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  • richardmitnick 12:41 pm on September 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New Exoplanet Detection Program for Citizen Scientists", , , , , Exoplanet research,   

    From The SETI Institute: “New Exoplanet Detection Program for Citizen Scientists” 

    From The SETI Institute


    Rebecca McDonald
    Director of Communications
    SETI Institute

    Artist’s conception of the multiple planet system. Credit: Gemini Observatory. Artwork by Lynette Cook.

    The SETI Institute and its partner Unistellar are launching a new exoplanet detection program that will engage citizen scientists worldwide. Amateur astronomers, using either Unistellar’s eVscope or another telescope, will be invited to help confirm exoplanet candidates identified by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) by observing possible exoplanet transits from Earth.

    Most known exoplanets have been detected using the transit method, most notably by the Kepler Mission and now TESS.

    A transit is when a planet passes between its star and the observer, who will see the star dimming as the planet orbits. The demand for follow-up observations of transiting exoplanets is greater than ever. There are currently more than 5,100 confirmed exoplanets, with thousands more detections to be confirmed. This program will focus its efforts on exo-Jupiters detected by those NASA missions.

    Some estimates suggest that TESS will identify more than 10,000 exoplanet candidates. Follow-up observations are essential for unconfirmed exoplanets to determine if candidates are false positives, such as those caused by eclipsing binaries or transits of low-mass stars. Regular re-observations by ground-based systems are necessary for confirmed planets to keep their orbital ephemerides updated. The potential for citizen scientist contribution to exoplanet science is high and has exciting implications for STEM education.

    The opportunities for non-professional astronomers to observe and contribute their collected data for exoplanet research or education have been largely out of reach. High costs and high levels of technical expertise required to run, build, or operate observing equipment are barriers. The Unistellar Exoplanet Campaign provides professional mentoring and curated targets. It can make meaningful contributions to exoplanet research (e.g., photometric data for monitoring transit times and confirming traditional and long-period exoplanets) while engaging non-professionals and students in this exciting work.

    One of the most recent achievements of the new network is the detection of the TESS planet candidate named TOI 1812.01. TOI 1812 is a curious, multi-planet system that was first discovered by TESS. It is 563 lightyears from Earth and consists of three gaseous planets: a 3-Earth radii sub-Neptune planet on an 11-day orbit, a 5-Earth radii sub-Saturn planet on a 43-day orbit, and an outer 9-Earth radii Saturn-sized planet (TOI 1812.01) on what was previously an unconstrained orbit. Having three gaseous planets spanning such a wide range in radius makes TOI 1812 an ideal system for understanding how giant planets form and migrate. Furthermore, owing to the cool temperature of the K2V host star, TOI 1812.01 receives insolation less than twice that of the Earth and may even be an exciting target for future exomoon searches.

    However, the missing piece of the puzzle that precludes further characterization was the unknown orbital period of TOI 1812.01. TESS observed two 8-hour long transits of this planet separated by a substantial data gap, which left a set of aliases as the possible orbital period. Sparse radial velocity data and statistical analysis highlighted the three most likely orbital periods: 71 days, 87 days, or 112 days. These three possibilities corresponded to 3 possible transit windows in July and August 2022. The network observed each window, which required transcontinental campaigns in each case. Over the three windows, we had 27 data sets contributed by 20 astronomers in 7 countries. The network successfully ruled out transits during the first two windows. It discovered the transit egress (ending) during the third window on August 27, 2022, confirming the orbital period of 112 days. This effort showcases the unique ability of the citizen science network to contribute to the recovery of orbital ephemerides of extremely valuable long-period and long-transit-duration exoplanets like TOI 1812.01. This work, including the Unistellar observations, is being prepared for a manuscript to officially confirm the nature of the exoplanet system and will be presented at the IAC in Paris on Tuesday September 20.

    “Observing exoplanets like TOI 1812.01 as they cross in front of, or transit, their host stars is a crucial component of confirming their nature as genuine planets and ensuring our ability to study those planetary systems in the future,” said Paul Dalba, SETI Institute research scientist and 51 Pegasi b Fellow of the Heising-Simons Foundation. “The specific properties of this planet, namely its long orbit and long transit duration, put it in a category where citizen science coordinated on a global level like the Unistellar Network can be extremely effective.”
    “This early success shows the power of putting science directly into peoples’ hands; a core principle of this SETI Institute, Unistellar, and NASA partnership,” added Tom Esposito, SETI Institute research assistant and Space Science Principal at Unistellar. “Citizen astronomers worldwide uniting to teach humanity about new planets discovered so many trillions of miles away is, simply put, amazing.”

    Exoplanet observation targets will be regularly announced here.

    Additional members of SETI Institute involved in this research are Senior Astronomer Franck Marchis, Education Specialist Daniel Peluso, and Citizen Science Researcher Lauren Sgro.

    This research was supported with a generous donation by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The scientific data were obtained using the Unistellar Network, which is managed jointly by Unistellar and the SETI Institute.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SETI Institute
    About The SETI Institute
    What is life? How does it begin? Are we alone? These are some of the questions we ask in our quest to learn about and share the wonders of the universe. At the SETI Institute we have a passion for discovery and for passing knowledge along as scientific ambassadors.

    The SETI Institute is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit scientific research institute headquartered in Mountain View, California. We are a key research contractor to NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and we collaborate with industry partners throughout Silicon Valley and beyond.

    Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute employs more than 130 scientists, educators, and administrative staff. Work at the SETI Institute is anchored by three centers: the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe (research), the Center for Education and the Center for Outreach.

    The SETI Institute welcomes philanthropic support from individuals, private foundations, corporations and other groups to support our education and outreach initiatives, as well as unfunded scientific research and fieldwork.

    A Special Thank You to SETI Institute Partners and Collaborators
    Campoalto, Chile, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Headquarters, National Science Foundation, Aerojet Rocketdyne,SRI International

    Frontier Development Lab Partners
    Breakthrough Prize Foundation, The European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), Google Cloud, IBM, Intel, KBRwyle. Kx Lockheed Martin, NASA Ames Research Center, Nvidia, SpaceResources Luxembourg, XPrize
    In-kind Service Providers
    • Gunderson Dettmer – General legal services, Hello Pilgrim – Website Design and Development Steptoe & Johnson – IP legal services, Danielle Futselaar

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft), the origins of the Institute’s search.

    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch.)

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    Alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego (US), discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument, developed at the U Toronto Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (CA) and brought to UCSD and installed at the UC Santa Cruz Lick Observatory Nickel Telescope (Photo by Laurie Hatch).

    Shelley Wright of UC San Diego with NIROSETI, developed at U Toronto Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (CA) at the 1-meter Nickel Telescope at Lick Observatory at UC Santa Cruz

    NIROSETI team from left to right Rem Stone UCO Lick Observatory Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley; Jérôme Maire, U Toronto; Shelley Wright, UCSD; Patrick Dorval, U Toronto; Richard Treffers, Starman Systems. (Image by Laurie Hatch).

    Laser SETI

    LaserSETI observatory installation at Haleakala Observatory in Maui, Hawai’i aimed East.

    There is also an installation at Robert Ferguson Observatory, Sonoma, CA aimed West for full coverage [no image available].

    SETI Institute – 189 Bernardo Ave., Suite 100
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    Phone 650.961.6633 – Fax 650-961-7099
    Privacy PolicyQuestions and Comments

    Also in the hunt, but not a part of the SETI Institute
    SETI@home, a BOINC [Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing] project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience. BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, developed at UC Berkeley.

  • richardmitnick 11:46 am on September 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Super-Earths are bigger and more common and more habitable than Earth itself – and astronomers are discovering more of the billions they think are out there", , Based on current projections about a third of all exoplanets are super-Earths., Exoplanet research, Most super-Earths orbit cool dwarf stars which are lower in mass and live much longer than the Sun., ,   

    From “The Conversation (AU)” : “Super-Earths are bigger and more common and more habitable than Earth itself – and astronomers are discovering more of the billions they think are out there” 

    From “The Conversation (AU)”

    Chris Impey
    University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy
    University of Arizona

    Astronomers think the most likely place to find life in the galaxy is on super-Earths, like Kepler-69c, seen in this artist’s rendering. NASA Ames/JPL-CalTech.

    “Astronomers now routinely discover planets orbiting stars outside of the solar system – they’re called exoplanets. But in summer 2022, teams working on NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite found a few particularly interesting planets orbiting in the habitable zones of their parent stars.

    One planet is 30% larger than Earth and orbits its star in less than three days. The other is 70% larger than the Earth and might host a deep ocean. These two exoplanets are super-Earths – more massive than the Earth but smaller than ice giants like Uranus and Neptune.

    I’m a professor of astronomy who studies galactic cores, distant galaxies, astrobiology and exoplanets. I closely follow the search for planets that might host life.

    Earth is still the only place in the universe scientists know to be home to life. It would seem logical to focus the search for life on Earth clones – planets with properties close to Earth’s. But research has shown that the best chance astronomers have of finding life on another planet is likely to be on a super-Earth similar to the ones found recently.

    A super-Earth is any rocky planet that is bigger than Earth and smaller than Neptune. Credit: Aldaron, CC BY-SA.

    Common and easy to find

    Most super-Earths orbit cool dwarf stars which are lower in mass and live much longer than the Sun. There are hundreds of cool dwarf stars for every star like the Sun, and scientists have found super-Earths orbiting 40% of cool dwarfs they have looked at. Using that number, astronomers estimate that there are tens of billions of super-Earths in habitable zones where liquid water can exist in the Milky Way alone. Since all life on Earth uses water, water is thought to be critical for habitability.

    Based on current projections about a third of all exoplanets are super-Earths, making them the most common type of exoplanet in the Milky Way. The nearest is only six light-years away from Earth. You might even say that our solar system is unusual since it does not have a planet with a mass between that of Earth and Neptune.

    Most exoplanets are discovered by looking for how they dim the light coming from their parent stars, so bigger planets are easier to find. Credit: Nikola Smolenski, CC BY-SA.

    Another reason super-Earths are ideal targets in the search for life is that they’re much easier to detect and study than Earth-sized planets. There are two methods astronomers use to detect exoplanets. One looks for the gravitational effect of a planet on its parent star and the other looks for brief dimming of a star’s light as the planet passes in front of it. Both of these detection methods are easier with a bigger planet.

    Super-Earths are super habitable

    Over 300 years ago, German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz argued that Earth was the “best of all possible worlds.” Leibniz’s argument was meant to address the question of why evil exists, but modern astrobiologists have explored a similar question by asking what makes a planet hospitable to life. It turns out that Earth is not the best of all possible worlds.

    Due to Earth’s tectonic activity and changes in the brightness of the Sun, the climate has veered over time from ocean-boiling hot to planet wide, deep-freeze cold. Earth has been uninhabitable for humans and other larger creatures for most of its 4.5-billion-year history. Simulations suggest the long-term habitability of Earth was not inevitable [Communications Earth & Environment (below)], but was a matter of chance. Humans are literally lucky to be alive.

    Researchers have come up with a list of the attributes that make a planet very conducive to life. Larger planets are more likely to be geologically active, a feature that scientists think would promote biological evolution. So the most habitable planet would have roughly twice the mass of the Earth and be between 20% and 30% larger by volume. It would also have oceans that are shallow enough for light to stimulate life all the way to the seafloor and an average temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). It would have an atmosphere thicker than the Earth’s that would act as an insulating blanket. Finally, such a planet would orbit a star older than the Sun to give life longer to develop, and it would have a strong magnetic field that protects against cosmic radiation. Scientists think that these attributes combined will make a planet super habitable.

    By definition, super-Earths have many of the attributes of a super habitable planet. To date, astronomers have discovered two dozen super-Earth exoplanets that are, if not the best of all possible worlds, theoretically more habitable than Earth.

    Recently, there’s been an exciting addition to the inventory of habitable planets. Astronomers have started discovering exoplanets that have been ejected from their star systems, and there could be billions of them roaming the Milky Way. If a super-Earth is ejected from its star system and has a dense atmosphere and watery surface, it could sustain life for tens of billions of years, far longer than life on Earth could persist before the Sun dies.

    One of the newly discovered super-Earths, TOI-1452b, might be covered in a deep ocean and could be conducive to life. Credit: Benoit Gougeon, Université de Montréal, CC BY-ND.

    Detecting life on super-Earths

    To detect life on distant exoplanets, astronomers will look for biosignatures, byproducts of biology that are detectable in a planet’s atmosphere.

    NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was designed before astronomers had discovered exoplanets, so the telescope is not optimized for exoplanet research. But it is able to do some of this science and is scheduled to target two potentially habitable super-Earths in its first year of operations. Another set of super-Earths with massive oceans discovered in the past few years, as well as the planets discovered this summer, are also compelling targets for James Webb.

    But the best chances for finding signs of life in exoplanet atmospheres will come with the next generation of giant, ground-based telescopes: the 39-meter Extremely Large Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope and the 24.5-meter Giant Magellan Telescope. These telescopes are all under construction and set to start collecting data by the end of the decade.

    Astronomers know that the ingredients for life are out there, but habitable does not mean inhabited. Until researchers find evidence of life elsewhere, it’s possible that life on Earth was a unique accident. While there are many reasons why a habitable world would not have signs of life, if, over the coming years, astronomers look at these super habitable super-Earths and find nothing, humanity may be forced to conclude that the universe is a lonely place.”

    Science paper:
    Communications Earth & Environment

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Conversation (AU) launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

  • richardmitnick 2:10 pm on September 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How will we recognize life elsewhere in the cosmos?", , , , Exoplanet research, , With scientists finding new and bizarre exoplanets each year searching for life as we know it might be too narrow a parameter.   

    From “Astronomy Magazine” : “How will we recognize life elsewhere in the cosmos?” 

    From “Astronomy Magazine”

    Conor Feehly

    With scientists finding new and bizarre exoplanets each year searching for life as we know it might be too narrow a parameter.

    Astronomers estimate that there are more exoplanets than stars in the Milky Way, but what might alien life look like on these worlds? Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    In the search for extraterrestrial life, astrobiologists face a bit of a conundrum: How wide of a net should they cast when searching for life elsewhere in the cosmos?

    After all, scientists have been shocked by the extreme environments life manages to thrive in here on Earth. So it isn’t too hard to imagine that the universe might be teeming with the unexpected. However, with human interplanetary travel still more science fiction than reality, researchers are limited by the technology and knowledge of life currently accessible. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get creative.

    Identifying candidates for life

    In astrobiology, a popular technique for determining whether an exoplanet might support extraterrestrial life involves analyzing the atmosphere of the planet via the transit method.

    When a distant star passes behind its exoplanet from the point of view of Earth, starlight filters through the atmosphere of the exoplanet before making its way to our instruments. Using a spectrograph, astronomers can separate that filtered starlight into its constituent components. Analyzing this resulting emission spectra can provide astronomers with a detailed log of the chemistry likely present in the atmosphere of the alien world.

    Astrobiologists who investigate the atmospheres of exoplanets this way are looking for what they call biosignatures, or chemical evidence for past or present life. Since we know that certain biological processes on Earth leave chemical traces in our atmosphere, if we manage to identify those same traces in the atmospheres of other planets, then we would have good reason to believe living organisms inhabit or inhabited those other worlds.

    Currently, the transit method has been mostly used to analyze giant, hot planets that orbit very near their host stars. That’s because they are much easier to spot and confirm, as these so-called “hot Jupiters” block more starlight more frequently than smaller, more distantly orbiting worlds.

    Researchers detected the basic chemistry for life in the hot gas planet HD 209458b. Credit: T. Pyle (SSC)/NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    But hot Jupiters are unlikely to be habitable locales for life — at least life as we know it. To fully realize the potential of the transit method in detecting possible life-supporting planets, astronomers must seek improvements in our technology for detecting and isolating the emission spectra of exoplanets.

    Fortunately, NASA’s proposed FINESSE mission, the European Space Agency’s proposed Exoplanet Spectroscopy Mission, and the recently launched Webb will provide scientists with a look at many new potential homes for extraterrestrial life, as well as provide them with a vastly improved ability to analyze the emission spectra of exoplanets.

    There are, however, certain problems with the biosignature method of detecting life on alien worlds.

    The problem with assumptions

    Some astrobiologists argue that we should be open to the possibility that extraterrestrial organisms could be very different to life as we know it. One of the most basic signs that an entity is an organism on Earth, that it produces carbon dioxide or water as a product of respiration or photosynthesis, may not apply as the universal indicator of life elsewhere in the cosmos.

    The super-Earth HD 219134b is a mere 21 light-years from our solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Even our understanding of biosignatures on Earth is still murky, as discoveries in exotic metabolic processes can attest. It is an ongoing debate as to how astrobiologists might distinguish between the chemical compositions of alien atmospheres that indicate the presence of life and those that don’t since we cannot assume that extraterrestrial life will produce the same biosignatures of living organisms on Earth.

    So, if the parameters set out for identifying life in the cosmos is currently too narrow, how can we search for extraterrestrial life if we don’t necessarily know what we are looking for?

    According to Princeton philosopher David Kinney and Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) principal investigator Christopher Kempes, we should be looking at planets with the strangest atmospheres.

    Strange bedfellows

    Planets with peculiar atmospheres, relative to a representative sample, should be regarded as the most likely settings for extraterrestrial life. The parameters for ‘anomalousness’ should be data-dependent, rather than being based on assumptions about life that may be Earth-centric.

    “Conceptually, there must be some common thread between all things in the universe that we want to describe as being alive,” says Kinney, who co-authored the paper, published June 22 in Biology & Philosophy [below], outlining their theory.

    In moving away from the assumption that the thread must be chemical, Kinney and Kempes hope to avoid some common pitfalls, namely abiotic processes that mimic biotic ones. “There has been a long history in exoplanet research of people finding abiotic mechanisms that produce candidate biosignature gases,” says Kinney. “Our method circumvents this issue a bit by saying ‘let the data tell us what is anomalous.’”

    Still their argument does rest on a few core assumptions. First that a given sample of exoplanets can be statistically representative of all the atmospheres in the universe. While over 5,000 exoplanet candidates have been confirmed, scientists estimate that there are hundreds of billions of planets within the Milky Way alone. It also assumes that life in that set of observable exoplanets is rare and that living organisms tend to leave biosignatures in the planets they inhabit.

    Although each of these assumptions can be questioned, it follows that if the chemical composition of a planet is unusual, then a possible cause of this unusual composition is that life exists on that planet. The foundation of their method comes from a paper published in Astrobiology [below] in 2016 in which a list of roughly 14,000 compounds likely to appear as gasses in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets’ is outlined.

    “A key takeaway from our paper is that when science is conducted under conditions of deep uncertainty, a scientist often must be willing to speculate,” says Kemples. “That is, they must be ready to make assumptions that go beyond their data, and to then explore the consequences of those assumptions. Whatever one discovers very likely won’t verify those initial assumptions, but this method can nevertheless lead to extraordinary breakthroughs.”

    Science papers:
    Biology & Philosophy

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Astronomy is a magazine about the science and hobby of Astronomy. Based near Milwaukee in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it is produced by Kalmbach Publishing. Astronomy’s readers include those interested in astronomy and those who want to know about sky events, observing techniques, astrophotography, and amateur astronomy in general.

    Astronomy was founded in 1973 by Stephen A. Walther, a graduate of The University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and amateur astronomer. The first issue, August 1973, consisted of 48 pages with five feature articles and information about what to see in the sky that month. Issues contained astrophotos and illustrations created by astronomical artists. Walther had worked part time as a planetarium lecturer at The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and developed an interest in photographing constellations at an early age. Although even in childhood he was interested to obsession in Astronomy, he did so poorly in mathematics that his mother despaired that he would ever be able to earn a living. However, he graduated in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and as a senior class project he created a business plan for a magazine for amateur astronomers. With the help of his brother David, he was able to bring the magazine to fruition. He died in 1977.

  • richardmitnick 10:59 am on September 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A thousand days of CHEOPS", Exoplanet research, , ,   

    From The University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH) and The University of Geneva [Université de Genève] (CH): “A thousand days of CHEOPS” 

    From The University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH)


    The University of Geneva [Université de Genève] (CH)

    Prof. Dr. Willy Benz
    Physics Institute, Space Research and Planetology (WP)
    University of Bern
    Phone +41 79 964 92 16

    Prof. Dr. David Ehrenreich
    Département d’Astronomie and NCCR PlanetS
    University of Geneva
    +41 22 379 23 90
    +33 650 396 354

    Dr. Andrea Fortier
    Physics Institute, Space Research and Planetology (WP)
    University of Bern
    +41 31 684 56 27/
    +41 78 729 85 68
    Email andrea.fortier@unibe.ch

    After a thousand days in orbit, the CHEOPS space telescope shows almost no signs of wear.
    Under these conditions, it could continue to reveal details of some of the most fascinating
    exoplanets for quite some time. CHEOPS is a joint mission by the European Space Agency
    (ESA) and Switzerland, under the aegis of the University of Bern in collaboration with the
    University of Geneva.

    Since its launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, on December 18th, 2019, the CHEOPS
    telescope in Earth’s orbit has demonstrated its functionality and precision beyond expectations. During
    this time, it has revealed the characteristics of numerous fascinating planets beyond our Solar System
    (exoplanets) and has become a key instrument for astronomers in Europe and worldwide.

    Enabling plentiful research across Europe

    In over a million of minutes of observation time, CHEOPS has revealed exoplanets from every angle:
    their night sides when they pass in front of their stars, their dayside when they pass behind their stars
    and all the phases in-between, just like the Moon. “The precise data we collected from CHEOPS has
    borne fruits: over fifty scientific papers have been published or are in the process of being submitted
    by over a hundred scientists forming the CHEOPS Science Team and working at dozens of institutions
    all over Europe”, Willy Benz, Professor emeritus of astrophysics at the University of Bern and head of
    the CHEOPS consortium, reports.

    This has been achieved without the possibility for international scientific team exploiting the instrument
    to meet physically due to the pandemic. Now, for the first time since the launch of CHEOPS, all
    involved scientists can finally meet in Padua, Italy, from 12 to 14 September. “It is the first time in three
    years that we can finally get together”, mission scientist David Ehrenreich and Professor of astronomy
    at the University of Geneva says. “It feels amazing to celebrate what we have discovered in 1000 days
    and discuss what we will do next.”

    Findings include, for example, the characterization of blisteringly hot, iron-evaporating atmospheres on
    planets that are so close to their stars that they are deformed into rugby-ball shapes by the immense
    gravitational forces. “By detecting a system with six planets, of which five orbit their star in a fragile
    harmony, CHEOPS has also given us glimpses into the formation of planetary systems”, Ehrenreich

    Just earlier this year, the space telescope once again demonstrated its astounding precision by measuring the faint light reflected by a planet located 159 light years away in the constellation Pegasus. “Although this planet, HD 209458b, is certainly the most studied exoplanet ever, we had to wait 22 years for CHEOPS and its amazing precision and dedication to be able to measure the visible light reflected from its atmosphere” Benz says proudly.

    A valuable and durable asset

    “Even after 1000 days in orbit, CHEOPS still works like a charm and only shows very small signs of
    wear, caused by energetic particles emitted by the Sun”, CHEOPS instrument scientist Andrea Fortier
    from the University of Bern says. Under these conditions, the researcher expects that CHEOPS could
    continue to observe other worlds for quite some time. “It will continue its mission around the Earth until
    at least September 2023 but the CHEOPS team is working with the European Space Agency and the
    Swiss Space Office to extend the mission until the end of 2025 and possibly even beyond”, Fortier

    The capabilities of CHEOPS could continue to serve the scientific community well, even now that the
    James Webb Space Telescope is in operation. “We are convinced with its high precision and flexibility,
    CHEOPS can act as a bridge between other instruments and Webb, as the powerful telescope needs
    precise information on potentially interesting observation targets. CHEOPS can deliver this information
    – and thus optimize the operation of Webb”, Willy Benz points out. This is already happening, as the
    Webb telescope will observe, later this year, several systems highlighted by CHEOPS.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The The University of Geneva [Université de Genève] (CH) is a public research university located in Geneva, Switzerland.

    It was founded in 1559 by John Calvin as a theological seminary and law school. It remained focused on theology until the 17th century, when it became a center for Enlightenment scholarship. In 1873, it dropped its religious affiliations and became officially secular. Today, the university is the third largest university in Switzerland by number of students. In 2009, the University of Geneva celebrated the 450th anniversary of its founding. Almost 40% of the students come from foreign countries.

    The university holds and actively pursues teaching, research, and community service as its primary objectives. In 2016, it was ranked 53rd worldwide by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, 89th by the QS World University Rankings, and 131st in the TIMES Higher Education World University Ranking.

    UNIGE is a member of the League of European Research Universities (EU) (including academic institutions such as University of Amsterdam [Universiteit van Amsterdam] (NL), University of Cambridge (UK), Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, [Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg] (DE), University of Helsinki [ Helsingin yliopisto; Helsingfors universitet] (FI) and University of Milan [Università degli Studi di Milano Statale] (IT)) the Coimbra Group (EU) and the European University Association (EU).

    The University of Bern [Universität Bern] (CH) is a university in the Swiss capital of Bern and was founded in 1834. It is regulated and financed by the Canton of Bern. It is a comprehensive university offering a broad choice of courses and programs in eight faculties and some 150 institutes. With around 17,512 students, Universität Bern is the third biggest University in Switzerland.

    Universität Bern operates at three levels: university, faculties and institutes. Other organizational units include interfaculty and general university units. The university’s highest governing body is the Senate, which is responsible for issuing statutes, rules and regulations. Directly answerable to the Senate is the University Board of Directors, the governing body for university management and coordination. The Board comprises the Rector, the Vice-Rectors and the Administrative Director. The structures and functions of the University Board of Directors and the other organizational units are regulated by the Universities Act. Universität Bern offers about 39 bachelor and 72 master programs, with enrollments of 7,747 and 4,523, respectively. The university also has 2,776 doctoral students. Around 1,561 bachelor, 1,489 master’s degree students and 570 PhD students graduate each year. For some time now, the university has had more female than male students; at the end of 2016, women accounted for 56% of students.

    Today the University of Bern is one of the top 150 universities in the world. In the QS World University Rankings 2019 it ranked 139th. The Shanghai Ranking (ARWU) 2018 ranked the University of Bern in the range 101st–150th in the world. In the Leiden Ranking 2015 it ranked 122nd in the world and 50th in Europe. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings it ranked 110th in 2018/2019 and 2016/2017 (and 82nd in Clinical, pre-clinical & health 2017).

  • richardmitnick 10:23 am on August 25, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Detects Carbon Dioxide in Exoplanet Atmosphere", , , , Exoplanet research, , The exoplanet WASP-39 b,   

    From The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope: “NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Detects Carbon Dioxide in Exoplanet Atmosphere” 

    NASA Webb Header

    National Aeronautics Space Agency/European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ Canadian Space Agency [Agence Spatiale Canadienne](CA) James Webb Infrared Space Telescope annotated, finally launched December 25, 2021, ten years late.

    From The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope


    Margaret W. Carruthers
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Christine Pulliam
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    SCIENCE: JWST Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science Team


    Exoplanet WASP-39 b and Its Star (Illustration)
    About This Image
    This illustration shows what exoplanet WASP-39 b could look like, based on current understanding of the planet.

    WASP-39 b is a hot, puffy gas giant with a mass 0.28 times Jupiter (0.94 times Saturn) and a diameter 1.3 times greater than Jupiter, orbiting just 0.0486 astronomical units (4,500,000 miles) from its star. The star, WASP-39, is fractionally smaller and less massive than the Sun. Because it is so close to its star, WASP-39 b is very hot and is likely to be tidally locked, with one side facing the star at all times.

    Data collected by Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) [below] show unambiguous evidence for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, while previous observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, as well as other telescopes, indicate the presence of water vapor, sodium, and potassium. The planet probably has clouds and some form of weather, but it may not have atmospheric bands like those of Jupiter and Saturn.

    This illustration is based on indirect transit observations from Webb as well as other space and ground-based telescopes. Webb has not captured a direct image of this planet.

    Credits: ARTWORK: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI).

    Exoplanet WASP-39 b (NIRSpec Transmission Spectrum)
    About This Image
    A transmission spectrum of the hot gas giant exoplanet WASP-39 b captured by Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) on July 10, 2022, reveals the first clear evidence for carbon dioxide in a planet outside the solar system. This is also the first detailed exoplanet transmission spectrum ever captured that covers wavelengths between 3 and 5.5 microns.

    A transmission spectrum is made by comparing starlight filtered through a planet’s atmosphere as it moves in front of the star, to the unfiltered starlight detected when the planet is beside the star. Each of the 95 data points (white circles) on this graph represents the amount of a specific wavelength of light that is blocked by the planet and absorbed by its atmosphere. Wavelengths that are preferentially absorbed by the atmosphere appear as peaks in the transmission spectrum. The peak centered around 4.3 microns represents the light absorbed by carbon dioxide.

    The gray lines extending above and below each data point are error bars that show the uncertainty of each measurement, or the reasonable range of actual possible values. For a single observation, the error on these measurements is extremely small.

    The blue line is a best-fit model that takes into account the data, the known properties of WASP-39 b and its star (e.g., size, mass, temperature), and assumed characteristics of the atmosphere. Researchers can vary the parameters in the model – changing unknown characteristics like cloud height in the atmosphere and abundances of various gases – to get a better fit and further understand what the atmosphere is really like. The model shown here assumes that the planet is made primarily of hydrogen and helium, with small amounts of water and carbon dioxide, and a thin veil of clouds.

    The observation was made using the NIRSpec PRISM bright object time-series mode, which involves using a prism to spread out light from a single bright object (like the star WASP-39) and measuring the brightness of each wavelength at set intervals of time.

    WASP-39 b is a hot gas giant exoplanet that orbits a Sun-like star roughly 700 light-years away, in the constellation Virgo. The planet orbits extremely close to its star (less than 1/20th the distance between Earth and the Sun) and completes one orbit in just over 4 Earth-days. The planet’s discovery, based on ground-based observations, was announced in 2011. The star, WASP-39, is roughly the same size, mass, temperature, and color as the Sun.

    The background illustration of WASP-39 b and its star is based on current understanding of the planet from Webb spectroscopy and previous ground- and space-based observations. Webb has not captured a direct image of the planet or its atmosphere.

    Credits: ILLUSTRATION: NASA, ESA, CSA, Leah Hustak (STScI), Joseph Olmsted (STScI).

    Exoplanet WASP-39 b (NIRSpec Transit Light Curves)
    About This Image
    A series of light curves from Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) shows the change in brightness of three different wavelengths (colors) of light from the WASP-39 star system over time as the planet transited the star on July 10, 2022. A transit occurs when an orbiting planet moves between the star and the telescope, blocking some of the light from the star.

    This observation was made using the NIRSpec PRISM bright object time-series mode, which involves using a prism to spread out light from a single bright object (like the star WASP-39) and measure the brightness of each wavelength at set intervals of time.

    To capture these data, Webb stared at the WASP-39 star system for more than eight hours, beginning about three hours before the transit and ending about two hours after the transit was complete. The transit itself lasted about three hours. Each curve shown here includes a total of 500 individual brightness measurements – about one per minute.

    Although all colors are blocked to some extent by the planet, some colors are blocked more than others. This occurs because each gas in the atmosphere absorbs different amounts of specific wavelengths. As a result, each color has a slightly different light curve. During the transit of WASP-39 b, light with a wavelength of 4.3 microns is not as bright as 3.0-micron or 4.7-micron light because it is absorbed by carbon dioxide.

    WASP-39 b is a hot gas giant exoplanet that orbits a Sun-like star roughly 700 light-years away, in the constellation Virgo. The planet orbits extremely close to its star (less than 1/20th the distance between Earth and the Sun) and completes one orbit in just over 4 Earth-days. The star, WASP-39, is roughly the same size, mass, temperature, and color as the Sun. The planet’s discovery, from ground-based observations, was announced in 2011.

    The background illustration of WASP-39 b and its star is based on current understanding of the planet from Webb spectroscopy and previous ground- and space-based observations. Webb has not captured a direct image of the planet or its atmosphere.

    Credits: ILLUSTRATION: NASA, ESA, CSA, Leah Hustak (STScI), Joseph Olmsted (STScI).


    Webb ushers in a new era of exoplanet science with the first unequivocal detection of carbon dioxide in a planetary atmosphere outside our solar system.

    After years of preparation and anticipation, exoplanet researchers are ecstatic. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured an astonishingly detailed rainbow of near-infrared starlight filtered through the atmosphere of a hot gas giant 700 light-years away. The transmission spectrum of exoplanet WASP-39 b, based on a single set of measurements made using Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph and analyzed by dozens of scientists, represents a hat trick of firsts: Webb’s first official scientific observation of an exoplanet; the first detailed exoplanet spectrum covering this range of near-infrared colors; and the first indisputable evidence for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a distant star. The results are indicative of Webb’s ability to spot key molecules like carbon dioxide in a wide variety of exoplanets – including smaller, cooler, rocky planets – providing insights into the composition, formation, and evolution of planets across the galaxy.
    NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the first clear evidence for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet outside the solar system. This observation of a gas giant planet orbiting a Sun-like star 700 light-years away provides important insights into the composition and formation of the planet. The finding, which is accepted for publication in Nature [below], offers evidence that in the future Webb may be able to detect and measure carbon dioxide in the thinner atmospheres of smaller, rocky planets.

    WASP-39 b is a hot gas giant with a mass roughly one-quarter that of Jupiter (about the same as Saturn) and a diameter 1.3 times greater than Jupiter. Its extreme puffiness is related in part to its high temperature (about 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit or 900 degrees Celsius). Unlike the cooler, more compact gas giants in our solar system, WASP-39 b orbits very close to its star – only about one-eighth the distance between the Sun and Mercury – completing one circuit in just over four Earth-days. The planet’s discovery, reported in 2011, was made based on ground-based detections of the subtle, periodic dimming of light from its host star as the planet transits, or passes in front of the star.

    Previous observations from other telescopes, including NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, revealed the presence of water vapor, sodium, and potassium in the planet’s atmosphere.

    Webb’s unmatched infrared sensitivity has now confirmed the presence of carbon dioxide on this planet as well.

    Filtered Starlight

    Transiting planets like WASP-39 b, whose orbits we observe edge-on rather than from above, can provide researchers with ideal opportunities to probe planetary atmospheres. During a transit, some of the starlight is eclipsed by the planet completely (causing the overall dimming) and some is transmitted through the planet’s atmosphere.

    Because different gases absorb different combinations of colors, researchers can analyze small differences in brightness of the transmitted light across a spectrum of wavelengths to determine exactly what an atmosphere is made of. With its combination of inflated atmosphere and frequent transits, WASP-39 b is an ideal target for transmission spectroscopy.

    First Clear Detection of Carbon Dioxide

    The research team used Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) [below] for its observations of WASP-39 b. In the resulting spectrum of the exoplanet’s atmosphere, a small hill between 4.1 and 4.6 microns presents the first clear, detailed evidence for carbon dioxide ever detected in a planet outside the solar system.

    “As soon as the data appeared on my screen, the whopping carbon dioxide feature grabbed me,” said Zafar Rustamkulov, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University and member of the JWST Transiting Exoplanet Community Early Release Science team, which undertook this investigation. “It was a special moment, crossing an important threshold in exoplanet sciences.”

    No observatory has ever measured such subtle differences in brightness of so many individual colors across the 3 to 5.5-micron range in an exoplanet transmission spectrum before. Access to this part of the spectrum is crucial for measuring abundances of gases like water and methane, as well as carbon dioxide, which are thought to exist in many different types
    of exoplanets.

    “Detecting such a clear signal of carbon dioxide on WASP-39 b bodes well for the detection of atmospheres on smaller, terrestrial-sized planets,” said Natalie Batalha of the University of California-Santa Cruz, who leads the team.

    Understanding the composition of a planet’s atmosphere is important because it tells us something about the origin of the planet and how it evolved. “Carbon dioxide molecules are sensitive tracers of the story of planet formation,” said Mike Line of Arizona State University, another member of this research team. “By measuring this carbon dioxide feature, we can determine how much solid versus how much gaseous material was used to form this gas giant planet. In the coming decade, JWST will make this measurement for a variety of planets, providing insight into the details of how planets form and the uniqueness of our own solar system.”

    Early Release Science

    This NIRSpec prism observation of WASP-39 b is just one part of a larger investigation that includes observations of the planet using multiple Webb instruments, as well as observations of two other transiting planets. The investigation, which is part of the Early Release Science program, was designed to provide the exoplanet research community with robust Webb data as soon as possible.

    “The goal is to analyze the Early Release Science observations quickly and develop open-source tools for the science community to use,” explained Vivien Parmentier, a co-investigator from Oxford University. “This enables contributions from all over the world and ensures that the best possible science will come out of the coming decades of observations.”

    Natasha Batalha, co-author on the paper from NASA’s Ames Research Center, adds that “NASA’s open science guiding principles are centered in our Early Release Science work, supporting an inclusive, transparent, and collaborative scientific process.”

    Science paper:

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Webb was finally launched December 25, 2021, ten years late. The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s largest, most powerful, and most complex space science telescope ever built. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

    Webb telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    Webb telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

    Webb is an international collaboration between National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center managed the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.

    Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

    There are four science instruments on Webb: The Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), The Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRspec), The Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), and The Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS-NIRISS). Webb’s instruments are designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. It will be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 28 micrometers in wavelength.
    National Aeronautics Space Agency Webb NIRCam.

    The European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) Webb MIRI schematic.

    Webb Fine Guidance Sensor-Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph FGS/NIRISS.

    Webb has four main science themes: The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization, The Assembly of Galaxies, The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems, and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

    Launch was December 25, 2021 on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch was from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb is located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

    ESA50 Logo large

    Canadian Space Agency

  • richardmitnick 11:30 am on August 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "An extrasolar world covered in water?", Exoplanet research, Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic, The exoplanet TOI-1452 b,   

    From The University of Montréal [Université de Montréal] (CA) : “An extrasolar world covered in water?” 

    From The University of Montréal [Université de Montréal] (CA)

    Marie-Eve Naud

    With the help of instruments designed partly in Canada, a team of Université de Montréal astronomers have discovered an exoplanet that could be completely covered in water, a target they hope to observe with the Webb telescope soon.

    Artistic rendition of the exoplanet TOI-1452 b, a small planet that may be entirely covered in a deep ocean. Credit: Benoit Gougeon, Université de Montréal.

    An international team of researchers led by Charles Cadieux, a Ph.D. student at the Université de Montréal and member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), has announced the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting TOI-1452, one of two small stars in a binary system located in the Draco constellation about 100 light-years from Earth.

    The exoplanet, known as TOI-1452 b, is slightly greater in size and mass than Earth and is located at distance from its star where its temperature would be neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on its surface. The astronomers believe it could be an “ocean planet,” a planet completely covered by a thick layer of water, similar to some of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons.

    In an article published on August 12th in The Astronomical Journal [below], Cadieux and his team describe the observations that elucidated the nature and characteristics of this unique exoplanet.

    “I’m extremely proud of this discovery because it shows the high calibre of our researchers and instrumentation,” said René Doyon, Université de Montréal Professor and Director of iREx and of the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic (OMM). “It is thanks to the OMM, a special instrument designed in our labs called SPIRou and an innovative analytic method developed by our research team that we were able to detect this one-of-a-kind exoplanet.”

    Key role of the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic

    It was NASA’s space telescope TESS, which surveys the entire sky in search of planetary systems similar to our own, that put the researchers on the trail of TOI-1452 b.

    Based on the TESS signal, which showed a slight decrease in brightness every 11 days, astronomers predicted a planet that has a diameter about 70% larger than that of Earth.

    Charles Cadieux belongs to a group of astronomers that does ground follow-up observations of candidates identified by TESS in order to confirm their planet type and characteristics. He uses PESTO, a camera installed on the OMM’s telescope that was developed by Université de Montréal Professor David Lafrenière and his Ph.D. student François-René Lachapelle.

    “The OMM played a crucial role in confirming the nature of this signal and estimating the planet’s radius,” explained Cadieux. “This was no routine check. We had to make sure the signal detected by TESS was really caused by an exoplanet circling TOI-1452, the largest of the two stars in that binary system.”

    The host star TOI-1452 is much smaller than our Sun and is one of two of similar size stars in a binary system. The two stars orbit each other and are separated by such a small distance — 97 astronomical units, or about two and a half times the distance between the Sun and Pluto — that the TESS telescope sees them as a single point of light. But PESTO’s resolution is high enough to distinguish the two objects, and the images showed that the exoplanet does orbit TOI-1452, which was confirmed through subsequent observations by a Japanese team.

    Science paper:
    The Astronomical Journal

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Université de Montréal is a French-language public research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university’s main campus is located on the northern slope of Mount Royal in the neighbourhoods of Outremont and Côte-des-Neiges. The institution comprises thirteen faculties, more than sixty departments and two affiliated schools: the Polytechnique Montréal (School of Engineering; formerly the École Polytechnique de Montréal) and HEC Montréal (School of Business). It offers more than 650 undergraduate programmes and graduate programmes, including 71 doctoral programmes.

    The university was founded as a satellite campus of the Université Laval in 1878. It became an independent institution after it was issued a papal charter in 1919 and a provincial charter in 1920. Université de Montréal moved from Montreal’s Quartier Latin to its present location at Mount Royal in 1942. It was made a secular institution with the passing of another provincial charter in 1967.

    The school is co-educational, and has 34,335 undergraduate and 11,925 post-graduate students (excluding affiliated schools). Alumni and former students reside across Canada and around the world, with notable alumni serving as government officials, academics, and business leaders.


    Université de Montréal is a member of the U15, a group that represents 15 Canadian research universities. The university includes 465 research units and departments. In 2018, Research Infosource ranked the university third in their list of top 50 research universities; with a sponsored research income (external sources of funding) of $536.238 million in 2017. In the same year, the university’s faculty averaged a sponsored research income of $271,000, while its graduates averaged a sponsored research income of $33,900.

    Université de Montréal research performance has been noted in several bibliometric university rankings, which uses citation analysis to evaluate the impact a university has on academic publications. In 2019, The Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities ranked the university 104th in the world, and fifth in Canada. The University Ranking by Academic Performance 2018–19 rankings placed the university 99th in the world, and fifth in Canada.

    Since 2017, Université de Montréal has partnered with the McGill University (CA) on Mila (research institute), a community of professors, students, industrial partners and startups working in AI, with over 500 researchers making the institute the world’s largest academic research center in deep learning. The institute was originally founded in 1993 by Professor Yoshua Bengio.

  • richardmitnick 9:04 am on August 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Brightest stars in the night sky can strip planets to their rocky cores", , , , , Exoplanet research, Neptune-sized planet — called HD 56414 b, , Planets orbiting A-type stars experience much more near-ultraviolet radiation than X-ray radiation or extreme ultraviolet radiation., , Warm Neptunes   

    From The University of California-Berkeley: “Brightest stars in the night sky can strip planets to their rocky cores” 

    From The University of California-Berkeley

    Robert Sanders

    Artist’s concept of a Neptune-sized planet, left, around a blue, A-type star. UC Berkeley astronomers have discovered a hard-to-find gas giant around one of these bright, but short-lived, stars, right at the edge of the hot Neptune desert where the star’s strong radiation likely strips any giant planet of its gas. (Image credit: Steven Giacalone, UC Berkeley)

    Over the last 25 years, astronomers have found thousands of exoplanets around stars in our galaxy, but more than 99% of them orbit smaller stars — from red dwarfs to stars slightly more massive than our sun, which is considered an average-sized star.

    Few have been discovered around even more massive stars, such as A-type stars — bright blue stars twice as large as the sun — and most of the exoplanets that have been observed are the size of Jupiter or larger. Some of the brightest stars in the night sky, such as Sirius and Vega, are A-type stars.

    University of California-Berkeley astronomers now report a new, Neptune-sized planet — called HD 56414 b — around one of these hot-burning, but short-lived, A-type stars and provide a hint about why so few gas giants smaller than Jupiter have been seen around the brightest 1% of stars in our galaxy.

    Current exoplanet detection methods most easily find planets with short, rapid orbital periods around their stars, but this newly found planet has a longer orbital period than most discovered to date. The researchers suggest that an easier-to-find Neptune-sized planet sitting closer to a bright A-type star would be rapidly stripped of its gas by the harsh stellar radiation and reduced to an undetectable core.

    While this theory has been proposed to explain so-called hot Neptune deserts around redder stars, whether this extended to hotter stars — A-type stars are about 1.5 to 2 times hotter than the sun — was unknown because of the dearth of planets known around some of the galaxy’s brightest stars.

    “It’s one of the smallest planets that we know of around these really massive stars,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Steven Giacalone. “In fact, this is the hottest star we know of with a planet smaller than Jupiter. This planet’s interesting first and foremost because these types of planets are really hard to find, and we’re probably not going to find many like them in the foreseeable future.”

    Hot Neptune desert

    The discovery of what the researchers term a “warm Neptune” just outside the zone where the planet would have been stripped of its gas suggests that bright, A-type stars may have numerous unseen cores within the hot Neptune zone that are waiting to be discovered through more sensitive techniques.

    Astronomers have found thousands of exoplanets (black dots) around stars in the Milky Way galaxy, but few Neptune-sized planets have been discovered in short-period orbits around their stars, creating what astronomers call a Hot Neptune desert (pink region, representing planets with radii 3-10 times that of Earth with orbital periods under 3 days). A new-found Neptune-sized planet (yellow star) suggests that they don’t survive long enough to detect. The planets on this chart were discovered when they crossed in front of or transited their star, dimming its light. Current techniques are limited to finding planets in close, short-period orbits, less than about 100 days. (Graphic by Steven Giacalone, using data courtesy of NASA)

    “We might expect to see a pileup of remnant Neptunian cores at short orbital periods” around such stars, the researchers concluded in their paper.

    The discovery also adds to our understanding of how planetary atmospheres evolve, said Courtney Dressing, UC Berkeley assistant professor of astronomy.

    “There’s a big question about just how do planets retain their atmospheres over time,” Dressing said. “When we’re looking at smaller planets, are we looking at the atmosphere that it was formed with when it originally formed from an accretion disk? Are we looking at an atmosphere that was outgassed from the planet over time? If we’re able to look at planets receiving different amounts of light from their star, especially different wavelengths of light, which is what the A stars allow us to do — it allows us to change the ratio of X-ray to ultraviolet light — then we can try to see how exactly a planet keeps its atmosphere over time.”

    Giacalone and Dressing reported their discovery in a paper accepted by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    According to Dressing, it’s well-established that highly-irradiated, Neptune-sized planets orbiting less massive, sun-like stars are rarer than expected. But whether this holds for planets orbiting A-type stars is not known because those planets are challenging to detect.

    And an A-type star is a different animal from smaller F, G, K and M dwarfs. Close-in planets orbiting sun-like stars receive high amounts of both X-ray and ultraviolet radiation, but close-in planets orbiting A-type stars experience much more near-ultraviolet radiation than X-ray radiation or extreme ultraviolet radiation.

    “Determining whether the hot Neptune desert also extends to A-type stars provides insight into the importance of near-ultraviolet radiation in governing atmospheric escape,” she said. “This result is important for understanding the physics of atmospheric mass loss and investigating the formation and evolution of small planets.”

    The planet HD 56414 b was detected by NASA’s TESS mission as it transited its star, HD 56414.

    Dressing, Giacalone and their colleagues confirmed that HD 56414 was an A-type star by obtaining spectra with the 1.5-meter telescope operated by the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS) Consortium at Cerro Tololo in Chile.

    The planet has a radius 3.7 times that of Earth and orbits the star every 29 days at a distance equal to about one-quarter the distance between Earth and the sun. The system is roughly 420 million years old, much younger than our sun’s 4.5-billion-year age.

    The researchers modeled the effect that radiation from the star would have on the planet and concluded that, while the star may be slowly whittling away at its atmosphere, it would likely survive for a billion years — beyond the point at which the star is expected to burn out and collapse, producing a supernova.

    Giacalone said that Jupiter-sized planets are less susceptible to photoevaporation because their cores are massive enough to hold onto their hydrogen gas.

    “There’s this balance between the central mass of the planet and how puffy the atmosphere is,” he said. “For planets the size of Jupiter or larger, the planet is massive enough to gravitationally hold on to its puffy atmosphere. As you move down to planets the size of Neptune, the atmosphere is still puffy, but the planet is not as massive, so they can lose their atmospheres more easily.”

    Giacalone and Dressing continue to search for more Neptune-sized exoplanets around A-type stars, in hopes of finding others in or near the hot Neptune desert, to understand where these planets form in the accretion disk during star formation, whether they move inward or outward over time, and how their atmospheres evolve.

    The work was supported by a FINESST award from NASA (80NSSC20K1549) and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (2019-69648).

    Science paper:
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of California-Berkeley is a public land-grant research university in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868 as the state’s first land-grant university, it was the first campus of the University of California system and a founding member of the Association of American Universities . Its 14 colleges and schools offer over 350 degree programs and enroll some 31,000 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students. Berkeley is ranked among the world’s top universities by major educational publications.

    Berkeley hosts many leading research institutes, including the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and the Space Sciences Laboratory. It founded and maintains close relationships with three national laboratories at The DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, The DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and The DOE’s Los Alamos National Lab, and has played a prominent role in many scientific advances, from the Manhattan Project and the discovery of 16 chemical elements to breakthroughs in computer science and genomics. Berkeley is also known for student activism and the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s.

    Berkeley alumni and faculty count among their ranks 110 Nobel laureates (34 alumni), 25 Turing Award winners (11 alumni), 14 Fields Medalists, 28 Wolf Prize winners, 103 MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipients, 30 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 19 Academy Award winners. The university has produced seven heads of state or government; five chief justices, including Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren; 21 cabinet-level officials; 11 governors; and 25 living billionaires. It is also a leading producer of Fulbright Scholars, MacArthur Fellows, and Marshall Scholars. Berzerkeley alumni, widely recognized for their entrepreneurship, have founded many notable companies.

    Berkeley’s athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA, primarily in the Pac-12 Conference, and are collectively known as the California Golden Bears. The university’s teams have won 107 national championships, and its students and alumni have won 207 Olympic medals.

    Made possible by President Lincoln’s signing of the Morrill Act in 1862, the University of California was founded in 1868 as the state’s first land-grant university by inheriting certain assets and objectives of the private College of California and the public Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College. Although this process is often incorrectly mistaken for a merger, the Organic Act created a “completely new institution” and did not actually merge the two precursor entities into the new university. The Organic Act states that the “University shall have for its design, to provide instruction and thorough and complete education in all departments of science, literature and art, industrial and professional pursuits, and general education, and also special courses of instruction in preparation for the professions”.

    Ten faculty members and 40 students made up the fledgling university when it opened in Oakland in 1869. Frederick H. Billings, a trustee of the College of California, suggested that a new campus site north of Oakland be named in honor of Anglo-Irish philosopher George Berkeley. The university began admitting women the following year. In 1870, Henry Durant, founder of the College of California, became its first president. With the completion of North and South Halls in 1873, the university relocated to its Berkeley location with 167 male and 22 female students.

    Beginning in 1891, Phoebe Apperson Hearst made several large gifts to Berkeley, funding a number of programs and new buildings and sponsoring, in 1898, an international competition in Antwerp, Belgium, where French architect Émile Bénard submitted the winning design for a campus master plan.

    20th century

    In 1905, the University Farm was established near Sacramento, ultimately becoming the University of California-Davis. In 1919, Los Angeles State Normal School became the southern branch of the University, which ultimately became the University of California-Los Angeles. By 1920s, the number of campus buildings had grown substantially and included twenty structures designed by architect John Galen Howard.

    In 1917, one of the nation’s first ROTC programs was established at Berkeley and its School of Military Aeronautics began training pilots, including Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. Berkeley ROTC alumni include former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Army Chief of Staff Frederick C. Weyand as well as 16 other generals. In 1926, future fleet admiral Chester W. Nimitz established the first Naval ROTC unit at Berkeley.

    In the 1930s, Ernest Lawrence helped establish the Radiation Laboratory (now DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and invented the cyclotron, which won him the Nobel physics prize in 1939. Using the cyclotron, Berkeley professors and Berkeley Lab researchers went on to discover 16 chemical elements—more than any other university in the world. In particular, during World War II and following Glenn Seaborg’s then-secret discovery of plutonium, Ernest Orlando Lawrence’s Radiation Laboratory began to contract with the U.S. Army to develop the atomic bomb. Physics professor J. Robert Oppenheimer was named scientific head of the Manhattan Project in 1942. Along with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berzerkeley founded and was then a partner in managing two other labs, The Doe’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (1943) and The DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (1952).

    By 1942, the American Council on Education ranked Berkeley second only to Harvard University in the number of distinguished departments.

    In 1952, the University of California reorganized itself into a system of semi-autonomous campuses, with each campus given its own chancellor, and Clark Kerr became Berkeley’s first Chancellor, while Sproul remained in place as the President of the University of California.

    Berkeley gained a worldwide reputation for political activism in the 1960s. In 1964, the Free Speech Movement organized student resistance to the university’s restrictions on political activities on campus—most conspicuously, student activities related to the Civil Rights Movement. The arrest in Sproul Plaza of Jack Weinberg, a recent Berkeley alumnus and chair of Campus CORE, in October 1964, prompted a series of student-led acts of formal remonstrance and civil disobedience that ultimately gave rise to the Free Speech Movement, which movement would prevail and serve as precedent for student opposition to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

    In 1982, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) was established on campus with support from the National Science Foundation and at the request of three Berzerkeley mathematicians — Shiing-Shen Chern, Calvin Moore and Isadore M. Singer. The institute is now widely regarded as a leading center for collaborative mathematical research, drawing thousands of visiting researchers from around the world each year.

    21st century

    In the current century, Berkeley has become less politically active and more focused on entrepreneurship and fundraising, especially for STEM disciplines.

    Modern Berkeley students are less politically radical, with a greater percentage of moderates and conservatives than in the 1960s and 70s. Democrats outnumber Republicans on the faculty by a ratio of 9:1. On the whole, Democrats outnumber Republicans on American university campuses by a ratio of 10:1.

    In 2007, the Energy Biosciences Institute was established with funding from BP and Stanley Hall, a research facility and headquarters for the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, opened. The next few years saw the dedication of the Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, funded by a lead gift from billionaire Li Ka-shing; the opening of Sutardja Dai Hall, home of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society; and the unveiling of Blum Hall, housing the Blum Center for Developing Economies. Supported by a grant from alumnus James Simons, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing was established in 2012. In 2014, Berkeley and its sister campus, University of California-San Fransisco, established the Innovative Genomics Institute, and, in 2020, an anonymous donor pledged $252 million to help fund a new center for computing and data science.

    Since 2000, Berkeley alumni and faculty have received 40 Nobel Prizes, behind only Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology among US universities; five Turing Awards, behind only MIT and Stanford University; and five Fields Medals, second only to Princeton University. According to PitchBook, Berkeley ranks second, just behind Stanford University, in producing VC-backed entrepreneurs.

    UC Berzerkeley Seal

  • richardmitnick 8:39 am on August 9, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Discovery of new exoplanet raises questions about planet formation", , AS 209 is one of several young star systems being studied by the ALMA telescope for clues to planet formation., , , , , Exoplanet research, , ,   

    From The University of Florida: “Discovery of new exoplanet raises questions about planet formation” 

    From The University of Florida

    AS 209 is one of several young star systems being studied by the ALMA telescope for clues to planet formation. (ALMA/DSHARP)

    Astronomers have identified one of the youngest exoplanets ever discovered, hidden in the swirl of gas around a newly born star 390 light-years from Earth.

    The Jupiter-sized world offers two key opportunities to scientists studying how all planets, including those in our own solar system, develop. A mere 1.5-million-year-old infant compared to its probable lifespan of billions of years, the planet is so young it can still provide clues about its birth. And this study marks the first time astronomers have analyzed an exoplanet’s surrounding disk of gas, which not only provides more information about the planet’s past but also how its future moons will develop.

    “The best way to study planet formation is to observe planets while they’re forming,” said Jaehan Bae, the University of Florida professor of astronomy who led the new discovery.

    Bae and his international team of collaborators, including UF doctoral student Maria Galloway-Sprietsma, published their findings July 27 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters [below].

    Clues to our past

    “I was always curious to learn how our solar system planets had formed in the past,” Bae said. “We can study planets in our solar system directly in many ways. We can get samples of planets, asteroids and comets. But we still can’t see what happened in the past.”

    The next best thing to seeing into our own solar system’s history is for scientists like Bae to study the birth of exoplanets, those worlds that orbit stars other than our own sun. So Bae’s team turned to ALMA, a clever array of dozens of radio antennas in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile that is powerful enough to spot these far flung planets.

    By combining signals from antennas spread across miles of desert, ALMA acts as a single, enormous telescope.

    The research group focused on a young star system known as AS 209, one of five stars being studied as a part of a broader ALMA program, known as MAPS, designed to expand out understanding of the chemistry of planet formation.

    Scientists can look for clues in each star’s circumstellar disk, the flattened circle of material leftover after the star coalesces in the center of the system. Our solar system once hosted such a disk, and it eventually coalesced into the eight planets.

    The AS 209 circumstellar disk has several distinct rings, akin to the rings surrounding Saturn. After analyzing gaps in these rings and other anomalies in the AS 209 disk, the researchers identified the young planet, surrounded by a cloud of material known as a circumplanetary disk.

    Because the new study is the first to measure the gas of this surrounding material, it provides a much more complete picture of planet formation than previous studies could accomplish.

    “Most of the circumplanetary disk mass is in the gas, not the solid particles. If you see only solid particles in the system, then you’re studying a minor component of the disk,” Bae said. “And in fact one thing we found is the gas-to-dust mass ratio is much, much larger than previously expected, at least 1000-to-1.”

    New mysteries

    While the planet’s young age and surrounding gas will help astronomers answer existing questions about planet formation, the planet offers up new mysteries of its own.

    Namely: How did it form so far away from its own star?

    Bae’s team pinpointed the exoplanet at a whopping 200 astronomical units from the AS 209 star. One astronomical unit is the distance between the Earth and the sun. Neptune, the most distant planet, sits at 30 astronomical units, while Pluto orbits roughly 40 astronomical units out from the sun. Beyond that, as far as scientists know, lies nothing but a cloud of small asteroids, comets, and dwarf planets.

    Bae’s team has proposed two main models for how the planet formed at this immense distance. In one, the young star’s own gravity jostled the leftover disk of material enough to seed a new planet. The other model relies on the planet seeding itself through the slow accumulation of tiny particles of solid material until there’s enough mass to form a large core.

    But neither model sits neatly with the data. The circumstellar disk of the young star seems too small for its gravity to have initiated planet formation at this distance. At the same time, astronomers saw little evidence of the kind of tiny, grain-of-sand-sized particles that clump together to eventually form a planet’s core at the distance of the new exoplanet.

    Fortunately, the researchers may not have to wait much longer to get a clearer picture of the planet’s unusual genesis. They have been approved for an early analysis with the new James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope will observe the AS 209 system this month, which will provide key information that could untangle the mystery.

    “That’s what makes this system really exciting,” said Bae. “We can follow it with future observations.”

    Science paper:
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Florida is a public land-grant research university in Gainesville, Florida. It is a senior member of the State University System of Florida, traces its origins to 1853, and has operated continuously on its Gainesville campus since September 1906.

    After the Florida state legislature’s creation of performance standards in 2013, the Florida Board of Governors designated the University of Florida as one of the three “preeminent universities” among the twelve universities of the State University System of Florida. For 2022, U.S. News & World Report ranked Florida as the 5th (tied) best public university and 28th (tied) best university in the United States. The University of Florida is the only member of the Association of American Universities in Florida and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”.

    The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). It is the third largest Florida university by student population, and is the fifth largest single-campus university in the United States with 57,841 students enrolled for during the 2020–21 school year. The University of Florida is home to 16 academic colleges and more than 150 research centers and institutes. It offers multiple graduate professional programs—including business administration, engineering, law, dentistry, medicine, pharmacy and veterinary medicine—on one contiguous campus, and administers 123 master’s degree programs and 76 doctoral degree programs in eighty-seven schools and departments. The university’s seal is also the seal of the state of Florida, which is on the state flag, though in blue rather than multiple colors.

    The University of Florida’s intercollegiate sports teams, commonly known as the “Florida Gators”, compete in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). In their 111-year history, the university’s varsity sports teams have won 42 national team championships, 37 of which are NCAA titles, and Florida athletes have won 275 individual national championships. In addition, as of 2021, University of Florida students and alumni have won 143 Olympic medals, including 69 gold medals.

    The University of Florida traces its origins to 1853, when the East Florida Seminary, the oldest of the University of Florida’s four predecessor institutions, was founded in Ocala, Florida.

    On January 6, 1853, Governor Thomas Brown signed a bill that provided public support for higher education in Florida. Gilbert Kingsbury was the first person to take advantage of the legislation, and established the East Florida Seminary, which operated until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The East Florida Seminary was Florida’s first state-supported institution of higher learning.

    James Henry Roper, an educator from North Carolina and a state senator from Alachua County, had opened a school in Gainesville, the Gainesville Academy, in 1858. In 1866, Roper offered his land and school to the State of Florida in exchange for the East Florida Seminary’s relocation to Gainesville.

    The second major precursor to the University of Florida was the Florida Agricultural College, established at Lake City by Jordan Probst in 1884. Florida Agricultural College became the state’s first land-grant college under the Morrill Act. In 1903, the Florida Legislature, looking to expand the school’s outlook and curriculum beyond its agricultural and engineering origins, changed the name of Florida Agricultural College to the “University of Florida,” a name the school would hold for only two years.

    In 1905, the Florida Legislature passed the Buckman Act, which consolidated the state’s publicly supported higher education institutions. The member of the legislature who wrote the act, Henry Holland Buckman, later became the namesake of Buckman Hall, one of the first buildings constructed on the new university’s campus. The Buckman Act organized the State University System of Florida and created the Florida Board of Control to govern the system. It also abolished the six pre-existing state-supported institutions of higher education, and consolidated the assets and academic programs of four of them to form the new “University of the State of Florida.” The four predecessor institutions consolidated to form the new university included the University of Florida at Lake City (formerly Florida Agricultural College) in Lake City, the East Florida Seminary in Gainesville, the St. Petersburg Normal and Industrial School in St. Petersburg, and the South Florida Military College in Bartow.

    The Buckman Act also consolidated the colleges and schools into three institutions segregated by race and gender—the University of the State of Florida for white men, the Florida Female College for white women, and the State Normal School for Colored Students for African-American men and women.

    The City of Gainesville, led by its mayor William Reuben Thomas, campaigned to be home to the new university. On July 6, 1905, the Board of Control selected Gainesville for the new university campus. Andrew Sledd, president of the pre-existing University of Florida at Lake City, was selected to be the first president of the new University of the State of Florida. The 1905–1906 academic year was a year of transition; the new University of the State of Florida was legally created, but operated on the campus of the old University of Florida in Lake City until the first buildings on the new campus in Gainesville were complete. Architect William A. Edwards designed the first official campus buildings in the Collegiate Gothic style. Classes began on the new Gainesville campus on September 26, 1906, with 102 students enrolled.

    In 1909, the school’s name was simplified from the “University of the State of Florida” to the “University of Florida.”

    The alligator was incidentally chosen as the school mascot in 1911, after a local vendor ordered and sold school pennants imprinted with an alligator emblem since the animal is very common in freshwater habitats in the Gainesville area and throughout the state. The mascot was a popular choice, and the university’s sports teams quickly adopted the nickname.

    The school colors of orange and blue were also officially established in 1911, though the reasons for the choice are unclear. The most likely rationale was that they are a combination of the colors of the university’s two largest predecessor institutions, as the East Florida Seminary used orange and black while Florida Agricultural College used blue and white. The older school’s colors may have been an homage to early Scottish and Ulster-Scots Presbyterian settlers of north central Florida, whose ancestors were originally from Northern Ireland and the Scottish Lowlands.

    In 1909, Albert Murphree was appointed the university’s second president. He organized the university into several colleges, increased enrollment from under 200 to over 2,000, and was instrumental in the founding of the Florida Blue Key leadership society. Murphree is the only University of Florida president honored with a statue on campus.

    In 1924, the Florida Legislature mandated women of a “mature age” (at least twenty-one years old) who had completed sixty semester hours from a “reputable educational institution” be allowed to enroll during regular semesters at the University of Florida in programs that were unavailable at Florida State College for Women. Before this, only the summer semester was coeducational, to accommodate women teachers who wanted to further their education during the summer break. Lassie Goodbread-Black from Lake City became the first woman to enroll at the University of Florida, in the College of Agriculture in 1925.

    John J. Tigert became the third university president in 1928. Disgusted by the under-the-table payments being made by universities to athletes, Tigert established the grant-in-aid athletic scholarship program in the early 1930s, which was the genesis of the modern athletic scholarship plan used by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Inventor and educator Blake R Van Leer was hired as Dean to launch new engineering departments and scholarships. Van Leer also managed all applications for federal funding, chaired the Advanced Planning Committee per Tigert’s request. These efforts included consulting for the Florida Emergency Relief Administration throughout the 1930s.

    Beginning in 1946, there was dramatically increased interest among male applicants who wanted to attend the University of Florida, mostly returning World War II veterans who could attend college under the GI Bill of Rights (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act). Unable to immediately accommodate this increased demand, the Florida Board of Control opened the Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida on the campus of Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee. By the end of the 1946–47 school year, 954 men were enrolled at the Tallahassee Branch. The following semester, the Florida Legislature returned the Florida State College for Women to coeducational status and renamed it Florida State University. These events also opened up all of the colleges that comprise the University of Florida to female students. Florida Women’s Hall of Fame member Marylyn Van Leer became the first woman to receive a master’s degree in engineering. African-American students were allowed to enroll starting in 1958. Shands Hospital opened in 1958 along with the University of Florida College of Medicine to join the established College of Pharmacy. Rapid campus expansion began in the 1950s and continues today.

    The University of Florida is one of three Florida public universities, along with Florida State University and the University of South Florida, to be designated as a “preeminent university” by Florida senate bill 1076, enacted by the Florida legislature and signed into law by the governor in 2013. As a result, the preeminent universities receive additional funding to improve the academics and national reputation of higher education within the state of Florida.

    In 1985, the University of Florida was invited to join The Association of American Universities, an organization of sixty-two academically prominent public and private research universities in the United States and Canada. Florida is one of the seventeen public, land-grant universities that belong to the AAU. In 2009, President Bernie Machen and the University of Florida Board of Trustees announced a major policy transition for the university. The Board of Trustees supported the reduction in the number of undergraduates and the shift of financial and other academic resources to graduate education and research. In 2017, the University of Florida became the first university in the state of Florida to crack the top ten best public universities according to U.S. News. The University of Florida was awarded $900.7 million in annual research expenditures in sponsored research for the 2020 fiscal year. In 2017, university president Kent Fuchs announced a plan to hire 500 new faculty to break into the top five best public universities; the newest faculty members would be hired in STEM fields.

    In its 2021 edition, U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Florida as tied for the fifth-best public university in the United States, and tied for 28th overall among all national universities, public and private.

    Many of the University of Florida’s graduate schools have received top-50 national rankings from U.S. News & World Report with the school of education 25th, Florida’s Hough School of Business 25th, Florida’s Medical School (research) tied for 43rd, the Engineering School tied for 45th, the Levin College of Law tied for 31st, and the Nursing School tied for 24th in the 2020 rankings.

    Florida’s graduate programs ranked for 2020 by U.S. News & World Report in the nation’s top 50 were audiology tied for 26th, analytical chemistry 11th, clinical psychology tied for 31st, computer science tied for 49th, criminology 19th, health care management tied for 33rd, nursing-midwifery tied for 35th, occupational therapy tied for 17th, pharmacy tied for 9th, physical therapy tied for 10th, physician assistant tied for 21st, physics tied for 37th, psychology tied for 39th, public health tied for 37th, speech-language pathology tied for 28th, statistics tied for 40th, and veterinary medicine 9th.

    In 2013, U.S. News & World Report ranked the engineering school 38th nationally, with its programs in biological engineering ranked 3rd, materials engineering 11th, industrial engineering 13th, aerospace engineering 26th, chemical engineering 28th, environmental engineering 30th, computer engineering 31st, civil engineering 32nd, electrical engineering 34th, mechanical engineering 44th.

    The 2018 Academic Ranking of World Universities list assessed the University of Florida as 86th among global universities, based on overall research output and faculty awards. In 2017, Washington Monthly ranked the University of Florida 18th among national universities, with criteria based on research, community service, and social mobility. The lowest national ranking received by the university from a major publication comes from Forbes which ranked the university 68th in the nation in 2018. This ranking focuses mainly on net positive financial impact, in contrast to other rankings, and generally ranks liberal arts colleges above most research universities.

    University of Florida received the following rankings by The Princeton Review in its latest Best 380 Colleges Rankings: 13th for Best Value Colleges without Aid, 18th for Lots of Beer, and 42nd for Best Value Colleges. It also was named the number one vegan-friendly school for 2014, according to a survey conducted by PETA.

    On Forbes’ 2016 list of Best Value Public Colleges, University of Florida was ranked second. It was also ranked third on Forbes’ Overall Best Value Colleges Nationwide.

    The university spent over $900 million on research and development in 2020, ranking it one of the highest in the nation. According to a 2019 study by the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the university contributed $16.9 billion to Florida’s economy and was responsible for over 130,000 jobs in the 2017–18 fiscal year. The Milken Institute named University of Florida one of the top-five U.S. institutions in the transfer of biotechnology research to the marketplace (2006). Some 50 biotechnology companies have resulted from faculty research programs. Florida consistently ranks among the top 10 universities in licensing. Royalty and licensing income includes the glaucoma drug Trusopt, the sports drink Gatorade, and the Sentricon termite elimination system. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is ranked No. 1 by The National Science Foundation in Research and Development. University of Florida ranked seventh among all private and public universities for the number of patents awarded for 2005.

    Research includes diverse areas such as health-care and citrus production (the world’s largest citrus research center). In 2002, Florida began leading six other universities under a $15 million National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant to work on space-related research during a five-year period. The university’s partnership with Spain helped to create the world’s largest single-aperture optical telescope in the Canary Islands (the cost was $93 million).

    Plans are also under way for the University of Florida to construct a 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) research facility in collaboration with the Burnham Institute for Medical Research that will be in the center of University of Central Florida’s Health Sciences Campus in Orlando, Florida. Research will include diabetes, aging, genetics and cancer.

    The University of Florida has made great strides in the space sciences over the last decade. The Astronomy Department’s focus on the development of image-detection devices has led to increases in funding, telescope time, and significant scholarly achievements. Faculty members in organic chemistry have made notable discoveries in astrobiology, while faculty members in physics have participated actively in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project, the largest and most ambitious project ever funded by the NSF.


    Through the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the University of Florida is the lead institution on the NASA University Research, Engineering, and Technology Institute (URETI) for Future Space Transport project to develop the next-generation space shuttle.

    In addition, the university also performs diabetes research in a statewide screening program that has been sponsored by a $10 million grant from the American Diabetes Association. The University of Florida also houses one of the world’s leading lightning research teams. University scientists have started a biofuels pilot plant designed to test ethanol-producing technology. The university is also host to a nuclear research reactor known for its Neutron Activation Analysis Laboratory. In addition, the University of Florida is the first American university to receive a European Union grant to house a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence.

    The University of Florida manages or has a stake in numerous notable research centers, facilities, institutes, and projects

    Askew Institute
    Bridge Software Institute
    Cancer and Genetics Research Complex
    Cancer Hospital
    Center for African Studies
    Center for Business Ethics Education and Research
    Center for Latin American Studies
    Center for Public Service
    Emerging Pathogens Institute
    Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center
    International Center
    Floral Genome Project
    Florida Institute for Sustainable Energy
    Florida Lakewatch
    Gran Telescopio Canarias
    Infectious Disease Pharmacokinetics Laboratory
    Lake Nona Medical City
    McKnight Brain Institute
    Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
    National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
    Rosemary Hill Observatory
    UF Innovate-Sid Martin Biotech
    UF Training Reactor
    Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience

    Student media

    The University of Florida community includes six major student-run media outlets and companion Web sites.

    The Independent Florida Alligator is the largest student-run newspaper in the United States, and operates without oversight from the university administration.
    The Really Independent Florida Crocodile, a parody of the Alligator, is a monthly magazine started by students.
    Tea Literary & Arts Magazine is UF’s student-run undergraduate literary and arts publication, established in 1995.
    WRUF (850 AM and 95.3 FM) includes ESPN programming, local sports news and talk programming produced by the station’s professional staff and the latest local sports news produced by the college’s Innovation News Center.
    WRUF-FM (103.7 FM) broadcasts country music and attracts an audience from the Gainesville and Ocala areas.
    WRUF-LD is a low-power television station that carries weather, news, and sports programming.
    WUFT is a PBS member station with a variety of programming that includes a daily student-produced newscast.
    WUFT-FM (89.1 FM) is an NPR member radio station which airs news and public affairs programming, including student-produced long-form news reporting. WUFT-FM’s programming also airs on WJUF-FM (90.1). In addition, WUFT offers 24-hour classical/arts programming on 92.1.

    Various other journals and magazines are published by the university’s academic units and student groups, including the Bob Graham Center-affiliated Florida Political Review and the literary journal Subtropics.

  • richardmitnick 10:59 am on July 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Land on exoplanets a key to possible life", A new three-dimensional climate model called ExoPlaSim., A significant fraction of exoplanets – worlds orbiting other stars – likely have water on their surfaces., , Exoplanet research, Exoplanets – worlds orbiting other stars – likely have water on their surfaces., The location and amount of dry land plays a big role in a planet’s potential habitability.,   

    From “EarthSky” : “Land on exoplanets a key to possible life” 


    From “EarthSky”

    July 18, 2022
    Paul Scott Anderson

    Artist’s concept of an ocean planet not unlike our Earth, but with 2 moons. A new study suggests that land on exoplanets – both its location and its amount – profoundly affects habitability. Image via Lucianomendez/ Royal Astronomical Society (UK).

    Land on exoplanets key to life

    Factors affecting the habitability of distant worlds include things like their compositions, their surface temperatures, the make-up of their atmospheres, how much radiation they get from their stars and more. Now a new study – released July 11, 2022 – suggests another factor: the location and amount of dry land. Researchers at the University of Toronto said that their new climate model addresses the issue of land location and amount as they affect a rocky planet’s habitability. The study focuses on Earth-mass rocky planets orbiting M-dwarf (red dwarf) stars.

    Graduate student Evelyn Macdonald at the University of Toronto (previously at McGill University) presented the results at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2022) in the U.K. on July 11. The researchers published their new peer-reviewed paper in the June 2022 issue of the MNRAS.

    Water worlds

    Astronomers say a significant fraction of exoplanets – worlds orbiting other stars – likely have water on their surfaces. And those water worlds don’t always need to be Earth-like, either.

    The amount of water will vary a lot from planet to planet, since no two planets will be just alike. About 71% of Earth’s surface, for example, is covered by water. Likewise, some exoplanets may have deep global oceans. And other worlds might be dotted only by lakes.

    Water covers about 71% of Earth’s surface. Other rocky planets may have similar amounts of water, less water or even global oceans. Image via Reto Stöckli/NASA/ Goddard Space Flight Center.

    In addition, some planets are tidally locked to their stars. That’s where one side of the planet always faces its star, much like how one side of the moon always faces Earth. This can make it more difficult for the planet to maintain a balanced climate. That’s because, ideally, the atmosphere and ocean need to redistribute some of the energy received from the star, on the dayside, to the nightside of the planet. On a tidally locked planet, however, the heat would mostly remain on the side of the planet facing its star.

    ExoPlaSim climate model simulates land on exoplanets

    Now, the researchers at the University of Toronto say they have devised a new three-dimensional climate model called ExoPlaSim. The model simulates rocky, Earth-like planets with two different dayside scenarios. The two configurations are basically opposite each other. In one, there is a circular continent on on the dayside of the planet, surrounded by ocean. In the second, however, there is a smaller circular ocean or sea surrounded by land everywhere else. This is a type of hypothesized “eyeball planet” where the ocean, or other prominent geographical feature, is centered on the star-facing side of a tidally-locked planet.

    For both cases, the size of the circular area in the model varies. This is to show how the percentage of available land affects the overall climate of the planet. The model also takes into account the net precipitation, amount of clouds and surface temperature across the dayside of the planet. This applies for different land configurations. Although not included in this study (but referenced in the paper), dust can also greatly affect a planet’s climate by reducing temperatures on large, dry continents.

    The researchers used 10-12 models at 20%, 40%, 60% and 80% dayside land cover.

    Large effect on planetary climate

    As the paper outlined:

    “A planet’s surface conditions can significantly impact its climate and habitability. In this study, we use the 3D general circulation model ExoPlaSim to systematically vary dayside land cover on a synchronously rotating, temperate rocky planet under two extreme and opposite continent configurations, in which either all of the land or all of the ocean is centered at the substellar point.”

    So, what were the results? The study showed that the location and amount of land does indeed have a significant effect on a planet’s climate.

    When a planet has similar amounts of land on the dayside, but in opposite configurations (land surrounded by ocean or an ocean surrounded by land), the average surface temperature of the planet can vary by up to 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees F). The area of ice-free ocean has a direct correlation with the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere.

    As might be expected, if a planet has a larger amount of land, then the climate will be drier and hotter on the dayside. Clouds and rain are more confined to smaller central regions.

    One type of hypothesized water world, similar to one of the planetary models in the new study, is where a smaller ocean is completely surrounded by land. Scientists have dubbed these “eyeball planets,” where the ocean (or other prominent geographical feature) is centered on the sun-facing side of a tidally-locked planet. Image via eburacum45/ DeviantArt.

    Prospects for life

    The location and amount of dry land plays a big role in a planet’s potential habitability. And, of course, the more habitable a planet is, the greater chance that it might actually be inhabited by some forms of life. As Macdonald surmised:

    “Finding out whether life exists elsewhere in the universe is a key challenge of astronomy and science as a whole. Our work demonstrates that the distribution of land on an Earth-like planet has a big impact on its climate, and should help astronomers looking at planets with instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope to better interpret what they’re seeing.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

  • richardmitnick 10:18 am on July 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Webb could see biosignatures on distant planets", , , , , , , Exoplanet research, , The Nautilus Life-Finding Project, The University of Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory   

    From “EarthSky” and The University of Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory: “Webb could see biosignatures on distant planets” and “The Nautilus Life-Finding Project” 


    From “EarthSky”


    The University of Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory


    The University of Arizona

    July 22, 2022
    Chris Impey, University of Arizona
    Daniel Apai, University of Arizona

    The TRAPPIST-1 star and planet system; the ESO Belgian robotic Trappist National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile.


    The ingredients for life are spread throughout the universe. While Earth is the only known place in the universe with life, detecting life beyond Earth is a major goal of modern astronomy and planetary science.

    We are two scientists who study exoplanets and astrobiology. Thanks in large part to next-generation telescopes like James Webb, researchers like us will soon be able to measure the chemical makeup of atmospheres of planets around other stars.

    The hope is that one or more of these planets will have a chemical signature of life.

    There are many known exoplanets in habitable zones – orbits not too close to a star that the water boils off but not so far that the planet is frozen solid – as marked in green for both the solar system and Kepler-186 star system with its planets labeled b, c, d, e and f. Image via NASA Ames/ SETI Institute/ JPL-Caltech/ Wikimedia Commons.

    Habitable exoplanets

    Life might exist in the solar system where there is liquid water, such as the subsurface aquifers on Mars or in the oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa. However, searching for life in these places is incredibly difficult. They are hard to reach and detecting life would require sending a probe to return physical samples.

    Many astronomers believe there’s a good chance that life exists on planets orbiting other stars. It’s possible that’s where life will first be found.

    Theoretical calculations suggest that there are around 300 million potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Calculations also suggest there are several habitable Earth-sized planets within only 30 light-years of Earth. They are essentially humanity’s galactic neighbors. So far, astronomers have discovered over 5,000 exoplanets, including hundreds of potentially habitable ones, using indirect methods that measure how a planet affects its nearby star. These measurements can give astronomers information on the mass and size of an exoplanet, but not much else.

    Every material absorbs certain wavelengths of light. This diagram depicts chlorophyll absorbing wavelengths of light. Image via Daniele Pugliesi/ Wikimedia Commons.

    Looking for biosignatures with Webb

    To detect life on a distant planet, astrobiologists will study starlight that has interacted with a planet’s surface or atmosphere. If life transformed the atmosphere or surface, the light may carry a clue, called a biosignature.

    For the first half of its existence, Earth sported an atmosphere without oxygen, even though it had simple, single-celled life. Earth’s biosignature was very faint during this early era. Then, 2.4 billion years ago, a new family of algae evolved. The algae used a process of photosynthesis that produces free oxygen, which isn’t chemically bonded to any other element. From then on, Earth’s oxygen-filled atmosphere has left a strong and easily detectable biosignature on light.

    When light bounces off the surface of a material or passes through a gas, certain wavelengths are more likely to remain trapped in the gas or material’s surface. This selective trapping of wavelengths of light is why objects are different colors. Leaves are green because chlorophyll is particularly good at absorbing light in the red and blue wavelengths. That leaves mostly green light to hit your eyes.

    The specific composition of the material the light interacts with determines the pattern of missing light. Because of this, astronomers can learn something about the composition of an exoplanet’s atmosphere or surface by, in essence, measuring the specific color of light that comes from a planet.

    Astronomers can recognize the presence of certain atmospheric gases associated with life – such as oxygen or methane – because they leave very specific signatures in light. It could also be used to detect peculiar colors on the surface of a planet. On Earth, for example, the chlorophyll and other pigments plants and algae use for photosynthesis capture specific wavelengths of light. These pigments produce characteristic colors that sensitive infrared cameras can detect. If you were to see this color reflecting off the surface of a distant planet, it would potentially signify the presence of chlorophyll.

    Enter the Webb telescope

    It takes an incredibly powerful telescope to detect these subtle changes to the light coming from a potentially habitable exoplanet. For now, the only telescope capable of such a feat is the new James Webb Space Telescope. As it began science operations in July 2022, James Webb took a reading of the spectrum of the gas giant exoplanet WASP-96b. The spectrum showed the presence of water and clouds. However, a planet as large and hot as WASP-96b is unlikely to host life.

    Yet, this early data shows that James Webb is capable of detecting faint chemical signatures in light coming from exoplanets. In the coming months, Webb is set to turn its mirrors toward TRAPPIST-1e [above], a potentially habitable Earth-sized planet a mere 39 light-years from Earth.

    Webb can look for biosignatures by studying planets as they pass in front of their host stars. It can capture starlight that filters through the planet’s atmosphere. But Webb’s goal was not to search for life. So the telescope is only able to scrutinize a few of the nearest potentially habitable worlds. It also can only detect changes to atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor. While certain combinations of these gases may suggest life, Webb is not able to detect the presence of unbonded oxygen, which is the strongest signal for life.

    The James Webb Space Telescope is the 1st telescope able to detect chemical signatures from exoplanets. Image via NASA.

    Other telescopes

    Leading concepts for future, even more powerful, space telescopes include plans to block the bright light of a planet’s host star to reveal starlight reflected from the planet.

    This idea is like using your hand to block sunlight to better see something in the distance. Future space telescopes could use small, internal masks or large, external, umbrella-like spacecraft to do this. Once astronomers block the starlight, it becomes much easier to study light bouncing off a planet.

    There are also three enormous ground-based telescopes currently under construction that will be able to search for biosignatures. First is the Giant Magellan Telescope, then the Thirty Meter Telescope and lastly, the European Extremely Large Telescope. Each is far more powerful than existing telescopes on Earth. Despite the handicap of Earth’s atmosphere distorting starlight, these telescopes might be able to probe the atmospheres of the closest worlds for oxygen.

    Is it biology or geology?

    Even using the most powerful telescopes of the coming decades, astrobiologists will only be able to detect strong biosignatures from worlds where life has completely transformed them.

    Unfortunately, most gases released by terrestrial life can also have a nonbiological source. Cows and volcanoes both release methane. Photosynthesis produces oxygen, but sunlight does, too, when it splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. There is a good chance astronomers will detect some false positives when looking for distant life. To help rule out false positives, astronomers will need to understand whether the planet’s geologic or atmospheric processes could mimic a biosignature.

    The next generation of exoplanet studies has the potential to pass the bar of the extraordinary evidence needed to prove the existence of life. The first data release from the James Webb Space Telescope gives us a sense of the exciting progress that’s coming soon.

    The Nautilus Life-Finding Project
    Daniel Apai
    Tom Milster

    While thousands of extra-solar planets have been discovered to date – including many potentially habitable planets with the same size and equilibrium temperature as the Earth – astronomers have so far been unable to rigorously survey their atmospheres for signs of life – such as the presence of oxygen, ozone, or methane. A key limitation is the size of space telescopes: even the James Webb Space Telescope, with its 6.5 meter diameter mirror – the largest and most expensive space telescope ever built for astronomy – will be able to search for biosignatures in only a handful of the closest potentially habitable worlds. To survey hundreds of such planets for evidence of life may require an orders of magnitude increase in the amount of light which space telescopes are able to collect.

    Motivated by this challenge, UA Professors Daniel Apai and Tom Milster are developing a concept for a space telescope called “Nautilus” which would maximize light collecting power by using a specially engineered lens instead of a mirror.

    Nautilus Array

    Nautilus would eschew a mirror in favor of a new type of large, light-weight, and reproducible lens which is currently being developed by Milster’s team at the College of Optical Sciences. Unlike traditional lenses, which are bulky and produce poorer quality images than mirrors, Nautilus’ lenses are precisely engineered to be lightweight while producing images of comparable quality to Hubble’s mirror. And unlike a mirror, a lens is more tolerant to misalignments, which enables a lightweight and less expensive spacecraft to support it. While the lens design is complex, it can be etched into a mold with diamond-tipped tools, allowing further lenses to be affordable and quickly reproduced.

    A single Nautilus telescope would boast an 8.5-meter lens with more than twice the light-collecting area of JWST and a lighter, inflatable spacecraft. Yet thanks to its simple design and reproducible lens, Nautilus telescopes could be replicated at low cost and launched in groups of up to fifteen using future launch fairings. The telescopes would observe a star as its planet transits in front of it, allowing astronomers to deduce the composition of the planet’s atmosphere by measuring how much of the star’s spectrum it absorbs.

    Through this technique, Apai and UA graduate student Alex Bixel estimate that with thirty-five Nautilus telescopes they could survey as many as a thousand potentially habitable planets for evidence of life. If even a fraction of these worlds are inhabited, the Nautilus array would discover dozens of examples of life beyond Earth.

    You can read articles about this project HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.

    See the full EarthSky article here .

    See The Nautilus Life-Finding Project here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Steward Observatory is the research arm of the Department of Astronomy at The University of Arizona. Its offices are located on The University of Arizona campus in Tucson, Arizona. Established in 1916, the first telescope and building were formally dedicated on April 23, 1923. It now operates, or is a partner in telescopes at five mountain-top locations in Arizona, one in New Mexico, one in Hawaii, and one in Chile. It has provided instruments for three different space telescopes and numerous terrestrial ones. Steward also has one of the few facilities in the world that can cast and figure the very large primary mirrors used in telescopes built in the early 21st century.

    As of 2019, The University of Arizona enrolled 45,918 students in 19 separate colleges/schools, including The University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix and the James E. Rogers College of Law, and is affiliated with two academic medical centers (Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix). The University of Arizona is one of three universities governed by the Arizona Board of Regents. The university is part of the Association of American Universities and is the only member from Arizona, and also part of the Universities Research Association . The university is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity”.

    Known as the Arizona Wildcats (often shortened to “Cats”), The University of Arizona’s intercollegiate athletic teams are members of the Pac-12 Conference of the NCAA. The University of Arizona athletes have won national titles in several sports, most notably men’s basketball, baseball, and softball. The official colors of the university and its athletic teams are cardinal red and navy blue.

    After the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, the push for a university in Arizona grew. The Arizona Territory’s “Thieving Thirteenth” Legislature approved The University of Arizona in 1885 and selected the city of Tucson to receive the appropriation to build the university. Tucson hoped to receive the appropriation for the territory’s mental hospital, which carried a $100,000 allocation instead of the $25,000 allotted to the territory’s only university Arizona State University was also chartered in 1885, but it was created as Arizona’s normal school, and not a university). Flooding on the Salt River delayed Tucson’s legislators, and by the time they reached Prescott, back-room deals allocating the most desirable territorial institutions had been made. Tucson was largely disappointed with receiving what was viewed as an inferior prize.

    With no parties willing to provide land for the new institution, the citizens of Tucson prepared to return the money to the Territorial Legislature until two gamblers and a saloon keeper decided to donate the land to build the school. Construction of Old Main, the first building on campus, began on October 27, 1887, and classes met for the first time in 1891 with 32 students in Old Main, which is still in use today. Because there were no high schools in Arizona Territory, the university maintained separate preparatory classes for the first 23 years of operation.


    The University of Arizona is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. UArizona is the fourth most awarded public university by National Aeronautics and Space Administration for research. The University of Arizona was awarded over $325 million for its Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) to lead NASA’s 2007–08 mission to Mars to explore the Martian Arctic, and $800 million for its OSIRIS-REx mission, the first in U.S. history to sample an asteroid.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft.

    The LPL’s work in the Cassini spacecraft orbit around Saturn is larger than any other university globally.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration/European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea][Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ASI Italian Space Agency [Agenzia Spaziale Italiana](IT) Cassini Spacecraft.

    The University of Arizona laboratory designed and operated the atmospheric radiation investigations and imaging on the probe. The University of Arizona operates the HiRISE camera, a part of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    U Arizona NASA Mars Reconnaisance HiRISE Camera.

    NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    While using the HiRISE camera in 2011, University of Arizona alumnus Lujendra Ojha and his team discovered proof of liquid water on the surface of Mars—a discovery confirmed by NASA in 2015. The University of Arizona receives more NASA grants annually than the next nine top NASA/JPL-Caltech-funded universities combined. As of March 2016, The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is actively involved in ten spacecraft missions: Cassini VIMS; Grail; the HiRISE camera orbiting Mars; the Juno mission orbiting Jupiter; Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO); Maven, which will explore Mars’ upper atmosphere and interactions with the sun; Solar Probe Plus, a historic mission into the Sun’s atmosphere for the first time; Rosetta’s VIRTIS; WISE; and OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S. sample-return mission to a near-earth asteroid, which launched on September 8, 2016.

    NASA – GRAIL Flying in Formation (Artist’s Concept). Credit: NASA.
    National Aeronautics Space Agency Juno at Jupiter.

    NASA/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.


    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration Wise/NEOWISE Telescope.

    The University of Arizona students have been selected as Truman, Rhodes, Goldwater, and Fulbright Scholars. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, The University of Arizona is among the top 25 producers of Fulbright awards in the U.S.

    The University of Arizona is a member of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy , a consortium of institutions pursuing research in astronomy. The association operates observatories and telescopes, notably Kitt Peak National Observatory just outside Tucson.

    National Science Foundation NOIRLab National Optical Astronomy Observatory Kitt Peak National Observatory on Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers (55 mi) west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft). annotated.

    Led by Roger Angel, researchers in the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab at The University of Arizona are working in concert to build the world’s most advanced telescope. Known as the Giant Magellan Telescope (CL), it will produce images 10 times sharper than those from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Telescope.

    GMT Giant Magellan Telescope(CL) 21 meters, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s NOIRLab NOAO Las Campanas Observatory(CL), some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high.

    The telescope is set to be completed in 2021. GMT will ultimately cost $1 billion. Researchers from at least nine institutions are working to secure the funding for the project. The telescope will include seven 18-ton mirrors capable of providing clear images of volcanoes and riverbeds on Mars and mountains on the moon at a rate 40 times faster than the world’s current large telescopes. The mirrors of the Giant Magellan Telescope will be built at The University of Arizona and transported to a permanent mountaintop site in the Chilean Andes where the telescope will be constructed.

    Reaching Mars in March 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter contained the HiRISE camera, with Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen as the lead on the project. This National Aeronautics and Space Agency mission to Mars carrying the UArizona-designed camera is capturing the highest-resolution images of the planet ever seen. The journey of the orbiter was 300 million miles. In August 2007, The University of Arizona, under the charge of Scientist Peter Smith, led the Phoenix Mars Mission, the first mission completely controlled by a university. Reaching the planet’s surface in May 2008, the mission’s purpose was to improve knowledge of the Martian Arctic. The Arizona Radio Observatory , a part of The University of Arizona Department of Astronomy Steward Observatory , operates the Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham.

    University of Arizona Radio Observatory at NOAO Kitt Peak National Observatory, AZ USA, U Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory at altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft).

    Kitt Peak National Observatory in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona in the Quinlan Mountains of the Tohono O’odham Nation, altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    The National Science Foundation funded the iPlant Collaborative in 2008 with a $50 million grant. In 2013, iPlant Collaborative received a $50 million renewal grant. Rebranded in late 2015 as “CyVerse”, the collaborative cloud-based data management platform is moving beyond life sciences to provide cloud-computing access across all scientific disciplines.

    In June 2011, the university announced it would assume full ownership of the Biosphere 2 scientific research facility in Oracle, Arizona, north of Tucson, effective July 1. Biosphere 2 was constructed by private developers (funded mainly by Texas businessman and philanthropist Ed Bass) with its first closed system experiment commencing in 1991. The university had been the official management partner of the facility for research purposes since 2007.

    U Arizona mirror lab-Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium?

    University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert. An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why The University of Arizona is a university unlike any other.

    University of Arizona Landscape Evolution Observatory at Biosphere 2.

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

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