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  • richardmitnick 7:35 am on June 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ANU-Australian National University, , , , ,   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Universities gang up to take over major telescope” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine

    27 June 2018
    Geetanjali Rangnekar

    Siding Spring Observatory

    From July 1, the Australian National University (ANU), based in Canberra, will lead a conglomerate of 13 institutions to run the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), located in Coonabarabran in the state of New South Wales.


    AAO Anglo Australian Telescope near Siding Spring, New South Wales, Australia, Altitude 1,100 m (3,600 ft)

    Australia’s largest optical telescope, the AAT has been operational for more than four decades. When it began operating, the 3.9 metre device was the first of its kind to map the southern hemisphere skies.

    Housed at the picturesque Siding Spring Observatory, it has taken part in a multitude of missions that have added to humanity’s knowledge of the dark expanse out there.

    These include one named Galactic Archaeology with Hermes (GALAH), which involved mapping hundreds of thousands of stars in the Milky Way. Another, the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey, measured changes in the light emitted by bodies in the northern and southern galactic hemispheres.

    The current restructure allows the ANU to take over operation of the telescope from the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

    This will allow Australian astronomers and universities to have unprecedented access to the highly sought-after advanced instruments, including a spectroscope capable of simultaneously observing 400 cosmic bodies. The move will also enable Australian scientists to access high-tech optic telescopes situated in Chile operated by the European Southern Observatory.

    The academic partnerships will include universities from Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 8:45 am on March 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, , , , , , The Fermi view of the gamma-ray sky   

    From ANU: “Mysterious signal comes from very old stars at centre of our galaxy” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    March 12, 2018
    No writer credit found.

    FOR INTERVIEW:
    Dr Roland Crocker
    Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
    ANU College of Science
    P: +61 2 6125 0253
    M: +61 438 499 129
    E: Roland.Crocker@anu.edu.au

    Will Wright
    ANU Media Team
    +61 2 6125 7979,
    +61 478 337 740
    media@anu.edu.au

    1
    No image caption or credit.

    A team of astronomers involving The Australian National University (ANU) has discovered that a mysterious gamma-ray signal from the centre of the Milky Way comes from 10 billion-year-old stars, rather than dark matter as previously thought.

    1
    The Fermi view of the gamma-ray sky. (NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration)

    NASA/Fermi LAT


    NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

    Co-researcher Dr Roland Crocker from ANU said the team had a working hypothesis that the signal was being emitted from thousands of rapidly spinning neutron stars called millisecond pulsars.

    “At the distance to the centre of our galaxy, the emission from many thousands of these whirling dense stars could be blending together to imitate the smoothly distributed signal we expect from dark matter,” said Dr Crocker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    “Millisecond pulsars close to the Earth are known to be gamma-ray emitters.”

    Dr Crocker said the findings ruled out a provocative theory that dark matter, which is not well understood by scientists, was the origin of the gamma-ray signal.

    There is broad scientific consensus that dark matter – matter that scientists cannot see – is widely present in the Universe and helps explain how galaxies hold together rather than fly apart as they spin.

    “It is thought that dark matter is composed of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, which would be expected to gather in the centre of our galaxy,” Dr Crocker said.

    “The theory is that, very occasionally, these particles crash into each other and radiate light a billion times more energetic than visible light.”

    The Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, which has been in a low Earth orbit since 2008, has given scientists their clearest ever view of the gamma-ray sky in this energy range.

    “While the centre of our galaxy may be rich in dark matter, it is also populated by ancient stars that make up a structure called the Galactic bulge,” Dr Crocker said.

    He said the signal detected by Fermi closely traces the distribution of stars in the Galactic bulge.

    “Ongoing observational and theoretical work is underway to verify or refute the hypothesis that the gamma-ray signal comes from millisecond pulsars,” Dr Crocker said.

    ANU and research institutions in the United States, New Zealand and Germany conducted the study, which was led by Virginia Tech in the US.

    The study is published in Nature Astronomy.

    See the full article here .

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:59 pm on February 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, , , , ,   

    From ANU via COSMOS: “40-year cosmic theory confirmed” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    COSMOS

    09 February 2018
    Andrew Masterson

    A stellar reaction long predicted but never seen has been demonstrated in the lab.

    1
    After four decades of research, a theory is finally confirmed. CONEYL JAY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images.

    An abundant new energy supply could be derived from controlling a quantum reaction that takes place in stars, according to research from the Australian National University (ANU).

    The possibility arises because the ANU scientists plus others from institutions including the US Army Research laboratory and Poland’s National Centre for Nuclear Research have succeeded in confirming the existence of a reaction first predicted four decades ago but unmeasured until now.

    In a paper published in the journal Nature, ANU physicist Greg Lane and colleagues report the confirmation of a phenomenon known as Nuclear Excitation by Electron Capture (NEEC). Confirming that NEEC actually happens supplies a key mechanism for understanding how evolving stars produce elements such as gold and platinum.

    NEEC can occur when an atom captures an electron. If the electron’s kinetic energy and the energy required to capture it add up to just the right amount, the atom’s nucleus is pushed to a higher state of excitation.

    The energy increase, however, comes at the cost of a shorter life. What was a long-lived stable nucleus must now decay, either through an electromagnetic process known as internal conversion which spits out an electron, or by emitting a photon.

    Although discussed since the 1970s, experimental proof for NEEC has remained elusive.

    The new work, however, has now provided the necessary evidence. The researchers did so by creating an exotic isotope – molybdenum-93 – by firing a beam of zirconium atoms at lithium targets, using the ANU’s Heavy Ion Accelerator and the ATLAS Accelerator at Argonne National Laboratory in the United States.

    2
    ANU’s Heavy Ion Accelerator

    3
    ATLAS Accelerator at Argonne National Laboratory

    The resulting molybdenum atoms zipped around at as much as 10% of the speed of light, smashing into the remaining lithium, stripping off electrons and leaving highly charged ions behind.

    As the interactions continued, the molybdenum ions lost kinetic energy until they reached a state where they could capture an electron with just the right energy to push the molybdenum nuclei from their long-duration “isomer” states into higher level but shorter-lived intermediate ones. These intermediate states decayed, giving off a unique gamma-ray signature that proved NEEC had occurred.

    The research now provides a model against which other theoretical calculations for the NEEC effect in different elements can be tested, illuminating further the process by which nuclear interactions in stars produce certain metals.

    “The abundance of the different elements in a star depends primarily on the structure and behaviour of atomic nuclei,” says Lane.

    “The NEEC phenomenon modifies the nucleus lifetime so that it survives for a shorter amount of time in a star.”

    As well cosmological implications, the confirmation of the NEEC effect opens the door to potentially accessing energy stored in longer-lived isomer nuclei. Lane suggests the technique could create energy sources 100,000 times more powerful than chemical batteries.

    It is a possible outcome that has not gone unnoticed by at least one of the ANU’s research partners.

    “Our study demonstrated a new way to release the energy stored in a long-lived nuclear state, which the US Army Research Laboratory is interested to explore further,” says Lane.

    See the full article here .

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:26 pm on January 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, NCI- National Computational Infrastructure,   

    From NCI: “NCI welcomes $70M investment in HPC capability” 

    NCI

    18 December 2017

    The Board of Australia’s National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), based at The Australian National University (ANU), welcomes the Australian Government’s announcement that it will invest $70 million to replace Australia’s highest performance research supercomputer, Raijin, which is rapidly nearing the end of its service life.

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    NCI Raijin supercomputer.

    The funding, through the Department of Education and Training, will be provided as $69.2 million in 2017-18 and $800,000 in 2018-19.

    Chair of the NCI Board, Emeritus Professor Michael Barber, said NCI was crucial to Australia’s future research needs.

    “This announcement is very welcome. NCI plays a pivotal role in the national research landscape, and the supercomputer is the centrepiece of NCI’s renowned and tightly integrated, high-performance computing and data environment,” he said.

    “The Government’s announcement is incredibly important for the national research endeavour.

    “It means NCI can continue to provide Australian researchers with a world-class advanced computing environment that is a fusion of powerful computing, high-performance ‘big data’, and world-leading expertise that enables cutting-edge Australian research and innovation.

    “The NCI supercomputer is one of the most important pieces of research infrastructure in Australia. It is critical to the competitiveness of Australian research and development in every field of scientific and technological endeavour, spanning the national science and research priorities.”

    ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the funding would ensure NCI remains at the centre of Australia’s research needs.

    “The new NCI supercomputer will be a valuable tool for Australian researchers and industry, and will be central to scientific developments in medical research, climate and weather, engineering and all fields that require analysis of so-called big data, including, of course, astronomy,” Professor Schmidt said.

    Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel said high-performance computing is a national priority.

    “Throughout our consultations to develop the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap the critical importance of Australia’s two high performance computers was manifestly clear,” Dr Finkel said.

    “Our scientific community will be overwhelmingly delighted by the Australian Government’s decision today to support the modernisation of the NCI computer hosted at ANU.”

    The announcement of funding ensures researchers in 35 universities, five national science agencies, three medical research institutes, and industry will benefit from a boost in computational horsepower, enabling new research that is more ambitious and more innovative than ever before once the new supercomputer is commissioned in early 2019.

    NCI anticipates the resulting supercomputer will be ranked in the top 25 internationally.

    The Australian Government’s 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap specifically recognised the critical importance of such a resource, and the need for an urgent upgrade.

    The new supercomputer will ensure NCI can continue to provide essential support for research funded and sustained by the national research councils (the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council), and the national science agencies—notably CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia.

    This research will drive innovation that is critical to Australia’s future economic development and the wellbeing of Australians.

    To view a video about NCI and the supercomputer click here.
    [No image of the proposed new supercomputer is available]

    See the full article here [no video shows up] .

    History

    11NCI can trace its lineage back through three stages of the evolution of high-end computing services in Australia.

    These are:

    The Early Years: The initiation of high-performance computing services through the Australian National University Supercomputing Facility (ANUSF) from 1987;
    The APAC Years: Its extension to a national role under the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC), hosted by ANU from 2000– 07, during which national HPC service was provided from ANUSF, a national partnership was formed, services were broadened to include a range of outreach activities to build uptake, and a national grid program, and nascent data services were established.
    The NCI Years: The current stage of advanced computing services that have been developed from 2007 onwards under the badge of NCI, again hosted by ANU, which are characterised by the broadening and integration of services, the evolution of a strong sustaining partnership, and the transition from high-terascale to petascale computational and data infrastructure to support Australian science.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:21 pm on December 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, , , , , , ,   

    From ANU: “Astronomers create most detailed radio image of nearby dwarf galaxy” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    28 November 2017

    Will Wright
    +61 2 6125 7979
    media@anu.edu.au

    New imaging hints at a violent past and a fatal future for the Small Magellanic cloud. COSMOS

    1
    The new radio image of the Small Magellanic Cloud. ANU/CSIRO

    Astronomers at ANU have created the most detailed radio image of nearby dwarf galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud, revealing secrets of how it formed and how it is likely to evolve.

    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

    This image was taken by CSIRO’s powerful new radio telescope, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), and its innovative radio camera technology, known as phased array feeds.

    SKA ASKAP Phased Array

    The Small Magellanic Cloud, which is a tiny fraction of the size and mass of the Milky Way, is one of our nearest galactic neighbours and visible to the naked eye in the southern sky.

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

    Co-lead researcher Professor Naomi McClure-Griffiths said the complex structure of the dwarf galaxy likely resulted, in part, from interactions with its companion, the Large Magellanic Cloud, and the Milky Way.

    Large Magellanic Cloud. Adrian Pingstone December 2003

    “The new image captured by CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope reveals more gas around the edges of the galaxy, indicating a very dynamic past for the Small Magellanic Cloud,” said Professor McClure-Griffiths from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    “These features are more than three times smaller than we were able to see before and allow us to probe the detailed interaction of the small galaxy and its environment.”

    Professor McClure-Griffiths said distortions to the Small Magellanic Cloud occurred because of its interactions with the larger galaxies and because of its own star explosions that push gas out of the galaxy.

    “The outlook for this dwarf galaxy is not good, as it’s likely to eventually be gobbled up by our Milky Way,” she said.

    “Together, the Magellanic Clouds are characterised by their distorted structures, a bridge of material that connects them, and an enormous stream of hydrogen gas that trails behind their orbit – a bit like a comet.”

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

    The Small Magellanic Cloud has been studied extensively in the past few years by infrared telescopes such as NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA’s Herschel telescope, which study the dust and stars within the galaxy.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft

    “The new radio image finally reaches the same level of detail as those infrared images, but on a very different component of the galaxy’s make-up: its hydrogen gas,” Professor McClure-Griffiths said.

    “Hydrogen is the fundamental building block of all galaxies and shows off the more extended structure of a galaxy than its stars and dust.”

    CSIRO spokesperson, Dr Philip Edwards, said: “This stunning image showcases the wide field of view of the ASKAP telescope, and augurs well for when the full array will come on-line next year.”

    See the full article here .

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:17 am on April 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, , , ,   

    From ANU: “ANU leads citizen search for new planet in Solar System” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    27 March 2017

    1
    U Manchester Professor Brian Cox and ANU astronomer Dr. Brad Tucker. Credit: NASA

    2
    Courtesy Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC)

    Four Candidates For Planet 9 Located

    ANU is launching a search for a new planet in our Solar System, inviting anyone around the world with access to the Internet to help make the historic discovery.

    A concentrated three-day search for a mysterious, unseen planet in the far reaches of our own solar system has yielded four possible candidates. The search for the so-called Planet 9 was part of a real-time search with a Zooniverse citizen science project, in coordination with the BBC’s Stargazing Live broadcast from the Australian National University’s Siding Spring Observatory.

    Researcher Brad Tucker from ANU, who led the effort, said about 60,000 people from around the world classified over four million objects during the three days, using data from the SkyMapper telescope at Siding Spring.



    ANU Skymapper telescope, a fully automated 1.35 m (4.4 ft) wide-angle optical telescope at Siding Spring Observatory , near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia

    He and his team said that even if none of the four candidates turn out to be the hypothetical Planet 9, the effort was scientifically valuable, helping to verify their search methods as exceptionally viable.

    “We’ve detected minor planets Chiron and Comacina, which demonstrates the approach we’re taking could find Planet 9 if it’s there,” Tucker said. “We’ve managed to rule out a planet about the size of Neptune being in about 90 per cent of the southern sky out to a depth of about 350 times the distance the Earth is from the Sun.

    3
    SAMI, a new multi-object integral field spectrograph at Siding Spring Observatory, which was used to look for the hypothetical Planet 9. Credit: Dilyar Barat via Twitter.

    (Universe Today)

    Anyone who helps find the so-called Planet 9 will work with ANU astronomers to validate the discovery through the International Astronomical Union.

    3
    Researchers from Australian National University pose with BBC astronomers Chris Lintott, Brian Cox and Dara O’Brien. Credit: ANU.

    ANU astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker is leading the project, which is being launched by Professor Brian Cox during a BBC Stargazing Live broadcast from the ANU Siding Spring Observatory.

    “We have the potential to find a new planet in our Solar System that no human has ever seen in our two-million-year history,” said Dr Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    Dr Tucker said astronomers had long discussed the likelihood of a ninth planet on the outer edges of the Solar System, but nothing had been found yet.

    “Planet 9 is predicted to be a super Earth, about 10 times the mass and up to four times the size of our planet. It’s going to be cold and far away, and about 800 times the distance between Earth and the sun. It’s pretty mysterious,” he said.

    The ANU project will allow citizen scientists to use a website to search hundreds of thousands of images taken by the ANU SkyMapper telescope at Siding Spring.

    SkyMapper will take 36 images of each part of the southern sky, which is relatively unexplored, and identify changes occurring within the Universe.

    Finding Planet 9 involves citizen volunteers scanning the SkyMapper images online to look for differences, Dr Tucker said.

    “It’s actually not that complicated to find Planet 9. It really is spot the difference. Then you just click on the image, mark what is different and we’ll take care of the rest,” Dr Tucker said.

    He said he expected people to also find and identify other mystery objects in space, including asteroids, comets and dwarf planets like Pluto.

    “If you find an asteroid or dwarf planet, you can’t actually name it after yourself,” Dr Tucker said.

    “But you could name it after your wife, brother or sister. We need to follow all of the rules set by the International Astronomical Union.”

    Dr Tucker said modern computers could not match the passion of millions of people.

    “It will be through all our dedication that we can find Planet 9 and other things that move in space,” he said.

    Co-researcher and Head of SkyMapper Dr Chris Wolf said SkyMapper was the only telescope in the world that maps the whole southern sky.

    “Whatever is hiding there that you can’t see from the north, we will find it,” Dr Wolf said.

    From 28 to 30 March at 8pm London time, BBC Stargazing Live hosted by Professor Cox and comedian Dara O Briain is expected to be viewed by around five million people.

    The ABC [Australian, not U.S.] will broadcast an Australian Stargazing Live program from Siding Spring from 4 to 6 April, hosted by Professor Cox and Julia Zemiro.

    SkyMapper is a 1.3-metre telescope that is creating a full record of the southern sky for Australian astronomers.

    People can to participate in the ANU citizen science project to search for Planet 9 at http://www.planet9search.org

    See the full article here .

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:14 am on March 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, Francesca Maclean,   

    From ANU: Women in STEM – “Engineering student named 2017 Young ACT Woman of the Year” Francesca Maclean 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    8 March 2017

    1
    ANU PhD student Francesca Maclean. Image: Stuart Hay, ANU.

    ANU engineering PhD student Francesca Maclean has been awarded the 2017 Young ACT Woman of the Year for her work to promote gender equity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at the University.

    The award was announced as part of celebrations for International Women’s Day, and was one of three ACT Women’s Awards presented by the ACT Minister for Women, Yvette Berry MLA.

    Francesca and fellow student Emily Campbell founded a student-run volunteer organisation called Fifty50, which aims to develop an equitable and inclusive study and work environment, particularly for women.

    Francesca was surprised and delighted to have received the award.

    “It was a really big surprise. It’s great to know that the wider community value the work we’re doing to promote gender equity with Fifty50, and fostering a more inclusive STEM culture generally,” she said.

    Francesca has played a vital role in leading the group to run mentoring programs, workshops and public events, as well as mentoring many undergraduate female students herself.

    The ACT Women’s Awards recognise the achievements of women who have made an outstanding contribution to the lives of women and girls in the Canberra community.

    See the full article here .

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:35 am on March 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, , , Far-away planet systems are shaped like the Solar System   

    From ANU: “Far-away planet systems are shaped like the Solar System” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    March 1, 2017
    No writer credit

    1
    Caltech

    Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) have found that far-away planet systems are shaped like the Solar System, with multiple planets aligning with the host star on a flat plain, in a discovery that could increase the chance of finding alien life.

    Co-researcher Associate Professor Charley Lineweaver said NASA’s discovery of the seven-planet system being on a flat plain supported this research, which challenges the usual assumption that planet systems are flared like bellbottoms.

    “Other planet systems in the Universe seem to be much like our Solar System,” said Dr Lineweaver from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA).

    “The more we find out about these planet systems the more it seems the Solar System is unexceptional.”

    The Kepler space telescope has detected more than 4,000 planets orbiting 3,200 stars. The majority of these host stars have only one detected planet, while 656 have multiple planets.

    The lead author of the research paper, being published in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is RSAA PhD student Tim Bovaird: arxiv.org/abs/1702.08126

    “The wealth of the Kepler planet data allows for the first time detailed studies of planet systems outside the Solar System. We are now able to ask and answer questions like, how common are planet systems like our own?” Mr Bovaird said.

    “But this is an odd assumption because the inner part of our Solar System is flat, not flared. When we dropped the assumption that planet systems are flared, simulations naturally matched the observed data without using the Kepler Dichotomy.”

    Dr Lineweaver said the team’s result should demote the Kepler Dichotomy and allow more realistic interpretations of new planet systems.

    See the full article here .

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:52 am on December 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, , , , , The Biggest Solar System Ever Found Is Very Very Big   

    From popsci.com: “The Biggest Solar System Ever Found Is Very, Very Big” from January 2016, but worth it 

    popsci-bloc

    Popular Science

    January 25, 2016
    Sarah Fecht

    1
    2MASS J2126-8140
    Artist’s depiction of the gas giant planet in orbit around the red dwarf star TYC 9486-927-1, faintly visible in the background.
    University of Hertfordshire/Neil James Cook

    Scientists used to suspect a giant planet named “2MASS J2126-8140” was a rogue world, wandering the galaxy without a star to orbit. But it turns out the planet isn’t homeless after all: its star is just very, very far away. Like, a trillion kilometers away (or about 621,000,000,000 miles).

    To put that number into context, that’s around 6,900 times the distance between the Sun and Earth. Its orbit is 140 times wider than Pluto’s. At that distance, the dim red dwarf star would look like just another moderately bright star in the sky.

    Astronomer Simon Murphy from the Australian National University and his colleagues uncovered the secret relationship between the planet and star after noticing that they were both located 100 light-years from Earth.

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Further analysis showed they were moving together as well.

    The planet is believed to be a gas giant 12 to 15 times the size of Jupiter, and takes nearly a million Earth years to circle its star.

    Scientists aren’t sure how such a far-flung solar system could have formed. “There is no way it formed in the same way as our solar system did, from a large disc of dust and gas,” Murphy said in a press statement.

    Instead, the team suspects the star-planet duo were born relatively recently (10 to 45 million years ago, compared to our solar system’s birth 4.5 billion years ago), and that they formed from “a filament of gas that pushed them together in the same direction,” says Murphy.

    “They must not have lived their lives in a very dense environment. They are so tenuously bound together that any nearby star would have disrupted their orbit completely.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:02 am on December 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ANU-Australian National University, , , New telescope chip offers clear view of alien planets   

    From ANU: “New telescope chip offers clear view of alien planets” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    6 December 2016
    Will Wright
    +61 2 6125 7979
    media@anu.edu.au

    1
    2
    3

    Scientists have developed a new optical chip for a telescope that enables astronomers to have a clear view of alien planets that may support life.

    Seeing a planet outside the solar system which is close to its host sun, similar to Earth, is very difficult with today’s standard astronomical instruments due to the brightness of the sun.

    Associate Professor Steve Madden from The Australian National University (ANU) said the new chip removes light from the host sun, allowing astronomers for the first time to take a clear image of the planet.

    “The ultimate aim of our work with astronomers is to be able to find a planet like Earth that could support life,” said Dr Madden from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

    “To do this we need to understand how and where planets form inside dust clouds, and then use this experience to search for planets with an atmosphere containing ozone, which is a strong indicator of life.”

    Physicists and astronomers at ANU worked on the optical chip with researchers at the University of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

    Dr Madden said the optical chip worked in a similar way to noise cancelling headphones.

    “This chip is an interferometer that adds equal but opposite light waves from a host sun which cancels out the light from the sun, allowing the much weaker planet light to be seen,” he said.

    PhD student Harry-Dean Kenchington Goldsmith, who built the chip at the ANU Laser Physics Centre, said the technology works like thermal imaging that fire fighters rely on to see through smoke.

    “The chip uses the heat emitted from the planet to peer through dust clouds and see planets forming. Ultimately the same technology will allow us to detect ozone on alien planets that could support life,” said Mr Kenchington Goldsmith from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.

    The innovation builds on over 10 years of research on specialised optical materials and devices that has been supported through CUDOS, a centre of excellence funded by the Australian Research Council.

    The research is being presented at the Australian Institute of Physics Congress in Brisbane this week.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

     
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