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  • richardmitnick 11:49 am on October 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Putting the Universe under the telescope", , , , Breakthrough Listen, , , ,   

    From The University of Melbourne (AU): “Putting the Universe under the telescope” 


    From The University of Melbourne (AU)


    15 January 2020 [Re-presented 10.26.21]
    Clare Kenyon

    We humans are a curious, questing lot, and the 2020s will see us continue to observe the Universe around us, trying to understand more about fundamental particles, forces, objects and relationships from both ground and space-based instruments.

    At the same time, our interest and technological capacity to push the boundaries of space exploration in the physical sense through manned and unmanned missions is beginning to boom.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US)/European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) Hubble Space Telescope

    Somewhat paradoxically, one of the most interesting observatories to keep an eye on over the 2020s does not ‘look’ at the universe at all.


    The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Caltech/ MIT Advanced aLIGO (US)) is a huge, international, multi-billion-dollar collaborative effort which seeks to detect ripples in spacetime caused by the interactions of very massive objects by measuring changes in distances smaller than 1/10,000th the width of a proton.

    Caltech /MIT Advanced aLigo

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation.

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

    SXS – Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPG Institute for Gravitational Physics [Max-Planck-Institut für Gravitationsphysik] (Albert Einstein Institute) (DE)/W.Benger-Zib

    Gravity is talking. Lisa will listen. Dialogos of Eide.

    European Space Agency(EU)/National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US) eLISA space based, the future of gravitational wave research.

    After enduring silence in the first decade of the 2000s, LIGO detected its first of several inspiralling black hole events and also a neutron star collision.

    Although these detections are a solid nod to Einsteinian physics, they also represent major advances in instrumentation, modelling, engineering, collaboration and our understanding of the evolution of the Universe.

    In the past three weeks, another detection has been announced, with signals seeming to suggest a merger of two unexpectedly massive neutron stars – potentially a new class of neutron star object. Planned upgrades and expansions to LIGO should give us an exciting decade of more discoveries with a much higher quality of data.


    In keeping with the theme of ‘non-visible’ astronomy, astronomers will push forward into the 2020s, trying to address some of the most fundamental questions about our Universe which have so far evaded answers.

    In particular, the nature of dark matter – thought to comprise up to 85 per cent of the matter of the Universe, yet still evades satisfactory categorisation (for example cold, warm or hot), despite it having been somewhat vaguely proposed in the late 1800s.

    Starburst in a Dwarf Irregular Galaxy. Picture: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (The Space Telescope Science Institute (US)/The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA)(US))

    This field combines cosmology and particle physics in experiments that are either focussed on direct or indirect detection.

    In the past week, evidence from a recent project using the Hubble Space Telescope suggests that dark matter can form in much smaller clumps than previously expected, providing strong evidence for the cold (or slow-moving) dark matter scenario.

    Closer to home, in a collaborative initiative of which the University of Melbourne is a part, the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory (SUPL) is a planned one kilometre-deep laboratory intended to detect seasonal variations in dark matter signals.

    Searching for Dark Matter. Video:The Swinburne University of Technology (AU)


    This coming decade will likely see the beginnings of the true commercialisation of space travel.

    For example, private companies, such as Boeing and SpaceX, have formed partnerships with government space agencies and organisations such as via NASA’s Commercial Crew programme with the aim of developing safe, reliable and economically-viable options for reaching low earth orbit.

    This will enable NASA to end its reliance on the Russian Soyuz rockets and in turn allows for private enterprise to begin selling seats on their vehicles such as Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, coupled with accommodation in the ISS to privately paying customers.

    Both have experienced teething problems and are undergoing improvements, but one can reasonably expect to see them operational over the next few years.

    Although difficult to get a clear idea of progress, other countries such as China, India and Russia are pursuing their own human spaceflight programmes, whilst NASA continues to also work on its own vehicles to be launched from US soil, in addition to the partnerships with private enterprises, aiming to get men and women back to the Moon by 2024.

    The early 2020s will see other companies such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin effectively ignite the space tourism market by enabling paying customers to purchase trips to suborbital space.

    The successful floating of Virgin Galactic on the New York Stock Exchange in October 2019 hints at the commercial interest in point-to-point transportation on Earth via suborbital space.


    As our technological capabilities increase, so too does our obsession with the search for life outside of Earth.

    NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has already kicked off 2020 with the discovery of its first Earth-size planet in a star’s ‘habitable zone’, which is the range of distances from a planet’s host star where the temperature potentially allows liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface.

    The National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) TESS

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US) TESS – Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite replaced the Kepler Space Telescope in search for exoplanets. TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US).

    NASA/MIT Tess in the building

    The National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/ The Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US) TESS – Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite replaced the Kepler Space Telescope in search for exoplanets. TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US).

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; The Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian; The MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and The STScI(US) in Baltimore.


    Scientists are already producing different 3D atmospheric and climate models for the planet in question, known as TOI 700 d, waiting for new data to emerge over the coming decade to help narrow down important modelling parameters.

    At least six missions are already at work or planned to launch, mostly by NASA and ESA like Cheops, the James Webb Telescope and Ariel, which will add to the over 4,000 confirmed exoplanets and will also give us more accurate and detailed information on sizes, compositions and conditions of the planets and their host stars.

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/CHEOPS

    National Aeronautics Space Agency(USA)/European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ Canadian Space Agency [Agence Spatiale Canadienne](CA) Webb Infrared Space Telescope(US) James Webb Space Telescope annotated. Scheduled for launch in October 2021 delayed to December 2021.

    UK-led ESA mission ARIEL -Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey


    While we whet our voracious appetites for detecting planets around star systems far beyond our own via a vast number of surveys and programmes, missions involving physical probes for life on other planets and moons within our Solar System are being planned and implemented.

    NASA’s Perseverance Rover, is set to search for evidence of life on Mars with a planned touch down in early 2021, while separate flyby missions to Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, Europa, and Saturn’s atmospherically hazy moon, Titan, are due for launch in 2025 and 2026, respectively.

    Although not approved within budget as yet, there is potential for a lander-based mission to Europa, potentially enabling scientists to test for the existence of a salty brine beneath its frozen crust.

    Not to be outdone, ESA also has plans to revisit Mars, having launched an orbiter in 2016, delivering the ExoMars 2020 which will also focus on chemically and mineralogically analysing drilled samples for traces of past microbial life.

    Perseverence Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover – NASA Mars annotated.

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities,A.K.A. Roscosmos [Роскосмос] (RU) ExoMars Rosalind Franklin, scheduled for launch in September 2022.

    Finally, our attempts to both listen for and reach out to any existing extra-terrestrial life will continue throughout the 2020s and beyond.

    For example, initiatives such as Breakthrough Listen, a ten-year, US$100,000,000 programme begun in 2016, continually survey the Universe for signals of extra-terrestrial life.

    Breakthrough Listen Project


    UC Observatories Lick Automated Planet Finder fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA.

    Green Bank Radio Telescope, West Virginia, USA, now the center piece of the Green Bank Observatory(US), being cut loose by the National Science Foundation(US), supported by Breakthrough Listen Project, West Virginia University, and operated by the nonprofit Associated Universities, Inc.

    CSIRO-Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (AU) Parkes Observatory [ Murriyang, the traditional Indigenous name] , located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, 414.80m above sea level.

    SKA SARAO Meerkat telescope(SA) 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA.

    Newly added

    University of Arizona Veritas Four Čerenkov telescopes A novel gamma ray telescope under construction at the CfA Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (US), Mount Hopkins, Arizona (US), altitude 2,606 m 8,550 ft. A large project known as the Čerenkov Telescope Array, composed of hundreds of similar telescopes to be situated at Roque de los Muchachos Observatory [Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias ](ES) in the Canary Islands and Chile at European Southern Observatory Cerro Paranal(EU) site. The telescope on Mount Hopkins will be fitted with a prototype high-speed camera, assembled at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (US) and capable of taking pictures at a billion frames per second. Credit: Vladimir Vassiliev. _____________________________________________________________________________________

    Meanwhile, Breakthrough Starshot is a proof-of-concept project involving sending a fleet of tiny centimetre-sized light-sail spacecraft to our nearest neighbouring star system, Alpha Centauri. This project could lead to the development of Earth-based steerable lasers.

    Breakthrough Starshot Initiative

    Breakthrough Starshot

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    SPACEOBS, the San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations Observatory is located at 2450m above sea level, north of the Atacama Desert, in Chile, near to the village of San Pedro de Atacama and close to the border with Bolivia and Argentina.

    SNO Sierra Nevada Observatory is a high elevation observatory 2900m above the sea level located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Granada Spain and operated maintained and supplied by IAC.

    Teide Observatory,Teide National Park, Tenerife in Tenerife Spain, home of two 40 cm LCO,telescopes, Altitude 2,390 m (7,840 ft)

    Observatori Astronòmic del Montsec (OAdM), located in the town of Sant Esteve de la Sarga (Pallars Jussà), 1,570 meters on the sea level.

    Bayfordbury Observatory,approximately 6 miles from the main campus of the University of Hertfordshire.

    These continuing and developing enterprises will inevitably deliver new technological advancements, meaning that the 2020s will be an exciting decade, indeed.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition


    The University of Melbourne (AU) is an Australian public research university located in Melbourne, Victoria. Founded in 1853, it is Australia’s second oldest university and the oldest in Victoria. Times Higher Education ranks Melbourne as 33rd in the world, while the Academic Ranking of World Universities places Melbourne 44th in the world (both first in Australia).

    Melbourne’s main campus is located in Parkville, an inner suburb north of the Melbourne central business district, with several other campuses located across Victoria. Melbourne is a sandstone university and a member of the Group of Eight, Universitas 21 and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities. Since 1872 various residential colleges have become affiliated with the university. There are 12 colleges located on the main campus and in nearby suburbs offering academic, sporting and cultural programs alongside accommodation for Melbourne students and faculty.

    Melbourne comprises 11 separate academic units and is associated with numerous institutes and research centres, including the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and the Grattan Institute. Amongst Melbourne’s 15 graduate schools the Melbourne Business School, the Melbourne Law School and the Melbourne Medical School are particularly well regarded.

    Four Australian prime ministers and five governors-general have graduated from Melbourne. Nine Nobel laureates have been students or faculty, the most of any Australian university.

  • richardmitnick 11:51 am on December 31, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Was That a Dropped Call From ET?", "Wow!" signal from Ohio State Big Ear Radio Telescope Aug. 15 1977., A spooky radio signal showed up after a radio telescope was aimed at the next star over from our sun., Breakthrough Listen, , Green Bank Observatory radio telescope Green Bank West Virginia, Parkes Observatory in Australia, ,   

    From The New York Times: “Was That a Dropped Call From ET?” 

    From The New York Times

    Dec. 31, 2020
    Dennis Overbye

    A spooky radio signal showed up after a radio telescope was aimed at the next star over from our sun.

    Proxima Centauri, the closest known star to our own sun, is found in the constellation Centaurus and is not visible to the naked eye. The mysterious signal came from its direction.Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble.

    Centauris Alpha Beta Proxima, 27 February 2012. Skatebiker.

    Nobody believes it was ET phoning, but radio astronomers admit they don’t have an explanation yet for a beam of radio waves that apparently came from the direction of the star Proxima Centauri.

    “It’s some sort of technological signal. The question is whether it’s Earth technology or technology from somewhere out yonder,” said Sofia Sheikh, a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University leading a team studying the signal and trying to decipher its origin. She is part of Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million effort funded by Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire investor, to find alien radio waves.

    Breakthrough Listen Project


    UC Observatories Lick Autmated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, 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

    SKA SARAO Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA.

    Newly added

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four Čerenkov Telescopes for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)

    The project has now stumbled on its most intriguing pay dirt yet.

    Proxima Centauri is an inviting prospect for “out yonder.”

    It is the closest known star to the sun, only 4.24 light-years from Earth, part of a triple-star system known as Alpha Centauri. Proxima has at least two planets, one of which is a rocky world only slightly more massive than Earth that occupies the star’s so-called habitable zone, where temperatures should be conducive to water, the stuff of life, on its surface.

    The radio signal itself, detected in spring 2019 and reported on earlier in The Guardian, is in many ways the stuff of dreams for alien hunters. It was a narrow-band signal with a frequency of 982.02 MHz as recorded at the Parkes Observatory in Australia [above]. Nature, whether an exploding star or a geomagnetic storm, tends to broadcast on a wide range of frequencies.

    “The signal appears to only show up in our data when we’re looking in the direction of Proxima Centauri, which is exciting,” Ms. Sheikh said. “That’s a threshold that’s never been passed by any signal that we’ve seen previously, but there are a lot of caveats.”

    Practitioners of the hopeful field of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, also known as SETI, say they have seen it all before.

    “We’ve seen these types of signal before, and it’s always turned out to be R.F.I., radio frequency interference,” Dan Werthimer, chief technologist at the Berkeley SETI Research Center, who is not part of the Proxima Centauri study, wrote in an email.

    That thought was echoed by his Berkeley colleague Andrew Siemion, who is the principal investigator for Breakthrough Listen. “Our experiment exists in a sea of interfering signals,” he said.

    “My instinct in the end is that it will be anthropogenic in origin,” he added. “But so far we can’t yet fully explain it.”

    So there’s nothing to see here, folks. Until there is. Notwithstanding claims of biosignature gases on Venus and tales of U.F.O. sightings collected by the Pentagon, the discovery of life, let alone intelligence, out there would be a psychological thunderclap of cosmic and historic proportions.

    False alarms have been part of SETI since the very beginning, when Frank Drake, then at Cornell and now retired from the University of California, Santa Cruz, pointed a radio telescope in Green Bank, W.Va., in 1960 at a pair of stars, hoping to hear aliens’ radio waves.

    Frank Drake with his Drake Equation. Credit Frank Drake.

    He detected what seemed to be a signal. Could it be this easy to discover we are not alone?

    It turned out to be a secret military experiment.

    Sixty years later we are still officially alone and SETI as an enterprise has been through the wars economically and politically even as technology has enhanced humanity’s ability to comb the nearly infinite haystack of planets, stars and “magical frequencies” on which They might be broadcasting.

    Breakthrough Listen was announced with much fanfare by Mr. Milner and Stephen Hawking in 2015, sparking what Dr. Siemion called a renaissance.

    “This is the best time to be doing SETI,” he said.

    The recent excitement began on April 29, 2019, when Breakthrough Listen scientists turned the Parkes radio telescope [above] on Proxima Centauri, to monitor the star for violent flares. It is a small star known as a red dwarf. These stars are prone to such outbursts, which could strip the atmosphere from a planet and render it unlivable.

    In all they recorded 26 hours of data. The Parkes radio telescope, however, was equipped with a new receiver capable of resolving narrow-band signals of the type SETI researchers seek. So in fall 2020, the team decided to search the data for such signals, a job that fell to Shane Smith, an undergraduate at Hillsdale College in Michigan and an intern with Breakthrough.

    The signal that surprised the team appeared five times on April 29 during a series of 30-minute windows in which the telescope was pointed in the direction of Proxima Centauri. It has not appeared since. It was a pure unmodulated tone, meaning it appeared to carry no message except the fact of its own existence.

    The signal also showed a tendency to drift slightly in frequency during the 30-minute intervals, a sign that whatever the signal came from is not on the surface of Earth, but often correlates with a rotating or orbiting object.

    But the drift does not match the motions of any known planets in Proxima Centauri. And in fact the signal, if it is real, might be coming from someplace beyond the Alpha Centauri system. Who knows?

    The subsequent nonappearance of the signal has prompted comparisons to a famous detection known as the “Wow! Signal” that appeared on a printout from the Big Ear radio telescope, operated by Ohio State University in 1977.

    “Wow!” signal from Ohio State Big Ear Radio Telescope Aug. 15, 1977.

    Ohio State Big Ear Radio Telescope, Construction of the Big Ear began in 1956 and was completed in 1961, and it was finally turned on for the first time in 1963, disassembled in 1998 having operated for over 30 years.

    Jerry Ehman, a now retired astronomer, wrote “Wow!” on the side of the printout when he saw it after that fact. The signal never appeared again, nor was it satisfactorily explained, and some people still wonder if it was a missed call from Out There.

    Of the Proxima signal, Dr. Siemion said, “There have been some exclamations but ‘wow’ hasn’t been one of them.”

    Asked what they were, he laughed.

    “Initially there were perplexed reactions from folks, but it settled down quickly,” he said.

    Over a period of 24 to 48 hours at the end of this October, he said, the mood shifted from inquisitive and curious to “very serious scientific detective work.”

    Ms. Sheikh, who expects to get her doctorate this coming summer, is leading the detective work. She got her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley, intending to go into particle physics, but found herself drifting into astronomy instead. She first heard about the Breakthrough Listen project and SETI on Reddit while she was looking for a new undergraduate research project.

    “I would say we were extremely skeptical at first, and I remain skeptical,” she said about the putative signal. But she added that it was “the most interesting signal to come through the Breakthrough Listen program.”

    The team hopes to publish its results early in 2021.

    The Parkes telescope — which once relayed communications to the Apollo astronauts — is notorious for false alarms, Dr. Werthimer says. In one recent example, he said, astronomers thought they had discovered a new astrophysical phenomenon.

    “It was very exciting until somebody noticed the signals only appeared at the lunch hour,” he said. They were coming from a microwave oven.

    Over the years SETI astronomers have prided themselves on their ability to chase down the source of suspicious signals and eliminate them before word leaked out to the public.

    This time their work was reported by The Guardian. “The public wants to know, we get that,” Dr. Siemion said. But, as he and Ms. Sheikh emphasize, they aren’t nearly done yet.

    “Frankly, there’s still a lot of analysis that we have to do to be confident that this thing is not interference,” Ms. Sheikh said.

    Part of the problem, she explained, is that the original observations were not done according to the standard SETI protocol. Normally, a radio telescope would point at a star or other target for five minutes and then “nod” slightly away from it for five minutes to see if the signal persisted.

    In the Proxima observations, however, the telescope pointed for 30 minutes and then moved far across the sky (30 degrees or so) for five minutes to a quasar the astronomers were using to calibrate the brightness of the star’s flares. Such a large swing might have taken the telescope away from whatever the source of the radio interference was.

    If all else fails, Ms. Sheikh said, they will try to reproduce the results by replicating the exact movements of the Parkes telescope again on April 29, 2021.

    “Because,” she said, “if it’s actually coming from Proxima, then maybe they would like send a hello once a year or something like that.” She went on, “But it’s more likely that there’s some sort of yearly event that happens at the visitor center, or something like that, that causes an environmental effect that doesn’t happen the rest of the year.”

    The Proxima signal could be destined to pass into legend like the Ohio State Wow! Signal, but in SETI, there is always another day, another star.

    It’s been fun, Ms. Sheikh said, even if the Proxima signal ends up being interference.

    “This is extremely exciting, no matter what comes out of it.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 1:58 pm on January 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Breakthrough Listen, , , , , , , , ,   

    From QUB via The Conversation: “How we created a mini ‘gamma ray burst’ in the lab for the first time” 

    QUB bloc

    Queens University Belfast (QUB)

    The Conversation

    January 15, 2018

    Gamma ray bursts, intense explosions of light, are the brightest events ever observed in the universe – lasting no longer than seconds or minutes. Some are so luminous that they can be observed with the naked eye, such as the burst “GRB 080319B” discovered by NASA’s Swift GRB Explorer mission on March 19, 2008.

    NASA Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

    But despite the fact that they are so intense, scientists don’t really know what causes gamma ray bursts. There are even people who believe some of them might be messages sent from advanced alien civilisations. Now we have for the first time managed to recreate a mini version of a gamma ray burst in the laboratory – opening up a whole new way to investigate their properties. Our research is published in Physical Review Letters.

    One idea for the origin of gamma ray bursts [Science] is that they are somehow emitted during the emission of jets of particles released by massive astrophysical objects, such as black holes. This makes gamma ray bursts extremely interesting to astrophysicists – their detailed study can unveil some key properties of the black holes they originate from.

    The beams released by the black holes would be mostly composed of electrons and their “antimatter” companions, the positrons – all particle have antimatter counterparts that are exactly identical to themselves, only with opposite charge. These beams must have strong, self-generated magnetic fields. The rotation of these particles around the fields give off powerful bursts of gamma ray radiation. Or, at least, this is what our theories predict [MNRAS]. But we don’t actually know how the fields would be generated.

    Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems in studying these bursts. Not only do they last for short periods of time but, most problematically, they are originated in distant galaxies, sometimes even billion light years from Earth (imagine a one followed by 25 zeroes – this is basically what one billion light years is in metres).

    That means you rely on looking at something unbelievably far away that happens at random, and lasts only for few seconds. It is a bit like understanding what a candle is made of, by only having glimpses of candles being lit up from time to time thousands of kilometres from you.

    World’s most powerful laser

    It has been recently proposed that the best way to work out how gamma ray bursts are produced would be by mimicking them in small-scale reproductions in the laboratory – reproducing a little source of these electron-positron beams and look at how they evolve when left on their own. Our group and our collaborators from the US, France, UK, and Sweden, recently succeeded in creating the first small-scale replica of this phenomenon by using one of the most intense lasers on Earth, the Gemini laser, hosted by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.

    The Gemini laser, hosted by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.

    How intense is the most intense laser on Earth? Take all the solar power that hits the whole Earth and squeeze it into a few microns (basically the thickness of a human hair) and you have got the intensity of a typical laser shot in Gemini. Shooting this laser onto a complex target, we were able to release ultra-fast and dense copies of these astrophysical jets and make ultra-fast movies of how they behave. The scaling down of these experiments is dramatic: take a real jet that extends even for thousands of light years and compress it down to a few millimetres.

    In our experiment, we were able to observe, for the first time, some of the key phenomena that play a major role in the generation of gamma ray bursts, such as the self-generation of magnetic fields that lasted for a long time. These were able to confirm some major theoretical predictions of the strength and distribution of these fields. In short, our experiment independently confirms that the models currently used to understand gamma ray bursts are on the right track.

    The experiment is not only important for studying gamma ray bursts. Matter made only of electrons and positrons is an extremely peculiar state of matter. Normal matter on Earth is predominantly made of atoms: a heavy positive nucleus surrounded by clouds of light and negative electrons.

    Artist impression of gamma ray burst. NASA [no additional credit for which facility or which artist].

    Due to the incredible difference in weight between these two components (the lightest nucleus weighs 1836 times the electron) almost all the phenomena we experience in our everyday life comes from the dynamics of electrons, which are much quicker in responding to any external input (light, other particles, magnetic fields, you name it) than nuclei. But in an electron-positron beam, both particles have exactly the same mass, meaning that this disparity in reaction times is completely obliterated. This brings to a quantity of fascinating consequences. For example, sound would not exist in an electron-positron world.

    So far so good, but why should we care so much about events that are so distant? There are multiple reasons indeed. First, understanding how gamma ray bursts are formed will allow us to understand a lot more about black holes and thus open a big window on how our universe was born and how it will evolve.

    But there is a more subtle reason. SETI – Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – looks for messages from alien civilisations by trying to capture electromagnetic signals from space that cannot be explained naturally (it focuses mainly on radio waves, but gamma ray bursts are associated with such radiation too).

    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

    U Manchester Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope

    SETI@home, BOINC project at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    Of course, if you put your detector to look for emissions from space, you do get an awful lot of different signals. If you really want to isolate intelligent transmissions, you first need to make sure all the natural emissions are perfectly known so that they can excluded. Our study helps towards understanding black hole and pulsar emissions, so that, whenever we detect anything similar, we know that it is not coming from an alien civilisation.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    QUB campus

    An international institution

    Queen’s is in the top one per cent of global universities.

    With more than 23,000 students and 3,700 staff, it is a dynamic and diverse institution, a magnet for inward investment, a major employer and investor, a patron of the arts and a global player in areas ranging from cancer studies to sustainability, and from pharmaceuticals to creative writing.
    World-leading research

    Queen’s is a member of the Russell Group of 24 leading UK research-intensive universities, alongside Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London.

    In the UK top ten for research intensity

    The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results placed Queen’s joint 8th in the UK for research intensity, with over 75 per cent of Queen’s researchers undertaking world-class or internationally leading research.

    The University also has 14 subject areas ranked within the UK’s top 20 and 76 per cent of its research classified in the top two categories of world leading and internationally excellent.

    This validates Queen’s as a University with world-class researchers carrying out world-class or internationally leading research.

    Globally recognised education

    The University has won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education on five occasions – for Northern Ireland’s Comprehensive Cancer Services programme and for world-class achievement in green chemistry, environmental research, palaeoecology and law.

  • richardmitnick 11:54 am on August 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Berkeley SETI Research Center, Breakthrough Listen, , ,   

    From UC Berkeley: “Distant galaxy sends out 15 high-energy radio bursts” 

    UC Berkeley

    UC Berkeley

    August 30, 2017
    Robert Sanders

    Breakthrough Listen, an initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, has detected 15 brief but powerful radio pulses emanating from a mysterious and repeating source – FRB 121102 – far across the universe.

    Breakthrough Listen Project

    Fast radio bursts are brief, bright pulses of radio emission from distant but largely unknown sources, and FRB 121102 is the only one known to repeat: more than 150 high-energy bursts have been observed coming from the object, which was identified last year as a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years from Earth.

    A sequence of 14 of the 15 detected bursts illustrate their dispersed spectrum and extreme variability. The streaks across the colored energy plot are the bursts appearing at different times and different energies because of dispersion caused by 3 billion years of travel through intergalactic space. In the top frequency spectrum, the dispersion has been removed to show the 300 microsecond pulse spike. Capturing this diverse set of bursts was made possible by the broad bandwidth that can be processed by the Breakthrough Listen backend at the Green Bank Telescope.

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    Possible explanations for the repeating bursts range from outbursts from rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields – so-called magnetars – to a more speculative idea: They are directed energy sources, powerful laser bursts used by extraterrestrial civilizations to power spacecraft, akin to Breakthrough Starshot’s plan to use powerful laser pulses to propel nano-spacecraft to our solar system’s nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

    Breakthrough Starshot

    “Bursts from this source have never been seen at this high a frequency,” said Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and of the Breakthrough Listen program.

    As astronomers around the globe try to understand the mechanism generating fast radio bursts, they have repeatedly turned their radio telescopes on FRB 121102. Siemion and his team alerted the astronomical community to the high-frequency activity via an Astronomer’s Telegram on Monday evening, Aug. 28.

    “As well as confirming that the source is in a newly active state, the high resolution of the data obtained by the Listen instrument will allow measurement of the properties of these mysterious bursts at a higher precision than ever possible before,” said Breakthrough Listen postdoctoral researcher Vishal Gajjar, who discovered the increased activity.

    First detected with the Parkes Telescope in Australia, fast radio bursts have now been seen by several radio telescopes around the world.

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

    FRB 121102 was discovered on Nov. 2, 2012, (hence its name) and in 2015 it was the first fast radio burst seen to repeat, ruling out theories of bursts’ origins that involved the catastrophic destruction of the progenitor, at least in this instance.

    Regardless of FRB 121102’s ultimate source, when the recently detected pulses left their host galaxy, our solar system was less than 2 billion years old, noted Steve Croft, a Breakthrough Listen astronomer at UC Berkeley. Life on Earth consisted only of single-celled organisms; it would be another billion years before even the simplest multi-cellular life began to evolve.

    As part of Breakthrough Listen’s program to observe nearby stars and galaxies for signatures of extraterrestrial technology, the project science team at UC Berkeley added FRB 121102 to its list of targets. In the early hours of Saturday, Aug. 26, Gajjar observed that area of the sky using the Breakthrough Listen backend instrument at the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

    The instrument accumulated 400 terabytes (a million million bytes) of data over a five-hour period, observing across the entire 4 to 8 GHz frequency band. This large dataset was searched for signatures of short pulses from the source over a broad range of frequencies, with a characteristic dispersion, or delay as a function of frequency, caused by the presence of gas in space between Earth and the source. The distinctive shape that the dispersion imposes on the initial pulse is an indicator of the amount of material between us and the source, and hence an indicator of the distance to the host galaxy.

    Analysis by Gajjar and the Breakthrough Listen team revealed 15 new pulses from FRB 121102. The observations show for the first time that fast radio bursts emit at higher frequencies than previously observed, with the brightest emission occurring at around 7 GHz.

    “The extraordinary capabilities of the backend receiver, which is able to record several gigahertz of bandwidth at a time, split into billions of individual channels, enable a new view of the frequency spectrum of FRBs, and should shed additional light on the processes giving rise to FRB emission.” Gajjar said.

    “Whether or not fast radio bursts turn out to be signatures of extraterrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the universe around us,” Siemion said.

    See the full article here .
    Previously noted briefly here .

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