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  • richardmitnick 3:18 pm on September 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS, ,   

    From American Astronomical Society: Women in STEM-“Jocelyn Bell Burnell Receives Special Breakthrough Prize” 


    From American Astronomical Society

    September 6, 2018
    Richard Tresch Fienberg
    Press Officer
    AAS Press Officer

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    The Selection Committee of the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics today announced a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizing British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell (an honorary AAS member) for her discovery of pulsars — a detection first announced in February 1968 — and her inspiring scientific leadership over the last five decades.

    Bell Burnell receives the Prize “for fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community.” The discovery of pulsars was one of the biggest surprises in the history of astronomy, transforming neutron stars from science fiction to reality in a most dramatic way. Among many later consequences, it led to several powerful tests of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and to a new understanding of the origin of the heavy elements in the universe.

    Yuri Milner, one of the founders of the Breakthrough Prizes, said, “Professor Bell Burnell thoroughly deserves this recognition. Her curiosity, diligent observations and rigorous analysis revealed some of the most interesting and mysterious objects in the universe.”

    The Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics can be awarded at any time in recognition of an extraordinary scientific achievement. This is the fourth Special Prize awarded: previous winners are Stephen Hawking, seven CERN scientists whose leadership led to the discovery of the Higgs boson, and the entire LIGO collaboration that detected gravitational waves.

    Five decades after her dramatic discovery of the pulsar, Bell Burnell will be recognized at the Breakthrough Prize ceremony on Sunday, 4 November 2018.

    Discovery of Pulsars

    Jocelyn Bell Burnell was a graduate student in the mid-1960s, working with Antony Hewish at the University of Cambridge. While taking data with a new radio telescope that she had helped build, she found an unexpected signal: regular pulses of radio waves. With perceptiveness and persistence she characterized the signal and showed it originated from space. She had discovered pulsars. Hewish shared with Sir Martin Ryle the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his decisive role in the discovery of pulsars.”

    “Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s discovery of pulsars will always stand as one of the great surprises in the history of astronomy,” said Edward Witten, the chair of the Selection Committee. “Until that moment, no one had any real idea how neutron stars could be observed, if indeed they existed. Suddenly it turned out that nature has provided an incredibly precise way to observe these objects, something that has led to many later advances.”

    The study of pulsars has led to some of the most stringent tests of the general theory of relativity and the first observational evidence for gravitational waves. In one of the most exciting recent astronomical events, the coalescence of two neutron stars was observed in gravitational waves by LIGO, and in a wide spectrum of electromagnetic waves by a host of other observatories. Such coalescences — called kilonovae — are among the primary sources of heavy elements, like gold, that are so much a part of our daily lives.

    A Lifetime of Leadership

    For the last half-century, Bell Burnell has remained deeply engaged in astronomy, teaching at multiple research institutes and taking on leadership roles such as project manager of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii. Ever a champion of science, education and the STEM curriculum, she has been President of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the first female President of both the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Bell Burnell is currently a Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, and Chancellor of the University of Dundee. She received a CBE in 1999 and a DBE in 2007 for her services to astronomy.

    Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

    A Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics can be awarded by the Selection Committee at any time, and in addition to the regular Breakthrough Prize awarded through the ordinary annual nomination process. Unlike the annual Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Special Prize is not limited to recent discoveries.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Our mission is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:47 pm on January 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS, , , , ,   

    From AAS: “The Discovery of Ceres” 


    American Astronomical Society

    1

    Which is better: to discover a new object in a known category or to discover an entirely new category of objects? This question is at the heart of the ongoing Pluto controversy, but Pluto is far from alone when it comes to being reclassified. Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, has been through this dilemma twice since its discovery; it was demoted from “planet” long before Pluto was even a gleam in any astronomer’s telescope.

    The large, seemingly empty space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter drew astronomers’ attention dating back to the 1500s and the days of Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. The pattern of these and other planets’ orbits led Kepler to believe that some undiscovered planet must reside there.

    Fast-forward to the 18th century. The Prussian astronomer Johann Titius theorized a relationship between a planet’s distance from the Sun and its sequence in position. His theory essentially states that, in outward sequence, each planet is twice as far from the Sun as the previous one. This law became known as the Titius-Bode law after being popularized by the German astronomer Johann Bode. Aside from a supposedly missing planet between Mars and Jupiter, it described the positions of the then-known planets well — including that of Uranus, not discovered until 1781. A group of astronomers calling themselves the “Celestial Police” turned their telescopes to the yawning gap to find this elusive world.

    On 1 January 1801, with his invitation to join the Celestial Police still in the mail, Giuseppe Piazzi, an Italian priest, mathematician, and astronomer, was looking for a well-known star when he discovered another star-like object moving across the field of his target. Initially thinking it a comet, Piazzi observed it 24 times over the next month and determined from its motion that it might be a planet. In April he sent his complete observations to Paris, and they were published in September. However, due to the object’s position in relation to the Sun, his observations were not verified until December. It was named Ceres, after the Roman goddess of grain. Astronomy textbooks listed it as a planet for the next 50 years.

    From 1800 to 1806, other similar objects were discovered in Ceres’s neighborhood. Astronomers began to wonder if they had, in fact, stumbled across a whole new category of objects. In 1802, William Herschel coined the term “asteroid” to describe them, based on their unresolved, starlike appearance in telescopes. By the 1860s, with the realization that Ceres had several hundred similar neighbors, the distinction between planets and asteroids was widely accepted, although what constitutes a planet was still unclear.

    In 2006 Pluto’s planetary status was under scrutiny, and the IAU more precisely defined a planet’s bona fides. Because Pluto did not make the cut, it became the first of the new category, dwarf planets. Ceres was the second object relegated to dwarf-planet status and remains the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. In March 2015, the Dawn spacecraft arrived at Ceres to make NASA’s first visit to a dwarf planet.

    Ultimately, the manner of an object’s classification is linked to scientific advancement and our understanding of the universe. As we have learned more about the objects in our solar system and beyond, astronomers have reclassified Ceres twice, each time making it one of the first of a wholly new category.

    Photo: Approximate true-color image of Ceres. [NASA/ JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA / Justin Cowart]
    Further Reading [links where available at the full article]:

    Hilton, J. L. 1999 “U.S. Naval Observatory Ephemerides of the Largest Asteroids”. The Astronomical Journal. 117 (2): 1077–1086.
    IAU 2006 “Resolution B5: Definition of a Planet in the Solar System”
    Landau, E., & Dyches, P 2015. “Fly Over Ceres in New Video”. NASA. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
    Herschel, William 1802. “Observations on the two lately discovered celestial Bodies”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. 92: 213–232
    Cunningham, C. J. 2016. “Discovery of The First Asteroid, Ceres”. 1st ed. Springer.
    “Pluto and the Developing Landscape of our Solar System”. 2017. iau.org. https://www.iau.org/public/themes/pluto/

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Our mission is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:16 pm on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS, , Midterm Assessment of Astrophysics Decadal Survey Released   

    From AAS: “Midterm Assessment of Astrophysics Decadal Survey Released” 

    AAS bloc

    American Astronomical Society

    August 15, 2016
    Richard Tresch Fienberg
    Press Officer
    American Astronomical Society (AAS)

    This article is adapted from a press release from the National Academies:

    1

    While scientists have made remarkable advancements in astronomy and astrophysics since the beginning of this decade — notably the first detection of gravitational waves and the discovery of distant Earth-like planets — unforeseen constraints have slowed progress toward reaching some of the priorities and goals outlined in the 2010 decadal survey of these disciplines, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report calls for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE) — the federal agencies largely responsible for funding and implementing these research activities— to maintain, and in some cases adjust, their programs in order to meet the survey’s scientific objectives.

    The 2010 survey, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (NWNH), identified an array of scientific and technical projects for the next decade that would trace back the formation of the first stars and galaxies, seek out black holes, reveal nearby habitable planets, and advance understanding of the fundamental physics of the universe. The new report is an assessment of the progress made thus far by NASA, NSF, and DOE on the suite of large-, medium-, and small-scale programs given priority in the survey, including NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) and the NSF/DOE’s Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).

    NASA/WFIRST
    NASA/WFIRST

    LSST/Camera, built at SLAC
    LSST Interior
    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile
    LSST/Camera, built at SLAC; LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile

    “The survey outlined a compelling scientific program for opening new fields of inquiry through a variety of discovery areas, and we are already seeing outstanding discoveries that fulfill the vision of NWNH,” said Jacqueline N. Hewitt, professor of physics and director of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and chair of the committee that carried out the study and wrote the report. “The scientific discoveries and improvements in technology of the past five years steer us in a certain direction. Having this opportunity to give advice on midcourse corrections to the funding agencies is very important.”

    Some of the recent major scientific accomplishments that the report highlights are the first detection of gravitational waves by the NSF-funded Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); the NASA-funded Kepler satellite’s extraordinary discovery of diverse planets and planetary systems that indicate the possibility of more than a billion Earth-like planets among the exoplanets that are present around stars throughout the galaxy; and success of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) — a huge array of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of Chile, recommended by the 2000 decadal survey and built by NSF and a consortium of international partners.

    LSC LIGO Scientific Collaboration
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA
    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib
    MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    NASA/Kepler Telescope
    Habitable planets Current Potential Planetary Habitability Laboratory U Puerto Rico Arecibo
    NASA/Kepler; Habitable planets Current Potential Planetary Habitability Laboratory U Puerto Rico Arecibo

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

    NASA’s WFIRST, the top-ranked large space-based mission in the 2010 survey, is designed to answer questions about dark energy, exoplanets, and general astrophysics. Since the release of the survey, the WFIRST scope and design have evolved to include a 2.4-meter telescope, larger infrared detectors, and an instrument called a coronagraph that enables directly imaging an exoplanet by blocking the light emitted by its parent star. These changes, while scientifically compelling, could result in further increased costs and further delays for the mission, the committee said. It recommended that prior to final confirmation of the changes, NASA conduct an independent review of the project to ensure it does not crowd out investment in the rest of NASA’s astrophysics portfolio and, if necessary, descope the mission.

    The report also finds that the driving factor in the delay or non-pursuit of some new NASA initiatives, including WFIRST, was the schedule change and increased cost associated with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) — a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that is set to launch in 2018.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated
    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    As a result, NASA’s WFIRST mission was delayed, and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) — a space-based gravitational wave detector that first took shape as collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) — did not go forward. However, following the LIGO results, the report recommends that NASA restore support this decade for space-based gravitational wave research so that the US is in a position to be a strong technical and scientific partner in a planned ESA-led gravitational observatory. The report notes that US participation could enable the full scientific capability for the ESA-led mission as envisioned by NWNH.

    ESA/eLISA
    ESA/eLISA

    The committee found that NSF made progress toward its highest priority with the initiation of the LSST — which is on schedule for 2020 and will survey the entire sky visible from its site in Chile and produce huge, unprecedented catalogs of objects and transient events. However, this and the survey’s other recommended priorities for NSF were based on a scenario in which the budget for its Division of Astronomical Sciences would double over the course of the decade. However, the division’s budget has not even kept up with inflation, and the operational costs of NSF’s powerful facilities are consuming the available budget for its research programs. NSF and the National Science Board needs to take action to preserve the ability of the astronomical community to fully utilize NSF’s capital investments in its forefront and other facilities, the report says.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Our mission is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:05 pm on June 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AAS, , , Rosemary F. G. Wyse,   

    From AAS: Women in Science – “Brouwer Award for Dynamical Astronomy Goes to Rosemary Wyse” 

    AAS bloc

    American Astronomical Society

    June 6, 2016
    Sethanne Howard
    DDA Secretary
    USNO/retired

    The AAS Division on Dynamical Astronomy (DDA) is delighted to announce that the recipient of the 2016 Dirk Brouwer Award is Professor Rosemary F. G. Wyse of Johns Hopkins University.

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    Professor Rosemary F. G. Wyse

    Professor Wyse’s work, which combines theory and observations, has played a fundamental role in advancing our understanding of the structure, dynamics, and formation history of the Milky Way and its satellites. She has been a leading proponent of the view that since low-mass stars live for a Hubble time, they can serve as a fossil record within our own galaxy of the conditions in the early lives of galaxies, thereby complementing high-redshift studies. She was one of the major early advocates of wide-field multi-object spectroscopic surveys of stars in the Milky Way and other galaxies and is one of the leaders of RAVE (the RAdial Velocity Experiment).

    Professor Wyse developed the first model that formed a thick disk as a natural consequence of the dynamical evolution of disk galaxies and was among the first to recognize the importance of the properties of the galactic thick disk in constraining the early evolution and merging history of the Milky Way. She has also made significant contributions to the study of dark-matter-dominated dwarf spheroidal galaxies.

    In addition to her wide-reaching and influential research, she has been an extraordinary mentor and role model. This award also recognizes her service to the astronomy community, which includes the presidency of the Aspen Center for Physics (2010-2013) and of IAU Commission 33, the vice-presidency of IAU Division VII, and memberships on the AURA Observatories Council, AAS Publications Board, and the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science Magazine.

    Dirk Brouwer (1902-66), for whom this award is named, was a Dutch-American astronomer and a leading authority in celestial mechanics. He was a professor at Yale University and trained a generation of astronomers in dynamics and celestial astronomy. He was an inspiring leader in the field of celestial mechanics during a period that saw a revival and flowering of that discipline, from its purely academic and esoteric role to one of widespread development and application in our exploration of space. He was successful as a researcher, as a teacher, and as an administrator. He always strove to make the growth of his subject truly international. From 1941 to 1966 he was editor of the Astronomical Journal. Along with Gerald Clemence he wrote the classic textbook Methods of Celestial Mechanics. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Astronomical Union, and the National Academy of Sciences, and he was a corresponding member of the Royal Netherlands Academy.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Our mission is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.

     
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