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  • richardmitnick 12:15 pm on January 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Gravitational waves, KAGRA,   

    From Science News: “A new gravitational wave detector is almost ready to join the search” 

    From Science News

    January 18, 2019
    Emily Conover

    Japan’s KAGRA experiment tests new techniques for spotting ripples in spacetime.

    KAGRA gravitational wave detector, Kamioka mine in Kamioka-cho, Hida-city, Gifu-prefecture, Japan

    KAGRA tunnel

    In the quest for better gravitational wave detectors, scientists are going cold.

    An up-and-coming detector called KAGRA aims to spot spacetime ripples by harnessing advanced technological twists: chilling key components to temperatures hovering just above absolute zero, and placing the ultrasensitive setup in an enormous underground cavern.

    Scientists with KAGRA, located in Kamioka, Japan, now have results from their first ultrafrigid tests. Those experiments suggest that the detector should be ready to start searching for gravitational waves later in 2019, the team reports January 14 at arXiv.org.

    The new detector will join similar observatories in the search for the minute cosmic undulations, which are stirred up by violent events like collisions of black holes. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, has two detectors located in Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La. Another observatory, Virgo, is located near Pisa, Italy.

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    Those detectors sit above ground, and don’t use the cooling technique, making KAGRA the first of its kind.

    KAGRA consists of two 3-kilometer-long arms, arranged in an “L” shape. Within each arm, laser light bounces back and forth between two mirrors located at both ends. The light acts like a giant measuring stick, capturing tiny changes in the length of each arm, which can be caused by a passing gravitational wave stretching and squeezing spacetime.

    FREEZE UP KAGRA’s mirrors (one shown) are cooled to very low temperatures to prevent jiggling that could hamper the search for gravitational waves.

    Because gravitational wave detectors measure length changes tinier than the diameter of a proton, minuscule effects like the jiggling of molecules on the mirrors’ surfaces can interfere with the measurements. Cooling the mirrors to about 20 kelvins (–253° Celsius) limits that jiggling.

    In the new tests, performed in spring 2018, researchers cooled only one of KAGRA’s four mirrors, says KAGRA leader Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo. When the detector starts up for real, the others will be chilled too.

    Having the detector underground also helps keep the mirrors from vibrating due to activity on Earth’s surface. LIGO is so sensitive that it can be affected by rumbling trucks, a stiff breeze or even mischievous wildlife (SN Online: 4/18/18). KAGRA’s underground lair should be significantly quieter.

    Building underground and going cold required years of effort from KAGRA’s researchers. “They’ve taken on these two great challenges, which are both important to the long-term future of the field,” says LIGO spokesperson David Shoemaker of MIT. In the future, even more advanced gravitational wave detectors could build on KAGRA’s techniques.

    For now, adding KAGRA to the existing observatories should help scientists improve their studies of where gravitational wiggles come from. Once scientists detect a gravitational wave signal, they alert astronomers, who search for light from the cataclysm that generated the waves in the hope of better understanding the event (SN: 11/11/17, p. 6). Having an additional gravitational wave detector in a different part of the world will help better triangulate wave sources. “This feature is very important,” Kajita says, “because telescopes can only see a small part of the sky at a time.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 2:59 pm on December 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Gravitational waves, LIGO and Virgo Announce Four New Detections,   

    From MIT Caltech Advanced aLIGO: “LIGO and Virgo Announce Four New Detections” 

    From MIT Caltech Advanced aLIGO

    Valerio Boschi
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    LIGO-Virgo/Frank Elavsky/Northwestern

    The observatories are also releasing their first catalog of gravitational-wave events.

    On Saturday, December 1, scientists attending the Gravitational Wave Physics and Astronomy Workshop in College Park, Maryland, presented new results from the National Science Foundation’s LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and the European- based VIRGO gravitational-wave detector regarding their searches for coalescing cosmic objects, such as pairs of black holes and pairs of neutron stars. The LIGO and Virgo collaborations have now confidently detected gravitational waves from a total of 10 stellar-mass binary black hole mergers and one merger of neutron stars, which are the dense, spherical remains of stellar explosions. Six of the black hole merger events had been reported before, while four are newly announced.

    From September 12, 2015, to January 19, 2016, during the first LIGO observing run since undergoing upgrades in a program called Advanced LIGO, gravitational waves from three binary black hole mergers were detected. The second observing run, which lasted from November 30, 2016, to August 25, 2017, yielded one binary neutron star merger and seven additional binary black hole mergers, including the four new gravitational-wave events being reported now. The new events are known as GW170729, GW170809, GW170818, and GW170823, in reference to the dates they were detected.

    All of the events are included in a new catalog, also released Saturday, with some of the events breaking records. For instance, the new event GW170729, detected in the second observing run on July 29, 2017, is the most massive and distant gravitational-wave source ever observed. In this coalescence, which happened roughly 5 billion years ago, an equivalent energy of almost five solar masses was converted into gravitational radiation.

    GW170814 was the first binary black hole merger measured by the three-detector network, and allowed for the first tests of gravitational-wave polarization (analogous to light polarization).

    The event GW170817, detected three days after GW170814, represented the first time that gravitational waves were ever observed from the merger of a binary neutron star system. What’s more, this collision was seen in gravitational waves and light, marking an exciting new chapter in multi-messenger astronomy, in which cosmic objects are observed simultaneously in different forms of radiation.

    One of the new events, GW170818, which was detected by the global network formed by the LIGO and Virgo observatories, was very precisely pinpointed in the sky. The position of the binary black holes, located 2.5 billion light-years from Earth, was identified in the sky with a precision of 39 square degrees. That makes it the next best localized gravitational-wave source after the GW170817 neutron star merger.

    Caltech’s Albert Lazzarini, Deputy Director of the LIGO Laboratory, says “The release of four additional binary black hole mergers further informs us of the nature of the population of these binary systems in the universe and better constrains the event rate for these types of events.”

    “In just one year, LIGO and VIRGO working together have dramatically advanced gravitational- wave science, and the rate of discovery suggests the most spectacular findings are yet to come,” says Denise Caldwell, Director of NSF’s Division of Physics. “The accomplishments of NSF’s LIGO and its international partners are a source of pride for the agency, and we expect even greater advances as LIGO’s sensitivity becomes better and better in the coming year.”

    “The next observing run, starting in Spring 2019, should yield many more gravitational-wave candidates, and the science the community can accomplish will grow accordingly,” says David Shoemaker, spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and senior research scientist in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. “It’s an incredibly exciting time.”

    “It is gratifying to see the new capabilities that become available through the addition of Advanced Virgo to the global network,” says Jo van den Brand of Nikhef (the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics) and VU University Amsterdam, who is the spokesperson for the Virgo Collaboration. “Our greatly improved pointing precision will allow astronomers to rapidly find any other cosmic messengers emitted by the gravitational-wave sources.” The enhanced pointing capability of the LIGO-Virgo network is made possible by exploiting the time delays of the signal arrival at the different sites and the so-called antenna patterns of the interferometers.

    “The new catalog is another proof of the exemplary international collaboration of the gravitational wave community and an asset for the forthcoming runs and upgrades”, adds EGO Director Stavros Katsanevas.

    The scientific papers describing these new findings, which are being initially published on the arXiv repository of electronic preprints, present detailed information in the form of a catalog of all the gravitational wave detections and candidate events of the two observing runs as well as describing the characteristics of the merging black hole population. Most notably, we find that almost all black holes formed from stars are lighter than 45 times the mass of the Sun. Thanks to more advanced data processing and better calibration of the instruments, the accuracy of the astrophysical parameters of the previously announced events increased considerably.

    Laura Cadonati, Deputy Spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, says “These new discoveries were only made possible through the tireless and carefully coordinated work of the detector commissioners at all three observatories, and the scientists around the world responsible for data quality and cleaning, searching for buried signals, and parameter estimation for each candidate — each a scientific specialty requiring enormous expertise and experience.”

    Related Links

    Paper: “GWTC-1: A Gravitational-Wave Transient Catalog of Compact Binary Mergers Observed by LIGO and Virgo during the First and Second Observing Runs

    Paper: “Binary Black Hole Population Properties Inferred from the First and Second Observing Runs of Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo

    The Collaborations

    LIGO is funded by NSF and operated by Caltech and MIT, which conceived of LIGO and led the Initial and Advanced LIGO projects. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by the NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council-OzGrav) making significant commitments and contributions to the project. More than 1,200 scientists from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration. A list of additional partners is available at https://my.ligo.org/census.php.

    The Virgo collaboration consists of more than 300 physicists and engineers belonging to 28 different European research groups: six from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France; 11 from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy; two in the Netherlands with Nikhef; the MTA Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland; Spain with IFAE and the Universities of Valencia and Barcelona; two in Belgium with the Universities of Liege and Louvain; Jena University in Germany; and the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO), the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy, funded by CNRS, INFN, and Nikhef. A list of the Virgo Collaboration can be found at http://public.virgo-gw.eu/the-virgo-collaboration/. More information is available on the Virgo website at http://www.virgo-gw.eu.

    See the full article here .


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    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

  • richardmitnick 1:44 pm on November 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A pair of inspiraling neutron stars, A possible scenario would be a neutrino created in the relativistic outflows of a merger of binary neutron stars or black holes or the core-collapse of a supernova all cataclysmic cosmic environments , , , , , , , , Gravitational waves, , , The detection of gravitational waves and neutrinos from a single source would set a new milestone in multimessenger astronomy, The scrutiny of an astrophysical source with three different messengers would not only be the next breakthrough in the field but would also confirm that multimessenger astronomy is the only path to a ,   

    From U Wisconsin IceCube Collaboration: “Multimessenger searches for sources of gravitational waves and neutrinos” 

    U Wisconsin ICECUBE neutrino detector at the South Pole

    IceCube employs more than 5000 detectors lowered on 86 strings into almost 100 holes in the Antarctic ice NSF B. Gudbjartsson, IceCube Collaboration

    Lunar Icecube

    IceCube DeepCore annotated

    IceCube PINGU annotated

    DM-Ice II at IceCube annotated

    From From U Wisconsin IceCube Collaboration

    09 Nov 2018
    Sílvia Bravo

    Artist’s now iconic illustration of two merging neutron stars. The rippling space-time grid represents gravitational waves that travel out from the collision, while the narrow beams show the bursts of gamma rays and neutrinos that are shot out just seconds after the gravitational waves. Image: NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet

    Last year was an extraordinary year for multimessenger astrophysics. In August 2017, a gravitational wave and its electromagnetic counterpart emission were detected from a pair of inspiraling neutron stars. Only a month later, a high-energy neutrino was detected at the South Pole and electromagnetic follow-up observations helped identify the first likely source of very high energy neutrinos and cosmic rays.

    Since then, the dream of astrophysicists has been to join neutrinos and gravitational waves in the detection of a multimessenger source. According to our understanding of the extreme universe, a possible scenario would be a neutrino created in the relativistic outflows of a merger of binary neutron stars or black holes or the core-collapse of a supernova, all cataclysmic cosmic environments that should also produce gravitational waves.

    The IceCube, LIGO, Virgo, and ANTARES collaborations have used data from the first observing period of Advanced LIGO and from the two neutrino detectors to search for coincident neutrino and gravitational wave emission from transient sources.

    The goal was to explore the discovery potential of a multimessenger observation, i.e., of a source detection that needs both messengers to confirm its astrophysical origin. Scientists did not find any significant coincidence. The results, recently submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, set a constraint on the density of these sources.

    The detection of gravitational waves and neutrinos from a single source would set a new milestone in multimessenger astronomy, allowing the simultaneous study of the inner and outer processes powering high-energy emission from astrophysical objects.

    A joint detection would also significantly improve the localization of the source and enable faster and more precise electromagnetic follow-up observations. The scrutiny of an astrophysical source with three different messengers would not only be the next breakthrough in the field but would also confirm that multimessenger astronomy is the only path to a profound understanding of the extreme universe.

    Even though the current search was very limited in time, researchers have set a strong constraint for joint emission from core-collapse supernovas, while binary mergers remain secure as potential multimessenger sources of gravitational waves and high-energy neutrinos.

    This study used datasets, spanning less than 2.5 months, that are also limited by LIGO’s sensitivity, which will soon improve by a factor of 2. The addition of new LIGO and Virgo data as well as from IceCube and ANTARES will greatly increase the sensitivity of joint searches. In the longer term, future next-generation neutrino and gravitational wave detectors will boost the potential of discovery for these searches.

    See the full article here .


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    IceCube is a particle detector at the South Pole that records the interactions of a nearly massless sub-atomic particle called the neutrino. IceCube searches for neutrinos from the most violent astrophysical sources: events like exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars. The IceCube telescope is a powerful tool to search for dark matter, and could reveal the new physical processes associated with the enigmatic origin of the highest energy particles in nature. In addition, exploring the background of neutrinos produced in the atmosphere, IceCube studies the neutrinos themselves; their energies far exceed those produced by accelerator beams. IceCube is the world’s largest neutrino detector, encompassing a cubic kilometer of ice.

  • richardmitnick 10:35 pm on October 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Gravitational waves, GRB 150101B, GRB 170817A, ,   

    From AAS NOVA: ” Two Explosions with Similar Quirks” 


    From AAS NOVA

    12 October 2018
    Susanna Kohler

    Artist’s by now iconic illustration of the merger of two neutron stars, producing a short gamma-ray burst. [NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet]

    High-energy radiation released during the merger of two neutron stars last year has left astronomers puzzled. Could a burst of gamma rays from 2015 help us to piece together a coherent picture of both explosions?

    A Burst Alone?

    When two neutron stars collided last August, forming a distinctive gravitational-wave signal and a burst of radiation detected by telescopes around the world, scientists knew that these observations would change our understanding of short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs).Though we’d previously observed thousands of GRBs, GRB 170817A was the first to have such a broad range of complementary observations — both in gravitational waves and across the electromagnetic spectrum — providing insight into its origin.

    Total isotropic-equivalent energies for Fermi-detected gamma-ray bursts with known redshifts. GRB 170817A (pink star) is a factor of ~1,000 dimmer than typical short GRBs (orange points). GRB 170817A and GRB 150101B (green star) are two of the closest detected short GRBs. [Adapted from Burns et al. 2018]

    But it quickly became evident that GRB 170817A was not your typical GRB. For starters, this burst was unusually weak, appearing 1,000 times less luminous than a typical short GRB. Additionally, the behavior of this burst was unusual: instead of having only a single component, the ~2-second explosion exhibited two distinct components — first a short, hard (higher-energy) spike, and then a longer, soft (lower-energy) tail.

    The peculiarities of GRB 170817A prompted a slew of models explaining its unusual appearance. Ultimately, the question is: can our interpretations of GRB 170817A safely be applied to the general population of gamma-ray bursts? Or must we assume that GRB 170817A is a unique event, not representative of the general population?

    New analysis of a GRB from 2015 — presented in a recent study led by Eric Burns (NASA Goddard SFC) — may help to answer this question.

    A Matter of Angles

    What does a burst from 2015 have to do with the curious case of GRB 170817A? Burns and collaborators have demonstrated that this 2015 burst, GRB 150101B, exhibited the same strange behavior as GRB 170817A: its emission can be broken down into two components consisting of a short, hard spike, followed by a long, soft tail. Unlike GRB 170817A, however, GRB 150101B is not underluminous — and it lasted less than a tenth of the time.

    Fermi count rates in different energy ranges showing the short hard spike and the longer soft tail in GRB 150101B. The short hard spike is visible above 50 keV (top and middle panels). The soft tail is visible in the 10–50 keV channel (bottom panel). [Burns et al. 2018]

    Intriguingly, these similarities and differences can all be explained by a single model. Burns and collaborators propose that GRB 150101B and GRB 170817A exhibit the exact same two-component behavior, and their differences in luminosity and duration can be explained by quirks of special relativity.

    High-speed outflows such as these will have different apparent luminosities and durations depending on whether we view them along their axis or slightly from the side. Burns and collaborators demonstrate that these the two bursts could easily have the same profile — but GRB 150101B was viewed nearly on-axis, whereas GRB 170817A was viewed from an angle.

    If this is true, then perhaps more GRBs have hard spikes and soft tails similar to these two; the tails may just be difficult to detect in more distant bursts. While more work remains to be done, the recognition that GRB 170817A may not be unique is an important one for understanding both its behavior and that of other short GRBs.


    “Fermi GBM Observations of GRB 150101B: A Second Nearby Event with a Short Hard Spike and a Soft Tail,” E. Burns et al 2018 ApJL 863 L34.

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    NASA/Fermi LAT

    NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

    See the full article here .


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    AAS Mission and Vision Statement

    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on September 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Gravitational waves, ,   

    From Caltech: “Superfast Jet Observed Streaming Away from Stellar Collision” 

    Caltech Logo

    From Caltech

    Elise Cutts

    An artist’s impression of the jet (pictured as a ball of fire), produced in the neutron star merger first detected on August 17, 2017 by telescopes around the world, as well as LIGO, which detects gravitational waves (green ripples). Credit: James Josephides (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia)

    Using a collection of National Science Foundation radio telescopes, researchers have confirmed that a narrow jet of material was ejected at near light speeds from a neutron star collision. The collision, which was observed August 17, 2017 and occurred 130 million miles from Earth, initially produced gravitational waves that were observed by the Laser Interferometry Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), alongside a flood of light in the form of gamma rays, X-rays, visible light, and radio waves. It was the first cosmic event to be observed in both gravitational waves and light waves.

    Confirmation that a superfast jet had been produced by the neutron star collision came after radio astronomers discovered that a region of radio emission created by the merger had moved in a seemingly impossible way that only a jet could explain. The radio observations were made using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), and the Very Large Array (VLA). The VLA is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is closely associated with the other two telescopes involved in the discovery.


    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky Expanded Very Large Array, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

    “We measured an apparent motion that is four times faster than light. That illusion, called superluminal motion, results when the jet is pointed nearly toward Earth and the material in the jet is moving close to the speed of light,” says Kunal Mooley, a Caltech postdoctoral scholar with a joint appointment at the NRAO and lead author of a new study about the jet appearing online September 5 in the journal Nature. Mooley and Assistant Professor of Astronomy Gregg Hallinan were part of an international collaboration that observed and interpreted the movement of the radio emission.

    “We were lucky to be able to observe this event, because if the jet had been pointed too much farther away from Earth, the radio emission would have been too faint for us to detect,” says Hallinan.

    Superfast jets are known to give rise to intense, short-duration gamma-ray bursts or sGRBs, predicted by theorists to be associated with neutron star collisions. The observation of a jet associated with this collision is therefore an important confirmation of theoretical expectations.

    Superfast jets are known to give rise to intense, short-duration gamma-ray bursts or sGRBs, predicted by theorists to be associated with neutron star collisions. The observation of a jet associated with this collision is therefore an important confirmation of theoretical expectations.

    The aftermath of the merger is now also better understood: the jet likely interacted with surrounding debris, forming a broad “cocoon” of material that expanded outward and accounted for the majority of the radio signal observed soon after the collision. Later on, the observed radio emission came mainly from the jet.

    Read the full story from NRAO at https://public.nrao.edu/news/superfast-jet-neutron-star-merger/.

    See the full article here .
    See also https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/from-ucsc-a-uc-santa-cruz-special-report-neutron-stars-gravitational-waves-and-all-the-gold-in-the-universe/

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”

    Caltech campus

  • richardmitnick 6:19 am on August 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Gravitational waves, , ,   

    From The Conversation: “We’re going to get a better detector: time for upgrades in the search for gravitational waves” 

    From The Conversation

    August 16, 2018
    Robert Ward

    It’s been a year since ripples in space-time from a colliding pair of dead stars tickled the gravitational wave detectors of the Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo facilities.

    Soon after, astronomers around the world began a campaign to observe the afterglow of the collision of a binary neutron star merger in radio waves, microwaves, visible light, x-rays and more.

    See https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/from-ucsc-a-uc-santa-cruz-special-report-neutron-stars-gravitational-waves-and-all-the-gold-in-the-universe/

    This was the dawn of multi-messenger astronomy: a new era in astronomy, where events in the universe are observed with more than just a single type of radiation. In this case, the messengers were gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation.

    What we’ve learned (so far)

    From this single event, we learned an incredible amount. Last October, on the day the detection was made public, 84 scientific papers were published (or the preprints made available).

    We learned that gravity and light travel at the same speed, neutron star mergers are a source of short gamma-ray bursts, and that kilonovae – the explosion from a neutron star merger – are where our gold comes from.

    This rich science came from the fact that we were able to combine our observatories to witness this single event from multiple astronomical “windows”. The gravitational waves arrived first, followed 1.7 seconds later by gamma-rays. That is a pretty small delay, considering the waves had been travelling for 130 million years.

    Over the next few weeks, visible light and radio waves began to be observed and then slowly faded.

    It seemed like the news about gravitational waves was coming fast and furious, with the first detection announced in 2016, a Nobel prize in 2017, and the announcement of the binary neutron star merger just weeks after the Nobel prize.

    Time for upgrades

    On this first anniversary of the neutron star merger, the gravitational wave detectors are offline for upgrades. They actually went offline shortly after the detection and will come back online some time early in 2019.

    The work of making gravitational wave detectors function requires extraordinary patience and dedication. These are exquisite experiments – it took more than 40 years of technological development by a community of more than a thousand scientists to get to the point of detecting the first signal.

    Naturally, improving on this work is not easy. So what does it actually take?

    We really do listen to gravitational waves, and our detectors act more like microphones than telescopes or cameras.

    Quiet please!

    To detect gravitational waves, we need to do more than just turn off the dishwasher. We need to build the quietest, best-isolated thing on Earth.

    Unfortunately, the laws of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics both prevent us from eliminating the noise entirely. Nonetheless, we strive to do the best that these fundamental limits permit. This involves, among many other extraordinary things, hanging our mirrors on glass threads .

    Before sealing up the chamber and pumping the vacuum system down, a LIGO optics technician inspects one of LIGO’s core optics (mirrors) by illuminating its surface with light at a glancing angle. Matt Heintze/Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

    Our mirrors weight 40kg each and are suspended from four of these glass threads, which are less than a half-millimetre in diameter and exquisitely crafted.

    The threads are under enormous stress, and the slightest imperfection (or the slightest touch) can cause them to explode.

    Just such an explosion happened earlier this year while installing a new mirror. Fortunately, the precious mirror fell into a cradle designed for just such a possibility, and was not damaged.

    Nonetheless, the delicate, intricate work of creating the glass threads, attaching them to the mirror, hanging the mirror and then installing it all needed to be redone.

    Improvements to the detector

    This was a heartbreaking setback for the team, but the added delay was not entirely in vain. In parallel with remaking the glass threads and rehanging the new mirror, we made some other improvements to the detector, for which we otherwise would not have had enough time.

    One of the goals of this upgrade period is to install something called a quantum squeezed light source into the gravitational wave detectors.

    As mentioned earlier, quantum mechanics mandates a certain minimum amount of noise in any measurement. We can’t arbitrarily reduce this quantum noise, but we can move it around and change its shape by squeezing it.

    This is a bit like sweeping dust under the rug. It’s not really gone, but it might not bother you so much anymore. The quantum squeezed light source does just this.

    Australian National University scientists Nutsinee Kijbunchoo and Terry McCrae build components for a quantum squeezed light source at LIGO Hanford Observatory in Washington, US. Nutsinee Kijbunchoo

    A gravitational wave detector is already a very complex system, and a squeezed light source is another complex system, so putting them together can be a challenge.

    Despite the complexity of this challenge, when the squeezed light source was activated for the first time at the LIGO detector in Livingston, Louisiana, US, in February this year there was an immediate improvement in the quantum noise: the gravitational wave detector output got just a bit quieter.

    ESA/NASA eLISA space based, the future of gravitational wave research

    See the full article here .


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    The Conversation US 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 3:05 pm on August 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Gravitational waves,   

    From Discover Magazine: “Astronomers Find New Way to Supersize Baby Black Holes” 


    From Discover Magazine

    August 16, 2018
    Jake Parks

    This artist’s concept depicts a supermassive black hole surrounded by a dense disk of gas and dust in the center of a galaxy. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    Just last year, three American physicists shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for their role in the historic detection of gravitational waves. The signals came from cosmic ripples in space-time created by some of the most violent events in the universe: colliding black holes.

    Scientists have now detected six gravitational-wave signals — five from merging pairs of stellar-mass black holes, and one from a merging pair of neutron stars. But strangely, most of the stellar-mass black holes involved were more than 20 times as massive as the Sun. The find perplexed astronomers. Stellar-mass black holes, which form when massive stars collapse, typically top out at about 10 to 15 times the mass of the Sun.

    Bulking Up Black Holes

    So, how did these relatively small black holes bulk up before merging?

    In the past, scientists suspected these black holes grew larger because they started their lives as giant stars with very few metals — or elements besides hydrogen and helium. Since low-metallicity stars produce weak solar winds, they keep most of their mass before collapsing into black holes.

    But according to a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, there may be more than one way to make a black hole balloon in size — and it doesn’t involve a low-metal diet.

    Instead, the authors outline a way that average stellar-mass black hole can grow by gobbling up the material circling a galaxy’s supermassive black hole. Furthermore, this new mechanism also may predict a fresh source of gravitational waves.

    Gravitational waves are produced by the inspiral and eventual merger of two extremely dense objects, such as black holes or neutron stars. This creates ripples in the fabric of space-time that propagate outward at the speed of light. (Credit: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

    Spiraling Disks

    Astronomers know that the majority of large galaxies house supermassive black holes in their cores. Many of these black holes lie dormant for most of their lives, accreting little matter and producing little light.

    However, some supermassive black holes are surrounded by a dense disk of gas and dust that harshly grinds together as it spins inward toward the supermassive black hole itself. This spinning disk generates incredible amounts of friction, which causes the material inside it to glow brightly. If these radiant disks are especially bright, astronomers refer to them as active galactic nuclei, or AGN.

    Just outside these chaotic disks, however, are numerous stars — many of which will eventually evolve into stellar-mass black holes.

    According to the new study, a pair of these nearby stellar-mass black holes can easily become trapped within the AGN’s disk. And when this happens, the black holes feed on the available matter as they spiral ever closer, growing from around seven solar masses to more than 20 solar masses before they eventually merge.

    The gravitational-wave signal generated by such a merger would indicate that the two black holes involved were around 20 solar masses, even though they both initially started much smaller.

    Multi-Messenger Astronomy

    One interesting offshoot of this newly proposed method for forming supersized stellar-mass black holes is that their environment can often cause them to synchronize their spin axes, like two tops spinning in tandem. According to the study, such systems release about 10 percent of their energy as gravitational waves when they do finally merge. That’s as much as three times more gravitational-wave energy than would be released if the black holes were randomly oriented, which means these mergers are likely detectable with current technology, such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    See also https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/from-ucsc-neutron-stars-gravitational-waves-and-all-the-gold-in-the-universe/

    The authors also say these black holes would likely emit large amounts of X-rays, gamma rays, or even radio waves. Those wavelengths could provide an electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational-wave signal, revealing important details that would otherwise remain hidden.

    Last year, astronomers managed to do just this when they observed both gravitational waves and gamma rays from the merger of two neutron stars. At the time, astronomer Josh Simon of Carnegie Observatories said of the neutron star detection, “There are things you can discover with gravitational waves that you could never see with electromagnetic light, and vice versa. Having that combination should provide us with insights into these extreme objects.”

    What’s Next?

    So, is this newly proposed method for forming supersized stellar-mass black holes the explanation for LIGO’s extra-large detections, or are low-metal stars responsible? Or maybe it’s a combination of both. At this point, we just don’t know for sure.

    However, LIGO and its sister detector Virgo are currently undergoing planned upgrades, and should start observing again in early 2019. And when they kick back on, astronomers will no doubt be hunting for gravitational-wave signals that can be paired with electromagnetic observations. Such multi-messenger detections will likely be key to the future of astronomy, so make sure to stay tuned.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 1:39 pm on July 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CfA/VERITAS a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four 12m optical reflectors for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV - TeV energy range Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory M, Gravitational waves, , , , VERITAS array has confirmed the detection of gamma rays from the vicinity of a supermassive black hole   

    From CfA: “VERITAS Supplies Critical Piece to Neutrino Discovery Puzzle” 

    Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    July 12, 2018
    Megan Watzke
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    +1 617-496-7998

    Peter Edmonds
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    +1 617-571-7279

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four 12m optical reflectors for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)

    The VERITAS array has confirmed the detection of gamma rays from the vicinity of a supermassive black hole. While these detections are relatively common for VERITAS, this black hole is potentially the first known astrophysical source of high-energy cosmic neutrinos, a type of ghostly subatomic particle.

    On September 22, 2017 the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a cubic-kilometer neutrino telescope located at the South Pole, detected a high-energy neutrino of potential astrophysical origin. However, the observation of a single neutrino by itself is not enough for IceCube to claim the detection of a source. For that, scientists needed more information.

    Very quickly after the detection by IceCube was announced, telescopes around the world including VERITAS (which stands for the “Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System”) swung into action to identify the source. The VERITAS, MAGIC and H.E.S.S. gamma-ray observatories all looked at the neutrino position. In addition, two gamma-ray observatories that monitor much of the sky at lower and higher energies also provided coverage.

    These follow-up observations of the rough IceCube neutrino position suggest that the source of the neutrino is a blazar, which is a supermassive black hole with powerful outflowing jets that can change dramatically in brightness over time. This blazar, known as TXS 0506+056, is located at the center of a galaxy about 4 billion light years from Earth.

    Initially, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope observed that TXS 0506+056 was several times brighter than usually seen in its all-sky monitoring. Eventually, the MAGIC observatory made a detection of much higher-energy gamma rays within two weeks of the neutrino detection, while VERITAS, H.E.S.S. and HAWC did not see the blazar in any of their observations during the two weeks following the alert.

    MAGIC Cherenkov gamma ray telescope on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, Altitude 2,200 m (7,200 ft)

    Given the importance of higher-energy gamma-ray detections in identifying the possible source of the neutrino, VERITAS continued to observe TXS 0506+056 over the following months, through February 2018, and revealed the source but at a dimmer state than what was detected by MAGIC.

    “The VERITAS detection shows us that the gamma-ray brightness of the source changes, which is a signature of a blazar,” said Wystan Benbow of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) that operates and manages VERITAS, and the Principal Investigator of VERITAS operations. “Finding a link between an astrophysical source and a neutrino event could open yet another window of exploration to the extreme Universe.”

    The detection of gamma rays coincident with neutrinos is tantalizing, since both particles must be produced in the generation of cosmic rays. Since they were first detected over one hundred years ago, cosmic rays — highly energetic particles that continuously rain down on Earth from space — have posed an enduring mystery. What creates and launches these particles across such vast distances? Where do they come from?

    “The potential connection between the neutrino event and TXS 0506+056 would shed new light on the acceleration mechanisms that take place at the core of these galaxies, and provide clues on the century-old question of the origin of cosmic rays,” said co-author and spokesperson of VERITAS Reshmi Mukherjee of Barnard College, Columbia University in New York, New York.

    “The era of multi-messenger astrophysics is here,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “Each messenger – from electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves and now neutrinos – gives us a more complete understanding of the universe, and important new insights into the most powerful objects and events in the sky. Such breakthroughs are only possible through a long-term commitment to fundamental research and investment in superb research facilities.”

    “The detection of very-high-energy gamma-rays from TXS 0506+056 with VERITAS provides vital information to understand the powerful processes taking place in this and other potential neutrino sources,” said co-author Marcos Santander of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, who led the study. “The deep interconnection between neutrinos and gamma-rays is allowing us, for the first time, to study astrophysical objects using multimessenger observations in a way that would be impossible using single messengers.”

    A paper describing the deep VERITAS observations of TXS 0506+056 (“VERITAS Observations of the BL Lac Object TXS 0506+056”) is accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and appears online on July 12, 2018 (the accepted version is available here). A paper on the IceCube and initial gamma-ray observations, including VERITAS’s, appears in the latest issue of the journal Science.

    VERITAS is a ground-based facility located at the SAO’s Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona. It consists of an array of four 12-meter optical telescopes that can detect gamma rays via the extremely brief flashes of blue “Cherenkov” light created when gamma rays are absorbed in the Earth’s atmosphere. The VERITAS Collaboration consists of about 80 scientists from 20 institutions in the United States, Canada, Germany and Ireland.

    See the full article here .
    See also From Astronomy Magazine: “A cosmic particle spewed from a distant galaxy strikes Earth

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

  • richardmitnick 10:32 am on February 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Gravitational waves, ,   

    From Science Magazine: “Gravitational waves help reveal the weight limit for neutron stars, the densest objects in the cosmos” 

    Science Magazine

    Feb. 15, 2018
    Adrian Cho

    To derive the new mass limit, astrophysicists teased out the evolution of the famed merger of two neutron stars, spotted on 17 August 2017 and shown in this artist’s conception. University of Warwick/Mark Garlick/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0)

    How heavy can neutron stars get? Astrophysicists have long wondered how massive these stellar corpses could be without collapsing under their own gravity to form a black hole. Last year’s blockbuster observations of two neutron stars merging revealed a collapse as it happened, enabling four different groups to converge on the maximum mass—about 2.2 times that of the sun.

    “I’m encouraged that they all agree,” says James Lattimer, a nuclear astrophysicist at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. A solid mass limit for neutron stars will help theorists understand these mysterious objects. “Of all the characteristics of a neutron star, the two most important are the maximum mass and the radius,” Lattimer says.

    A dying star can have one of three afterlives. A lightweight star shrinks into a white dwarf, an Earth-size sphere of carbon. A heavy star explodes when its massive core collapses to an infinitesimal point: a black hole. A star in the middle range—8 to 25 solar masses—also explodes, but leaves behind a fantastically dense sphere of nearly pure neutrons measuring a couple of dozen kilometers across: a neutron star.

    As the neutron stars spiraled into each other, gravitational-wave detectors in the United States and Italy sensed ripples in space generated by the whirling bodies. The waves allowed physicists to peg their combined mass at 2.73 solar masses. Two seconds after the gravitational waves, orbiting telescopes detected a powerful, short gamma ray burst. Telescopes on Earth spotted the event’s afterglow, which faded over several days from bright blue to dimmer red.

    Together, the clues suggest the merger first produced a spinning, overweight neutron star momentarily propped up by centrifugal force. The afterglow shows that the merger spewed between 0.1 and 0.2 solar masses of newly formed radioactive elements into space, more than could have escaped from a black hole. The ejected material’s initial blue tint shows that at first, it lacked heavy elements called lanthanides. A flux of particles called neutrinos presumably slowed those elements’ formation, and a neutron star radiates copious neutrinos. The short gamma ray burst, the supposed birth cry of a black hole, indicates that the merged neutron star collapsed in seconds.

    To derive their mass limits, the teams dove into the details of the spinning neutron star. They generally argue that at first the outer layers of the merged neutron star likely spun faster than its center. Then it flung off material and slowed to form a rigid spinning body whose mass researchers could calculate from the masses of the original neutron stars minus the ejected material. The fact that this spinning neutron star survived only momentarily suggests that its mass was close to the limit for such a spinner.

    That last inference is essential, Rezzolla says. Theory suggests that the mass of a rigidly spinning neutron star can exceed that of a stationary one by up to 18%, he says. That scaling allows researchers to infer the maximum mass of a stationary, stable neutron star. The whole argument works because the initial neutron stars weren’t so massive that they immediately produced a black hole or so light that they produced a spinning neutron star that lingered longer, Shibata says. “This was a very lucky event,” he says.

    The analyses are persuasive, Lattimer says, although he quibbles with the precision implied in numbers such as 2.17 solar masses. “If you say 2.2 plus or minus a 10th, I would think it gets the same message across.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:51 pm on February 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , BurstCube, , , , , Gravitational waves,   

    From Goddard: “NASA Technology to Help Locate Electromagnetic Counterparts of Gravitational Waves” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Feb. 6, 2018
    By Lori Keesey
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Principal Investigator Jeremy Perkins and his co-investigator, Georgia de Nolfo, recently won funding to build a new CubeSat mission, called BurstCube. Respectively, Perkins and de Nolfo hold a crystal, or scintillator, and silicon photomultiplier array technology that will be used to detect and localize gamma-ray bursts for gravitational-wave science. The photomultiplier array shown here specifically was developed for another CubeSat mission called TRYAD, which will investigate gamma-ray bursts in high-altitude lightning clouds.
    Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk

    A compact detector technology applicable to all types of cross-disciplinary scientific investigations has found a home on a new CubeSat mission designed to find the electromagnetic counterparts of events that generate gravitational waves.

    NASA scientist Georgia de Nolfo and her collaborator, astrophysicist Jeremy Perkins, recently received funding from the agency’s Astrophysics Research and Analysis Program to develop a CubeSat mission called BurstCube. This mission, which will carry the compact sensor technology that de Nolfo developed, will detect and localize gamma-ray bursts caused by the collapse of massive stars and mergers of orbiting neutron stars. It also will detect solar flares and other high-energy transients once it’s deployed into low-Earth orbit in the early 2020s.

    The cataclysmic deaths of massive stars and mergers of neutron stars are of special interest to scientists because they produce gravitational waves — literally, ripples in the fabric of space-time that radiate out in all directions, much like what happens when a stone is thrown into a pond.

    Since the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, confirmed their existence a couple years ago, LIGO and the European Virgo detectors have detected other events, including the first-ever detection of gravitational waves from the merger of two neutron stars announced in October 2017.

    Less than two seconds after LIGO detected the waves washing over Earth’s space-time, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected a weak burst of high-energy light — the first burst to be unambiguously connected to a gravitational-wave source.

    These detections have opened a new window on the universe, giving scientists a more complete view of these events that complements knowledge obtained through traditional observational techniques, which rely on detecting electromagnetic radiation — light — in all its forms.

    Complementary Capability

    Perkins and de Nolfo, both scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, see BurstCube as a companion to Fermi in this search for gravitational-wave sources. Though not as capable as the much larger Gamma-ray Burst Monitor, or GBM, on Fermi, BurstCube will increase coverage of the sky. Fermi-GBM observes the entire sky not blocked by the Earth. “But what happens if an event occurs and Fermi is on the other side of Earth, which is blocking its view,” Perkins said. “Fermi won’t see the burst.”

    BurstCube, which is expected to launch around the time additional ground-based LIGO-type observatories begin operations, will assist in detecting these fleeting, hard-to-capture high-energy photons and help determine where they originated. In addition to quickly reporting their locations to the ground so that other telescopes can find the event in other wavelengths and home in on its host galaxy, BurstCube’s other job is to study the sources themselves.

    Miniaturized Technology

    BurstCube will use the same detector technology as Fermi’s GBM; however, with important differences.

    Under the concept de Nolfo has advanced through Goddard’s Internal Research and Development program funding, the team will position four blocks of cesium-iodide crystals, operating as scintillators, in different orientations within the spacecraft. When an incoming gamma ray strikes one of the crystals, it will absorb the energy and luminesce, converting that energy into optical light.

    Four arrays of silicon photomultipliers and their associated read-out devices each sit behind the four crystals. The photomultipliers convert the light into an electrical pulse and then amplify this signal by creating an avalanche of electrons. This multiplying effect makes the detector far more sensitive to this faint and fleeting gamma rays.

    Unlike the photomultipliers on Fermi’s GBM, which are bulky and resemble old-fashioned television tubes, de Nolfo’s devices are made of silicon, a semiconductor material. “Compared with more conventional photomultiplier tubes, silicon photomultipliers significantly reduce mass, volume, power and cost,” Perkins said. “The combination of the crystals and new readout devices makes it possible to consider a compact, low-power instrument that is readily deployable on a CubeSat platform.”

    In another success for Goddard technology, the BurstCube team also has baselined the Dellingr 6U CubeSat bus that a small team of center scientists and engineers developed to show that CubeSat platforms could be more reliable and capable of gathering highly robust scientific data.

    “This is high-demand technology,” de Nolfo said. “There are applications everywhere.”

    For other Goddard technology news, go to https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/winter_2018_final_lowrez.pdf

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

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