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  • richardmitnick 3:18 pm on June 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gamma Rays, ,   

    From Symmetry: “Seeing in gamma rays” 

    Symmetry

    June 24, 2015
    Glenn Roberts Jr.

    1
    Courtesy of Fermi LAT collaboration

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

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

    NASA Fermi Telescope
    Fermi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    See the full article here.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 9:23 am on June 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From FNAL- “Frontier Science Result: Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope” 

    FNAL Home

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

    June 12, 2015
    Dan Hooper

    NASA Fermi Telescope
    Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope

    2
    A team of astrophysicists is looking for dark matter in the form of subhalos. These clumps of dark matter within the Milky Way are predicted to produce a distinctive gamma-ray signal. Image courtesy of The Aquarius Project

    In addition to teaching us about pulsars, cosmic rays and supermassive black holes, the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope is one of the world’s premier dark matter experiments. In many models, the interactions of dark matter particles can create energetic photons, known as gamma rays. Fermi provides us with our most sensitive view of the gamma-ray sky and is able to test many of our most promising theories of dark matter.

    Over the past several years, my collaborators and I have published a series of papers describing an excess of gamma rays from the region surrounding the center of the Milky Way. After many long discussions, arguments and debates, the majority of the gamma-ray astrophysics community seems to have reached a consensus that this excess is real and is in need of an explanation. One exciting possibility is that these gamma rays could be produced by dark matter particles. But even though this signal looks very much like what we expected from dark matter, we can’t entirely rule out other explanations, such as a series of recent outbursts of cosmic rays or some unknown population of faint gamma-ray sources.

    One way to potentially confirm a dark matter origin for this excess would be to observe the same spectrum of gamma rays from otherwise invisible clumps of dark matter — known as subhalos — elsewhere in the sky. In fact, if the gamma rays from the Galactic Center do come from dark matter particles, we estimate that Fermi should be able to detect a handful of these subhalos as bright gamma-ray sources. The challenge is that Fermi has detected hundreds of bright, unidentified sources, the vast majority of which are not related to dark matter. This large haystack of sources makes it hard to find the dark matter subhalos that are the needles we are looking for.

    But in one important respect, dark matter subhalos should look different from other kinds of gamma-ray sources: They should be slightly extended or “puffy.” My collaborators (Bridget Bertoni of the University of Washington and Tim Linden of the University of Chicago) and I have recently found evidence that some of Fermi’s unidentified sources are in fact extended, making them seem more likely to be dark matter subhalos. We continue to scrutinize the data, and although we’re not prepared to claim discovery yet, we are very excited that this new information might make it possible to independently test — and maybe even confirm — a dark matter origin for Fermi’s Galactic Center gamma-ray excess.

    See the full article here.

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    Fermilab Campus

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

     
  • richardmitnick 10:13 am on May 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From LLNL: “Lawrence Livermore scientists move one step closer to mimicking gamma-ray bursts” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    May. 26, 2015

    Anne M Stark
    stark8@llnl.gov (link sends e-mail)
    925-422-9799

    1
    The Centaurus A galaxy, at a distance of about 12 million light years from Earth, contains a gargantuan jet blasting away from a central supermassive black hole. In this image, red, green and blue show low, medium and high-energy X-rays. Photo courtesy NASA/CXC/U. Birmingham/M. Burke et al.

    Using ever more energetic lasers, Lawrence Livermore researchers have produced a record high number of electron-positron pairs, opening exciting opportunities to study extreme astrophysical processes, such as black holes and gamma-ray bursts.

    By performing experiments using three laser systems — Titan at Lawrence Livermore, Omega-EP at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (link is external) and Orion at Atomic Weapons Establishment (link is external) (AWE) in the United Kingdom — LLNL physicist Hui Chen and her colleagues created nearly a trillion positrons (also known as antimatter particles). In previous experiments at the Titan laser in 2008, Chen’s team had created billions of positrons.

    Positrons, or “anti-electrons,” are anti-particles with the same mass as an electron but with opposite charge. The generation of energetic electron-positron pairs is common in extreme astrophysical environments associated with the rapid collapse of stars and formation of black holes. These pairs eventually radiate their energy, producing extremely bright bursts of gamma rays. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the brightest electromagnetic events known to occur in the universe and can last from ten milliseconds to several minutes. The mechanism of how these GRBs are produced is still a mystery.

    In the laboratory, jets of electron-positron pairs can be generated by shining intense laser light into a gold foil. The interaction produces high-energy radiation that will traverse the material and create electron-positron pairs as it interacts with the nucleus of the gold atoms. The ability to create a large number of positrons in a laboratory, by using energetic lasers, opens the door to several new avenues of antimatter research, including the understanding of the physics underlying extreme astrophysical phenomena such as black holes and gamma-ray bursts.

    “The goal of our experiments was to understand how the flux of electron-positron pairs produced scales with laser energy,” said Chen, who along with former Lawrence Fellow Frederico Fiuza (now at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory), co-authored the article appearing in the May 18 edition of Physical Review Letters.

    “We have identified the dominant physics associated with the scaling of positron yield with laser and target parameters, and we can now look at its implication for using it to study the physics relevant to gamma-ray bursts,” Chen said. “The favorable scaling of electron-positron pairs with laser energy obtained in our experiments suggests that, at a laser intensity and pulse duration comparable to what is available, near-future 10-kilojoule-class lasers would provide 100 times higher antimatter yield.”

    The team used these scaling results obtained experimentally together with first-principles simulations to model the interaction of two electron positron pairs for future laser parameters. “Our simulations show that with upcoming laser systems, we can study how these energetic pairs of matter-antimatter convert their energy into radiation,” Fiuza said. “Confirming these predictions in an experiment would be extremely exciting.”

    Antimatter research could reveal why more matter than antimatter survived the Big Bang at the start of the universe. There is considerable speculation as to why the observable universe is apparently almost entirely matter, whether other places are almost entirely antimatter, and what might be possible if antimatter could be harnessed. Normal matter and antimatter are thought to have been in balance in the very early universe, but due to an “asymmetry” the antimatter decayed or was annihilated, and today very little antimatter is seen.

    In future work, the researchers plan to use the National Ignition Facility [NIF] to conduct laser antimatter experiments to study the physics of relativistic pair shocks in gamma-ray bursts by creating even higher fluxes of electron-positron pairs.

    LLNL NIF
    NIF

    The research was funded by LLNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and the LLNL Lawrence Fellowship.

    Chen and Fiuza were joined by Anthony Link, Andy Hazi, Matt Hill, David Hoarty, Steve James, Shaun Kerr, David Meyerhofer, Jason Myatt, Jaebum Park, Yasuhiko Sentoku and Jackson Williams from LLNL, AWE, University of Alberta, University of Rochester and University of Nevada, Reno.

    See the full article here.

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    LLNL Campus

    Operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security
    Administration
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    NNSA

     
  • richardmitnick 8:30 am on March 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From DESY: “Negotiations for CTA northern site to start” 

    DESY
    DESY

    2015/03/26
    No Writer Credit

    Cherenkov Telescope Array
    Proposed Cherenkov Telescope Array for hunting Gamma Rays

    On 26 March 2015, the partner countries of Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) have decided to start negotiations for the location of the telescope array in the northern hemisphere. At a meeting in Heidelberg representatives of ministries and funding agencies have decided to begin negotiations with Spain for a possible location on La Palma and Mexico for one in San Pedro Mártir. Another candidate site in Arizona (USA) is considered as a possible back-up site.

    “I appreciate that we have successfully chosen the northern candidate sites with whom we would like to start negotiations as soon as possible,” said Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph from the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education, chair of the CTA Resource Board, after the decision of the voting members representing Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. After negotiations, the Board will select the final site in November 2015. In regards to the southern hemisphere site, negotiations with the candidates Namibia and Chile are progressing and are expected to end in August 2015. Christian Stegmann from DESY added: “I’m very much looking forward to the final site decisions later this year; scientists worldwide are eager to see CTA advancing towards implementation.”

    Currently in its pre-construction phase, determining the northern and southern hemisphere sites will be a critical step towards the realization of the Cherenkov Telescope Array. “I’m looking forward to converging on final designs for the telescope arrays now that negotiations will start with specific locations in mind,” said Christopher Townsley, CTA project manager. Following the site selection, the project will move forward with construction of the first telescopes on site planned for 2016.

    See the full article here.

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    desi

    DESY is one of the world’s leading accelerator centres. Researchers use the large-scale facilities at DESY to explore the microcosm in all its variety – from the interactions of tiny elementary particles and the behaviour of new types of nanomaterials to biomolecular processes that are essential to life. The accelerators and detectors that DESY develops and builds are unique research tools. The facilities generate the world’s most intense X-ray light, accelerate particles to record energies and open completely new windows onto the universe. 
That makes DESY not only a magnet for more than 3000 guest researchers from over 40 countries every year, but also a coveted partner for national and international cooperations. Committed young researchers find an exciting interdisciplinary setting at DESY. The research centre offers specialized training for a large number of professions. DESY cooperates with industry and business to promote new technologies that will benefit society and encourage innovations. This also benefits the metropolitan regions of the two DESY locations, Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:06 pm on March 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Gamma Rays,   

    From NSF: “U.S., Mexico to inaugurate facility to detect gamma rays, probe universe’s most energetic phenomena” 

    nsf
    National Science Foundation

    March 16, 2015
    Eleane Harim Proo, CONACYT, eproom@conacyt.mx
    U.S. Embassy, Mexico, U.S. Embassy in Mexico, emlistmx@state.gov
    Ivy F. Kupec, NSF, (703) 292-8796, ikupec@nsf.gov

    1
    HAWC has unique capabilities to detect the highest-energy electromagnetic radiation and complements other gamma ray observatories around the world. Credit: Jordan Goodman, HAWC Collaboration

    The universe’s most energetic phenomena, such as black holes and supernovae, produce gamma rays that can be observed and studied to learn more about the universe. This week, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and Mexico’s Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) will inaugurate a new gamma ray astrophysics facility known as the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) observatory. The facility–high on the slopes of Pico de Orizaba and Sierra Negra, near Puebla, Mexico, at an altitude of 4,100 meters–will help scientists probe these phenomena.

    Almost six years in the making, this facility has unique capabilities for detecting the highest-energy electromagnetic radiation, and complements other gamma ray observatories around the world.

    Unlike optical or radio telescopes that observe light from astronomical phenomena directly, HAWC will study high-energy cosmic and gamma rays indirectly. As events like supernovae and gamma ray bursts occur, they release cosmic and gamma rays that smash into molecules in the air as they enter the earth’s atmosphere. These collisions set off chain reactions that produce showers of particles. These showers hit the Earth’s surface where the HAWC observatory will detect them with an array of 300 tanks, each filled with approximately 50,000 gallons of extra-pure water. When those same particles pass through the tanks, they are travelling faster than the speed of light in the water [remember, the normally quoted speed of light, 186,000 mi/sec, is light traveling in a vacuum, not through anything like water, where all bets are off]. As they travel through the water, the particles emit flashes called “Cherenkov light”, in much the same way that an airplane can produce a sonic boom if it is traveling fast enough. The tanks are equipped with detectors that will capture this Cherenkov light. With the highly sensitive HAWC observatory, astrophysicists will be able to use the Cherenkov light to reconstruct the timing, the energy, and the source direction of that initial gamma ray.

    HAWC is expected to be 10-15 times more sensitive than its predecessor, the Milagro experiment in Los Alamos, and HAWC will continuously monitor over a wide field of view to observe two-thirds of the sky every 24 hours.

    See the full article here.

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    The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…we are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

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  • richardmitnick 12:45 pm on January 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From phys.org: “Three extremely luminous gamma-ray sources discovered in Milky Way’s satellite galaxy” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    Jan 23, 2015
    Thomas Zoufal

    1
    Optical image of the Milky Way and a multi-wavelength (optical, Hα) zoom into the Large Magellanic Cloud with superimposed H.E.S.S. sky maps. Credit: Milky Way image: © H.E.S.S. Collaboration, optical: SkyView, A. Mellinger

    Once again, the High Energy Stereoscopic System, H.E.S.S., has demonstrated its excellent capabilities. In the Large Magellanic Cloud, it discovered most luminous very high-energy gamma-ray sources: three objects of different type, namely the most powerful pulsar wind nebula, the most powerful supernova remnant, and a shell of 270 light years in diameter blown by multiple stars, and supernovae – a so-called superbubble.

    High Energy Stereoscopic System
    H.E.S.S.

    lmc
    The Large Magellanic Cloud

    This is the first time that stellar-type gamma-ray sources are detected in an external galaxy, at these gamma-ray energies. The superbubble represents a new source class in very high-energy gamma rays.

    Very high-energy gamma rays are the best tracers of cosmic accelerators such as supernova remnants and pulsar wind nebulae – end-products of massive stars. There, charged particles are accelerated to extreme velocities. When these particles encounter light or gas in and around the cosmic accelerators, they emit gamma rays. Very high-energy gamma rays can be measured on Earth by observing the Cherenkov light emitted from the particle showers produced by incident gamma rays high up in the atmosphere using large telescopes with fast cameras.

    The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a dwarf satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, located about 170.000 light years away and showing us its face. New, massive stars are formed at a high rate in the LMC, and it harbors numerous massive stellar clusters. The LMC’s supernova rate relative to its stellar mass is five times that of our Galaxy. The youngest supernova remnant in the local group of galaxies, SN 1987A, is also a member of the LMC. Therefore, the H.E.S.S. scientists dedicated significant observation to searching for very high-energy gamma rays from this cosmic object.

    3
    Local Group

    3
    SN1987a before and after by David Malin Anglo-Australian Telescope

    For a total of 210 hours, the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) has observed the largest star-forming region within the LMC called Tarantula Nebula. For the first time in a galaxy outside the Milky Way, individual sources of very high-energy gamma rays could be resolved: three extremely energetic objects of different type.

    t
    This first light image of the TRAPPIST national telescope at La Silla shows the Tarantula Nebula, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) — one of the galaxies closest to us. Also known as 30 Doradus or NGC 2070, the nebula owes its name to the arrangement of bright patches that somewhat resembles the legs of a tarantula. Taking the name of one of the biggest spiders on Earth is very fitting in view of the gigantic proportions of this celestial nebula — it measures nearly 1000 light-years across! Its proximity, the favourable inclination of the LMC, and the absence of intervening dust make this nebula one of the best laboratories to help understand the formation of massive stars better. The image was made from data obtained through three filters (B, V and R) and the field of view is about 20 arcminutes across.

    The so-called superbubble 30 Dor C is the largest known X-ray-emitting shell and appears to have been created by several supernovae and strong stellar winds. Superbubbles are broadly discussed as (complementary or alternative to individual supernova remnants) factories where the galactic cosmic rays are produced. The H.E.S.S. results demonstrate that the bubble is a source of, and filled by, highly energetic particles. The superbubble represents a new class of sources in the very high-energy regime.

    Pulsars are highly magnetized, fast rotating neutron stars that emit a wind of ultra-relativistic particles forming a nebula. The most famous one is the Crab Nebula, one of the brightest sources in the high-energy gamma-ray sky.

    c
    This is a mosaic image, one of the largest ever taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of the Crab Nebula, a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star’s supernova explosion. Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded this violent event nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen. The rapidly spinning neutron star embedded in the center of the nebula is the dynamo powering the nebula’s eerie interior bluish glow. The blue light comes from electrons whirling at nearly the speed of light around magnetic field lines from the neutron star. The neutron star, like a lighthouse, ejects twin beams of radiation that appear to pulse 30 times a second due to the neutron star’s rotation. A neutron star is the crushed ultra-dense core of the exploded star.

    The Crab Nebula derived its name from its appearance in a drawing made by Irish astronomer Lord William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1844, using a 36-inch telescope. When viewed by Hubble, as well as by large ground-based telescopes such as the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, the Crab Nebula takes on a more detailed appearance that yields clues into the spectacular demise of a star, 6,500 light-years away.

    ESO VLT Interferometer
    ESO/ VLT

    The newly composed image was assembled from 24 individual Wide Field and Planetary Camera 23 exposures taken in October 1999, January 2000, and December 2000. The colors in the image indicate the different elements that were expelled during the explosion. Blue in the filaments in the outer part of the nebula represents neutral oxygen, green is singly-ionized sulfur, and red indicates doubly-ionized oxygen.

    NASA Hubble WFPC2
    WFPC2 (no longer in service)

    The pulsar PSR J0537−6910 driving the wind nebula N 157B discovered by the H.E.S.S. telescopes in the LMC is in many respects a twin of the very powerful Crab pulsar in our own Galaxy. However, its pulsar wind nebula N 157B outshines the Crab Nebula by an order of magnitude, in very high-energy gamma rays. Reasons are the lower magnetic field in N 157B and the intense starlight from neighboring star-forming regions, which both promote the generation of high-energy gamma rays.

    The supernova remnant N 132D, known as a bright object in the radio and infrared bands, appears to be one of the oldest – and strongest – supernova remnants still glowing in very high-energy gamma rays. Between 2500 and 6000 years old – an age where models predict that the supernova explosion front has slowed down and it ought no longer be efficiently accelerating particles – it still outshines the strongest supernova remnants in our Galaxy. The observations confirm suspicions raised by other H.E.S.S. observations, that supernova remnants can be much more luminous than thought before.

    Observed at the limits of detectability, and partially overlapping with each other, these new sources challenged the H.E.S.S. scientists. The discoveries were only possible due to the development of advanced methods of interpreting the Cherenkov images captured by the telescopes, improving in particular the precision with which gamma-ray directions can be determined.

    “Both the pulsar wind nebula and the supernova remnant, detected in the Large Magellanic Cloud by H.E.S.S., are more energetic than their most powerful relatives in the Milky Way. Obviously, the high star formation rate of the LMC causes it to breed very extreme objects”, summarizes Chia Chun Lu, a student who analyzed the LMC data as her thesis project. “Surprisingly, however, the young supernova remnant SN 1987A did not show up, in contrast to theoretical predictions. But we’ll continue the search for it,” adds her advisor Werner Hofmann, director at the MPI for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg and for many years H.E.S.S. spokesperson.

    Indeed, the new H.E.S.S. II 28 m telescope will boost performance of the H.E.S.S. telescope system, and in the more distant future the planned Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) will provide even deeper and higher-resolution gamma-ray images of the LMC – in the plans for science with CTA, the satellite galaxy is already identified as a “Key Science Project” deserving special attention.

    Cherenkov Telescope Array
    CTA

    The H.E.S.S. Telescopes

    The collaboration: The High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) team consists of scientists from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Namibia, South Africa, Ireland, Armenia, Poland, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden, supported by their respective funding agencies and institutions.

    The instrument: The results were obtained using the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) telescopes in Namibia, in South-West Africa. This system of four 13 m diameter telescopes – recently complemented with the huge 28 m H.E.S.S. II telescope – is one of the most sensitive detectors of very high-energy gamma rays. These are absorbed in the atmosphere, where they create a short-lived shower of particles. The H.E.S.S. telescopes detect the faint, short flashes of bluish light which these particles emit (named Cherenkov light, lasting a few billionths of a second), collecting the light with big mirrors which reflect onto extremely sensitive cameras. Each image gives the position on the sky of a single gamma-ray photon, and the amount of light collected gives the energy of the initial gamma ray. Building up the images photon by photon allows H.E.S.S. to create maps of astronomical objects as they appear in gamma rays.

    The H.E.S.S. telescopes have been operating since late 2002; in September 2012 H.E.S.S. celebrated the first decade of operation, by which time the telescopes had recorded 9415 hours of observations, and detected 6361 million air shower events. H.E.S.S. has discovered the majority of the about 150 known cosmic objects emitting very high-energy gamma rays. In 2006, the H.E.S.S. team was awarded the Descartes Prize of the European Commission, in 2010 the Rossi Prize of the American Astronomical Society. A study performed in 2009 listed H.E.S.S. among the top 10 observatories worldwide.

    See the full article here.

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:46 pm on January 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Gamma Rays, High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma-Ray Observatory   

    From Symmetry: “Scientists complete array on Mexican volcano” 

    Symmetry

    January 16, 2015
    Eagle Gamma

    An international team of astrophysicists has completed an advanced detector to map the most energetic phenomena in the universe.

    On Thursday, atop Volcán Sierra Negra, on a flat ledge near the highest point in Mexico, technicians filled the last of a collection of 300 cylindrical vats containing millions of gallons of ultrapure water.

    Together, the vats serve as the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma-Ray Observatory, a vast particle detector covering an area larger than 5 acres. Scientists are using it to catch signs of some of the highest-energy astroparticles to reach the Earth.

    2

    3
    HAWC

    1
    Tree diagram showing the relationship between types and classification of most common particle detectors

    The vats sit at an altitude of 4100 meters (13,500 feet) on a rocky site within view of the nearby Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano. The area remained undeveloped until construction of the LMT, which began in 1997, brought with it the first access road, along with electricity and data lines.

    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano
    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano

    Temperatures at the top of the mountain are usually just cool enough for snow year-round, even though the atmosphere at the bottom of the mountain is warm enough to host palm trees and agave.

    “The local atmosphere is part of the detector,” says Alberto Carramiñana, general director of INAOE, the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics.

    Scientists at HAWC are working to understand high-energy particles that come from space. High-energy gamma rays come from extreme environments such as supernova explosions, active galactic nuclei. and gamma-ray bursts. They’re also associated with high-energy cosmic rays, the origins of which are still unknown.

    When incoming gamma rays and cosmic rays from space interact with Earth’s atmosphere, they produce a cascade of particles that shower the Earth. When these high-energy secondary particles reach the vats, they shoot through the water inside faster than particles of light can, producing an optical shock wave called “Cherenkov radiation.” The boom looks like a glowing blue, violet or ultraviolet cone.

    4
    NRC photo of Cherenkov effect in the Reed Research Reactor.

    The Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory in western Argentina, in operation since 2004, uses similar surface detector tanks to catch cosmic rays, but its focus is particles at higher energies—up to millions of giga-electronvolts. HAWC observes widely and deeply between the energy range of 100 giga-electronvolts and 100,000 giga-electronvolts.

    “HAWC is a unique water Cherenkov observatory, with no actual peer in the world,” Carramiñana says.

    Results from HAWC will complement the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which observes at lower energy levels, as well as dozens of other tools across the electromagnetic spectrum.

    NASA Fermi Telescope
    NASA/Fermi

    The vats at HAWC are made of corrugated steel, and each one holds a sealed, opaque bladder containing 50,000 gallons of liquid, according to Manuel Odilón de Rosas Sandoval, HAWC tank assembly coordinator. Each tank is 4 meters (13 feet) high and 7.3 meters (24 feet) in diameter and includes four light-reading photomultiplier tubes to detect the Cherenkov radiation.

    From its perch, HAWC sees the high-energy spectrum, in which particles have more energy in their motion than in their mass. The device is open to particles from about 15 percent of the sky at a time and, as the Earth rotates, is exposed to about 2/3 of the sky per day.

    Combining data from the 1200 sensors, astrophysicists can piece together the precise origins of the particle shower. With tens of thousands of events hitting the vats every second, around a terabyte of data will arrive per day. The device will record half a trillion events per year.

    The observatory, which was proposed in 2006 and began construction in 2012, is scheduled to operate for 10 years. “I look forward to the operational lifetime of HAWC,” Carramiñana says. “We are not sure what we will find.”

    More than 100 researchers from 30 partner organizations in Mexico and the United States collaborate on HAWC, with two additional associated scientists in Poland and Costa Rica. Prominent American partners include the University of Maryland, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Funding comes from the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology.

    See the full article here.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 9:45 am on January 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Gamma Rays,   

    From NASA Science News: “Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes, More Common Than Previously Thought?” 

    NASA Science Science News

    Dec 31, 2014
    Dr. Tony Phillips

    Each day, thunderstorms around the world produce about a thousand quick bursts of gamma rays, some of the highest-energy light naturally found on Earth. By merging records of events seen by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope with data from ground-based radar and lightning detectors, scientists have completed the most detailed analysis to date of the types of thunderstorms involved.

    NASA Fermi Telescope
    NASA/Fermi

    “Remarkably, we have found that any thunderstorm can produce gamma rays, even those that appear to be so weak a meteorologist wouldn’t look twice at them,” said Themis Chronis, who led the research at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).


    New research merging Fermi data with information from ground-based radar and lightning networks shows that terrestrial gamma-ray flashes arise from an unexpected diversity of storms and may be more common than currently thought. Play video

    The outbursts, called terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs), were discovered in 1992 by NASA’s Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, which operated until 2000. TGFs occur unpredictably and fleetingly, with durations less than a thousandth of a second, and remain poorly understood.

    NASA Compton Gamma Ray Observatory

    In late 2012, Fermi scientists employed new techniques that effectively upgraded the satellite’s Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM), making it 10 times more sensitive to TGFs and allowing it to record weak events that were overlooked before.

    “As a result of our enhanced discovery rate, we were able to show that most TGFs also generate strong bursts of radio waves like those produced by lightning,” said Michael Briggs, assistant director of the Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research at UAH and a member of the GBM team.

    Previously, TGF positions could be roughly estimated based on Fermi’s location at the time of the event. The GBM can detect flashes within about 500 miles (800 kilometers), but this is too imprecise to definitively associate a TGF with a specific storm.

    Ground-based lightning networks use radio data to pin down strike locations. The discovery of similar signals from TGFs meant that scientists could use the networks to determine which storms produce gamma-ray flashes, opening the door to a deeper understanding of the meteorology powering these extreme events.

    Chronis, Briggs and their colleagues sifted through 2,279 TGFs detected by Fermi’s GBM to derive a sample of nearly 900 events accurately located by the Total Lightning Network operated by Earth Networks in Germantown, Maryland, and the World Wide Lightning Location Network, a research collaboration run by the University of Washington in Seattle. These systems can pinpoint the location of lightning discharges — and the corresponding signals from TGFs — to within 6 miles (10 km) anywhere on the globe.

    From this group, the team identified 24 TGFs that occurred within areas covered by Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) sites in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Puerto Rico and Guam. For eight of these storms, the researchers obtained additional information about atmospheric conditions through sensor data collected by the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

    “All told, this study is our best look yet at TGF-producing storms, and it shows convincingly that storm intensity is not the key,” said Chronis, who will present the findings Wed., Dec. 17, in an invited talk at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. A paper describing the research has been submitted to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

    Scientists suspect that TGFs arise from strong electric fields near the tops of thunderstorms. Updrafts and downdrafts within the storms force rain, snow and ice to collide and acquire electrical charge. Usually, positive charge accumulates in the upper part of the storm and negative charge accumulates below. When the storm’s electrical field becomes so strong it breaks down the insulating properties of air, a lightning discharge occurs.

    Under the right conditions, the upper part of an intracloud lightning bolt disrupts the storm’s electric field in such a way that an avalanche of electrons surges upward at high speed. When these fast-moving electrons are deflected by air molecules, they emit gamma rays and create a TGF.

    About 75 percent of lightning stays within the storm, and about 2,000 of these intracloud discharges occur for each TGF Fermi detects.

    The new study confirms previous findings indicating that TGFs tend to occur near the highest parts of a thunderstorm, between about 7 and 9 miles (11 to 14 kilometers) high. “We suspect this isn’t the full story,” explained Briggs. “Lightning often occurs at lower altitudes and TGFs probably do too, but traveling the greater depth of air weakens the gamma rays so much the GBM can’t detect them.”

    Based on current Fermi statistics, scientists estimate that some 1,100 TGFs occur each day, but the number may be much higher if low-altitude flashes are being missed.

    While it is too early to draw conclusions, Chronis notes, there are a few hints that gamma-ray flashes may prefer storm areas where updrafts have weakened and the aging storm has become less organized. “Part of our ongoing research is to track these storms with NEXRAD radar to determine if we can relate TGFs to the thunderstorm life cycle,” he said.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA leads the nation on a great journey of discovery, seeking new knowledge and understanding of our planet Earth, our Sun and solar system, and the universe out to its farthest reaches and back to its earliest moments of existence. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and the nation’s science community use space observatories to conduct scientific studies of the Earth from space to visit and return samples from other bodies in the solar system, and to peer out into our Galaxy and beyond. NASA’s science program seeks answers to profound questions that touch us all:

    This is NASA’s science vision: using the vantage point of space to achieve with the science community and our partners a deep scientific understanding of our planet, other planets and solar system bodies, the interplanetary environment, the Sun and its effects on the solar system, and the universe beyond. In so doing, we lay the intellectual foundation for the robotic and human expeditions of the future while meeting today’s needs for scientific information to address national concerns, such as climate change and space weather. At every step we share the journey of scientific exploration with the public and partner with others to substantially improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education nationwide.

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  • richardmitnick 9:45 pm on July 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Gamma Rays, ,   

    From SLAC Lab: “Despite Extensive Analysis, Fermi Bubbles Defy Explanation” 


    SLAC Lab

    July 31, 2014

    Scientists from Stanford and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have analyzed more than four years of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, along with data from other experiments, to create the most detailed portrait yet of two towering bubbles that stretch tens of thousands of light-years above and below our galaxy.

    https://www6.slac.stanford.edu/sites/www6.slac.stanford.edu/files/styles/lightbox_large_image/public/images/Fermi_bubbles-ST.jpg
    This artist’s representation shows the Fermi bubbles towering above and below the galaxy. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

    NASA Fermi Telescope
    NASA/Fermi

    The bubbles, which shine most brightly in energetic gamma rays, were discovered almost four years ago by a team of Harvard astrophysicists led by Douglas Finkbeiner who combed through data from Fermi’s main instrument, the Large Area Telescope.

    NASA Fermi LAT Large Area Telescope
    NASA/Fermi LAT

    The new portrait, described in a paper that has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, reveals several puzzling features, said Dmitry Malyshev, a postdoctoral researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology who co-led on the analysis.

    For example, the outlines of the bubbles are quite sharp, and the bubbles themselves glow in nearly uniform gamma rays over their colossal surfaces, like two 30,000-light-year-tall incandescent bulbs screwed into the center of the galaxy.

    Their size is another puzzle. The farthest reaches of the Fermi bubbles boast some of the highest energy gamma rays, but there’s no discernable cause for them that far from the galaxy.

    Finally, although the parts of the bubbles closest to the galactic plane shine in microwaves as well as gamma rays, about two-thirds of the way out the microwaves fade and only gamma rays are detectable. Not only is this different from other galactic bubbles, but it makes the researchers’ work that much more challenging, said Malyshev’s co-lead, KIPAC postdoctoral researcher Anna Franckowiak.

    two
    KIPAC researchers Dmitry Malyshev (left) and Anna Franckowiak with the magazine issues that contain the articles about the Fermi bubbles they co-authored for the general public. Malyshev’s is in the July 2014 issue of Scientific American, while Franckowiak’s article is in the July 2014 issue of Physics Today. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    “Since the Fermi bubbles have no known counterparts in other wavelengths in areas high above the galactic plane, all we have to go on for clues are the gamma rays themselves,” she said.

    What Blew The Bubbles?

    Soon after the initial discovery theorists jumped in, offering several explanations for the bubbles’ origins. For example, they could have been created by huge jets of accelerated matter blasting out from the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Or they could have been formed by a population of giant stars, born from the plentiful gas surrounding the black hole, all exploding as supernovae at roughly the same time.

    “There are several models that explain them, but none of the models is perfect,” Malyshev said. “The bubbles are rather mysterious.”

    Creating the portrait wasn’t easy.

    “It’s very tricky to model,” said Franckowiak. “We had to remove all the foreground gamma-ray emissions from the data before we could clearly see the bubbles.”

    From the vantage point of most Earth-bound telescopes, all but the highest-energy gamma rays are completely screened out by our atmosphere. It wasn’t until the era of orbiting gamma-ray observatories like Fermi that scientists discovered how common extra-terrestrial gamma rays really are. Pulsars, supermassive black holes in other galaxies and supernovae are all gamma rays point sources, like distant stars are point sources of visible light, and all those gamma rays had to be scrubbed from the Fermi data. Hardest to remove were the galactic diffuse emissions, a gamma ray fog that fills the galaxy from cosmic rays interacting with interstellar particles.

    “Subtracting all those contributions didn’t subtract the bubbles,” Franckowiak said. “The bubbles do exist and their properties are robust.” In other words, the bubbles don’t disappear when other gamma-ray sources are pulled out of the Fermi data – in fact, they stand out quite clearly.

    Franckowiak says more data is necessary before they can narrow down the origin of the bubbles any further.

    “What would be very interesting would be to get a better view of them closer to the galactic center,” she said, “but the galactic gamma ray emissions are so bright we’d need to get a lot better at being able to subtract them.”

    Fermi is continuing to gather the data Franckowiak wants, but for now, both researchers said, there are a lot of open questions.

    See the full article here.

    SLAC Campus
    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.
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  • richardmitnick 4:10 pm on July 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Gamma Rays,   

    From NASA/Fermi: “NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope Reveals New Source of Gamma Rays” 

    NASA Fermi

    July 31, 2014
    No Writer Credit

    Observations by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope of several stellar eruptions, called novae, firmly establish these relatively common outbursts almost always produce gamma rays, the most energetic form of light.

    novae
    These images show Fermi data centered on each of the four gamma-ray novae observed by the LAT. Colors indicate the number of detected gamma rays with energies greater than 100 million electron volts (blue indicates lowest, yellow highest). Image Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration

    “There’s a saying that one is a fluke, two is a coincidence, and three is a class, and we’re now at four novae and counting with Fermi,” said Teddy Cheung, an astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, and the lead author of a paper reporting the findings in the Aug. 1 edition of the journal Science.

    A nova is a sudden, short-lived brightening of an otherwise inconspicuous star caused by a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf, a compact star not much larger than Earth. Each nova explosion releases up to 100,000 times the annual energy output of our sun. Prior to Fermi, no one suspected these outbursts were capable of producing high-energy gamma rays, emission with energy levels millions of times greater than visible light and usually associated with far more powerful cosmic blasts.

    Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) scored its first nova detection, dubbed V407 Cygni, in March 2010. The outburst came from a rare type of star system in which a white dwarf interacts with a red giant, a star more than a hundred times the size of our sun. Other members of the same unusual class of stellar system have been observed “going nova” every few decades.

    NASA Fermi LAT Large Area Telescope
    NASA/Fermi LAT

    image
    The white dwarf star in V407 Cygni, shown here in an artist’s concept, went nova in 2010. Scientists think the outburst primarily emitted gamma rays (magenta) as the blast wave plowed through the gas-rich environment near the system’s red giant star. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

    In 2012 and 2013, the LAT detected three so-called classical novae which occur in more common binaries where a white dwarf and a sun-like star orbit each other every few hours.

    “We initially thought of V407 Cygni as a special case because the red giant’s atmosphere is essentially leaking into space, producing a gaseous environment that interacts with the explosion’s blast wave,” said co-author Steven Shore, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Pisa in Italy. “But this can’t explain more recent Fermi detections because none of those systems possess red giants.”

    Fermi detected the classical novae V339 Delphini in August 2013 and V1324 Scorpii in June 2012, following their discovery in visible light. In addition, on June 22, 2012, the LAT discovered a transient gamma-ray source about 20 degrees from the sun. More than a month later, when the sun had moved farther away, astronomers looking in visible light discovered a fading nova from V959 Monocerotis at the same position.

    Astronomers estimate that between 20 and 50 novae occur each year in our galaxy. Most go undetected, their visible light obscured by intervening dust and their gamma rays dimmed by distance. All of the gamma-ray novae found so far lie between 9,000 and 15,000 light-years away, relatively nearby given the size of our galaxy.

    Novae occur because a stream of gas flowing from the companion star piles up into a layer on the white dwarf’s surface. Over time — tens of thousands of years, in the case of classical novae, and several decades for a system like V407 Cygni — this deepening layer reaches a flash point. Its hydrogen begins to undergo nuclear fusion, triggering a runaway reaction that detonates the accumulated gas. The white dwarf itself remains intact.

    shock
    Novae typically originate in binary systems containing sun-like stars, as shown in this artist’s rendering. A nova in a system like this likely produces gamma rays (magenta) through collisions among multiple shock waves in the rapidly expanding shell of debris. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

    One explanation for the gamma-ray emission is that the blast creates multiple shock waves that expand into space at slightly different speeds. Faster shocks could interact with slower ones, accelerating particles to near the speed of light. These particles ultimately could produce gamma rays.

    “This colliding-shock process must also have been at work in V407 Cygni, but there is no clear evidence for it,” said co-author Pierre Jean, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Toulouse in France. This is likely because gamma rays emitted through this process were overwhelmed by those produced as the shock wave interacted with the red giant and its surroundings, the scientists conclude.

    See the full article here.

    The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope , formerly referred to as the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), is a space observatory being used to perform gamma-ray astronomy observations from low Earth orbit. Its main instrument is the Large Area Telescope (LAT), with which astronomers mostly intend to perform an all-sky survey studying astrophysical and cosmological phenomena such as active galactic nuclei, pulsars, other high-energy sources and dark matter. Another instrument aboard Fermi, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM; formerly GLAST Burst Monitor), is being used to study gamma-ray bursts. The mission is a joint venture of NASA, the United States Department of Energy, and government agencies in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.


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