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  • richardmitnick 11:29 am on June 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Subaru: “Unexpectedly Little Black-hole Monsters Rapidly Suck up Surrounding Matter” 

    NAOJ

    NAOJ

    June 25, 2015
    No Writer Credit

    Using the Subaru Telescope, researchers at the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Russia and Kyoto University in Japan have found evidence that enigmatic objects in nearby galaxies – called ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ulx’s) – exhibit strong outflows that are created as matter falls onto their black holes at unexpectedly high rates. The strong outflows suggest that the black holes in these ULXs must be much smaller than expected. Curiously, these objects appear to be “cousins” of SS 433, one of the most exotic objects in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

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    NASA

    The team’s observations help shed light on the nature of ULXs, and impact our understanding of how supermassive black holes in galactic centers are formed and how matter rapidly falls onto those black holes (Figure 1).

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    Figure 1: Multi-color optical image around the ULX “X-1″ (indicated by the arrow) in the dwarf galaxy Holmberg II, located in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major, at a distance of 11 million light-years. The image size corresponds to 1,100 × 900 light-years at the galaxy. The red color represents spectral line emission from hydrogen atoms. (Credit: Special Astrophysical Observatory/Hubble Space Telescope)

    X-ray observations of nearby galaxies have revealed these exceptionally luminous sources at off-nuclear positions that radiate about million times higher power than the Sun. The origins of ULXs have been a subject of heated debate for a long time. The basic idea is that a ULX is a close binary system consisting of a black hole and a star. As matter from the star falls onto the black hole, an accretion disk forms around the black hole. As the gravitational energy of the material is released, the innermost part of the disk is heated up to a temperature higher than 10 million degrees, which causes it to emit strong X-rays.

    The unsolved key question about these objects asks: what is the mass of the black hole in these bright objects? ULXs are typically more than a hundred times more luminous than known black hole binaries in the Milky Way, whose black hole masses are at most 20 times the mass of the Sun.

    There are two different black hole scenarios proposed to explain these objects: (1) they contain very “big” black holes that could be more than a thousand times more massive than the Sun (Note 1), or (2) they are relatively small black holes, “little monsters” with masses no more than a hundred times that of the Sun, that shine at luminosities exceeding theoretical limits for standard accretion (called ” (or super-Eddington) accretion,” Note 2). Such supercritical accretion is expected to produce powerful outflow in a form of a dense disk wind.

    To understand which scenario explains the observed ULXs researchers observed four objects: Holmberg II X-1, Holmberg IX X-1, NGC 4559 X-7, NGC 5204 X-1, and took high-quality spectra with the FOCAS instrument on Subaru Telescope for four nights. Figure 1 shows an optical multi-color image toward Holmberg II X-1 as observed with Hubble Space Telescope. The object X-1, indicated by the arrow, is surrounded by a nebula (colored in red), which is most likely the gas heated by strong radiation from the ULX.

    The team discovered a prominent feature in the optical spectra of all the ULXs observed (Figure 2). It is a broad emission line from helium ions, which indicates the presence of gas heated to temperatures of several tens of thousands of degrees in the system. In addition, they found that the width of the hydrogen line, which is emitted from cooler gas (with a temperature of about 10,000 K), is broader than the helium line. The width of a spectral line reflects velocity dispersion of the gas and shows up due to the Doppler effect caused by a distribution of the velocities of gas molecules. These findings suggest that the gas must be accelerated outward as a wind from either the disk or the companion star and that it is cooling down as it escapes.

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    Figure 2: Optical spectra of the four ULXs observed with the Subaru Telescope (from upper to lower, Holmberg II X-1, Holmberg IX X-1, NGC 4559 X-7, NGC 5204 X-1). He II and Hα denote the spectral lines from helium ions and from hydrogen atoms, respectively. (Credit: Kyoto University)

    Distant ULXs and a Similar Mysterious Object in the Milky Way

    The activity of these ULXs in distant galaxies is very similar to a mysterious object in our own Milky Way. The team noticed that the same line features are also observed at SS 433, a close binary consisting of an A-type star and most probably a black hole with a mass less than 10 times that of the Sun.

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    SS 433 is famous for its persistent jets with a velocity of 0.26 times the speed of light. It is the only confirmed system that shows supercritical accretion (that is, an excessive amount of accretion that results in a very powerful outflow). By contrast, such features have not been observed from “normal” black hole X-ray binaries in the Milky Way where sub-critical accretion takes place.

    After carefully examining several possibilities, the team concluded that huge amounts of gas are rapidly falling onto “little monster” black holes in each of these ULXs, which produces a dense disk wind flowing away from the supercritical accretion disk. They suggest that “bona-fide” ULXs with luminosities of about million times that of the Sun must belong to a homogeneous class of objects, and SS 433 is an extreme case of the same population. In these, even though the black hole is small, very luminous X-ray radiation is emitted as the surrounding gas falls onto the disk at a huge rate.

    Figure 3 is a schematic view of the ULXs (upper side) and SS 433 (lower side). If the system is observed from a vertical direction, it’s clear that the central part of the accretion disk emits intense X-rays. If SS 433 were observed in the same direction, it would be recognized as the brightest X-ray source in the Milky Way. In reality, since we are looking at SS 433 almost along the disk plane, our line-of-sight view towards the inner disk is blocked by the outer disk. The accretion rate is inferred to be much larger in SS 433 than in the ULXs, which could explain the presence of persistent jets in SS 433.

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    Figure 3: Schematic view of ULXs (looking from upper side) and SS 433 (looking from left side). Strong X-rays are emitted from the inner region of the supercritical accretion disk. Powerful winds are launched from the disk, which eventually emit spectral lines of helium ions and hydrogen atoms. (Credit: Kyoto University)

    Such “supercritical accretion” is thought to be a possible mechanism in the formation of supermassive black holes at galactic centers in very short time periods (which are observed very early in cosmic time). The discovery of these phenomena in the nearby universe has significant impacts on our understanding of how supermassive black holes are formed and how matter rapidly falls onto them.

    There are still some remaining questions: What are the typical mass ranges of the black holes in ULXs? In what conditions can steady baryonic jets as observed in SS 433 be produced? Dr. Yoshihiro Ueda, a core member of the team, expresses his enthusiasm for future research in this area. “We would like to tackle these unresolved problems by using the new X-ray observations by [jAXA]ASTRO-H, planned to be launched early next year, and by more sensitive future X-ray satellites, together with multi-wavelength observations of ULXs and SS 433,” he said.

    JAXA ASTRO-H telescope
    ASTRO-H

    This work has been published online in Nature Physics on 2015 June 1 (Fabrika et al. 2015, Supercritical Accretion Discs in Ultraluminous X-ray Sources and SS 433, 10.1038/nphys3348). The research was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science’s KAKENHI Grant number 26400228.

    Authors:

    Sergei Fabrika (Special Astrophysical Observatory, Russia; Kazan Federal University, Russia)
    Yoshihiro Ueda (Department of Astronomy, Kyoto University, Japan)
    Alexander Vinokurov (Special Astrophysical Observatory, Russia)
    Olga Sholukhova (Special Astrophysical Observatory, Russia)
    Megumi Shidatsu (Department of Astronomy, Kyoto University, Japan)

    Notes:

    Generally, black holes with masses between about 100 and about 100,000 times that of the Sun are called “intermediate-mass black holes,” although there is no strict definition for the mass range.
    In a spherically symmetric case, matter cannot fall onto a central object when the radiation pressure exceeds the gravity. This luminosity is called the Eddington limit, which is proportional to the mass of the central object. When matter is accreted at rates higher than that corresponding to the Eddington limit, it is called “supercritical (or super-Eddington) accretion.” In the case of non-spherical geometry, such as disk accretion, supercritical accretion may happen.

    See the full article here.

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    The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) is an astronomical research organisation comprising several facilities in Japan, as well as an observatory in Hawaii. It was established in 1988 as an amalgamation of three existing research organizations – the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory of the University of Tokyo, International Latitude Observatory of Mizusawa, and a part of Research Institute of Atmospherics of Nagoya University.

    In the 2004 reform of national research organizations, NAOJ became a division of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

    NAOJ Subaru Telescope

    NAOJ Subaru Telescope interior
    Subaru

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    sft
    Solar Flare Telescope

    Nobeyama Radio Telescope - Copy
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory

    Nobeyama Solar Radio Telescope Array
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory: Solar

    Misuzawa Station Japan
    Mizusawa VERA Observatory

    NAOJ Okayama Astrophysical Observatory Telescope
    Okayama Astrophysical Observatory

    The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) is an astronomical research organisation comprising several facilities in Japan, as well as an observatory in Hawaii. It was established in 1988 as an amalgamation of three existing research organizations – the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory of the University of Tokyo, International Latitude Observatory of Mizusawa, and a part of Research Institute of Atmospherics of Nagoya University.

    In the 2004 reform of national research organizations, NAOJ became a division of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:44 am on June 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Don Lincoln at FNAL: “Gravitational Lensing” 

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

    FNAL Don Lincoln
    Don Lincoln

    In a long line of intellectual triumphs, [Albert] Einstein’s theory of general relativity was his greatest and most imaginative. It tells us that what we experience as gravity can be most accurately described as the bending of space itself. This idea leads to consequences, including gravitational lensing, which is caused by light traveling in this curved space. This is works in a way analogous to a lens (and hence the name). In this video, Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln explains a little general relativity, a little gravitational lensing, and tells us how this phenomenon allows us to map out the matter of the entire universe, including the otherwise-invisible dark matter.

    Watch, enjoy, learn.

    See the full article here.

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    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
    collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:45 pm on June 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Symmetry: “Exploring dark energy with robots” 

    Symmetry

    June 25, 2015
    Glenn Roberts Jr.

    The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument will produce a 3-D space map using a ‘hive’ of robots.

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    Courtesy of NOAO

    Five thousand pencil-shaped robots, densely nested in a metal hive, whir to life with a precise, dizzying choreography. Small U-shaped heads swivel into a new arrangement in a matter of seconds.

    This preprogrammed routine will play out about four times per hour every night at the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument. The robots of DESI will be used to produce a 3-D map of one-third of the sky. This will help DESI fulfill its primary mission of investigating dark energy, a mysterious force thought to be causing the acceleration of the expansion of the universe.

    DESI Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument
    DESI

    The tiny robots will be arranged in 10 wedge-shaped metal “petals” that together form a cylinder about 2.6 feet across. They will maneuver the ends of fiber-optic cables to point at sets of galaxies and other bright objects in the universe. DESI will determine their distance from Earth based on the light they emit.

    DESI’s robots are in development at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the lead in the DESI collaboration, and at the University of Michigan.

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    Courtesy of: DESI collaboration

    The robots—each about 8 millimeters wide in their main section and 8 inches long—will be custom-built around commercially available motors measuring just 4 millimeters in diameter. This type of precision motor, at this size, became commercially available in 2013 and is now manufactured by three companies. The motors have found use in medical devices such as insulin pumps, surgical robots and diagnostic tools.

    At DESI, the robots will automate what was formerly a painstaking manual process used at previous experiments. At the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, or BOSS, which began in 2009, technicians must plug 1000 fibers by hand several times each day into drilled metal plates, like operators plugging cables into old-fashioned telephone switchboards.

    “DESI is exciting because all of that work will be done robotically,” says Risa Wechsler, a co-spokesperson for DESI and an associate professor of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, a joint institute of Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Using the robots, DESI will be able to redirect all of its 5000 fibers in an elaborate dance in less than 30 seconds (see video).

    “DESI definitely represents a new era,” Wechsler says.

    In addition to precisely measuring the color of light emitted by space objects, DESI will also measure how the clustering of galaxies and quasars, which are very distant and bright objects, has evolved over time. It will calculate the distance for up to 25 million space objects, compared to the fewer than 2 million objects examined by BOSS.

    The robots are designed to both collect and transmit light. After each repositioning of fibers, a special camera measures the alignment of each robot’s fiber-optic cable within thousandths of a millimeter. If the robots are misaligned, they are automatically individually repositioned to correct the error.

    Each robot has its own electronics board and can shut off and turn on independently, says Joe Silber, an engineer at Berkeley Lab who manages the system that includes the robotic array.

    In seven successive generations of prototype designs, Silber has worked to streamline and simplify the robots, trimming down their design from 60 parts to just 18. “It took a long time to really understand how to make these things as cheap and simple as possible,” he says. “We were trying not to get too clever with them.”

    The plan is for DESI to begin a 5-year run at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, in 2019. Berkeley and Michigan scientists plan to build a test batch of 500 robots early next year, and to build the rest in 2017 and 2018.

    See the full article here.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 9:31 am on June 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Monster black hole wakes up after 26 years” 

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    European Space Agency

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    Black hole with stellar companion

    25 June 2015
    No Writer Credit

    Over the past week, ESA’s Integral satellite has been observing an exceptional outburst of high-energy light produced by a black hole that is devouring material from its stellar companion.

    ESA Integral
    Integral

    X-rays and gamma rays point to some of the most extreme phenomena in the Universe, such as stellar explosions, powerful outbursts and black holes feasting on their surroundings.

    In contrast to the peaceful view of the night sky we see with our eyes, the high-energy sky is a dynamic light show, from flickering sources that change their brightness dramatically in a few minutes to others that vary on timescales spanning years or even decades.

    On 15 June 2015, a long-time acquaintance of X-ray and gamma ray astronomers made its comeback to the cosmic stage: V404 Cygni, a system comprising a black hole and a star orbiting one another. It is located in our Milky Way galaxy, almost 8000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.

    In this type of binary system, material flows from the star towards the black hole and gathers in a disc, where it is heated up, shining brightly at optical, ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths before spiralling into the black hole.

    First signs of renewed activity in V404 Cygni were spotted by the Burst Alert Telescope on NASA’s Swift satellite, detecting a sudden burst of gamma rays, and then triggering observations with its X-ray telescope.

    NASA SWIFT Telescope
    NASA/Swift

    Soon after, MAXI (Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image), part of the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station, observed an X-ray flare from the same patch of the sky.

    These first detections triggered a massive campaign of observations from ground-based telescopes and from space-based observatories, to monitor V404 Cygni at many different wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum. As part of this worldwide effort, ESA’s Integral gamma-ray observatory started monitoring the out-bursting black hole on 17 June.

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    Integral image before and after the outburst

    “The behaviour of this source is extraordinary at the moment, with repeated bright flashes of light on time scales shorter than an hour, something rarely seen in other black hole systems,” comments Erik Kuulkers, Integral project scientist at ESA.

    “In these moments, it becomes the brightest object in the X-ray sky – up to fifty times brighter than the Crab Nebula, normally one of the brightest sources in the high-energy sky.”

    The V404 Cygni black hole system has not been this bright and active since 1989, when it was observed with the Japanese X-ray satellite Ginga and high-energy instruments on board the Mir space station.

    “The community couldn’t be more thrilled: many of us weren’t yet professional astronomers back then, and the instruments and facilities available at the time can’t compare with the fleet of space telescopes and the vast network of ground-based observatories we can use today. It is definitely a ‘once in a professional lifetime’ opportunity,” adds Kuulkers.

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    Integral light curve

    The 1989 outburst of V404 Cygni was crucial in the study of black holes. Until then, astronomers knew only a handful of objects that they thought could be black holes, and V404 Cygni was one of the most convincing candidates.

    A couple of years after the 1989 outburst, once the source had returned to a quieter state, the astronomers were able to see its companion star, which had been outshone by the extreme activity. The star is about half as massive as the Sun, and by studying the relative motion of the two objects in the binary system, it was determined that the companion must be a black hole, about twelve times more massive than the Sun.

    At the time, the astronomers also looked back at archival data from optical telescopes over the twentieth century, finding two previous outbursts, one in 1938 and another one in 1956.

    These peaks of activity, which occur every two to three decades, are likely caused by material slowly piling up in the disc surrounding the black hole, until eventually reaching a tipping point that dramatically changes the black hole’s feeding routine for a short period.

    “Now that this extreme object has woken up again, we are all eager to learn more about the engine that powers the outburst we are observing,” says Carlo Ferrigno from the Integral Science Data Centre at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

    “As coordinators of Integral operations, Enrico Bozzo and I received a text message at 01:30 am on 18 June from our burst alert system, which is designed to detect gamma-ray bursts in the Integral data. In this case, it turned out to be ‘only’ an exceptional flare since Integral was observing this incredible black hole: definitely a good reason to be woken up in the middle of the night!”

    Since the first outburst detection on 15 June by the Swift satellite, V404 Cygni has remained very active, keeping astronomers extremely busy. Over the past week, several teams around the world published over twenty Astronomical Telegrams and other official communications, sharing the progress of the observations at different wavelengths.

    This exciting outburst has also been discussed by astronomers attending the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science conference this week in Tenerife, sharing information on observations that have been made in the past few days.

    Integral too has been observing this object continuously since 17 June, except for some short periods when it was not possible for operational reasons. The X-ray data show huge variability, with intense flares lasting only a couple of minutes, as well as longer outbursts over time scales of a few hours. Integral also recorded a huge emission of gamma rays from this frenzied black hole.

    Because different components of a black-hole binary system emit radiation at different wavelengths across the spectrum, astronomers are combining high-energy observations with those made at optical and radio wavelengths in order to get a complete view of what is happening in this unique object.

    “We have been observing V404 Cygni with the Gran Telescopio Canarias, which has the largest mirror currently available for optical astronomy,” explains Teo Muñoz-Darias from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Tenerife, Spain.

    Grand Telescope de Canaries
    Gran Telescope de Canaries interior
    Gran Telescopio Canarias

    Using this 10.4-m telescope located on La Palma, the astronomers can quickly obtain high quality spectra, thus probing what happens around the black hole on short time scales.

    “There are many features in our spectra, showing signs of massive outflows of material in the black hole’s environment. We are looking forward to testing our current understanding of black holes and their feeding habits with these rich data,” adds Muñoz-Darias.

    Radio astronomers all over the world are also joining in this extraordinary observing campaign. The first detection at these long wavelengths was made shortly after the first Swift alert on 15 June with the Arcminute Microkelvin Imager from the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory near Cambridge, in the UK, thanks to the robotic mode of this telescope.

    Arcminute Microkelvin Imager
    Arcminute Microkelvin Imager

    Like the data at other wavelengths, these radio observations also exhibit a continuous series of extremely bright flares. Astronomers will exploit them to investigate the mechanisms that give rise to powerful jets of particles, moving away at velocities close to the speed of light, from the black hole’s accretion disc.

    There are only a handful of black-hole binary systems for which data have been collected simultaneously at many wavelengths, and the current outburst of V404 Cygni offers the rare chance to gather more observations of this kind. Back in space, Integral has a full-time job watching the events unfold.

    “We have been devoting all of Integral’s time to observe this exciting source for the past week, and we will keep doing so at least until early July,” comments Peter Kretschmar, ESA Integral mission manager.

    “The observations will soon be made available publicly, so that astronomers across the world can exploit them to learn more about this unique object. It will also be possible to use Integral data to try and detect polarisation of the X-ray and gamma ray emission, which could reveal more details about the geometry of the black hole accretion process. This is definitely material for the astrophysics textbooks for the coming years.”

    Notes for Editors

    The International Gamma-ray Astrophysics Laboratory Integral was launched on 17 October 2002. It is an ESA project with the instruments and a science data centre funded by ESA Member States (especially the Principal Investigator countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland), and with the participation of Russia and the USA. The mission is dedicated to spectroscopy (E/∆E = 500) and imaging (angular resolution: 12 arcmin FWHM) of celestial gamma-ray sources in the energy range 15 keV to 10 MeV with concurrent source monitoring in the X-ray (3–35 keV) and optical (V-band, 550 nm) wavelengths.

    See the full article here.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 5:19 am on June 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Basic Research,   

    From ESO: “Giant Galaxy is Still Growing” 


    European Southern Observatory

    25 June 2015
    Alessia Longobardi
    Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 30000 3022
    Email: alongobardi@mpe.mpg.de

    Magda Arnaboldi
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6599
    Email: marnabol@eso.org

    Ortwin Gerhard
    Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 30000 3539
    Email: gerhard@mpe.mpg.de

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1

    New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed that the giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 has swallowed an entire medium-sized galaxy over the last billion years. For the first time a team of astronomers has been able to track the motions of 300 glowing planetary nebulae to find clear evidence of this event and also found evidence of excess light coming from the remains of the totally disrupted victim.

    Astronomers expect that galaxies grow by swallowing smaller galaxies. But the evidence is usually not easy to see — just as the remains of the water thrown from a glass into a pond will quickly merge with the pond water, the stars in the infalling galaxy merge in with the very similar stars of the bigger galaxy leaving no trace.

    But now a team of astronomers led by PhD student Alessia Longobardi at the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany has applied a clever observational trick to clearly show that the nearby giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 merged with a smaller spiral galaxy in the last billion years.

    “This result shows directly that large, luminous structures in the Universe are still growing in a substantial way — galaxies are not finished yet!” says Alessia Longobardi. “A large sector of Messier 87’s outer halo now appears twice as bright as it would if the collision had not taken place.”

    Messier 87 lies at the centre of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies.

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    This deep image of the Virgo Cluster obtained by Chris Mihos and his colleagues using the Burrell Schmidt telescope shows the diffuse light between the galaxies belonging to the cluster. North is up, east to the left. The dark spots indicate where bright foreground stars were removed from the image. Messier 87 is the largest galaxy in the picture (lower left).

    Case Western Burrell Schmidt telescope Kitt Peak
    Western Burrell Schmidt telescope Kitt Peak

    It is a vast ball of stars with a total mass more than a million million times that of the Sun, lying about 50 million light-years away.

    Rather than try to look at all the stars in Messier 87 — there are literally billions and they are too faint and numerous be studied individually — the team looked at planetary nebulae, the glowing shells around ageing stars [1]. Because these objects shine very brightly in a specific hue of aquamarine green, they can be distinguished from the surrounding stars. Careful observation of the light from the nebulae using a powerful spectrograph can also reveal their motions [2].

    Just as the water from a glass is not visible once thrown into the pond — but may have caused ripples and other disturbances that can be seen if there are particles of mud in the water — the motions of the planetary nebulae, measured using the FLAMES spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope, provide clues to the past merger.

    ESO FLAMES
    FLAMES

    “We are witnessing a single recent accretion event where a medium-sized galaxy fell through the centre of Messier 87, and as a consequence of the enormous gravitational tidal forces, its stars are now scattered over a region that is 100 times larger than the original galaxy!” adds Ortwin Gerhard, head of the dynamics group at the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany, and a co-author of the new study.

    The team also looked very carefully at the light distribution in the outer parts of Messier 87 and found evidence of extra light coming from the stars in the galaxy that had been pulled in and disrupted. These observations have also shown that the disrupted galaxy has added younger, bluer stars to Messier 87, and so it was probably a star-forming spiral galaxy before its merger.

    “It is very exciting to be able to identify stars that have been scattered around hundreds of thousands of light-years in the halo of this galaxy — but still to be able to see from their velocities that they belong to a common structure. The green planetary nebulae are the needles in a haystack of golden stars. But these rare needles hold the clues to what happened to the stars,” concludes co-author Magda Arnaboldi (ESO, Garching, Germany).
    Notes

    [1] Planetary nebulae form as Sun-like stars reach the ends of their lives, and they emit a large fraction of their energy in just a few spectral lines, the brightest of which is in the green part of the spectrum. Because of this, they are the only single stars whose motions can be measured at Messier 87’s distance of 50 million light-years from Earth. They behave like beacons of green light and as such they tell us where they are and at what velocity they are travelling.

    [2] These planetary nebulae are still very faint and need the full power of the Very Large Telescope to study them: the light emitted by a typical planetary nebula in the halo of the Messier 87 galaxy is equivalent to two 60-watt light bulbs on Venus as seen from Earth.

    The motions of the planetary nebulae along the line of sight towards or away from Earth lead to shifts in the spectral lines, as a result of the Doppler effect. These shifts can be measured accurately using a sensitive spectrograph and the velocity of the nebulae deduced.
    More information

    This research was presented in a paper entitled The build-up of the cD halo of M87 — evidence for accretion in the last Gyr, by A. Longobardi et al., to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters on 25 June 2015.

    This work was also presented at the annual conference of the European Astronomical Society, EWASS 2015, which is being held in La Laguna, Tenerife, at the same time.

    The team is composed of A. Longobardi (Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany), M. Arnaboldi (ESO, Garching, Germany), O. Gerhard (Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany) and J.C. Mihos (Case Western University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA).

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

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  • richardmitnick 3:53 pm on June 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Detects First Traces of Carbon ‘Smog’ Permeating Interstellar Atmospheres of Early Galaxies” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    24 June 2015
    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6258
    Cell: +56 9 75871963
    Email: vfoncea@alma.cl

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 434.242.9559
    E-mail: cblue@nrao.edu

    Richard Hook
    Public Information Officer, ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    Masaaki Hiramatsu
    Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chile
    Observatory Tokyo, Japan
    Tel: +81 422 34 3630
    E-mail: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

    1
    Using ALMA, astronomers survey an array of normal galaxies seen when the Universe was only 1 billion years old. The detected the glow of ionized carbon fulling the space between the stars, indicating these galaxies were fully formed but chemically immature, when compared to similar galaxies a few billion years later. The ALMA data for four of these galaxies is show in relation to objects in the COSMOS field. ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ), P. Capak; B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

    ALMA, with its unprecedented sensitivity, was able to detect the faint but ubiquitous millimeter “glow” of ionized carbon in the interstellar atmospheres of nine very distant, very young galaxies seen when the Universe was only seven percent of its current age. Atoms like carbon can become ionized by the powerful ultraviolet radiation emitted by bright, massive stars.

    When galaxies first assembled, during a period often referred to as “Cosmic Dawn,” most of the space between the stars was filled with a mixture of hydrogen and helium produced in the Big Bang. As subsequent generations of massive stars ended their brief but brilliant lives as supernovas, they seeded the interstellar medium with a fine dust of heavy elements, mostly carbon, silicon, and oxygen, which are forged in their nuclear furnaces.

    “The particular spectral signature of ionized carbon has long been considered a potentially powerful tool to study the enrichment of galaxies with elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. It’s also a unique probe of early galaxy dynamics,” said co-author Chris Carilli with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, N.M. “The results from this paper clearly demonstrate this potential, and portend a great future for these kinds of studies.”

    Since carbon has an affinity for other elements, binding to make simple and complex organic molecules, it doesn’t remain in an unbound, ionized state for very long. It is therefore typically found in much lower concentrations when compared with other heavy elements in the interstellar medium.

    This makes ionized carbon an excellent tracer of relatively young unevolved galaxies. “The fact that we see carbon in this peculiar state reveals that the concentrations of other heavier elements in the interstellar medium are relatively low,” said Capak. “This is in stark contrast to galaxies just two billion years later, which are teeming with a dust of heavy elements and present a much lower concentration of ionized carbon.”

    The astronomers also used the data in these same observations as an intergalactic speed camera, and were able to clock the interstellar gas in these galaxies careening up to 380 kilometers per second. “This is a measurement that was previously impossible for such distant galaxies,” noted Capak. “It opens up a new window into understanding how the first galaxies assembled and evolved.”

    The velocities observed by ALMA are similar to those seen in normal, star-forming galaxies a few billion years later and even today in the nearby Universe. The ALMA data also show that the total mass of these distant galaxies is between 10-100 billion times the mass of the Sun, which is comparable to the mass of the Milky Way.

    These results surprised astronomers because they had assumed normal galaxies in the early Universe would be less energetic and have lower masses than those observed at later epochs.

    Instead, the ALMA data reveal that the early Universe was capable of creating what we now consider to be normal-size galaxies. The difference in chemistry and the conspicuous lack of dust, however, indicate that they are in a very immature stage of evolution.

    For their research, the astronomers selected nine typical star-forming galaxies about 13 billion light-years away. The galaxies were selected from the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) and their distances were determined with the Deep Extragalactic Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS) on the W. M. Keck-II Observatory in Hawaii.

    ALMA, located in the Atacama Desert of Chile, is able to detect the faint millimeter-wavelength radiation emitted by atoms and molecules in space. Earlier studies of galaxies at this extreme distance failed to detect this same signature because they focused on atypical galaxies undergoing merger, which may have masked the faint signal from ionized carbon. The new ALMA observations, which were achieved with only a portion of the array in less than 20 minutes of observations on each source, offer promise that subsequent observations with ALMA’s full complement of antennas will present an even clearer picture of the assembly of galaxies and their chemical compositions.

    See the full article here.

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    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

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  • richardmitnick 3:39 pm on June 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research,   

    From isgtw: “Analyzing a galaxy far, far away for clues to our origins” 


    international science grid this week

    June 24, 2015
    Makeda Easter

    Temp 0
    The Earth’s location in the universe. Courtesy Andrew Z. Colvin. CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons.

    The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) lies more than two million light years away from Earth.

    2
    Andromeda. Author Adam Evans

    In 2011, an international group of astronomers began a four-year program to map and study the millions of stars comprising the galaxy. With the help of the Hubble telescope, Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), they not only produced the best Andromeda pictures ever seen, but also put the question of universal star formation to rest.

    To map M31, the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) looked to its namesake Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Because the HST orbits the Earth, it can provide information to astronomers that ground-based telescopes cannot. But more than just stunning pictures, each star revealed by the HST holds clues to the history of the galaxy’s formation — and thus our own. For instance, by analyzing a star’s color, researchers can infer its age. From its luminosity, scientists can measure its distance from Earth.

    PHAT used this information to develop star formation histories for M31, which meant decoding the number of stars of each type (age, mass, chemistry) and how much dust is obscuring their light. Modeling the star formation history of 100 million stars requires powerful computation, so the team turned to the US National Science Foundation (NSF), XSEDE, and TACC.

    “We had to measure over 100 million objects with 100 different parameters for every single one of them,” says Julianne Dalcanton, principal investigator on the PHAT project. “Having XSEDE resources has been absolutely fantastic because we were able to easily run the same process over and over again in parallel.”

    XSEDE enables researchers to interactively share computing resources, data, and expertise. Through XSEDE, the team gained access to the Stampede supercomputer at TACC, which was essential to determining the ages of every star mapped, patterns of star formation, and how the galaxy evolved over time.

    PHAT used this information to develop star formation histories for M31, which meant decoding the number of stars of each type (age, mass, chemistry) and how much dust is obscuring their light. Modeling the star formation history of 100 million stars requires powerful computation, so the team turned to the US National Science Foundation (NSF), XSEDE, and TACC.

    “We had to measure over 100 million objects with 100 different parameters for every single one of them,” says Julianne Dalcanton, principal investigator on the PHAT project. “Having XSEDE resources has been absolutely fantastic because we were able to easily run the same process over and over again in parallel.”

    XSEDE enables researchers to interactively share computing resources, data, and expertise. Through XSEDE, the team gained access to the Stampede supercomputer at TACC, which was essential to determining the ages of every star mapped, patterns of star formation, and how the galaxy evolved over time.

    Read more about the PHAT team’s quest to understand infinity here.

    See the full article here.

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    iSGTW is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

    In its current incarnation, iSGTW is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

    You can read iSGTW via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

     
  • richardmitnick 3:18 pm on June 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research, , ,   

    From Symmetry: “Seeing in gamma rays” 

    Symmetry

    June 24, 2015
    Glenn Roberts Jr.

    1
    Courtesy of Fermi LAT collaboration

    The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope creates maps of the gamma-ray sky.

    Maps from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope literally show the universe in a different light.

    NASA Fermi Telescope
    Fermi

    Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) has been watching the universe at a broad range of gamma-ray energies for more than seven years.

    Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of light in the cosmos. They come from jets of high-energy particles accelerated near supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, shock waves around exploded stars, and the intense magnetic fields of fast-spinning collapsed stars. On Earth, gamma rays are produced by nuclear reactors, lightning and the decay of radioactive elements.

    From low-Earth orbit, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope scans the entire sky for gamma rays every three hours. It captures new and recurring sources of gamma rays at different energies, and it can be diverted from its usual course to fix on explosive events known as gamma-ray bursts.

    Combining data collected over years, the LAT collaboration periodically creates gamma-ray maps of the universe. These colored maps plot the universe’s most extreme events and high-energy objects.

    The all-sky maps typically portray the universe as an ellipse that shows the entire sky at once, as viewed from Earth. On the maps, the brightest gamma-ray light is shown in yellow and progressively dimmer gamma-ray light is shown in red, blue, and black. These are false colors, though; gamma-rays are invisible.

    The maps are oriented with the center of the Milky Way at their center and the plane of our galaxy oriented horizontally across the middle. The plane of the Milky Way is bright in gamma rays. Above and below the bright band, much of the gamma-ray light comes from outside of our galaxy.

    “What you see in gamma rays is not so predictable,” says Elliott Bloom, a SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory professor and member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) who is part of a scientific collaboration supporting Fermi’s principal instrument, the Large Area Telescope.

    Teams of researchers have identified mysterious, massive “bubbles” blooming 30,000 light-years outward from our galaxy’s center, for example, with most features appearing only at gamma-ray wavelengths.

    Scientists create several versions of the Fermi sky maps. Some of them focus only on a specific energy range, says Eric Charles, another member of the Fermi collaboration who is also a KIPAC scientist.

    “You learn a lot by correlating things in different energy ‘bins,’” he says. “If you look at another map and see completely different things, then there may be these different processes. What becomes useful is at different wavelengths you can make comparisons and correlate things.”

    But sometimes what you need is the big picture, says Seth Digel, a SLAC senior staff scientist and a member of KIPAC and the Fermi team. “There are some aspects you can only study with maps, such as looking at the extended gamma-ray emissions—not just the point sources, but regions of the sky that are glowing in gamma rays for different reasons.”

    See the full article here.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 3:05 pm on June 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “Hubble Sees a ‘Behemoth’ Bleeding Atmosphere Around a Warm Neptune-Sized Exoplanet” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    June 24, 2015
    Felicia Chou
    NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
    202-358-0257
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov

    Ann Jenkins / Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4488 / 410-338-4514
    jenkins@stsci.edu / villard@stsci.edu

    David Ehrenreich
    University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
    011-41-22-379-2390
    david.ehrenreich@unige.ch

    1

    Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered an immense cloud of hydrogen dubbed “The Behemoth” bleeding off a planet orbiting a nearby star. The enormous, comet-like feature is about 50 times the size of the parent star. The hydrogen is evaporating from a warm, Neptune-sized planet, due to extreme radiation from the star.

    A phenomenon this large has never before been seen around any exoplanet. Given this planet’s small size, it may offer clues to how Hot Super-Earths — massive, rocky, hot versions of Earth — are born around other stars through the evaporation of their outer layers of hydrogen.

    “This cloud is very spectacular, though the evaporation rate does not threaten the planet right now,” explains the study’s leader, David Ehrenreich of the Observatory of the University of Geneva in Switzerland. “But we know that in the past, the star, which is a faint red dwarf, was more active. This means that the planet evaporated faster during its first billion years of existence. Overall, we estimate that it may have lost up to 10 percent of its atmosphere.”

    The planet, named GJ 436b, is considered to be a “Warm Neptune,” because of its size and it is much closer to its star than Neptune is to our sun. Although it is in no danger of having its atmosphere completely evaporated and being stripped down to a rocky core, this planet could explain the existence of so-called Hot Super-Earths that are very close to their stars.

    These hot, rocky worlds were discovered by the Convection Rotation and Planetary Transits (CoRoT) spacecraft (led by the French Space Agency (CNES) in collaboration with ESA (the European Space Agency), and several other international partners), and NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Hot Super-Earths could be the remnants of more massive planets that completely lost their thick, gaseous atmospheres to the same type of evaporation.

    Because Earth’s atmosphere blocks most ultraviolet light, astronomers needed a space telescope with Hubble’s ultraviolet capability and exquisite precision to find “The Behemoth.”

    “You would have to have Hubble’s eyes,” says Ehrenreich. “You would not see it in visible wavelengths. But when you turn the ultraviolet eye of Hubble onto the system, it’s really kind of a transformation, because the planet turns into a monstrous thing.”

    Because the planet’s orbit is tilted nearly edge-on to our view from Earth, the planet can be seen passing in front of its star. Astronomers also saw the star eclipsed by “The Behemoth” hydrogen cloud around the planet.

    Ehrenreich and his team think that such a huge cloud of gas can exist around this planet because the cloud is not rapidly heated and swept away by the radiation pressure from the relatively cool red dwarf star. This allows the cloud to stick around for a longer time. The team’s findings will be published in the June 25 edition of the journal Nature.

    Evaporation such as this may have happened in the earlier stages of our own solar system, when Earth had a hydrogen-rich atmosphere that dissipated over 100 million to 500 million years. If so, Earth may previously have sported a comet-like tail. It’s also possible it could happen to Earth’s atmosphere at the end of our planet’s life, when the sun swells up to become a red giant and boils off our remaining atmosphere, before engulfing our planet completely.

    GJ 436b resides very close to its star — less than 3 million miles — and whips around it in just 2.6 Earth days. (In comparison, Earth is 93 million miles from our sun and orbits it every 365.24 days.) This exoplanet is at least 6 billion years old, and may even be twice that age. It has a mass of around 23 Earths. At just 30 light-years from Earth, it’s one of the closest known extrasolar planets.

    Finding “The Behemoth” could be a game-changer for characterizing atmospheres of the whole population of Neptune-sized planets and Super-Earths in ultraviolet observations. In the coming years, Ehrenreich expects that astronomers will find thousands of this kind of planet.

    The ultraviolet technique used in this study also may spot the signature of oceans evaporating on smaller, more Earth-like planets. It will be extremely challenging for astronomers to directly see water vapor on those worlds, because it’s too low in the atmosphere and shielded from telescopes. However, when water molecules are broken by the stellar radiation into hydrogen and oxygen, the relatively light hydrogen atoms can escape the planet. If scientists could spot this hydrogen evaporating from a planet that is a bit more temperate and little less massive than GJ 436b, that is a good sign of an ocean on the surface.

    See the full article here.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 2:50 pm on June 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Basic Research, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “JPL, Caltech Team Up to Tackle Big-Data Projects” 

    JPL-Caltech

    June 23, 2015
    Co-written by Kimm Fesenmaier

    Elizabeth Landau
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-6425
    elizabeth.r.landau@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    An image-processing tool developed at Caltech’s Center for Data-Driven Discovery helped biologists Yuling Jiao and Elliot Meyerowitz make a discovery about a signaling molecule – which transmits information between cells – in the Arabidopsis thaliana plant.
    Credits: Alexandre Cunha/Caltech and Jiyan Qi and Yuling Jiao/Chinese Academy of Sciences

    There’s a growing need among scientists and engineers for tools that can help them handle, explore and analyze big data. A new collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, both in Pasadena, California, has been created to advance this important field.

    JPL’s Center for Data Science and Technology (CDST) has joined forces with Caltech’s Center for Data-Driven Discovery (CD3), creating the Joint Initiative on Data Science and Technology. A kickoff event for the collaboration was held recently at Caltech’s Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    “Our joint center is somewhat like an observatory. The software and other expertise brought by Caltech and JPL scientists in the initiative are the instruments that will allow others to make discoveries,” said George Djorgovski, professor of astronomy and director of CD3.

    Individually, each center strives to provide the intellectual infrastructure, including expertise and advanced computational tools, to help researchers and companies from around the world analyze and interpret the massive amounts of information they now collect using computer technologies, in order to make data-driven discoveries more efficient and timely.

    “We’ve found a lot of synergy across disciplines and an opportunity to apply emerging capabilities in data science to more effectively capture, process, manage, integrate and analyze data,” said Daniel Crichton, manager of JPL’s CDST. “JPL’s work in building observational systems can be applied to several disciplines from planetary science and Earth science to biological research.” It’s an opportunity for us to not only impact NASA, but also impact other agencies and research enterprises to advance understanding from the vast amount of highly distributed, massive data that is collected from scientific exploration.”

    JPL, for example, has been working with the National Cancer Institute for the past several years to develop a knowledge environment to support cancer biomarker research. “This collaboration exemplifies the opportunities to leverage data and computational science tools from space science for cancer research and vice versa,” Crichton said.

    The Caltech center is also interested in taking data science tools and techniques developed for one field and applying them to another. The CD3 recently collaborated on one such project with Ralph Adolphs, Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology at Caltech. They used tools based on machine learning that were originally developed to analyze data from astronomical sky surveys to process neurobiological data from a study of autism.

    “We’re getting some promising results,” said Djorgovski. “We think this kind of work will help researchers not only publish important papers but also create tools to be used across disciplines. They will be able to say, ‘We’ve got these powerful new tools for knowledge discovery in large and complex data sets. With a combination of big data and novel methodologies, we can do things that we never could before.'”

    Both the CD3 and the CDST began operations last fall. The Joint Initiative already has a few projects under way in the areas of Earth science, cancer research, health care informatics, and data visualization. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    See the full article here.

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    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, 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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