt to this age of big data.

    Citation

    Special ApJS Issue on Data

    Frank Timmes and Leon Golub 2018 ApJS 236 1. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4365/aab770/meta

    Related Journal Articles

    Professional and Ethical Standards for the AAS Journals doi: 10.1086/510295
    Professional and Ethical Standards for the AAS Journals doi: 10.1086/510205
    Professional and Ethical Standards for the AAS Journals doi: 10.1086/508987
    Professional and Ethical Standards for the AAS Journals doi: 10.1086/510192
    Overview of the Special Issue on the First Science Results from the Second Flight of Sunrise doi: 10.3847/1538-4365/aa6742
    Advanced Data Visualization in Astrophysics: The X3D Pathway doi: 10.3847/0004-637X/818/2/115

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

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    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 4:32 pm on May 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , , , New Target for an Old Method: Hubble Measures Globular Cluster Parallax   

    From AAS NOVA: “New Target for an Old Method: Hubble Measures Globular Cluster Parallax” 

    AASNOVA

    AAS NOVA

    4 May 2018
    Kerry Hensley

    1
    Globular cluster NGC 6397 dazzles in this optical image from La Silla Observatory.

    ESO WFI LaSilla 2.2-m MPG/ESO telescope at La Silla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres


    MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    Globular clusters like NGC 6397 are important laboratories for understanding stellar evolution — but measuring the distance to these ancient stellar groups can be challenging. [ESO]

    the Wide-Field-Imager (WFI) camera at the 2.2-m ESO/MPI telescope at the ESO La Silla Observatory

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

    Measuring precise distances to faraway objects has long been a challenge in astrophysics. Now, one of the earliest techniques used to measure the distance to astrophysical objects has been applied to a metal-poor globular cluster for the first time.

    ESA/GAIA satellite


    Gaia is on track to map the positions and motions of a billion stars. [ESA]

    A Classic Technique

    Distances to nearby stars are often measured using the parallax technique — tracing the tiny apparent motion of a target star against the background of more distant stars as Earth orbits the Sun. This technique has come a long way since it was first used in the 1800s to measure the distance to stars a few tens of light-years away; with the advent of space observatories like Hipparcos and Gaia, parallax can now be used to map the positions of stars out to thousands of light-years.

    ESA/Hipparcos satellite

    Precise distance measurements aren’t only important for setting the scale of the universe, however; they can also help us better understand stellar evolution over the course of cosmic history. Stellar evolution models are often anchored to a reference star cluster, the properties of which must be known precisely. These precise properties can be readily determined for young, nearby open clusters using parallax measurements. But stellar evolution models that anchor on the more-distant, ancient, metal-poor globular clusters have been hampered by the less-precise indirect methods used to measure distance to these faraway clusters — until now.

    New Measurement to an Old Cluster

    Thomas Brown (Space Telescope Science Institute) and collaborators used the Hubble Space Telescope to determine the distance to NGC 6397, one of the nearest metal-poor globular clusters and anchor for one stellar population model.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Brown and coauthors used a technique called spatial scanning to greatly broaden the reach of the parallax method.

    Spatial scanning was initially developed as a way to increase the signal-to-noise of exoplanet transit observations, but it has also greatly improved the prospects of astrometry — precisely determining the separations between astronomical objects. In spatial scanning, the telescope moves while the exposure is being taken, spreading the light out across many pixels.

    Unprecedented Precision

    This technique allowed the authors to achieve a precision of 20–100 microarcseconds. From the observed parallax angle of just 0.418 milliarcseconds (for reference, the moon’s angular size is about 5 million times larger on the sky!), Brown and collaborators refined the distance to NGC 6397 to 7,795 light-years, with a measurement error of only a few percent.

    Using spatial scanning, Hubble can make parallax measurements of nearby globular clusters, while Gaia has the potential to reach even farther. Looking ahead, the measurement made by Brown and collaborators can be combined with the recently released Gaia data to trim the uncertainty down to just 1%. This highlights the power of space telescopes to make extremely precise measurements of astoundingly large distances — informing our models and helping us measure the universe.

    Citation

    Thomas Brown et al 2018 ApJL 856 L6.http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/aab55a/meta .

    Related journal articles
    _________________________________________________
    See the full article for further references with links.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 1:45 pm on April 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , Heating the Chromosphere in the Quiet Sun   

    From AAS NOVA: “Heating the Chromosphere in the Quiet Sun” 

    AASNOVA

    AAS NOVA

    23 April 2018
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    Photo of the Sun’s chromosphere taken with NASA’s SOHO observatory. A longstanding puzzle in solar astronomy is how heat gets delivered to the Sun’s upper atmosphere. [NASA/SOHO]

    ESA/NASA SOHO

    The best-studied star — the Sun — still harbors mysteries for scientists to puzzle over. A new study has now explored the role of tiny magnetic-field hiccups in an effort to explain the strangely high temperatures of the Sun’s upper atmosphere.

    2
    Schematic illustrating the temperatures in different layers of the Sun. [ESA]

    Strange Temperature Rise

    Since the Sun’s energy is produced in its core, the temperature is hottest here. As expected, the temperature decreases further from the Sun’s core — up until just above its surface, where it oddly begins to rise again. While the Sun’s surface is ~6,000 K, the temperature is higher above this: ~10,000 K in the outer chromosphere.

    So how is the chromosphere of the Sun heated? It’s possible that the explanation can be found not amid high solar activity, but in quiet-Sun regions.

    In a new study led by Milan Gošić (Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, Bay Area Environmental Research Institute), a team of scientists has examined a process that quietly happens in the background: the cancellation of magnetic field lines in the quiet Sun.

    3
    Top left: SDO AIA image of part of the solar disk. The next three panels are a zoom of the particular quiet-Sun region that the authors studied, all taken with IRIS at varying wavelengths: 1400 Å (top right), 2796 Å (bottom left), and 2832 Å (bottom right). [Gošić et al. 2018]

    NASA/SDO

    NASA IRIS spacecraft, a spacecraft that takes spectra in three passbands, allowing us to probe different layers of the solar atmosphere

    Activity in a Supergranule

    The Sun is threaded by strong magnetic field lines that divide it into supergranules measuring ~30 million meters across (more than double the diameter of Earth!). Supergranules may seem quiet inside, but looks can be deceiving: the interiors of supergranules contain smaller, transient internetwork fields that move about, often resulting in magnetic elements of opposite polarity encountering and canceling each other.

    For those internetwork flux cancellations that occur above the Sun’s surface, a small amount of energy could be released that locally heats the chromosphere. But though each individual event has a small effect, these cancellations are ubiquitous across the Sun.

    This raises an interesting possibility: could the total of these internetwork cancellations in the quiet Sun account for the overall chromospheric heating observed?

    Simultaneous Observations

    To answer this question, Gošić and collaborators explored a quiet-Sun region in the center of a supergranule, making observations with two different telescopes:

    The Swedish 1 m Solar Telescope (SST), which provides spectropolarimetry that lets us watch magnetic elements of the Sun as they move and change, and

    Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope in La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Spain, Altitude 2,360 m (7,740 ft)

    Simultaneous observations of the quiet-Sun region with these two telescopes allowed the scientists to piece together a picture of chromospheric heating: as SST observations showed opposite-polarity magnetic-field regions approach each other and then disappear, indicating a field cancellation, IRIS observations often showed brightening in the chromosphere.

    Falling Short

    4
    SST observations, including the continuum intensity map (upper left), magnetogram showing the magnetic field elements (upper right), and intensity maps in the core of the Ca II 8542 Å line (lower left) and Hα 6563 Å line (lower right). [Gošić et al. 2018]

    By careful interpretation of their observations, Gošić and collaborators were able to estimate the total energy contribution from the hundreds of field cancellations they detected. The authors determined that, while the internetwork cancellations can significantly heat the chromosphere locally, the apparent number density of these cancellations falls an order of magnitude short of explaining the overall chromospheric heating observed.

    Does this mean quiet-Sun internetwork fields aren’t the cause of the strangely warm temperatures in the chromosphere? Perhaps … or perhaps we don’t yet have the telescope power to detect all of the internetwork field cancellations. If that’s the case, upcoming telescopes like the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope and the European Solar Telescope will let us answer this question more definitively.

    Citation

    M. Gošić et al 2018 ApJ 857 48. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/aab1f0/meta

    Related journal articles
    _________________________________________________
    See the full article for further references with links.

    See the full article here .

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    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 9:25 pm on April 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , Capturing Neutrinos from a Star’s Final Hours,   

    From AAS NOVA: “Capturing Neutrinos from a Star’s Final Hours” Revised for Betelgeuse 

    AASNOVA

    AAS NOVA

    20 April 2018
    Kerry Hensley

    Betelgeuse, in the infrared from the Herschel Space Observatory, is a superluminous red giant star 650 light-years away. Stars much more massive, like Betelgeuse, end their lives as supernova ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al

    Stars much more massive than the Sun, like Betelgeuse, end their lives as supernovae — releasing neutrinos detectable by sensitive observatories on Earth. [ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al.]

    What happens on the last day of a massive star’s life? In the hours before the star collapses and explodes as a supernova, the rapid evolution of material in its core creates swarms of neutrinos. Observing these neutrinos may help us understand the final stages of a massive star’s life — but they’ve never been detected.

    2
    A view of some of the 1,520 phototubes within the MiniBooNE neutrino detector. Observations from this and other detectors are helping to illuminate the nature of the mysterious neutrino. [Fred Ullrich/FNAL]

    Silent Signposts of Stellar Evolution

    The nuclear fusion that powers stars generates tremendous amounts of energy. Much of this energy is emitted as photons, but a curious and elusive particle — the neutrino — carries away most of the energy in the late stages of stellar evolution.

    Stellar neutrinos can be created through two processes: thermal processes and beta processes. Thermal processes — e.g., pair production, in which a particle/antiparticle pair are created — depend on the temperature and pressure of the stellar core. Beta processes — i.e., when a proton converts to a neutron, or vice versa — are instead linked to the isotopic makeup of the star’s core. This means that, if we can observe them, beta-process neutrinos may be able to tell us about the last steps of stellar nucleosynthesis in a dying star.

    But observing these neutrinos is not so easily done. Neutrinos are nearly massless, neutral particles that interact only feebly with matter; out of the whopping ~1060 neutrinos released in a supernova explosion, even the most sensitive detectors only record the passage of just a few. Do we have a chance of detecting the beta-process neutrinos that are released in the final few hours of a star’s life, before the collapse?

    2
    Neutrino luminosities leading up to core collapse. Shortly before collapse, the luminosity of beta-process neutrinos outshines that of any other neutrino flavor or origin. [Adapted from Patton et al. 2017]

    Modeling Stellar Cores

    To answer this question, Kelly Patton (University of Washington) and collaborators first used a stellar evolution model to explore neutrino production in massive stars. They modeled the evolution of two massive stars — 15 and 30 times the mass of our Sun — from the onset of nuclear fusion to the moment of collapse.

    The authors found that in the last few hours before collapse, during which the material in the stars’ cores is rapidly upcycled into heavier elements, the flux from beta-process neutrinos rivals that of thermal neutrinos and even exceeds it at high energies. So now we know there are many beta-process neutrinos — but can we spot them?

    3
    Neutrino and antineutrino fluxes at Earth from the last 2 hours of a 30-solar-mass star’s life compared to the flux from background sources. The rows represent calculations using two different neutrino mass hierarchies. Click to enlarge. [Patton et al. 2017]

    Observing Elusive Neutrinos

    For an imminent supernova at a distance of 1 kiloparsec, the authors find that the presupernova electron neutrino flux rises above the background noise from the Sun, nuclear reactors, and radioactive decay within the Earth in the final two hours before collapse.

    Based on these calculations, current and future neutrino observatories should be able to detect tens of neutrinos from a supernova within 1 kiloparsec, about 30% of which would be beta-process neutrinos. As the distance to the star increases, the time and energy window within which neutrinos can be observed gradually narrows, until it closes for stars at a distance of about 30 kiloparsecs.

    Are there any nearby supergiants soon to go supernova so these predictions can be tested? At a distance of only 650 light-years, the red supergiant star Betelgeuse should produce detectable neutrinos when it explodes — an exciting opportunity for astronomers in the far future!

    Citation

    Kelly M. Patton et al 2017 ApJ 851 6. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/aa95c4/meta

    Related journal articles
    _________________________________________________
    See the full article for further references with links.

    See the full article here .

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    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 4:48 pm on April 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , Featured Image: Stars from Broken Clouds and Disks   

    From AAS NOVA: “Featured Image: Stars from Broken Clouds and Disks” 

    AASNOVA

    AAS NOVA

    16 April 2018
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    This still from a simulation captures binary star formation in action. Researchers have long speculated on the processes that lead to clouds of gas and dust breaking up into smaller pieces to form multiple-star systems — but these take place over a large range of scales, making them difficult to simulate. In a new study led by Leonardo Sigalotti (UAM Azcapotzalco, Mexico), researchers have used a smoothed-particle hydrodynamics code to model binary star formation on scales of thousands of AU down to scales as small as ~0.1 AU. In the scene shown above, a collapsing cloud of gas and dust has recently fragmented into two pieces, forming a pair of disks separated by around 200 AU. In addition, we can see that smaller-scale fragmentation is just starting in one of these disks, Disk B. Here, one of the disk’s spiral arms has become unstable and is beginning to condense; it will eventually form another star, producing a hierarchical system: a close binary within the larger-scale binary. Check out the broader process in the four panels below (which show the system as it evolves over time), or visit the paper linked below for more information about what the authors learned.

    2
    Evolution of a collapsed cloud after large-scale fragmentation into a binary protostar: (a) 44.14 kyr, (b) 44.39 kyr, (c) 44.43 kyr, and (d) 44.68 kyr. The insets show magnifications of the binary cores. [Adapted from Sigalotti et al. 2018]

    Citation

    Leonardo Di G. Sigalotti et al 2018 ApJ 857 40. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/aab619/meta

    Related Journal Articles

    Consistent SPH Simulations of Protostellar Collapse and Fragmentation doi: 10.3847/1538-4357/aa5655
    Rotationally Induced Fragmentation in the Prestellar Core L1544 doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/780/2/188
    Signatures of Gravitational Instability in Resolved Images of Protostellar Disks doi: 10.3847/0004-637X/823/2/141
    The Burst Mode of Accretion in Primordial Protostars doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/768/2/131
    Gravitational Collapse and Fragmentation of Molecular Cloud Cores with GADGET-2 doi: 10.1086/520492
    The Formation of Low-mass Binary Star Systems Via Turbulent Fragmentation doi: 10.1088/0004-637X/725/2/1485

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 2:57 pm on April 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , , Kilonova GW170817   

    From AAS NOVA: “First Hours of the GW170817 Kilonova: Why So Blue?” 

    AASNOVA

    AAS NOVA

    13 April 2018
    Susanna Kohler

    1
    Artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars. Astronomers witnessed such a merger in August 2017, and we’re now trying to interpret these observations. [University of Warwick/Mark Garlick]

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    14

    A UC Santa Cruz special report

    Tim Stephens

    Astronomer Ryan Foley says “observing the explosion of two colliding neutron stars” [see https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/from-ucsc-first-observations-of-merging-neutron-stars-mark-a-new-era-in-astronomy ]–the first visible event ever linked to gravitational waves–is probably the biggest discovery he’ll make in his lifetime. That’s saying a lot for a young assistant professor who presumably has a long career still ahead of him.

    2
    The first optical image of a gravitational wave source was taken by a team led by Ryan Foley of UC Santa Cruz using the Swope Telescope at the Carnegie Institution’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. This image of Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (SSS17a, indicated by arrow) shows the light emitted from the cataclysmic merger of two neutron stars. (Image credit: 1M2H Team/UC Santa Cruz & Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley)

    Carnegie Institution Swope telescope at Las Campanas, Chile, 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena. near the north end of a 7 km (4.3 mi) long mountain ridge. Cerro Las Campanas, near the southern end and over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high, at Las Campanas, Chile

    A neutron star forms when a massive star runs out of fuel and explodes as a supernova, throwing off its outer layers and leaving behind a collapsed core composed almost entirely of neutrons. Neutrons are the uncharged particles in the nucleus of an atom, where they are bound together with positively charged protons. In a neutron star, they are packed together just as densely as in the nucleus of an atom, resulting in an object with one to three times the mass of our sun but only about 12 miles wide.

    “Basically, a neutron star is a gigantic atom with the mass of the sun and the size of a city like San Francisco or Manhattan,” said Foley, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    These objects are so dense, a cup of neutron star material would weigh as much as Mount Everest, and a teaspoon would weigh a billion tons. It’s as dense as matter can get without collapsing into a black hole.

    THE MERGER

    Like other stars, neutron stars sometimes occur in pairs, orbiting each other and gradually spiraling inward. Eventually, they come together in a catastrophic merger that distorts space and time (creating gravitational waves) and emits a brilliant flare of electromagnetic radiation, including visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light, x-rays, gamma rays, and radio waves. Merging black holes also create gravitational waves, but there’s nothing to be seen because no light can escape from a black hole.

    Foley’s team was the first to observe the light from a neutron star merger that took place on August 17, 2017, and was detected by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).


    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation


    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    1
    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    Now, for the first time, scientists can study both the gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space-time), and the radiation emitted from the violent merger of the densest objects in the universe.

    3
    The UC Santa Cruz team found SSS17a by comparing a new image of the galaxy N4993 (right) with images taken four months earlier by the Hubble Space Telescope (left). The arrows indicate where SSS17a was absent from the Hubble image and visible in the new image from the Swope Telescope. (Image credits: Left, Hubble/STScI; Right, 1M2H Team/UC Santa Cruz & Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley)

    It’s that combination of data, and all that can be learned from it, that has astronomers and physicists so excited. The observations of this one event are keeping hundreds of scientists busy exploring its implications for everything from fundamental physics and cosmology to the origins of gold and other heavy elements.


    A small team of UC Santa Cruz astronomers were the first team to observe light from two neutron stars merging in August. The implications are huge.

    ALL THE GOLD IN THE UNIVERSE

    It turns out that the origins of the heaviest elements, such as gold, platinum, uranium—pretty much everything heavier than iron—has been an enduring conundrum. All the lighter elements have well-explained origins in the nuclear fusion reactions that make stars shine or in the explosions of stars (supernovae). Initially, astrophysicists thought supernovae could account for the heavy elements, too, but there have always been problems with that theory, says Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    4
    The violent merger of two neutron stars is thought to involve three main energy-transfer processes, shown in this diagram, that give rise to the different types of radiation seen by astronomers, including a gamma-ray burst and a kilonova explosion seen in visible light. (Image credit: Murguia-Berthier et al., Science)

    A theoretical astrophysicist, Ramirez-Ruiz has been a leading proponent of the idea that neutron star mergers are the source of the heavy elements. Building a heavy atomic nucleus means adding a lot of neutrons to it. This process is called rapid neutron capture, or the r-process, and it requires some of the most extreme conditions in the universe: extreme temperatures, extreme densities, and a massive flow of neutrons. A neutron star merger fits the bill.

    Ramirez-Ruiz and other theoretical astrophysicists use supercomputers to simulate the physics of extreme events like supernovae and neutron star mergers. This work always goes hand in hand with observational astronomy. Theoretical predictions tell observers what signatures to look for to identify these events, and observations tell theorists if they got the physics right or if they need to tweak their models. The observations by Foley and others of the neutron star merger now known as SSS17a are giving theorists, for the first time, a full set of observational data to compare with their theoretical models.

    According to Ramirez-Ruiz, the observations support the theory that neutron star mergers can account for all the gold in the universe, as well as about half of all the other elements heavier than iron.

    RIPPLES IN THE FABRIC OF SPACE-TIME

    Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity, but until recently they were impossible to observe. LIGO’s extraordinarily sensitive detectors achieved the first direct detection of gravitational waves, from the collision of two black holes, in 2015. Gravitational waves are created by any massive accelerating object, but the strongest waves (and the only ones we have any chance of detecting) are produced by the most extreme phenomena.

    Two massive compact objects—such as black holes, neutron stars, or white dwarfs—orbiting around each other faster and faster as they draw closer together are just the kind of system that should radiate strong gravitational waves. Like ripples spreading in a pond, the waves get smaller as they spread outward from the source. By the time they reached Earth, the ripples detected by LIGO caused distortions of space-time thousands of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom.

    The rarefied signals recorded by LIGO’s detectors not only prove the existence of gravitational waves, they also provide crucial information about the events that produced them. Combined with the telescope observations of the neutron star merger, it’s an incredibly rich set of data.

    LIGO can tell scientists the masses of the merging objects and the mass of the new object created in the merger, which reveals whether the merger produced another neutron star or a more massive object that collapsed into a black hole. To calculate how much mass was ejected in the explosion, and how much mass was converted to energy, scientists also need the optical observations from telescopes. That’s especially important for quantifying the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements during the merger.

    LIGO can also provide a measure of the distance to the merging neutron stars, which can now be compared with the distance measurement based on the light from the merger. That’s important to cosmologists studying the expansion of the universe, because the two measurements are based on different fundamental forces (gravity and electromagnetism), giving completely independent results.

    “This is a huge step forward in astronomy,” Foley said. “Having done it once, we now know we can do it again, and it opens up a whole new world of what we call ‘multi-messenger’ astronomy, viewing the universe through different fundamental forces.”

    IN THIS REPORT

    Neutron stars
    A team from UC Santa Cruz was the first to observe the light from a neutron star merger that took place on August 17, 2017 and was detected by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)

    5
    Graduate students and post-doctoral scholars at UC Santa Cruz played key roles in the dramatic discovery and analysis of colliding neutron stars.Astronomer Ryan Foley leads a team of young graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have pulled off an extraordinary coup. Following up on the detection of gravitational waves from the violent merger of two neutron stars, Foley’s team was the first to find the source with a telescope and take images of the light from this cataclysmic event. In so doing, they beat much larger and more senior teams with much more powerful telescopes at their disposal.

    “We’re sort of the scrappy young upstarts who worked hard and got the job done,” said Foley, an untenured assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    7
    David Coulter, graduate student

    The discovery on August 17, 2017, has been a scientific bonanza, yielding over 100 scientific papers from numerous teams investigating the new observations. Foley’s team is publishing seven papers, each of which has a graduate student or postdoc as the first author.

    “I think it speaks to Ryan’s generosity and how seriously he takes his role as a mentor that he is not putting himself front and center, but has gone out of his way to highlight the roles played by his students and postdocs,” said Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and the most senior member of Foley’s team.

    “Our team is by far the youngest and most diverse of all of the teams involved in the follow-up observations of this neutron star merger,” Ramirez-Ruiz added.

    8
    Charles Kilpatrick, postdoctoral scholar

    Charles Kilpatrick, a 29-year-old postdoctoral scholar, was the first person in the world to see an image of the light from colliding neutron stars. He was sitting in an office at UC Santa Cruz, working with first-year graduate student Cesar Rojas-Bravo to process image data as it came in from the Swope Telescope in Chile. To see if the Swope images showed anything new, he had also downloaded “template” images taken in the past of the same galaxies the team was searching.

    9
    Ariadna Murguia-Berthier, graduate student

    “In one image I saw something there that was not in the template image,” Kilpatrick said. “It took me a while to realize the ramifications of what I was seeing. This opens up so much new science, it really marks the beginning of something that will continue to be studied for years down the road.”

    At the time, Foley and most of the others in his team were at a meeting in Copenhagen. When they found out about the gravitational wave detection, they quickly got together to plan their search strategy. From Copenhagen, the team sent instructions to the telescope operators in Chile telling them where to point the telescope. Graduate student David Coulter played a key role in prioritizing the galaxies they would search to find the source, and he is the first author of the discovery paper published in Science.

    10
    Matthew Siebert, graduate student

    “It’s still a little unreal when I think about what we’ve accomplished,” Coulter said. “For me, despite the euphoria of recognizing what we were seeing at the moment, we were all incredibly focused on the task at hand. Only afterward did the significance really sink in.”

    Just as Coulter finished writing his paper about the discovery, his wife went into labor, giving birth to a baby girl on September 30. “I was doing revisions to the paper at the hospital,” he said.

    It’s been a wild ride for the whole team, first in the rush to find the source, and then under pressure to quickly analyze the data and write up their findings for publication. “It was really an all-hands-on-deck moment when we all had to pull together and work quickly to exploit this opportunity,” said Kilpatrick, who is first author of a paper comparing the observations with theoretical models.

    11
    César Rojas Bravo, graduate student

    Graduate student Matthew Siebert led a paper analyzing the unusual properties of the light emitted by the merger. Astronomers have observed thousands of supernovae (exploding stars) and other “transients” that appear suddenly in the sky and then fade away, but never before have they observed anything that looks like this neutron star merger. Siebert’s paper concluded that there is only a one in 100,000 chance that the transient they observed is not related to the gravitational waves.

    Ariadna Murguia-Berthier, a graduate student working with Ramirez-Ruiz, is first author of a paper synthesizing data from a range of sources to provide a coherent theoretical framework for understanding the observations.

    Another aspect of the discovery of great interest to astronomers is the nature of the galaxy and the galactic environment in which the merger occurred. Postdoctoral scholar Yen-Chen Pan led a paper analyzing the properties of the host galaxy. Enia Xhakaj, a new graduate student who had just joined the group in August, got the opportunity to help with the analysis and be a coauthor on the paper.

    12
    Yen-Chen Pan, postdoctoral scholar

    “There are so many interesting things to learn from this,” Foley said. “It’s a great experience for all of us to be part of such an important discovery.”

    13
    Enia Xhakaj, graduate student

    IN THIS REPORT

    Scientific Papers from the 1M2H Collaboration

    Coulter et al., Science, Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (SSS17a), the Optical Counterpart to a Gravitational Wave Source

    Drout et al., Science, Light Curves of the Neutron Star Merger GW170817/SSS17a: Implications for R-Process Nucleosynthesis

    Shappee et al., Science, Early Spectra of the Gravitational Wave Source GW170817: Evolution of a Neutron Star Merger

    Kilpatrick et al., Science, Electromagnetic Evidence that SSS17a is the Result of a Binary Neutron Star Merger

    Siebert et al., ApJL, The Unprecedented Properties of the First Electromagnetic Counterpart to a Gravitational-wave Source

    Pan et al., ApJL, The Old Host-galaxy Environment of SSS17a, the First Electromagnetic Counterpart to a Gravitational-wave Source

    Murguia-Berthier et al., ApJL, A Neutron Star Binary Merger Model for GW170817/GRB170817a/SSS17a

    Kasen et al., Nature, Origin of the heavy elements in binary neutron star mergers from a gravitational wave event

    Abbott et al., Nature, A gravitational-wave standard siren measurement of the Hubble constant (The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and The Virgo Collaboration, The 1M2H Collaboration, The Dark Energy Camera GW-EM Collaboration and the DES Collaboration, The DLT40 Collaboration, The Las Cumbres Observatory Collaboration, The VINROUGE Collaboration & The MASTER Collaboration)

    Abbott et al., ApJL, Multi-messenger Observations of a Binary Neutron Star Merger

    PRESS RELEASES AND MEDIA COVERAGE


    Watch Ryan Foley tell the story of how his team found the neutron star merger in the video below. 2.5 HOURS.

    Press releases:

    UC Santa Cruz Press Release

    UC Berkeley Press Release

    Carnegie Institution of Science Press Release

    LIGO Collaboration Press Release

    National Science Foundation Press Release

    Media coverage:

    The Atlantic – The Slack Chat That Changed Astronomy

    Washington Post – Scientists detect gravitational waves from a new kind of nova, sparking a new era in astronomy

    New York Times – LIGO Detects Fierce Collision of Neutron Stars for the First Time

    Science – Merging neutron stars generate gravitational waves and a celestial light show

    CBS News – Gravitational waves – and light – seen in neutron star collision

    CBC News – Astronomers see source of gravitational waves for 1st time

    San Jose Mercury News – A bright light seen across the universe, proving Einstein right

    Popular Science – Gravitational waves just showed us something even cooler than black holes

    Scientific American – Gravitational Wave Astronomers Hit Mother Lode

    Nature – Colliding stars spark rush to solve cosmic mysteries

    National Geographic – In a First, Gravitational Waves Linked to Neutron Star Crash

    Associated Press – Astronomers witness huge cosmic crash, find origins of gold

    Science News – Neutron star collision showers the universe with a wealth of discoveries

    UCSC press release
    First observations of merging neutron stars mark a new era in astronomy

    Credits

    Writing: Tim Stephens
    Video: Nick Gonzales
    Photos: Carolyn Lagattuta
    Header image: Illustration by Robin Dienel courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science
    Design and development: Rob Knight
    Project managers: Sherry Main, Scott Hernandez-Jason, Tim Stephens

    Dark Energy Survey


    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL


    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam at an altitude of 7200 feet

    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet

    Noted in the video but not in the article:

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    NASA/SWIFT Telescope

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA

    CTIO PROMPT telescope telescope built by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chilein the Chilean Andes.

    PROMPT The six domes at CTIO in Chile.

    NASA NuSTAR X-ray telescope

    See the full article here .

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    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Now that the hubbub of GW170817 — the first coincident detection of gravitational waves and an electromagnetic signature — has died down, scientists are left with the task of taking the spectrum-spanning observations and piecing them together into a coherent picture. Researcher Iair Arcavi examines one particular question: what caused the blue color in the early hours of the neutron-star merger?

    Early Color

    When the two neutron stars of GW170817 merged in August of last year, they produced not only gravitational waves, but a host of electromagnetic signatures. Chief among these was a flare of emission thought to be powered by the radioactive decay of heavy elements formed in the merger — a kilonova.

    The emission during a kilonova can come from a number of different sources — from the heavy-element-rich tidal tails of the disrupting neutron stars, or from fast, light polar jets, or from a wind or a disk outflow — and each of these components could reveal different information about the original neutron stars and the merger.

    It’s therefore important that we understand the sources of the emission that we observed in the GW170817 kilonova. In particular, we’d like to know where the early blue emission came from that was spotted in the first hours of the kilonova.

    Comparing Models

    To explore this question, Iair Arcavi (Einstein Fellow at University of California, Santa Barbara and Las Cumbres Observatory) compiled infrared through ultraviolet observations of the GW170817 kilonova from nearly 20 different telescopes. To try to distinguish between possible sources, Arcavi then compared the resulting combined light curves to a variety of models.

    LCOGT Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Haleakala Hawaii, USA, Elevation 10,023 ft (3,055 m)

    Arcavi found that the light curves for the GW170817 kilonova indicate an initial ~24-hour rise of emission. This rise is best matched by models in which the emission is produced by radioactive decay of ejecta with lots of heavier elements (likely from tidal tails). The subsequent decline of the emission, however, is fit as well or better by models that include lighter, faster outflows, or additional emission due to shock-heating from a wind or a cocoon surrounding a jet.

    Missing Ultraviolet

    The takeaway from Arcavi’s work is that we can’t yet eliminate any models for the GW170817 kilonova’s early blue emission — we simply don’t have enough data.

    Why not? It turns out we had some bad luck with GW170817: a glitch in one of the detectors slowed down localization of the source, preventing earlier discovery of the kilonova. The net result was that the electromagnetic signal of this merger was only found 11 hours after the gravitational waves were detected — and the ultraviolet signal was detected 4 hours after that, when the kilonova light curves are already decaying.

    If we had ultraviolet observations that tracked the earlier, rising emission, Arcavi argues, we would be able to differentiate between the different emission models for the kilonova. So while this may be the best we can do with GW170817, we can hope that with the next merger we’ll have a full set of early observations — allowing us to better understand where its emission comes from.

    Citation

    Iair Arcavi 2018 ApJL 855 L23. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/aab267/meta

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

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    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
  • richardmitnick 12:32 pm on April 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS NOVA, , , , , , Magnetic Fields Versus Gravity,   

    From AAS NOVA: ” Magnetic Fields Versus Gravity” 

    AASNOVA

    AAS NOVA

    6 April 2018
    Kerry Hensley

    1
    Composite optical and infrared image of Milky Way star-forming region S106. Tracing the magnetic fields threaded through star-forming regions like this one can help us learn more about how stars form. [NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/Subaru Telescope (NAOJ)]

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope


    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Deep within giant molecular clouds, hidden by dense gas and dust, stars form. Unprecedented data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reveal the intricate magnetic structures woven throughout one of the most massive star-forming regions in the Milky Way.

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    How Stars Are Born

    2
    The Horsehead Nebula’s dense column of gas and dust is opaque to visible light, but this infrared image reveals the young stars hidden in the dust. [NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team]

    Simple theory dictates that when a dense clump of molecular gas becomes massive enough that its self-gravity overwhelms the thermal pressure of the cloud, the gas collapses and forms a star. In reality, however, star formation is more complicated than a simple give and take between gravity and pressure. The dusty molecular gas in stellar nurseries is permeated with magnetic fields, which are thought to impede the inward pull of gravity and slow the rate of star formation.

    How can we learn about the magnetic fields of distant objects? One way is by measuring dust polarization. An elongated dust grain will tend to align itself with its short axis parallel to the direction of the magnetic field. This systematic alignment of the dust grains along the magnetic field lines polarizes the dust grains’ emission perpendicular to the local magnetic field. This allows us to infer the direction of the magnetic field from the direction of polarization.

    Tracing Magnetic Fields

    3
    Magnetic field orientations for protostars e2 and e8 derived from Submillimeter Array observations (panels a through c) and ALMA observations (panels d and e). [Adapted from Koch et al. 2018]

    CfA Submillimeter Array Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Patrick Koch (Academia Sinica, Taiwan) and collaborators used high-sensitivity ALMA observations of dust polarization to learn more about the magnetic field morphology of Milky Way star-forming region W51. W51 is one of the largest star-forming regions in our galaxy, home to high-mass protostars e2, e8, and North.

    The ALMA observations reveal polarized emission toward all three sources. By extracting the magnetic field orientations from the polarization vectors, Koch and collaborators found that the molecular cloud contains an ordered magnetic field with never-before-seen structures. Several small clumps on the perimeter of the massive star-forming cores exhibit comet-shaped magnetic field structures, which could indicate that these smaller cores are being pulled toward the more massive cores.

    These findings hint that the magnetic field structure can tell us about the flow of material within star-forming regions — key to understanding the nature of star formation itself.

    Guiding Star Formation

    4
    Maps of sin ω for two of the protostars (e2 and e8) and their surroundings. [Adapted from Koch et al. 2018]

    Do the magnetic fields in W51 help or hinder star formation? To explore this question, Koch and collaborators introduced the quantity sin ω, where ω is the angle between the local gravity and the local magnetic field.

    When the angle between gravity and the magnetic field is small (sin ω ~ 0), the magnetic field has little effect on the collapse of the cloud. If gravity and the magnetic field are perpendicular (sin ω ~ 1), gravity can slow the infall of gas and inhibit star formation.

    Based on this parameter, Koch and collaborators identified narrow channels where gravity acts unimpeded by the magnetic field. These magnetic channels may funnel gas toward the dense cores and aid the star-formation process.

    The authors’ observations demonstrate just one example of the broad realm ALMA’s polarimetry capabilities have opened to discovery. These and future observations of dust polarization will continue to reveal more about the delicate magnetic structure within molecular clouds, further illuminating the role that magnetic fields play in star formation.

    Citation

    Patrick M. Koch et al 2018 ApJ 855 39. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/aaa4c1/meta

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    1

    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

     
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