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  • richardmitnick 7:27 pm on April 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, , , ,   

    From insideHPC : “Continuing Arecibo’s Legacy – A Partnership to Save Telescope Data at TACC” 

    From insideHPC

    April 21, 2021
    Jorge Salazar, Science Writer, TACC

    Millions of people have seen footage of the famed Arecibo radio telescope’s collapse – due to various hurricanes and other natural disasters – in December 2020. What they would not have seen from those videos was Arecibo’s data center, located outside the danger zone. It stores the “golden copy” of the telescope’s data — the original tapes, hard drives, and disk drives of sky scans since the 1960s.

    Now, a new partnership will make sure that about 3 petabytes, or 3,000 terabytes, of telescope data is securely backed up off-site and made accessible to astronomers around the world, who will be able to use it to continue Arecibo Observatory’s legacy of discovery and innovation.

    Working Together

    [It must not be forgotten that the NSF was de-funding Arecibo, a severe loss to the US Radio Astronomy community.]

    Within weeks of Arecibo’s collapse, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC)(US) entered into an agreement with the University of Central Florida (US), the Engagement and Performance Operations Center (US) (EPOC), the Arecibo Observatory, the Cyberinfrastructure Center of Excellence Pilot (CICoE Pilot) (US), and Globus Research data management simplified (US) at the University of Chicago (US). Together, they’re moving the Arecibo radio telescope data to TACC’s Ranch, a long-term data mass storage system. Plans include expanding access to over 50 years of astronomy data from the Arecibo Observatory, which up until 2016 had been the world’s largest radio telescope.

    “I’m thrilled that University of Texas at Austin (US) will become the home of the data repository for one of the most important telescopes of the past half-century,” said Dan Jaffe, Interim Executive Vice President and Provost of The University of Texas at Austin.

    “As a young radio astronomer, I saw Arecibo as an amazing symbol of the commitment of our country to the science I loved,” Jaffe said. “Arecibo made important contributions across many fields — studies of planets, setting the scale for the expansion of the universe, understanding the clouds from which stars form, to name a few. Preserving these data and making them available for further study will allow Arecibo’s legacy to have an ongoing impact on my field.”

    “Arecibo data has led to hundreds of discoveries over the last 50 years,” said Francisco Cordova, Director of the Arecibo Observatory. “Preserving it, and most importantly, making it available to researchers and students worldwide will undoubtedly help continue the legacy of the facility for decades to come. With advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence tools available now, and in the future, the data provides opportunity for even more discoveries and understanding of recently discovered physical phenomena.”

    National Science Foundation (US) Vision

    Since 2018, University of Central Florida (US) has led the consortium that manages the Arecibo Observatory, which is owned and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). EPOC, a collaboration between Indiana University (US) and the DOE Energy Science Network [ESnet] (US) funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science (SC)(US) and managed by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (US), had itself partnered with UCF in profiling their scientific data movement activities a year prior to the collapse.

    TACC’s Ranch supercomputer, a long-term data mass storage system.

    “NSF is committed to supporting Arecibo Observatory as a vital scientific, educational, and cultural center, and part of that will be making sure that the vast amounts of data collected by the telescope continue to drive discovery,” says NSF Program Officer Alison B. Peck. “We’re gratified to see that this partnership will not only safely store copies of Arecibo Observatory’s data but also provide enhanced levels of access for current and future generations of astronomers.”

    The data storage is part of the ongoing efforts at Arecibo Observatory to clean up debris from the 305-meter telescope’s 900-ton instrument platform and reopen remaining infrastructure. NSF is supporting a June 2021 workshop that will focus on actionable ways to support Arecibo Observatory’s future and create opportunities for scientific, educational, and cultural activities.

    Sense of Urgency

    “The collapse of the Arecibo Observatory platform certainly raised a sense of urgency within our team,” said Julio Alvarado, Big Data Program Manager at Arecibo. The Big Data team was already working on a strategic plan for their Data Management and Cloud programs. Those plans had to be prioritized and executed with unprecedented urgency and importance. The legacy of the observatory relied on the data stored for the over 1,700 projects dating back to the 1960’s.

    Alvarado’s team reached out to UCF’s Office of Research for help, which connected Arecibo to two NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure projects, EPOC led by Principal Investigators Jennifer Schopf and Dave Jent from Indiana University, and Jason Zurawski from ESnet; and the Cyberinfrastructure Center of Excellence Pilot (CICoE Pilot) led by Ewa Deelman of the University of Southern California (US).

    “We got involved when the University of Central Florida noted they were having challenges in trying to identify a new data storage location off of the island, and were struggling with the demands of efficiently moving that data,” said Jason Zurawski, Science Engagement Engineer of ESnet and Co-PI of the EPOC project.

    Data Migration

    “Migrating the entire Arecibo data set, well over a petabyte in size, would take many months or even years if done inefficiently, but could take only weeks with proper hardware, software, and configurations,” said Hans Addleman, the Principal Network Systems Engineer for EPOC. The EPOC team provided the infrastructure skills and resources that helped Arecibo design their data transfer framework using the latest research tools and expertise. The CICoE Pilot team is helping Arecibo evaluate their data storage solutions and design their future data management and stewardship experience in order to make Arecibo’s data easily accessible to the scientific community.

    Arecibo is an amazing project that has enabled astronomers, planetary scientists, and atmospheric scientists to collect and analyze extremely valuable scientific data over many decades,” said Ewa Deelman, Research Director at the USC Information Sciences Institute, and PI of the CI CoE Pilot project.

    “The CI CoE Pilot project is very excited to be working with Arecibo, EPOC, TACC, and Globus members in this community effort, making sure the precious data is preserved and made easily findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR). Recently, we have also reached out to members of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA), and in particular Bruce Berriman (Caltech/IPACNASA Exoplanet Science Institute (US), Vice-Chair of the IVOA Executive Committee) to explore Arecibo’s data role in the international community. The collaboration formed around and with Arecibo shows how NSF-funded projects can come together, amplify each other’s efforts and have an impact on the international scientific community,” Deelman added.

    CI CoE Pilot contributes expertise in a number of areas spanning the Arecibo data lifecycle, including data archiving (Angela Murillo, Indiana University), identity management (Josh Drake, IU), semantic technologies (Chuck Vardeman, University of Notre Dame (US)), visualization (Valerio Pascucci and Steve Petruzza, University of Utah (US)), and workflow management (Mats Rynge, and Karan Vahi, USC). The CI CoE Pilot effort is coordinated by Wendy Whitcup (USC).

    As a result of Arecibo’s limited Internet connectivity, the University of Puerto Rico and Engine-4, a non-profit coworking space and laboratory, are contributing to the data transfer process by allowing Arecibo to share their Internet infrastructure. Further, the irreplaceable nature of the data required a solution that would guarantee data integrity while maximizing transfer speed. This motivated the use of Globus, a platform for research data management developed and operated by the University of Chicago.

    The Transfer

    The data transfer process started mid-January 2021. Arecibo’s data landscape consists of three main sources: data in hard drives; data in tape library; and data offsite. The archive holds over one petabyte of data in hard drives and over two petabytes of data in tapes. This data includes information from thousands of observing sessions, equivalent to watching 120 years of HD video.

    Currently, data is being transferred from Arecibo hard drives to TACC’s Ranch system, recently upgraded to expand its storage capabilities to an exabyte, or 1,000 petabytes. Ranch upgrades combine a DDN SFA14K DCR block storage system with a Quantum Scalar i6000 tape library.

    Over 52,000 users archive their data from all facets of science, from the subatomic to the cosmic. Ranch is an allocated resource of the XSEDE-Extreme Science Engineering Discovery Environment (US) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

    “Further phases will copy the Arecibo tape library to hard drives and then to TACC, and a later phase will copy data from offsite locations to TACC,” Alvarado said.

    To preserve and guarantee continuity to the scientific community, Arecibo’s data is being copied to storage devices, which are then delivered to the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and to the Engine-4 facilities for upload. This ensures that the research community continues to access and execute research with the existing data. This data migration is executed in coordination with Arecibo’s IT department, led by Arun Venkataraman.

    Given time constraints and limitations in the networking infrastructure connecting the observatory, speed, security, and reliability were key to effectively moving the data.

    The Globus service addressed these needs, while also providing a means to monitor the transfers and automatically recover from any transient errors. This was necessary to minimize the chance of losing or corrupting the valuable data collected by the telescope in its 50+ years of service.

    The Globus service enabled the UCF and ESNet teams to securely and reliably move 12 TBs (spell out) of data per day. “Seeing the impact that our services can have on preserving the legacy of a storied observatory such as Arecibo is truly gratifying”, said Rachana Ananthakrishnan, Globus executive director at the University of Chicago.

    The data travel over the AMPATH Internet exchange point that connects the University of Puerto Rico to Miami. It then uses Internet2 and the LEARN network in Texas to get to TACC in Austin.

    Arecibo’s Data Legacy

    The data were collected from Arecibo’s 1,000 foot (305 meter) fixed spherical radio/radar telescope. Its frequency capabilities range from 50 megahertz to 11 gigahertz. Transmitters include an S-band (2,380 megahertz) radar system for planetary studies; a 430 megahertz radar system for atmospheric science studies; and a heating facility for ionospheric research.

    Past achievements made with Arecibo include the discovery of the first ever binary pulsar, a find that tested Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and earned its discoverers a Nobel Prize in 1993; the first radar maps of the Venusian surface and polar ice on Mercury; and the first planet found outside our solar system.

    “The data is priceless,” Alvarado emphasized. Arecibo’s data includes a variety of astronomical, atmospheric, and planetary observations dating to the 1960s that can’t be duplicated.

    “While some of the data led to major discoveries over the years, there are reams of data that have yet to be analyzed and could very likely yield more discoveries. Arecibo’s plan is to work with TACC to provide researchers access to the data and the tools necessary to easily retrieve data to continue the science mission at Arecibo,” he said.

    The Arecibo IT and Big Data teams are in charge of the data during the migration phases of the project, which doesn’t allow public access. As the migration and data management efforts progresses, the data will be made available to the research community.

    Arecibo, TACC, EPOC, CICoE Pilot, and Globus will continue to work on building tools, processes, and framework to support the continuous access and analysis of the data to the research community. The data will be stored at TACC temporarily, supporting Arecibo’s goal of providing open access to the data. Arecibo will continue to work with the groups on the design and development of a permanent storage solution.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded on December 28, 2006, insideHPC is a blog that distills news and events in the world of HPC and presents them in bite-sized nuggets of helpfulness as a resource for supercomputing professionals. As one reader said, we’re sifting through all the news so you don’t have to!

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  • richardmitnick 1:41 pm on February 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, Asteroid 2020 BX12, , , , , , , The asteroid has its very own moon - a tiny little thing just 70 metres (230 feet) across.   

    From Arecibo Observatory via Science Alert: “An Asteroid Totally Just Mooned Earth” 

    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft).

    From Arecibo Observatory



    Science Alert

    11 FEB 2020

    (Arecibo Observatory/Planetary Radar Science Group)

    A large asteroid whooshed past Earth last week, and mooned all of humanity in the process.

    As it approached Earth space, asteroid 2020 BX12 was under close observation. Clocking in at 200 to 450 metres across (656 to 1,476 feet), and moving at around 90,000 kilometres per hour (56,000 miles per hour), the space rock was one of the larger ones to enter our vicinity in recent weeks.

    It passed safely by at a distance of over 4.3 million kilometres (2.7 million miles) on February 3, placing it at over 11 times the distance of the Moon, so you can chill about the prospect of total devastation.

    As it passed, and continued to move away, astronomers at Arecibo Observatory’s Planetary Radar Science Group in Puerto Rico took 2020 BX12’s photo. And they noticed it wasn’t alone.

    The asteroid has its very own moon – a tiny little thing just 70 metres (230 feet) across.

    “Preliminary analysis suggests that the primary asteroid is a round object at least 165 metres in diameter rotating approximately once every 2.8 hours or less,” they wrote in an announcement.

    “The satellite has a diameter of approximately 70 metres and rotates once every 49 hours or less. The distance between the two bodies is at least 360 metres, as observed on February 5.

    The movement of the satellite between the two observations, which were made ~23 hours apart, suggests a mutual orbital period of 45-50 hours and would be consistent with a tidally locked satellite.”

    It’s actually not that strange for asteroids to have moons of their own. There’s a bunch of asteroids in the main asteroid belt that are known to have their own moons, and around 60 near-Earth asteroids of the roughly 16,400 known have at least one moon.

    But because asteroids are so hard to spot, data on how many of them have moons is incomplete. Some asteroids even have two moons, and very rarely you get a binary asteroid where both are around the same size.

    We don’t know how asteroids get moons, either. They could form together, like binary stars; they could be chunks that are from the same collision; or they could snare each other as they pass by.

    The more moony asteroids we find, the better we can try to understand them.

    2020 BX12 is a member of the Apollo group of near-Earth asteroids that swing between inside Earth’s orbit, and out past Mars. It’s due to pass Mars in June of this year, and while it will swoop past Earth in 2022 and 2024, it will be at a much greater distance than this year’s flyby.

    In fact, 2020 BX12 won’t come as close to Earth at least within the next 90 years.

    Bye, asteroid buddy! Thanks for showing us your moon!

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope in the municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. This observatory is operated by SRI International, USRA and UMET, under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF). The observatory is the sole facility of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), which refers to the observatory, and the staff that operates it. From its construction in the 1960s until 2011, the observatory was managed by Cornell University.

    The observatory’s 1,000-foot (305-meter) radio telescope was the largest single-aperture telescope from its completion in 1963 until July 2016 when the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China was completed. It is used in three major areas of research: radio astronomy, atmospheric science, and radar astronomy. Scientists who want to use the observatory submit proposals that are evaluated by an independent scientific board.

  • richardmitnick 9:33 am on August 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, , , , , , ,   

    From University of Central Florida: “National Science Foundation Awards Arecibo Observatory $12.3 Million Grant” 

    From University of Central Florida

    August 14, 2019
    Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala

    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft).

    The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico today was awarded $12.3 million by the National Science Foundation to make repairs and improve resiliency of the facility managed by UCF.

    The congressionally supported emergency supplemental funds represent a significant investment in the long-term viability of the site to do cutting-edge observations of Earth’s atmosphere, asteroids, interstellar gas, distant galaxies, pulsars, fast radio bursts, and to search for gravitational waves from distant cataclysmic events.

    “NSF is excited to see the full potential of the Arecibo Observatory’s unique scientific capabilities realized as this restorative work is completed,” says Ashley Zauderer, program director at the National Science Foundation.

    The money will be used during the next four years to make a range of repairs and improvements to the facility, which will also expand Arecibo’s capabilities.

    “The grant will ensure that Arecibo Observatory remains a leading research and educational institution in the world,” says Francisco Cordova, the facility’s director. “The repairs and investment in infrastructure are critical to the long-term structural integrity of the radio telescope, reliability and quality of collected data, and improving overall performance of the systems.”

    UCF manages Arecibo under a cooperative agreement with Universidad Ana G. Méndez and Yang Enterprises Inc.

    The Arecibo Observatory received a $2 million grant in June 2018 after Hurricanes Irma and María ripped through the island and damaged the facility in 2017. Those funds were used to make emergency repairs such as fixing the catwalk that leads to the reflectors suspended above the 305-meter dish. In addition, buildings were repaired, generators were serviced, and first responder equipment was replaced. This funding also enabled the facility to prepare for the 2019 hurricane season.

    Projects from this grant include:

    Repairing one of the suspension cables holding the primary telescope platform, ensuring long-term structural integrity of one of the main structural elements of the telescope.
    Recalibrating the primary reflector, which will restore the observatory’s sensitivity at higher frequencies.
    Aligning the Gregorian Reflector, improving current calibration and pointing.
    Installing a new control system for S band radar, which is part of the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum.
    Replacing the modulator on the 430 MHz transmitter, increasing consistency of power output and data quality.
    Improving the telescope’s pointing controls and data tracking systems.

    Each of these projects is essential to the work conducted at the facility, which includes research in the areas of planetary radar, astronomy and space and atmospheric sciences, administrators say. The telescope has assisted in the understanding of gravitational waves, the theory of relativity, the discovery of new planets, and other research. The instruments also play an important role in monitoring asteroids that could pose a hazard to Earth.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1963 by the Florida Legislature, UCF opened in 1968 as Florida Technological University, with the mission of providing personnel to support the growing U.S. space program at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast. As the school’s academic scope expanded beyond engineering and technology, Florida Tech was renamed The University of Central Florida in 1978. UCF’s space roots continue, as it leads the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium. Initial enrollment was 1,948 students; enrollment today exceeds 66,000 students from 157 countries, all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

    Most of the student population is on the university’s main campus, 13 miles (21 km) east of downtown Orlando and 35 miles (56 km) west of Cape Canaveral. The university offers more than 200 degrees through 13 colleges at 10 regional campuses in Central Florida, the Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management in south Orlando and the Center for Emerging Media in downtown Orlando.[13] Since its founding, UCF has awarded more than 290,000 degrees, including over 50,000 graduate and professional degrees, to over 260,000 alumni worldwide.

    UCF is a space-grant university. Its official colors are black and gold, and the university logo is Pegasus, which “symbolizes the university’s vision of limitless possibilities.” The university’s intercollegiate sports teams, known as the “UCF Knights” and represented by mascot Knightro, compete in NCAA Division I and the American Athletic Conference.

  • richardmitnick 6:57 am on September 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, , , , , , , , ,   

    From The Atlantic via WIRED: “China Built the World’s Largest Telescope. Then Came the Tourists” 

    Atlantic Magazine

    The Atlantic Magazine


    Wired logo


    Sarah Scoles

    Thousands of people moved[?*] to let China build and protect the world’s largest telescope. And then the government drew in orders of magnitude more tourists, potentially undercutting its own science in an attempt to promote it.

    FAST radio telescope, with phase arrays from Australia [https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/from-csiroscope-our-top-telescope-tech-travels-fast/] located in the Dawodang depression in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, south China

    “I hope we go inside this golf ball,” Sabrina Stierwalt joked as she and a group of other radio astronomers approached what did, in fact, appear to be a giant golf ball in the middle of China’s new Pingtang Astronomy Town.

    Stierwalt was a little drunk, a lot full, even more tired. The nighttime scene felt surreal. But then again, even a sober, well-rested person might struggle to make sense of this cosmos-themed, touristy confection of a metropolis.

    On the group’s walk around town that night, they seemed to traverse the ever-expanding universe. Light from a Saturn-shaped lamp crested and receded, its rings locked into support pillars that appeared to make it levitate. Stierwalt stepped onto a sidewalk, and its panels lit up beneath her feet, leaving a trail of lights behind her like the tail of a meteor. Someone had even brought constellations down to Earth, linking together lights in the ground to match the patterns in the sky.

    The tourist town, about 10 miles from the telescope, lights up at night. Credit Intentionally Withheld

    The day before, Stierwalt had traveled from Southern California to Pingtang Astronomy Town for a conference hosted by scientists from the world’s largest telescope. It was a new designation: China’s Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, had been completed just a year before, in September 2016. Wandering, tipsy, around this shrine to the stars, the 40 or so other foreign astronomers had come to China to collaborate on the superlative-snatching instrument.

    For now, though, they wouldn’t get to see the telescope itself, nestled in a natural enclosure called a karst depression about 10 miles away. First things first: the golf ball.

    As the group got closer, they saw a red carpet unrolled into the entrance of the giant white orb, guarded by iridescent dragons on an inflatable arch. Inside, they buckled up in rows of molded yellow plastic chairs. The lights dimmed. It was an IMAX movie—a cartoon, with an animated narrator. Not the likeness of a person but … what was it? A soup bowl?

    No, Stierwalt realized. It was a clip-art version of the gargantuan telescope itself. Small cartoon FAST flew around big cartoon FAST, describing the monumental feat of engineering just over yonder: a giant geodesic dome shaped out of 4,450 triangular panels, above which receivers collect radio waves from astronomical objects.

    FAST’s dish, nestled into a depression, is made of thousands of triangular panels. located in the Dawodang depression in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, south China located in the Dawodang depression in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, south China VCGGetty Images

    China spent $180 million to create the telescope, which officials have repeatedly said will make the country the global leader in radio astronomy. But the local government also spent several times that on this nearby Astronomy Town—hotels, housing, a vineyard, a museum, a playground, classy restaurants, all those themed light fixtures. The government hopes that promoting their scope in this way will encourage tourists and new residents to gravitate to the historically poor Guizhou province.

    It is, in some sense, an experiment into whether this type of science and economic development can coexist. Which is strange, because normally, they purposefully don’t.

    The point of radio telescopes is to sense radio waves from space—gas clouds, galaxies, quasars. By the time those celestial objects’ emissions reach Earth, they’ve dimmed to near-nothingness, so astronomers build these gigantic dishes to pick up the faint signals. But their size makes them particularly sensitive to all radio waves, including those from cell phones, satellites, radar systems, spark plugs, microwaves, Wi-Fi, short circuits, and basically anything else that uses electricity or communicates. Protection against radio-frequency interference, or RFI, is why scientists put their radio telescopes in remote locations: the mountains of West Virginia, the deserts of Chile, the way-outback of Australia.

    FAST’s site used to be remote like that. The country even forcibly relocated thousands of villagers who lived nearby, so their modern trappings wouldn’t interfere with the new prized instrument.

    But then, paradoxically, the government built—just a few miles from the displaced villagers’ demolished houses—this astronomy town. It also plans to increase the permanent population by hundreds of thousands. That’s a lot of cell phones, each of which persistently emits radio waves with around 1 watt of power.

    By the time certain deep-space emissions reach Earth, their power often comes with 24+ zeroes in front: 0.0000000000000000000000001 watts.

    FAST has been in the making for a long time. In the early 2000s, China angled to host the Square Kilometre Array, a collection of coordinated radio antennas whose dishes would be scattered over thousands of miles. But in 2006, the international SKA committee dismissed China, and then chose to set up its distributed mondo-telescope in South Africa and Australia instead.

    Undeterred, Chinese astronomers set out to build their own powerful instrument.

    In 2007, China’s National Development and Reform Commission allocated $90 million for the project, with $90 million more streaming in from other agencies. Four years later, construction began in one of China’s poorest regions, in the karst hills of the southwestern part of the country. They do things fast in China: The team finished the telescope in just five years. In September 2016, FAST received its “first light,” from a pulsar 1,351 light-years away, during its official opening.

    A year later, Stierwalt and the other visiting scientists arrived in Pingtang, and after an evening of touring Astronomy Town, they got down to business.

    See, FAST’s opening had been more ceremony than science (the commissioning phase is officially scheduled to end by September 2019). It was still far from fully operational—engineers are still trying to perfect, for instance, the motors that push and pull its surface into shape, allowing it to point and focus correctly. And the relatively new crop of radio astronomers running the telescope were hungry for advice about how to run such a massive research instrument.

    The visiting astronomers had worked with telescopes that have contributed to understanding of hydrogen emissions, pulsars, powerful bursts, and distant galaxies. But they weren’t just subject experts: Many were logistical wizards, having worked on multiple instruments and large surveys, and with substantial and dispersed teams. Stierwalt studies interacting dwarf galaxies, and while she’s a staff scientist at Caltech/IPAC, she uses telescopes all over. “Each gives a different piece of the puzzle,” she says. Optical telescopes show the stars. Infrared instruments reveal dust and older stars. X-ray observatories pick out black holes. And single-dish radio telescopes like FAST see the bigger picture: They can map out the gas inside of and surrounding galaxies.

    So at the Radio Astronomy Conference, Stierwalt and the other visitors shared how FAST could benefit from their instruments, and vice versa, and talked about how to run big projects. That work had begun even before the participants arrived. “Prior to the meeting, I traveled extensively all over the world to personally meet with the leaders of previous large surveys,” says Marko Krčo, a research fellow who’s been working for the Chinese Academy of Sciences since the summer of 2016.

    He asked the meeting’s speakers, some of those same leaders, to talk about what had gone wrong in their own surveys, and how the interpersonal end had functioned. “How did you organize yourselves?” he says. “How did you work together? How did you communicate?”

    That kind of feedback would be especially important for FAST to accomplish one of its first, appropriately lofty goals: helping astronomers collect signals from many sides of the universe, all at once. They’d call it the Commensal Radio Astronomy FAST Survey, or CRAFTS.

    Above the dish, engineers have suspended instruments that collect cosmic radio waves. Feature China/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

    Most radio astronomical surveys have a single job: Map gas. Find pulsars. Discover galaxies. They do that by collecting signals in a receiver suspended over the dish of a radio telescope, engineered to capture a certain range of frequencies from the cosmos. Normally, the different astronomer factions don’t use that receiver at the same time, because they each take their data differently. But CRAFTS aims to be the first survey that simultaneously collects data for such a broad spectrum of scientists—without having to pause to reconfigure its single receiver.

    CRAFTS has a receiver that looks for signals from 1.04 gigahertz to 1.45 gigahertz, about 10 times higher than your FM radio. Within that range, as part of CRAFTS, scientists could simultaneously look for gas inside and beyond the galaxy, scan for pulsars, watch for mysterious “fast radio bursts,” make detailed maps, and maybe even search for ET. “That sounds straightforward,” says Stierwalt. “Point the telescope. Collect the data. Mine the data.”

    Engineers from FAST and the Australian science agency install the telescope’s CRAFTS receiver. Marko Krčo

    But it’s not easy. Pulsar astronomers want quicktime samples at a wide range of frequencies; hydrogen studiers, meanwhile, don’t need data chunks as often, but they care deeply about the granular frequency details. On top of that, each group adjusts the observations, calibrating them, kind of like you’d make sure your speedometer reads 45 mph when you’re going 45. And they use different kinds of adjustments.

    When we spoke, Krčo had just returned from a trip to Green Bank, where he was testing whether they could set everyone’s speedometer correctly. “I think it will be one of the big sort of legacies of FAST,” says Krčo. And it’s especially important since the National Science Foundation has recently cratered funding to both Arecibo and Green Bank observatories, the United States’ most significant single-dish radio telescopes.

    NAIC Arecibo Observatory, previously the largest radio telescope in the world operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft)

    Green Bank does have financial support, $2 million per year for five years from Yuri Milner’s Breaktrhough Listen Project.

    Breakthrough Listen Project


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

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

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

    While they remain open, they have to seek private project money, meaning chunks of time are no longer available for astronomers’ proposals. Adding hours, on a different continent, helps everybody.

    At the end of the conference in Pingtang County, Krčo and his colleagues presented a concrete plan for CRAFTS, giving all the visitors a chance to approve the proposed design. “Each group could raise any red flags, if necessary, regarding their individual science goals or suggest modifications,” says Krčo.

    In addition to the CRAFTS receiver, Krčo says they’ll add six more, sensitive to different frequencies. Together, they will detect radio waves from 70 megahertz to 3 gigahertz. He says they’ll find thousands of new pulsars (as of July 2018, they had already found more than 40), and do detailed studies of hydrogen inside the galaxy and in the wider universe, among numerous other worthy scientific goals.

    “There’s just a hell of a lot of work to do to get there,” says Krčo. “But we’re doing it.”

    For FAST to fulfill its potential, though, Krčo and his colleagues won’t just have to solve engineering problems: They’ll also have to deal with the problems that engineering created.

    During the four-day Radio Astronomy Forum, Stierwalt and the other astronomers did, finally, get to see the actual telescope, taking a bus up a tight, tortuous road through the karst between town and telescope.

    As soon as they arrived on site, they were instructed to shut down their phones to protect the instrument from the radio frequency interference. But not even these astronomers, who want pristine FAST data for themselves, could resist pressing that capture button. “Our sweet, sweet tour guide continually reminded us to please turn off our phones,” says Stierwalt, “but we all kept taking pictures and sneaking them out because no one really seemed to care.” Come on: It’s the world’s largest telescope.

    Maybe their minder stayed lax because a burst here or there wouldn’t make much of a difference in those early days. The number of regular tourists allowed at the site all day is capped at 3,000, to limit RFI, and they have to put their phones in lockers before they go see the dish. Krčo says the site bumps up against the visitor limit most days.

    But tourism and development are complicated for a sensitive scientific instrument. Within three miles of the telescope, the government passed legislation establishing a “radio-quiet zone,” where RFI-emitting devices are severely restricted. No one (not cellular providers or radio broadcasters) can get a transmitting license, and people entering the facility itself will have their electronics confiscated. “No one lives inside the zone, and the area is not open to the general public,” says Krčo, although some with commercial interests, like local farmers, can enter the zone with special permission. The government relocated villagers who lived within that protected area with promises of repayment in cash, housing, and jobs in tourism and FAST support services. (Though a 2016 report in Agence France-Presse revealed that up to 500 relocated families were suing the Pingtang government, alleging “land grabs without compensation, forced demolitions and unlawful detentions.”)

    The country’s Civil Aviation Administration has also adjusted air travel, setting up two restricted flight zones near the scope, canceling two routes, and adding or adjusting three others. “We can still see some RFI from aircraft navigational beacons,” says Krčo. “It’s much less, though, compared to what it’d look like without the adjusted air routes. It’d be impossible to fully clear a large enough air space to create a completely quiet sky.”

    None of the invisible boundaries, after all, function like force fields. RFI that originates from beyond can pass right on through. At least at the five-star tourist hotel, around 10 miles away, there’s Wi-Fi. The tour center, says an American pulsar astronomer, has a direct line of sight to the telescope.

    When Krčo first arrived on the job, he stayed in the astronomy town. “Every morning, we were counting all the new buildings springing up overnight,” Krčo says. “It would be half a dozen.”

    One day, he woke up to a new five-story structure out his window. Couldn’t be, he thought. But he checked a picture he’d taken the day before, and, sure enough, there had been no building in that spot.

    The corn close to town was covered in construction dust. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my whole life,” says Krčo. Today, though, the corn is gone, covered instead in hotels, museums, and shopping centers.

    Before FAST, few large structures existed in this part of China. Feature China/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

    Now, they abound. Liu Xu/Xinhua/Getty Images

    At a press conference in March 2017, Guizhou’s governor declared that the province would build 10,000 kilometers of new highway by 2020, in addition to completing 17 airports and 4,000 kilometers of high-speed train lines. That’s partly to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of people the province expects to relocate here permanently, as well as the tourists. While just those 3,000 people per day will get to visit the telescope itself, there’s no cap on how many can sojourn in Astronomy Town; the deputy director of Guizhou’s reform and development commission, according to China Daily, said it would be “a main astronomical tourism zone worldwide.” “The town has grown incredibly over the last couple of years due to tourism development,” says Krčo. “This has impacted our RFI environment, but not yet to a point where it is unmanageable.”

    Krčo says that geography protects FAST against much of that human interference. “There are a great many mountains between the telescope and the town,” says Krčo. The land blocks the waves, which you’ve seen yourself if you’ve ever tried to pick up NPR in a canyon. But even though the waves can’t go directly into the telescope, Krčo says the team still sees their echoes, reflections beamed down from the atmosphere.

    “People at the visitors’ center have been using cameras and whatnot, and we can see the RFI from that,” he said last November (enforcement seems to have ramped up since then). “During the daytime,” he adds, “our RFI is much worse than nighttime,” largely due to engineers working onsite (that should improve once commissioning is over). But the tourist traps aren’t run and weren’t developed by FAST staff but by various governmental arms—so FAST, really, has no control over what they do.

    The global radio astronomy community has concerns. “I’m absolutely sure that if people are going to bring their toys, then there’s going to be RFI,” says Carla Beaudet, an RFI engineer at Green Bank Observatory, who spends her career trying to help humans see the radio sky despite themselves. Green Bank itself sits in the middle of a strict radio protection zone with a radius of 10 miles, in which there’s no Wi-Fi or even microwaves.

    There are other ways of dealing with RFI—and Krčo says FAST has a permanent team of engineers dedicated to dealing with interference. One solution, which can pick up the strongest contamination, is a small antenna mounted to one of FAST’s support towers. “The idea is that it will observe the same RFI as the big dish,” says Krčo. “Then, in principle, we can remove the RFI from the data in real time.”

    At other telescopes, astronomers are developing machine-learning algorithms that could identify, extract, and compensate for dirty data. All telescopes, after all, have human contamination, even the ones without malls next door. You can’t stop a communications satellite from passing overhead, or a radar beam from bouncing the wrong way across the mountains. And while you can decide not to build a tourist town in the first place, you probably can’t stop a tidal wave of construction once it’s crested.

    In their free evenings at the Radio Astronomy Forum, Stierwalt and the other astronomers wandered through the development. Across from their luxury hotel, workers were constructing a huge mall. It was just scaffolding then, but sparks flew from tools every night. “So the joke was, ‘I wonder if we’ll be able to go shopping at the mall by the end of our trip,’” says Stierwalt.

    At the end of the conference, Stierwalt rode a bus back to the airport, awed by what she’d seen. The karst hills, dipping and rising out the window, looked like those in Puerto Rico, where she had used the 300-meter Arecibo telescope for weeks at a time during her graduate research.

    When she tried to check in for her flight, she didn’t know where to go, what to do. An agent wrote her passport number down wrong.

    A young Chinese man, an astronomer, saw her struggle and approached her. “I’m on your flight,” he said, “and I’ll make sure you get on it.”

    In line after line, they started talking about other things—life, science. “I was describing the astronomy landscape for me,” she says. Never enough jobs, never enough research money, necessary competition with your friends. “For him, it’s very different.”

    He lives in a country that wants to accrete a community of radio astronomers, not winnow one down. A country that wants to support (and promote) ambitious telescopes, rather than defund the ones it has. China isn’t just trying to build a tourist economy around its telescope—it’s also trying to build a scientific culture around radio astronomy.

    That latter part seems like a safe bet. But the first is still uncertain. So is how the tourist economy will affect—for better or worse—FAST’s scientific payoff. “Much like their CRAFTS survey is trying to make everyone happy—all the different kinds of radio astronomers—this will be a true test of ‘Can you make everyone happy?’” says Stierwalt. “Can you make a prosperous astronomy town right next to a telescope that doesn’t want you to be using your phone or your microwave?”

    Right now, nobody knows. But if the speed of everything else in Guizhou is any indication, we’ll all find out fast.

    [* I had previously read, which I cannot any longer back up, that FAST was built in a fortunately found an empty natural bowl in the land. If anyone can correct me, please do]

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 2:10 pm on August 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, , , , , New phased aray system coming by 2022,   

    From Astrobiology Magazine: “Arecibo Observatory to Get $5.8 Million Upgrade to Expand View” 

    Astrobiology Magazine

    From Astrobiology Magazine

    This is great news for this grand old lady.

    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft)

    The National Science Foundation has awarded a team of scientists $5.8 million to design and mount a supersensitive antenna at the focal point of the Arecibo Observatory’s 1,000-foot-diameter dish, which is managed by the University of Central Florida. The antenna, called a phased-array feed, will increase the telescope’s observation capabilities 500 percent.

    The team, led by Brigham Young University engineering professors Brian Jeffs and Karl Warnick, includes collaborators at UCF and Cornell University. UCF and its partners have managed the facility since April when the team won a bid from the NSF to run the site.

    “We already have one of the most powerful telescopes on the planet, and with this award we will be able to do even more,” said Francisco Cordova, Arecibo site director and an engineer. “We are very excited with the award to fund the new ALPACA (Advanced Cryogenic L-Band Phased Array Camera for Arecibo) receiver at the Arecibo Observatory. This receiver, which is the next generation of our most-used receiver will be able to increase the survey speed by a factor of five. The receiver will accelerate research in gravitational waves, Fast Radio Bursts, dark matter and pulsar surveys, ensuring that AO continues to be at the forefront of radio astronomy for years to come.”

    Cordova has been working with BYU for months to prepare the NSF proposal. Jeffs and Warnick are considered the world’s foremost experts in phased-array feeds and are familiar with Arecibo. Nine years ago, they installed a gold-plated array of many small antennas at Arecibo that increased the surveying ability of the telescope from one beam of radio waves to seven beams. The new NSF-sponsored phased-array feed will have 166 antennas and will increase the field of view of the telescope to 40 beams, providing much smoother and continuous coverage of the sky than conventional receivers. The new array is scheduled to be installed by 2022.

    “We’re taking the most sensitive radio telescope in the world and opening it up so that it can view a larger part of the sky at one time,” Warnick said. “There’s a lot of things in space you can see with an optical camera, but you can see even more with a radio telescope.”

    One scientific objective of the new feed will be tracking new pulsars — especially millisecond pulsars that help signal the presence of gravity waves. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravity waves in 1916, but scientists just detected them a few years ago. Gravitational waves are produced by catastrophic events, such as two colliding black holes, and they cause ripples in the fabric of space-time.

    The phased-array feed will also search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, detect Fast Radio Bursts and conduct surveys to help unravel the mystery of dark matter in the universe.

    “Every galaxy in the universe has an invisible cloud of dark matter around it that we don’t yet understand,” Warnick said. “This will help solve one of the mysteries of the universe.”

    Arecibo, which was built in the 1960s, has been making headlines recently for its contributions to major space science news. It helped confirm gravitational waves and FRBs. Just last month, it was used by a team from Switzerland to confirm some of Einstein’s theories. Scientists from around the world use the facility’s powerful instruments to study everything from pulsars and dark matter to solar weather, and NASA uses it to study asteroids. The upgrade will benefit all the work being done at Arecibo and help scientists understand the cosmos.

    UCF is leading the consortium that includes Universidad Metropolitana in Puerto Rico and Yang Enterprises Inc. based in Oviedo, Florida, in managing the NSF facility. The facility, which was damaged when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, opened quickly after the storm. Emergency repairs that needed immediate attention, such as patching roofs and repairing electrical feeds, have been underway since May after the site received hurricane-relief funding. Additional repairs that will require more time and expertise will be completed as soon as possible.

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  • richardmitnick 10:02 am on March 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Arecibo Observatory, , , , , , Neutron Stars Discovered on Collision Course,   

    From AAS NOVA via Sky & Telescope: “Neutron Stars Discovered on Collision Course” 

    SKY&Telescope bloc

    Sky & Telescope



    March 8, 2018
    Susanna Kohler

    Artist’s illustration of the final stages of a neutron-star merger. Scientists have now caught a binary-neutron-star system about 46 million years before this stage. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Got any plans in 46 million years? If not, you should keep an eye out for PSR J1946+2052 around that time — this upcoming merger of two neutron stars promises to be an exciting show!

    Survey Success

    Average profile for PSR J1946+2052 at 1.43 GHz from a 2 hr observation from the Arecibo Observatory. Stovall et al. 2018

    It seems like we just wrote about the dearth of known double-neutron-star systems, and about how new surveys are doing their best to find more of these compact binaries. Observing these systems improves our knowledge of how pairs of evolved stars behave before they eventually spiral in, merge, and emit gravitational waves that detectors like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory might observe.

    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

    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)

    Today’s study, led by Kevin Stovall (National Radio Astronomy Observatory), goes to show that these surveys are doing a great job so far! Yet another double-neutron-star binary, PSR J1946+2052, has now been discovered as part of the Arecibo L-Band Feed Array pulsar (PALFA) survey. This one is especially unique due to the incredible speed with which these neutron stars orbit each other and their correspondingly (relatively!) short timescale for merger.

    An Extreme Example

    The PALFA survey, conducted with the enormous 305-meter radio dish at Arecibo, has thus far resulted in the discovery of 180 pulsars — including two double-neutron-star systems.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA, at 497 m (1,631 ft) , built into the landscape at Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
    NOAO/AURA/NSF/H. Schweiker/WIYN

    The most recent discovery by Stovall and collaborators brings that number up to three, for a grand total of 16 binary-neutron-star systems (confirmed and unconfirmed) known to date.

    The newest binary in this collection, PSR J1946+2052, exhibits a pulsar with a 17-millisecond spin period that whips around its compact companion at a terrifying rate: the binary period is just 1.88 hours. Follow-up observations with the Jansky Very Large Array and other telescopes allowed the team to identify the binary’s location to high precision and establish additional parameters of the system.

    PSR J1946+2052 is a system of extremes. The binary’s total mass is found to be ~2.5 solar masses, placing it among the lightest binary-neutron-star systems known. Its orbital period is the shortest we’ve observed, and the two neutron stars are on track to merge in less time than any other known neutron-star binaries: in just 46 million years. When the two stars reach the final stages of their merger, the effects of the pulsar’s rapid spin on the gravitational-wave signal will be the largest of any such system discovered to date.

    More Tests of General Relativity

    What can PSR J1946+2052 do for us? This extreme system will be especially useful as a gravitational laboratory. Continued observations of PSR J1946+2052 will pin down with unprecedented precision parameters like the Einstein delay and the rate of decay of the binary’s orbit due to the emission of gravitational waves, testing the predictions of general relativity to an order of magnitude higher precision than was possible before.

    As we expect there to be thousands of systems like PSR J1946+2052 in our galaxy alone, better understanding this binary — and finding more like it — continue to be important steps toward interpreting compact-object merger observations in the future.


    K. Stovall et al 2018 ApJL 854 L22. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/aaad06/meta

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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.

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  • richardmitnick 11:48 am on December 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, , , , , ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Arecibo Radar Returns with Asteroid Phaethon Images” 

    NASA JPL Banner


    December 22, 2017

    DC Agle
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    Dwayne Brown
    NASA Headquarters, Washington

    Suraiya Farukhi
    Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, Maryland

    These radar images of near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon were generated by astronomers at the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory on Dec. 17, 2017.

    Near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
    Credit: Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA, at 497 m (1,631 ft)

    Observations of Phaethon were conducted at Arecibo from Dec.15 through 19, 2017. At time of closest approach on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. PST (3 p.m. EST, 11 p.m. UTC) the asteroid was about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) away, or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The encounter is the closest the object will come to Earth until 2093. Image credit: Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF

    After several months of downtime after Hurricane Maria blew through, the Arecibo Observatory Planetary Radar has returned to normal operation, providing the highest-resolution images to date of near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon during its Dec. 16 flyby of Earth. The radar images, which are subtle at the available resolution, reveal the asteroid is spheroidal in shape and has a large concavity at least several hundred meters in extent near the leading edge, and a conspicuous dark, circular feature near one of the poles. Arecibo’s radar images of Phaethon have resolutions as fine as about 250 feet (75 meters) per pixel.

    “These new observations of Phaethon show it may be similar in shape to asteroid Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, but 10 times larger,” said Patrick Taylor, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Columbia, Maryland, scientist and group leader for Planetary Radar at Arecibo Observatory. “The dark feature could be a crater or some other topographic depression that did not reflect the radar beam back at us.”

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    Radar images obtained by Arecibo indicate Phaethon has a diameter of about 3.6 miles (6 kilometers) — roughly 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) larger than previous estimates. Phaethon is the second largest near-Earth asteroid classified as “Potentially Hazardous.” Near-Earth objects are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), based on their size and how closely their orbits approach Earth.

    “Arecibo is an important global asset, crucial for planetary defense work because of its unique capabilities,” said Joan Schmelz of USRA and deputy director of Arecibo Observatory. “We have been working diligently to get it back up and running since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.”

    The Arecibo Observatory has the most powerful astronomical radar system on Earth. On Sept. 20, the telescope suffered minor structural damage when Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit the island since 1928, made landfall. Some days after the storm, the telescope resumed radio astronomy observations, while radar observations, which require high power and diesel fuel for generators at the site, resumed operations in early December after commercial power returned to the observatory.

    Asteroid Phaethon was discovered on Oct. 11, 1983, by NASA’s Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS).

    NASA IRAS spacecraft

    Observations of Phaethon were conducted at Arecibo from Dec. 15 through 19, 2017, using the NASA-funded planetary radar system. At time of closest approach on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. PST (3 p.m. EST, 11 p.m. UTC) the asteroid was about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) away, or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The encounter is the closest the object will come to Earth until 2093.

    Radar has been used to observe hundreds of asteroids. When these small, natural remnants of the formation of our solar system pass relatively close to Earth, deep space radar is a powerful technique for studying their sizes, shapes, rotation, surface features and roughness, and for more precise determination of their orbital path.

    The Arecibo Planetary Radar Program is fully funded by NASA through a grant to Universities Space Research Association (USRA), from the Near-Earth Object Observations program. The Arecibo Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by SRI International, USRA, and Universidad Metropolitana.

    NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office is responsible for finding, tracking and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets coming near Earth, issuing warnings about possible impacts, and assisting coordination of U.S. government response planning, should there be an actual impact threat.

    More information about the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory can be found at:


    More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects can be found at:



    For more information about NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:


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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 6:51 am on May 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, , , , , , , , ,   

    From McGill: “Homing in on source of mysterious cosmic radio bursts” 

    McGill University

    McGill University

    4 Jan 2017
    No writer credit found


    Astronomers have pinpointed for the first time the home galaxy of a Fast Radio Burst, moving scientists a step closer to detecting what causes these powerful but fleeting pulses of radio waves. FRBs, which last just a few thousandths of a second, have puzzled astrophysicists since their discovery a decade ago.

    “Now we know that at least one of these FRBs originated within a dwarf galaxy located some three billion light-years beyond our Milky Way galaxy,” said McGill University postdoctoral researcher Shriharsh Tendulkar. He and other astronomers presented the findings today at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Grapevine, Texas. Results of the research are also published in the journal Nature and in companion papers in The Astrophysical Journal Letters [Tendulkar, S. P., et al. 2017, ApJL, 834, L7. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/834/2/L7%5D and [Marcote, B., et al. 2017, ApJL, 834, L8. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/834/2/L8%5D.

    Until now, astronomers hadn’t even been able to determine with certainty whether FRBs come from within our galaxy or beyond. While the exact cause of the high-energy bursts remains unclear, the fact that this particular FRB comes from a distant dwarf galaxy represents “a huge advance in our understanding of these events,” said Shami Chatterjee of Cornell University, another member of the international research team that produced the new results.

    A recurring FRB

    There are now 18 known FRBs. All were detected using single-dish radio telescopes that are unable to narrow down the object’s location with enough precision to allow other observatories to identify its host environment. Unlike all the others, however, one FRB, discovered in November of 2012 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, has recurred numerous times – a pattern first detected in late 2015 by McGill PhD student Paul Scholz.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    The repeating bursts from this object, named FRB 121102 after the date of the initial burst, allowed astronomers to watch for it this year using the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), a multi-antenna radio telescope system with the resolving power, or ability to see fine detail, needed to precisely determine the object’s location in the sky.

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

    In 83 hours of observing time over six months in 2016, the VLA detected nine bursts from FRB 121102.

    Using the precise VLA position, Tendulkar and other researchers used the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii to make a visible-light image that identified a faint dwarf galaxy at the location of the bursts. Spectroscopic data from Gemini also enabled the researchers to determine that the dwarf galaxy is more than 3 billion light-years from Earth.

    A humble, unassuming host galaxy

    “The host galaxy for this FRB appears to be a very humble and unassuming dwarf galaxy, which is less than 1% of the mass or our Milky Way galaxy,” Tendulkar says. “That’s surprising. One would generally expect most FRBs to come from large galaxies which have the largest numbers of stars and neutron stars — remnants of massive stars. This dwarf galaxy has fewer stars, but is forming stars at a high rate, which may suggest that FRBs are linked to young neutron stars. There are also two other classes of extreme events — long duration gamma-ray bursts and superluminous supernovae — that frequently occur in dwarf galaxies, as well. This discovery may hint at links between FRBs and those two kinds of events.”

    In addition to detecting the bright bursts from FRB 121102, the VLA observations also revealed an ongoing, persistent source of weaker radio emission in the same region.

    Next, a team of observers used the multiple radio telescopes of the European VLBI Network (EVN), along with the 1,000-foot-diameter William E. Gordon Telescope of the Arecibo Observatory, and the NSF’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to determine the object’s position with even greater accuracy.

    European VLBI

    “These ultra-high precision observations showed that the bursts and the persistent source must be within 100 light-years of each other,” said Jason Hessels, of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy and the University of Amsterdam.

    “We think that the bursts and the continuous source are likely to be either the same object or that they are somehow physically associated with each other,” said Benito Marcote, of the Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC, Dwingeloo, Netherlands.

    CHIME could help solve puzzle

    The top candidates, the astronomers suggested, are a young neutron star, possibly a highly-magnetic magnetar, surrounded by either material ejected by a supernova explosion or material ejected by a resulting pulsar, or an active supermassive black hole in the galaxy, with radio emission coming from jets of material emitted from the region surrounding the black hole.

    Now, thanks to new images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the 8.2-metre Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, the McGill researchers and a separate team from Tohoku University in Japan have honed in on the source of FRB 121102 even further – to a giant stellar nursery near the centre of the distant dwarf galaxy.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA

    5.25.17 New Scientist.Making signals from afar.John R. Foster/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

    “The Hubble and Subaru images show that the star-forming complex lies on the small galaxy’s outskirts,” Ken Croswell reports for New Scientist.

    “There is still a lot of work to do to unravel the mystery surrounding FRBs,” says McGill physics professor Victoria Kaspi, a senior member of the international team that conducted the new studies. “But identifying the host galaxy for this repeating FRB marks a big step toward solving the puzzle.”

    The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), an interferometric radio telescope in British Columbia, could help answer remaining questions, Kaspi notes. CHIME will survey half the sky each day, potentially enabling it to detect dozens of FRBs per day, she says. “Once we understand the origin of this phenomenon, it could provide us with a new and valuable probe of the Universe.”

    CHIME Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment A partnership between the University of British Columbia McGill University

    The research was supported in part by the National Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology, the European Research Council, and the National Science Foundation (U.S.).

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    All about McGill

    With some 300 buildings, more than 38,500 students and 250,000 living alumni, and a reputation for excellence that reaches around the globe, McGill has carved out a spot among the world’s greatest universities.
    Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill is a leading Canadian post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 11 professional schools, 300 programs of study and some 39,000 students, including more than 9,300 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 8,200 international students making up 21 per cent of the student body.

  • richardmitnick 11:26 am on May 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, , , , , , , Maura McLaughlin, , , ,   

    From Physics: Women in STEM – “Q and A: Catching a Gravitational Wave with a Pulsar’s Beam” Maura McLaughlin 

    Physics LogoAbout Physics

    Physics Logo 2


    May 12, 2017
    Katherine Wright

    Maura McLaughlin explains how the electromagnetic signals from fast-spinning neutron stars could be used to detect gravitational waves.

    Maura McLaughlin. Greg Ellis/West Virginia University

    Pulsars captivate Maura McLaughlin, a professor at West Virginia University. These highly magnetized neutron stars flash beams of electromagnetic radiation as they spin. And with masses equivalent to that of the Sun, but diameters seventy thousand times smaller, they are—besides black holes—the densest objects in the Universe. Astrophysicists still have many questions about pulsars, ranging from how they emit electromagnetic radiation to why they are so incredibly dense. But it’s exploiting the highly stable, periodic electromagnetic signals of pulsars to study gravitational waves that currently has McLaughlin hooked. In an interview with Physics, she explained where her fascination with pulsars came from, what gravitational-wave sources she hopes to detect, and why she recently visited Washington, D.C., to talk with members of Congress.

    With the 2015 detection of gravitational waves, it’s obviously an exciting time to work in astrophysics. But what initially drew you to the field and to pulsars?

    The astrophysicist Alex Wolszczan. I met him in the early 90s while I was an undergrad at Penn State, and just after he had discovered the first extrasolar planets. These planets were orbiting a pulsar—lots of people don’t know that. I found this pulsar system fascinating and ended up working with Wolszczan one summer as a research assistant. I got to go to Puerto Rico to observe pulsars at the Arecibo Observatory, which is the biggest telescope in the world. The experience was really cool.
    How do researchers detect gravitational waves with pulsars?

    The collaboration that I’m part of—NANOGrav—is searching for changes in the travel time of the pulsar’s radio emission due to the passing of gravitational waves.


    NANOGrave Gravitational waves JPL-Caltech David Champion

    When a gravitational wave passes between us and the pulsar, it stretches and squeezes spacetime, causing the pulse to arrive a bit earlier or later than it would in the absence of the wave. We time the arrival of pulsar signals for years to try to detect these small changes.
    What gravitational-wave-producing events do you expect to detect with pulsars? Could you see the same events as LIGO did?

    LIGO is sensitive to very short time-scale gravitational waves, on the order of milliseconds to seconds, while our experiment is sensitive to very long time-scale gravitational waves, on the order of years. We could never detect gravitational waves from two stellar-mass black holes merging—the time scale of the event is just too short. But we will be able to detect waves from black hole binaries in their inspiralling stage, when they’re still orbiting each other with periods of years. Also, our approach can only detect black holes that are much more massive that those LIGO observed. Our primary targets are supermassive black holes, even more massive than the one at the core of the Milky Way.

    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

    LIGO is basically probing the evolution and end products of stars, whereas our experiment is probing the evolution of galaxies and the cosmos. We’ll be able to look way back in time at the processes by which galaxies formed through mergers.
    The first detection of gravitational waves was front-page news. What impact has it had on your research?

    I, and others in NANOGrav, got lots of condolences after LIGO’s detection, like “oh we’re sorry you weren’t first.” But it’s been good for us. It has really spurred us on to make a detection. And it has made us more optimistic—if it worked for LIGO it should work for us, as our methods are rooted in the same principles. None of us doubted gravitational waves existed, but as far as funding agencies and the public go, LIGO’s detection makes a big difference. Now people can’t say, “Who knows if these things exist?” or “Who knows if these methods work?” LIGO’s detection has shown they do exist and the methods do work.

    Apart from doubters, what other challenges do you face with your pulsar experiment?

    Right now, our most significant challenge is that our radio telescopes are in danger of being shut down. Both Arecibo and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia are suffering significant funding cuts.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    Many of our NANOGrav discussions lately are about what we can do to retain access to these telescopes. Losing one of these telescopes would reduce our experiment’s sensitivity by roughly half and increase the time to detection by at least several years. If we lose both, our project is dead in the water. Arecibo and GBT are currently the two most sensitive radio telescopes in the world . I think its crazy that they are possibly being shut down.

    [Do not forget FAST-China]

    FAST radio telescope, now operating, located in the Dawodang depression in Pingtang county Guizhou Province, South China

    What are you doing to address the problem?

    I recently spent two days on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., talking to senators and House representatives trying to make the case to keep GBT open. Most of the politicians actually agreed it should stay open; it’s just a matter of funding. Science in general just doesn’t have enough funding.

    How do you frame the issues when talking to politicians about science?

    I try really hard to stress the opportunities for training students, the infrastructure, and the number of people who work at these telescopes. The technologies developed at the facilities are cutting edge and can be used for more than studying space. The science is incredibly interesting, but that in itself doesn’t always appeal to everybody.

    With the current administration, arguments of US prominence are also really valuable. China [has built ans is operating] a bigger telescope than Arecibo, and soon we won’t have the largest radio telescope in the world. Right now we are world leaders, but if the US wants to keeps its dominance then these telescopes have to remain open.

    With the challenges you face, what would you say to someone thinking of joining this field?

    Despite uncertainties with the telescopes, the future is bright. Now is a really good time to join the field: we’re going to make a detection any day now.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Physicists are drowning in a flood of research papers in their own fields and coping with an even larger deluge in other areas of physics. How can an active researcher stay informed about the most important developments in physics? Physics highlights a selection of papers from the Physical Review journals. In consultation with expert scientists, the editors choose these papers for their importance and/or intrinsic interest. To highlight these papers, Physics features three kinds of articles: Viewpoints are commentaries written by active researchers, who are asked to explain the results to physicists in other subfields. Focus stories are written by professional science writers in a journalistic style and are intended to be accessible to students and non-experts. Synopses are brief editor-written summaries. Physics provides a much-needed guide to the best in physics, and we welcome your comments (physics@aps.org).

  • richardmitnick 6:12 pm on March 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arecibo Observatory, , , , ,   

    From APS: “Gravitational Waves: Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid” 


    American Physical Society

    APS April Meeting 2017

    If the APS April Meeting 2016 was a champagne-soaked celebration for gravitational wave scientists, the 2017 meeting was more like spring training — there was lots of potential, but the real action is yet to come.

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, launched the era of gravitational wave astronomy in February 2016 with the announcement of a collision between two black holes observed in September 2015. “I’m contractually obligated to show the slide [of the original detection] at any LIGO talk for at least another year,” joked Jocelyn Read, a physicist at California State University, Fullerton, during her presentation at this year’s meeting.

    The scientific collaboration that operates the two LIGO detectors netted a second merger between slightly smaller black holes on December 26, 2015. (A third “trigger” showed up in LIGO data on October 12, 2015, but ultimately did not meet the stringent “five-sigma” statistical significance standard that physicists generally insist on.)

    The detectors then went offline in January 2016 for repairs and upgrades. The second observing run began on November 30, but due to weather-related shutdowns and other logistical hurdles, the two detectors had operated simultaneously on only 12 days as of this year’s meeting, which limited the experiment’s statistical power. Collaboration members said they had no new detections to announce.

    Instead, scientists focused on sharpening theoretical estimates of how often various events occur. In particular, they are eager to see collisions involving neutron stars, which lack sufficient mass to collapse all the way to a black hole. Neutron star collisions are thought to be plentiful, but would emit weaker gravitational waves than do mergers of more massive black holes, so the volume of space the LIGO detectors can scan for such events is smaller.

    Even with recent upgrades, failure to detect a neutron star merger during the current observing run would not rule out existing models, said Read. But she added that with future improvements and the long-anticipated addition of Virgo, a LIGO-like detector based in Cascina, Italy, neutron stars should soon come out of hiding.

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy [Not yet operational]

    “We’re expecting that with a little more volume and a little more time, we’re going to be starting to make some astrophysically interesting statements.”

    LIGO scientists are also looking for signals from individual pulsars — rapidly rotating neutron stars that are observed on earth as pulses of radio waves. A bump on a pulsar’s surface should produce gravitational waves, but so far, no waves with the right shape have been picked up. This absence puts a limit on the size of any irregularities and on the emission power of gravitational waves from nearby pulsars such as the Crab and Vela pulsars, said Michael Landry, head of the Hanford LIGO observatory, and could soon start putting limits on more distant ones.

    Presenters dropped a few hints of possible excitement to come. LIGO data taken through the end of January produced two short signals that were unusual enough to exceed the experiment’s “false alarm” threshold — signals with shapes and strengths expected to show up once a month or less by chance alone. Both LIGO collaboration members and astronomers at conventional telescopes are investigating the data to determine whether they represent real events.

    For now, potential events will continue to be scrutinized by collaboration members, and released to the public via announcements coming months after initial detection. But LIGO leaders expect to shorten the lag time as detections become more frequent, perhaps eventually putting out monthly updates. “We hope to make it quicker,” said LIGO collaboration spokesperson Gabriela González, a physicist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

    LIGO is not the only means by which scientists are searching for gravitational waves. Some scientists are using powerful radio telescopes to track signals emanating from dozens of extremely fast-rotating pulsars. A specific pattern of correlations between tiny hiccups in the arrival times of these pulses would be a signature of long-wavelength gravitational waves expected from mergers of distant supermassive black holes.

    Teams in the U.S., Europe, and Australia have monitored pulsars for more than a decade, so far without positive results. But in an invited talk, Laura Sampson of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, coyly announced “hints of some interesting signals.” With 11 years of timing data from 18 pulsars tracked by the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico, Sampson and other scientists affiliated with a collaboration called NANOGrav have eked out a result with a statistical significance of around 1.5 to 2 sigma.

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    Data from the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico help researchers use pulsars to study gravitational waves.

    “It’s the first hint we’ve ever had that there might be a signal in the data,” Sampson said. “Everything we’ve done before was straight-up limits.”

    As NANOGrav continues to gather data, their signal could grow toward the 5-sigma gold standard, or it could vanish. Sampson and her colleagues hope to have an answer in the next year or two. “This is of course very exciting news,” said Gonzalez.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    American Physical Society
    Physicists are drowning in a flood of research papers in their own fields and coping with an even larger deluge in other areas of physics. How can an active researcher stay informed about the most important developments in physics? Physics highlights a selection of papers from the Physical Review journals. In consultation with expert scientists, the editors choose these papers for their importance and/or intrinsic interest. To highlight these papers, Physics features three kinds of articles: Viewpoints are commentaries written by active researchers, who are asked to explain the results to physicists in other subfields. Focus stories are written by professional science writers in a journalistic style and are intended to be accessible to students and non-experts. Synopses are brief editor-written summaries.

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