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  • richardmitnick 9:53 am on September 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA’s Webb to Explore Forming Planetary Systems", , , , Infrared Astronomy, ,   

    From NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope: “NASA’s Webb to Explore Forming Planetary Systems” 

    NASA Webb Header

    From NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope

    September 22, 2021

    RELEASE: National Aeronautics Space Agency (US), The European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), Canadian Space Agency [Agence Spatiale Canadienne](CA)

    MEDIA CONTACT:

    Claire Blome
    claire.blome@gmail.com
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Christine Pulliam
    cpulliam@stsci.edu
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    1
    ALMA’s Survey of Protoplanetary Disks
    About This Image

    The researchers will use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to survey 17 of the 20 nearby protoplanetary disks observed by Chile’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in 2018 for its Disk Substructures at High Angular Resolution Project (DSHARP).

    ALMA delivered excellent data about the outer disks, but Webb will detail the inner disks by delivering spectra, which spread light out into a rainbow, revealing the chemical compositions of each object.
    Credits:

    SCIENCE: Nicolas Lira, S. Andrews. ALMA, ESO, NAOJ, NRAO.

    2
    Simulated Spectrum of a Protoplanetary Disk.
    About This Image
    The James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) will deliver incredibly rich information about the molecules that are present in the inner disks of still-forming planetary systems (known as protoplanetary disks).

    This simulated spectrum, which produces a detailed pattern of colors based on the wavelengths of light emitted, helps researchers take inventories of each molecule. This spectrum shows how much of the gasses like methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide exist. Most of the unidentified features are water. Since spectra are teeming with details, they will help astronomers draw conclusions about the system’s contents as planets form.
    Credits:

    SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA
    ARTWORK: Leah Hustak

    Summary:
    Researchers will observe more than a dozen protoplanetary systems to gather data about their inner disks – where Earth-like planets may be forming

    What was our Solar System like as it was forming billions of years ago? Over time, particles bumped into one another, building ever-larger rocks. Eventually, these rocks got big enough to form planets. We have some basic understanding of planet formation, but we don’t know the details – especially details about the solar system’s early chemical composition, and how it may have changed with time. And how did water make its way to Earth? While we can’t time travel to get the answers, we can detail how other planetary systems are forming right now – and learn quite a lot. Researchers will train one of Webb’s powerful instruments on the inner regions of 17 bright, actively forming planetary systems to begin to build an inventory of their contents. Element by element, they – along with researchers around the world – will be able to uncover what’s present and how the disks’ chemical makeup affects their contents, including planets that may be forming.
    _____________
    Planetary systems take millions of years to form, which introduces quite a challenge for astronomers. How do you identify which stage they are in, or categorize them? The best approach is to look at lots of examples and keep adding to the data we have – and NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to provide an infrared inventory. Researchers using Webb will observe 17 actively forming planetary systems. These particular systems were previously surveyed by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the largest radio telescope in the world, for the Disk Substructures at High Angular Resolution Project (DSHARP
    ).

    Webb will measure spectra that can reveal molecules in the inner regions of these protoplanetary disks, complementing the details ALMA has provided about the disks’ outer regions. These inner regions are where rocky, Earth-like planets can start to form, which is one reason why we want to know more about which molecules exist there.

    A research team led by Colette Salyk of Vassar College (US) in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Klaus Pontoppidan of the Space Telescope Science Institute (US) in Baltimore, Maryland, seek the details found in infrared light. “Once you switch to infrared light, specifically to Webb’s range in mid-infrared light, we will be sensitive to the most abundant molecules that carry common elements,” explained Pontoppidan.

    Researchers will be able to assess the quantities of water, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia – among many other molecules – in each disk. Critically, they will be able to count the molecules that contain elements essential to life as we know it, including oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. How? With spectroscopy: Webb will capture all the light emitted at the center of each protoplanetary disk as a spectrum, which produces a detailed pattern of colors based on the wavelengths of light emitted. Since every molecule imprints a unique pattern on the spectrum, researchers can identify which molecules are there and build inventories of the contents within each protoplanetary disk. The strength of these patterns also carries information about the temperature and quantity of each molecule.

    “Webb’s data will also help us identify where the molecules are within the overall system,” Salyk said. “If they’re hot, that implies they are closer to the star. If they’re cooler, they may be farther away.” This spatial information will help inform models that scientists build as they continue examining this program’s data.

    Knowing what’s in the inner regions of the disks has other benefits as well. Has water, for example, made it to this area, where habitable planets may be forming? “One of the things that’s really amazing about planets – change the chemistry just a little bit and you can get these dramatically different worlds,” Salyk continued. “That’s why we’re interested in the chemistry. We’re trying to figure out how the materials initially found in a system may end up as different types of planets.”

    If this sounds like a significant undertaking, do not worry – it will be a community effort. This is a Webb Treasury Program, which means that the data is released as soon as it’s taken to all astronomers, allowing everyone to immediately pull the data, begin assessing what’s what in each disk, and share their findings.

    “Webb’s infrared data will be intensively studied,” added co-investigator Ke Zhang of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “We want the whole research community to be able to approach the data from different angles.”

    Why the Up-Close Examination?

    Let’s step back, to see the forest for the trees. Imagine you are on a research boat off the coast of a distant terrain. This is the broadest view. If you were to land and disembark, you could begin counting how many trees there are and how many of each tree species. You could start identifying specific insects and birds and match up the sounds you heard offshore to the calls you hear under the treetops. This detailed cataloging is very similar to what Webb will empower researchers to do – but swap trees and animals for chemical elements.

    The protoplanetary disks in this program are very bright and relatively close to Earth, making them excellent targets to study. It’s why they were surveyed by ALMA. It’s also why researchers studied them with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

    These objects have only been studied in depth since 2003, making this a relatively newer field of research. There’s a lot Webb can add to what we know.

    The telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) [schematic above] provides many advantages. Webb’s location in space means that it can capture the full range of mid-infrared light (Earth’s atmosphere filters it out). Plus, its data will have high resolution, which will reveal many more lines and wiggles in the spectra that the researchers can use to tease out specific molecules.

    The researchers were also selective about the types of stars chosen for these observations. This sample includes stars that are about half the mass of the Sun to about twice the mass of the Sun. Why? The goal is to help researchers learn more about systems that may be like our own as it formed. “With this sample, we can start to determine if there are any common features between the disks’ properties and their inner chemistry,” Zhang continued. “Eventually, we want to be able to predict which types of systems are more likely to generate habitable planets.”

    Beginning to Answer Big Questions

    This program may also help researchers begin to answer some classic questions: Are the forms taken by some of the most abundant elements found in protoplanetary disks, like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, “inherited” from the interstellar clouds that formed them? Or does the precise mix of chemicals change over time? “We think we can get to some of those answers by making inventories with Webb,” Pontoppidan explained. “It’s obviously a tremendous amount of work to do – and cannot be done only with these data – but I think we are going to make some major progress.”

    Thinking even more broadly about the incredibly rich spectra Webb will provide, Salyk added, “I’m hoping that we’ll see things that surprise us and then begin to study those serendipitous discoveries.”

    This research will be conducted as part of Webb General Observer (GO) programs, which are competitively selected using a dual-anonymous review system, the same system that is used to allocate time on the Hubble Space Telescope.

    The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

    See the full article here .

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    The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Launch is planned for October 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Launch is scheduled for later in the decade on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch will be from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb will be located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

    ESA50 Logo large

    Canadian Space Agency

     
  • richardmitnick 3:23 pm on August 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , A core-collapse supernova occurs when a massive star more than 10 times the mass of our sun runs out of fuel and its core collapses into a black hole or neutron star., A thermonuclear supernova occurs when a white dwarf star — the remains of a star up to eight times the mass of the sun — explodes., Above: two known types of supernovae., Explaining the "Crab Nebula" supernova remnant, In 1980 Ken’ichi Nomoto at The University of Tokyo[(東京大] (JP) predicted a third type called an electron capture supernova., Infrared Astronomy, , , Supernova 2018zd was detected in March 2018 about three hours after the explosion., Supernova 2018zd was detected in March 2018 by Hubble and Spitzer and confirmed by Keck, The Keck spectra observed clearly confirm that SN 2018zd is our best candidate to be an electron capture supernova., ,   

    From University of California-Davis (US): ” ‘New’ Third Type of Supernova Observed” 

    UC Davis bloc

    From University of California-Davis (US)

    June 28, 2021 [brorght forward today 8.26.21]

    Stefano Valenti, Physics and Astronomy
    University of California-Davis
    424-270-4461,
    stfn.valenti@gmail.com

    Andy Fell
    News and Media Relations
    530-304-8888,
    ahfell@ucdavis.edu

    1
    Supernova 2018zd, marked with a white circle on the outskirts of galaxy NGC2146, is the first example of a new, third type of supernova predicted 40 years ago. Composite image with data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, and other sources. (Joseph Depasquale, Space Telescope Science Institute (US)).

    An international team of astronomers has observed the first example of a new type of supernova. The discovery, confirming a prediction made four decades ago, could lead to new insights into the life and death of stars. The work is published June 28 in Nature Astronomy.

    “One of the main questions in astronomy is to compare how stars evolve and how they die,” said Stefano Valenti, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California-Davis, and a member of the team that discovered and described supernova 2018zd. “There are many links still missing, so this is very exciting.”

    There are two known types of supernova. A core-collapse supernova occurs when a massive star more than 10 times the mass of our sun runs out of fuel and its core collapses into a black hole or neutron star. A thermonuclear supernova occurs when a white dwarf star — the remains of a star up to eight times the mass of the sun — explodes.

    In 1980 Ken’ichi Nomoto of the The University of Tokyo[(東京大] (JP) predicted a third type called an electron capture supernova.

    What keeps most stars from collapsing under their own gravity is the energy produced in their central core. In an electron capture supernova, as the core runs out of fuel, gravity forces electrons in the core into their atomic nuclei, causing the star to collapse in on itself.

    Evidence from late spectrum

    Supernova 2018zd was detected in March 2018 about three hours after the explosion. Archival images from the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope showed a faint object that was likely the star before explosion.

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

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US) Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope no longer in service. Launched in 2003 and retired on 30 January 2020.

    The supernova is relatively close to Earth, at a distance of about 31 million light years in galaxy NGC2146.

    The team, led by Daichi Hiramatsu, graduate student at The University of California-Santa Barbara (US) and Las Cumbres Observatory, collected data on the supernova over the next two years. Astronomers from UC Davis, including Valenti and graduate students Azalee Bostroem and Yize Dong, contributed a spectral analysis of the supernova two years after the explosion, one of the lines of evidence demonstrating that 2018zd was an electron capture supernova.

    “We had a really exquisite, really complete dataset following its rise and fade,” Bostroem said. That included very late data collected with the 10-meter telescope at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, Dong added.

    W.M. Keck Observatory two ten meter telescopes operated by California Institute of Technology(US) and the University of California(US), Maunakea Hawaii USA, altitude 4,207 m (13,802 ft). Credit: Caltech.

    Theory predicts that electron capture supernovae should show an unusual stellar chemical spectrum years later.

    “The Keck spectra we observed clearly confirm that SN 2018zd is our best candidate to be an electron capture supernova,” Valenti said.

    The late spectrum data were not the only piece of the puzzle. The team looked through all published data on supernovae, and found that while some had a few of the indicators predicted for electron capture supernovae, only SN 2018zd had all six: an apparent progenitor star of the Super-Asymptotic Giant Branch (SAGB) type; strong pre-supernova mass loss; an unusual stellar chemical spectrum; a weak explosion; little radioactivity; and a neutron-rich core.

    “We started by asking ‘what’s this weirdo?’ Then we examined every aspect of SN 2018zd and realized that all of them can be explained in the electron-capture scenario,” Hiramatsu said.

    Explaining the Crab Nebula

    The new discoveries also illuminate some mysteries of the most famous supernova of the past. In A.D. 1054 a supernova occurred in the Milky Way. According to Chinese records it was so bright that it could be seen in the daytime for 23 days, and at night for nearly two years. The resulting remnant — the Crab Nebula — has been studied in great detail. It was previously the best candidate for an electron capture supernova, but this was uncertain partly because the explosion happened nearly a thousand years ago. The new result increases the confidence that the event that formed the Crab Nebula was an electron capture supernova.

    “I am very pleased that the electron capture supernova was finally discovered, which my colleagues and I predicted to exist and have a connection to the Crab Nebula 40 years ago. This is a wonderful case of the combination of observations and theory,” said Nomoto, who is also an author on the current paper.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    UC Davis Campus

    The University of California-Davis is a public land-grant research university near Davis, California. Named a “Public Ivy”, it is the northernmost of the ten campuses of the University of California system. The institution was first founded as an agricultural branch of the system in 1905 and became the seventh campus of the University of California in 1959.

    The university is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. The University of California-Davis faculty includes 23 members of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 30 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (US), 17 members of The American Law Institute, 14 members of The Institute of Medicine (US), and 14 members of The National Academy of Engineering. Among other honors that university faculty, alumni, and researchers have won are two Nobel Prizes, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, three Pulitzer Prizes, three MacArthur Fellowships, and a National Medal of Science.

    Founded as a primarily agricultural campus, the university has expanded over the past century to include graduate and professional programs in medicine (which includes the UC Davis Medical Center), law, veterinary medicine, education, nursing, and business management, in addition to 90 research programs offered by UC Davis Graduate Studies. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is the largest veterinary school in the United States and has been ranked first in the world for five consecutive years (2015–19). UC Davis also offers certificates and courses, including online classes, for adults and non-traditional learners through its Division of Continuing and Professional Education.

    The UC Davis Aggies athletic teams compete in NCAA Division I, primarily as members of the Big West Conference with additional sports in the Big Sky Conference (football only) and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

    UC Davis is one of 62 members in the Association of American Universities (US), an organization of leading research universities devoted to maintaining a strong system of academic research and education. It consists of sixty universities in the United States (both public and private) and two universities in Canada.

    Research centers and laboratories

    The campus supports a number of research centers and laboratories including:

    Advanced Highway Maintenance Construction Technology Research Laboratory
    BGI at UC Davis Joint Genome Center (in planning process)[97]
    Bodega Marine Reserve
    C-STEM Center
    CalEPR Center
    California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System
    California International Law Center
    California National Primate Research Center
    California Raptor Center
    Center for Health and the Environment
    Center for Mind and Brain
    Center for Poverty Research
    Center for Regional Change
    Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas
    Center for Visual Sciences
    Contained Research Facility
    Crocker Nuclear Laboratory
    Davis Millimeter Wave Research Center (A joint effort of Agilent Technologies Inc. and UC Davis) (in planning process)
    Information Center for the Environment
    John Muir Institute of the Environment (the largest research unit at UC Davis, spanning all Colleges and Professional Schools)
    McLaughlin Natural Reserve
    MIND Institute
    Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center
    Quail Ridge Reserve
    Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve
    Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) (a collaborative effort with Sierra Nevada University)
    UC Center Sacramento
    UC Davis Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility
    University of California Pavement Research Center
    University of California Solar Energy Center (UC Solar)
    Energy Efficiency Center (the very first university run energy efficiency center in the Nation).
    Western Institute for Food Safety and Security

    The Crocker Nuclear Laboratory on campus has had a nuclear accelerator since 1966. The laboratory is used by scientists and engineers from private industry, universities and government to research topics including nuclear physics, applied solid state physics, radiation effects, air quality, planetary geology and cosmogenics. UC Davis is the only UC campus, besides The University of California-Berkeley (US), that has a nuclear laboratory.

    Agilent Technologies will also work with the university in establishing a Davis Millimeter Wave Research Center to conduct research into millimeter wave and THz systems.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:45 am on August 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Fastest Orbiting Asteroid Discovered at NOIRLab’s CTIO", Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CL) (US), , DECam - built at DOE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (US), Infrared Astronomy, , Magellan Baade and Clay 6.5 meter telescopes located at Carnegie Institution for Science(US) Las Campanas Observatory(CL), , , Space rock 2021 PH27 is the Sun’s nearest neighbor.   

    From NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory) (US): “Fastest Orbiting Asteroid Discovered at NOIRLab’s CTIO” 

    From NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory) (US)

    23 August 2021

    Scott Sheppard
    Earth and Planets Laboratory
    Carnegie Institution for Science (US)
    ssheppard@carnegiescience.edu

    Lars Lindberg Christensen
    NSF’s NOIRLab
    Head of Communications, Education & Engagement
    Cell: +1 520 461 0433
    lars.christensen@noirlab.edu

    About a kilometer across, space rock 2021 PH27 is the Sun’s nearest neighbor.

    1
    Using the powerful 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam) in Chile, astronomers just ten days ago discovered an asteroid with the shortest orbital period of any known asteroid in the Solar System. The orbit of the approximately 1-kilometer-diameter asteroid takes it as close as 20 million kilometers (12 million miles or 0.13 au), from the Sun every 113 days. Asteroid 2021 PH27, revealed in images acquired during twilight, also has the smallest mean distance (semi-major axis) of any known asteroid in our Solar System — only Mercury has a shorter period and smaller semi-major axis. The asteroid is so close to the Sun’s massive gravitational field, it experiences the largest general relativistic effects of any known Solar System object.

    The asteroid designated 2021 PH27 was discovered by Scott S. Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution of Science in data collected by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile.

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Dark Energy Survey

    The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is an international, collaborative effort to map hundreds of millions of galaxies, detect thousands of supernovae, and find patterns of cosmic structure that will reveal the nature of the mysterious dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of our Universe. DES began searching the Southern skies on August 31, 2013.

    According to Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, gravity should lead to a slowing of the cosmic expansion. Yet, in 1998, two teams of astronomers studying distant supernovae made the remarkable discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up. To explain cosmic acceleration, cosmologists are faced with two possibilities: either 70% of the universe exists in an exotic form, now called dark energy, that exhibits a gravitational force opposite to the attractive gravity of ordinary matter, or General Relativity must be replaced by a new theory of gravity on cosmic scales.

    DES is designed to probe the origin of the accelerating universe and help uncover the nature of dark energy by measuring the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion with high precision. More than 400 scientists from over 25 institutions in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia are working on the project. The collaboration built and is using an extremely sensitive 570-Megapixel digital camera, DECam, mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, high in the Chilean Andes, to carry out the project.

    Over six years (2013-2019), the DES collaboration used 758 nights of observation to carry out a deep, wide-area survey to record information from 300 million galaxies that are billions of light-years from Earth. The survey imaged 5000 square degrees of the southern sky in five optical filters to obtain detailed information about each galaxy. A fraction of the survey time is used to observe smaller patches of sky roughly once a week to discover and study thousands of supernovae and other astrophysical transients.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The discovery images of the asteroid were taken by Ian Dell’antonio and Shenming Fu of Brown University (US) in the twilight skies on the evening of 13 August 2021. Sheppard had teamed up with Dell’antonio and Fu while conducting observations with DECam for the Local Volume Complete Cluster Survey, which is studying most of the massive galaxy clusters in the local Universe [1]. They took time out from observing some of the largest objects millions of light-years away to search for far smaller objects — asteroids — closer to home.

    One of the highest-performance, wide-field CCD imagers in the world, DECam was designed for the Dark Energy Survey (DES) funded by the Department of Energy (US) , was built and tested at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (US), and was operated by the DOE and National Science Foundation (US) between 2013 and 2019. At present DECam is used for programs covering a huge range of science. The DECam science archive is curated by the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC). CTIO and CSDC are programs of NSF’s NOIRLab.

    Twilight, just after sunset or before sunrise, is the best time to hunt for asteroids that are interior to Earth’s orbit, in the direction of the two innermost planets, Mercury and Venus. As any stargazer will tell you, Mercury and Venus never appear to get very far from the Sun in the sky and are always best visible near sunrise or sunset. The same holds for asteroids that also orbit close to the Sun.

    Following 2021 PH27’s discovery, David Tholen of the University of Hawai‘i (US) measured the asteroid’s position and predicted where it could be observed the following evening. Subsequently, on 14 August 2021, it was observed once more by DECam, and also by the Magellan Telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

    Then, on the evening of the 15th, Marco Micheli of the European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) used the Las Cumbres Observatory network of 1- to 2-meter telescopes to observe it from CTIO in Chile and from South Africa, in addition to further observations from DECam and Magellan, as astronomers postponed their originally scheduled observations to get a sight of the newly found asteroid.

    “Though telescope time for astronomers is very precious, the international nature and love of the unknown make astronomers very willing to override their own science and observations to follow up new, interesting discoveries like this,” says Sheppard.

    Planets and asteroids orbit the Sun in elliptical (or oval-shaped) orbits, with the widest axis of the ellipse having a radius described as the semi-major axis. 2021 PH27 has a semi-major axis of 70 million kilometers (43 million miles or 0.46 au), giving it a 113-day orbital period on a elongated orbit that crosses the orbits of both Mercury and Venus [2].

    It may have begun life in the main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter and got dislodged by gravitational disturbances from the inner planets that drew it closer to the Sun. Its high orbital inclination of 32 degrees suggests, however, that it might instead be an extinct comet from the outer Solar System that got captured into a closer short-period orbit when passing near one of the terrestrial planets. Future observations of the asteroid will shed more light on its origins.

    Its orbit is probably also unstable over long periods of time, and it will likely eventually either collide with Mercury, Venus or the Sun in a few million years, or be ejected from the inner Solar System by the inner planets’ gravitational influence.

    Astronomers have a hard time finding these interior asteroids because they are very often hidden by the glare of the Sun. When asteroids get so close to our nearest star, they experience a variety of stresses, such as thermal stresses from the Sun’s heat, and physical stresses from gravitational tidal forces. These stresses could cause some of the more fragile asteroids to break up.

    “The fraction of asteroids interior to Earth and Venus compared to exterior will give us insights into the strength and make-up of these objects,” says Sheppard. If the population of asteroids on similar orbits to 2021 PH27 appears depleted, it could tell astronomers what fraction of near-Earth asteroids are piles of rubble that are loosely held together, as opposed to solid chunks of rock, which could have consequences for asteroids that might be on a collision course with Earth and how we might deflect them.

    “Understanding the population of asteroids interior to Earth’s orbit is important to complete the census of asteroids near Earth, including some of the most likely Earth impactors that may approach Earth during daylight and that cannot easily be discovered in most surveys that are observing at night, away from the Sun,” says Sheppard. He adds that since 2021 PH27 approaches so close to the Sun, “…its surface temperature gets to almost 500 degrees C (around 900 degrees F) at closest approach, hot enough to melt lead”.

    Because 2021 PH27 is so close to the Sun’s massive gravitational field, it experiences the largest general relativistic effects of any known Solar System object. This reveals itself as a slight angular deviation in the asteroid’s elliptical orbit over time, a movement called precession, which amounts to about one arcminute per century [3].

    The asteroid is now entering solar conjunction when from our point of view it is seen to move behind the Sun. It is expected to return to visibility from Earth early in 2022, when new observations will be able to determine its orbit in more detail, allowing the asteroid to get an official name.
    Notes

    [1] The Local Volume Complete Cluster Survey (LoVoCCS) is an NSF’s NOIRLab survey program that is using DECam to measure the dark matter distribution and the galaxy population in 107 nearby galaxy clusters. These deep exposures will allow a clean comparison of faint variable objects when combined with data from Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

    [2] 2021 PH27 is only one of around 20 known Atira asteroids that have their orbits completely interior to the Earth’s orbit.

    [3] Observation of Mercury’s precession puzzled scientists until Einstein’s general theory of relativity explained its orbital adjustments over time. 2021 PH27’s precession is even faster than Mercury’s.

    More information

    This research was reported to the Minor Planet Center.

    See the full article here.

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    What is NOIRLab?

    NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory) (US), the US center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the international Gemini Observatory (US) (a facility of National Science Foundation (US), NRC–Canada, ANID–Chile, MCTIC–Brazil, MINCyT–Argentina, and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute [한국천문연구원] (KR)), NOAO Kitt Peak National Observatory(US) (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory(CL) (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and Vera C. Rubin Observatory (in cooperation with DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (US)). It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) (US) under a cooperative agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawaiʻi, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the Native Hawaiian community, and to the local communities in Chile, respectively.

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

    NOIRLab(US)NOAO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory(CL) approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters.

    The NOAO-Community Science and Data Center(US)

    The NSF NOIRLab Vera C. Rubin Observatory. It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy(US) under a cooperative agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawaiʻi, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the Native Hawaiian community, and to the local communities in Chile, respectively.

    NSF (US) NOIRLab (US) NOAO (US) Vera C. Rubin Observatory [LSST] Telescope currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing NSF (US) NOIRLab (US) NOAO (US) Gemini South Telescope and NSF (US) NOIRLab (US) NOAO (US) Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:30 pm on August 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers Find a ‘Break’ in One of the Milky Way’s Spiral Arms", , , , Infrared Astronomy,   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech (US) : “Astronomers Find a ‘Break’ in One of the Milky Way’s Spiral Arms” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech (US)

    Aug 17, 2021

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    An illustration of the large-scale structure of the Milky Way. (Image credit: R Hurt/ NASA/JPL-Caltech).

    2
    A group of young stars and gas clouds in our Milky Way galaxy, seen in the inset of this NASA graphic, is jutting out like a broken arm 3,000 light-years long, a new study has found. The region is home to the Eagle, Omega, Trifid and Lagoon nebulas. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.)

    The newly discovered feature offers insight into the large-scale structure of our galaxy, which is difficult to study from Earth’s position inside it.

    Scientists have spotted a previously unrecognized feature of our Milky Way galaxy: A contingent of young stars and star-forming gas clouds is sticking out of one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms like a splinter poking out from a plank of wood. Stretching some 3,000 light-years, this is the first major structure identified with an orientation so dramatically different than the arm’s.

    Astronomers have a rough idea of the size and shape of the Milky Way’s arms, but much remains unknown: They can’t see the full structure of our home galaxy because Earth is inside it. It’s akin to standing in the middle of Times Square and trying to draw a map of the island of Manhattan. Could you measure distances precisely enough to know if two buildings were on the same block or a few streets apart? And how could you hope to see all the way to the tip of the island with so many things in your way?

    To learn more, the authors of the new study [Astronomy & Astrophysics] focused on a nearby portion of one of the galaxy’s arms, called the Sagittarius Arm. Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope prior to its retirement in January 2020, they sought out newborn stars, nestled in the gas and dust clouds (called nebulae) where they form.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US) Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope no longer in service. Launched in 2003 and retired on 30 January 2020.

    Spitzer detected infrared light that can penetrate those clouds, while visible light (the kind human eyes can see) is blocked.

    Young stars and nebulae are thought to align closely with the shape of the arms they reside in. To get a 3D view of the arm segment, the scientists used the latest data release from the ESA (European Space Agency) Gaia mission to measure the precise distances to the stars.

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) GAIA satellite

    The combined data revealed that the long, thin structure associated with the Sagittarius Arm is made of young stars moving at nearly the same velocity and in the same direction through space.

    “A key property of spiral arms is how tightly they wind around a galaxy,” said Michael Kuhn, an astrophysicist at Caltech and lead author of the new paper. This characteristic is measured by the arm’s pitch angle. A circle has a pitch angle of 0 degrees, and as the spiral becomes more open, the pitch angle increases. “Most models of the Milky Way suggest that the Sagittarius Arm forms a spiral that has a pitch angle of about 12 degrees, but the structure we examined really stands out at an angle of nearly 60 degrees.”

    Similar structures – sometimes called spurs or feathers – are commonly found jutting off the arms of other spiral galaxies. For decades scientists have wondered whether our Milky Way’s spiral arms are also dotted with these structures or if they are relatively smooth.

    Measuring the Milky Way

    The newly discovered feature contains four nebulae known for their breathtaking beauty: the Eagle Nebula (which contains the Pillars of Creation), the Omega Nebula, the Trifid Nebula, and the Lagoon Nebula. In the 1950s, a team of astronomers made rough distance measurements to some of the stars in these nebulae and were able to infer the existence of the Sagittarius Arm. Their work provided some of the first evidence of our galaxy’s spiral structure.

    Four Famous Nebulae

    3

    These four nebulae (star-forming clouds of gas and dust) are known for their breathtaking beauty: the Eagle Nebula (which contains the Pillars of Creation), the Omega Nebula, the Trifid Nebula, and the Lagoon Nebula. In the 1950s, a team of astronomers made rough distance measurements to some of the stars in these nebulae and were able to infer the existence of the Sagittarius Arm. Their work provided some of the first evidence of our galaxy’s spiral structure. In a new study, astronomers have shown that these nebulae are part of a substructure within the arm that is angled differently from the rest of the arm.

    A key property of spiral arms is how tightly they wind around a galaxy. This characteristic is measured by the arm’s pitch angle. A circle has a pitch angle of 0 degrees, and as the spiral becomes more open, the pitch angle increases. Most models of the Milky Way suggest that the Sagittarius Arm forms a spiral that has a pitch angle of about 12 degrees, but the protruding structure has a pitch angle of nearly 60 degrees.

    Similar structures – sometimes called spurs or feathers – are commonly found jutting out of the arms of other spiral galaxies. For decades scientists have wondered whether our Milky Way’s spiral arms are also dotted with these structures or if they are relatively smooth.

    “Distances are among the most difficult things to measure in astronomy,” said co-author Alberto Krone-Martins, an astrophysicist and lecturer in informatics at the University of California-Irvine (US) and a member of the ESA DPAC Consortium – Gaia – Cosmos [Data Processing and Analysis Consortium] (EU). “It is only the recent, direct distance measurements from Gaia that make the geometry of this new structure so apparent.”

    In the new study, researchers also relied on a catalog of more than a hundred thousand newborn stars discovered by Spitzer in a survey of the galaxy called the NASA GLIMPSE the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (US).

    “When we put the Gaia and Spitzer data together and finally see this detailed, three-dimensional map, we can see that there’s quite a bit of complexity in this region that just hasn’t been apparent before,” said Kuhn.

    Astronomers don’t yet fully understand what causes spiral arms to form in galaxies like ours. Even though we can’t see the Milky Way’s full structure, the ability to measure the motion of individual stars is useful for understanding this phenomenon: The stars in the newly discovered structure likely formed around the same time, in the same general area, and were uniquely influenced by the forces acting within the galaxy, including gravity and shear due to the galaxy’s rotation.

    “Ultimately, this is a reminder that there are many uncertainties about the large-scale structure of the Milky Way, and we need to look at the details if we want to understand that bigger picture,” said one the paper’s co-authors, Robert Benjamin, an astrophysicist at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a principal investigator on the GLIMPSE survey. “This structure is a small piece of the Milky Way, but it could tell us something significant about the Galaxy as a whole.”

    More About the Mission

    The Gaia spacecraft operations team works from the ESA European Space Operations Center [ESOC] (DE), while the science operations are performed at the ESA – European Space Astronomy Centre [ESAC] (ES). A consortium of more than 400 scientists and engineers are responsible for the processing of the data.

    More information on the Gaia Data Releases can be found here:

    https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/gaia/release

    For more information about Gaia, visit:

    https://sci.esa.int/web/gaia

    https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/gaia

    https://archives.esac.esa.int/gaia

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, managed Spitzer mission operations for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations were conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at IPAC at Caltech. Spacecraft operations were based at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. The Spitzer data archive is housed at the Infrared Science Archive at IPAC at Caltech in Pasadena, California.

    For more information about NASA’s Spitzer mission, go to:

    https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/spitzer-space-telescope

    https://www.ipac.caltech.edu/project/spitzer

    For more information about the Gaia mission, go to:

    https://www.cosmos.esa.int/gaia

    https://archives.esac.esa.int/gaia

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) (US) ) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US). The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo

     
  • richardmitnick 10:35 am on August 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mapping the Universe's Earliest Structures with COSMOS-Webb", , , , , Infrared Astronomy, , Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Reionization Era., , University of Texas-Austin (US)   

    From NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope: “Mapping the Universe’s Earliest Structures with COSMOS-Webb” 

    NASA Webb Header

    From NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope

    August 18, 2021

    MEDIA CONTACTS:
    Ann Jenkins
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Christine Pulliam
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    1
    About This Image
    The COSMOS-Webb survey will map 0.6 square degrees of the sky—about the area of three full Moons—using the James Webb Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument, while simultaneously mapping a smaller 0.2 square degrees with the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The jagged edges of the Hubble field’s outline are due to the separate images that make up the survey field. Credits: SCIENCE: National Aeronautics Space Agency (US), European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), Jeyhan Kartaltepe (Rochester Institute of Technology (US))[below], Caitlin Casey (The University of Texas-Austin (US))[below], Anton M. Koekemoer (Space Telescope Science Institute (US))

    Summary

    This ambitious program will study half a million galaxies in a field the size of three full Moons.

    Peering deeply into a huge patch of sky the size of three full Moons, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will undertake an ambitious program to study half a million galaxies. Called COSMOS-Webb, this survey is the largest project Webb will undertake during its first year. With more than 200 hours of observing time, it will build upon previous discoveries to make advances in three particular areas of study. These include revolutionizing our understanding of the Reionization Era; looking for early, fully evolved galaxies; and learning how dark matter evolved with galaxies’ stellar content. With its rapid public release of the data, this survey will be a primary legacy dataset from Webb for scientists worldwide studying galaxies beyond the Milky Way.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    When NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope begins science operations in 2022, one of its first tasks will be an ambitious program to map the earliest structures in the universe. Called COSMOS-Webb, this wide and deep survey of half-a-million galaxies is the largest project Webb will undertake during its first year.

    With more than 200 hours of observing time, COSMOS-Webb will survey a large patch of the sky—0.6 square degrees—with the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam). That’s the size of three full moons. It will simultaneously map a smaller area with the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).

    “It’s a large chunk of sky, which is pretty unique to the COSMOS-Webb program. Most Webb programs are drilling very deep, like pencil-beam surveys that are studying tiny patches of sky,” explained Caitlin Casey, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin and co-leader of the COSMOS-Webb program. “Because we’re covering such a large area, we can look at large-scale structures at the dawn of galaxy formation. We will also look for some of the rarest galaxies that existed early on, as well as map the large-scale dark matter distribution of galaxies out to very early times.”

    (Dark matter does not absorb, reflect, or emit light, so it cannot be seen directly. We know that dark matter exists because of the effect it has on objects that we can observe.)

    COSMOS-Webb will study half-a-million galaxies with multi-band, high-resolution, near-infrared imaging, and an unprecedented 32,000 galaxies in the mid-infrared. With its rapid public release of the data, this survey will be a primary legacy dataset from Webb for scientists worldwide studying galaxies beyond the Milky Way.

    Building on Hubble’s Achievements

    The COSMOS survey began in 2002 as a Hubble program to image a much larger patch of sky, about the area of 10 full moons. From there, the collaboration snowballed to include most of the world’s major telescopes on Earth and in space. Now COSMOS is a multi-wavelength survey that covers the entire spectrum from the X-ray through the radio.

    Because of its location on the sky, the COSMOS field is accessible to observatories around the world. Located on the celestial equator, it can be studied from both the northern and southern hemispheres, resulting in a rich and diverse treasury of data.

    “COSMOS has become the survey that a lot of extragalactic scientists go to in order to conduct their analyses because the data products are so widely available, and because it covers such a wide area of the sky,” said Rochester Institute of Technology’s Jeyhan Kartaltepe, assistant professor of physics and co-leader of the COSMOS-Webb program. “COSMOS-Webb is the next installment of that, where we’re using Webb to extend our coverage in the near- and mid-infrared part of the spectrum, and therefore pushing out our horizon, how far away we’re able to see.”

    The ambitious COSMOS-Webb program will build upon previous discoveries to make advances in three particular areas of study, including: revolutionizing our understanding of the Reionization Era; looking for early, fully evolved galaxies; and learning how dark matter evolved with galaxies’ stellar content.

    Goal 1: Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Reionization Era.

    Epoch of Reionization and first stars. Credit: California Institute of Technology (US).

    Soon after the big bang, the universe was completely dark. Stars and galaxies, which bathe the cosmos in light, had not yet formed. Instead, the universe consisted of a primordial soup of neutral hydrogen and helium atoms and invisible dark matter. This is called the cosmic dark ages.

    After several hundred million years, the first stars and galaxies emerged and provided energy to reionize the early universe. This energy ripped apart the hydrogen atoms that filled the universe, giving them an electric charge and ending the cosmic dark ages. This new era where the universe was flooded with light is called the Reionization Era.

    The first goal of COSMOS-Webb focuses on this epoch of reionization, which took place from 400,000 to 1 billion years after the big bang. Reionization likely happened in little pockets, not all at once. COSMOS-Webb will look for bubbles showing where the first pockets of the early universe were reionized. The team aims to map the scale of these reionization bubbles.

    “Hubble has done a great job of finding handfuls of these galaxies out to early times, but we need thousands more galaxies to understand the reionization process,” explained Casey.

    Scientists don’t even know what kind of galaxies ushered in the Reionization Era, whether they’re very massive or relatively low-mass systems. COSMOS-Webb will have a unique ability to find very massive, rare galaxies and see what their distribution is like in large-scale structures. So, are the galaxies responsible for reionization living in the equivalent of a cosmic metropolis, or are they mostly evenly distributed across space? Only a survey the size of COSMOS-Webb can help scientists to answer this.

    Goal 2: Looking for Early, Fully Evolved Galaxies.

    COSMOS-Webb will search for very early, fully evolved galaxies that shut down star birth in the first 2 billion years after the big bang. Hubble has found a handful of these galaxies, which challenge existing models about how the universe formed. Scientists struggle to explain how these galaxies could have old stars and not be forming any new stars so early in the history of the universe.

    With a large survey like COSMOS-Webb, the team will find many of these rare galaxies. They plan detailed studies of these galaxies to understand how they could have evolved so rapidly and turned off star formation so early.

    Goal 3: Learning How Dark Matter Evolved with Galaxies’ Stellar Content.

    COSMOS-Webb will give scientists insight into how dark matter in galaxies has evolved with the galaxies’ stellar content over the universe’s lifetime.

    Galaxies are made of two types of matter: normal, luminous matter that we see in stars and other objects, and invisible dark matter, which is often more massive than the galaxy and can surround it in an extended halo. Those two kinds of matter are intertwined in galaxy formation and evolution. However, presently there’s not much knowledge about how the dark matter mass in the halos of galaxies formed, and how that dark matter impacts the formation of the galaxies.

    COSMOS-Webb will shed light on this process by allowing scientists to directly measure these dark matter halos through “weak lensing.”

    [caption id="attachment_41428" align="alignnone" width="632"] Caterpillar Project A Milky-Way-size dark-matter halo and its subhalos circled, an enormous suite of simulations . Griffen et al. 2016.

    The gravity from any type of mass—whether it’s dark or luminous—can serve as a lens to “bend” the light we see from more distant galaxies. Weak lensing distorts the apparent shape of background galaxies, so when a halo is located in front of other galaxies, scientists can directly measure the mass of the halo’s dark matter.

    “For the first time, we’ll be able to measure the relationship between the dark matter mass and the luminous mass of galaxies back to the first 2 billion years of cosmic time,” said team member Anton Koekemoer, a research astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who helped design the program’s observing strategy and is in charge of constructing all the images from the program. “That’s a crucial epoch for us to try to understand how the galaxies’ mass was first put in place, and how that’s driven by the dark matter halos. And that can then feed indirectly into our understanding of galaxy formation.”

    Quickly Sharing Data with the Community

    COSMOS-Webb is a Treasury program, which by definition is designed to create datasets of lasting scientific value. Treasury Programs strive to solve multiple scientific problems with a single, coherent dataset. Data taken under a Treasury Program usually has no exclusive access period, enabling immediate analysis by other researchers.

    “As a Treasury Program, you are committing to quickly releasing your data and your data products to the community,” explained Kartaltepe. “We’re going to produce this community resource and make it publicly available so that the rest of the community can use it in their scientific analyses.”

    Koekemoer added, “A Treasury Program commits to making publicly available all these science products so that anyone in the community, even at very small institutions, can have the same, equal access to the data products and then just do the science.”

    COSMOS-Webb is a Cycle 1 General Observers program. General Observers programs were competitively selected using a dual-anonymous review system, the same system that is used to allocate time on Hubble.

    From Rochester Institute of Technology (US)

    James Webb Space Telescope program aims to map the earliest structures of the universe
    COSMOS-Webb is slated to be the largest program in JWST’s first year of operation.

    April 19, 2021
    Luke Auburn
    luke.auburn@rit.edu

    3
    RIT Assistant Professor Jeyhan Kartaltepe is the principal investigator of COSMOS-Webb, the largest General Observer program selected for James Webb Space Telescope’s first year. Credit: A. Sue Weisler.

    When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)—the long-awaited successor to the Hubble Space Telescope—becomes operational in 2022, one of its first orders of business will be mapping the earliest structures of the universe. A team of nearly 50 researchers led by scientists at Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Texas at Austin will attempt to do so through the COSMOS-Webb program, the largest General Observer program selected for JWST’s first year.

    Over the course of 208.6 observing hours, the COSMOS-Webb program will conduct an ambitious survey of half a million galaxies with multi-band, high-resolution near infrared imaging and an unprecedented 32,000 galaxies in mid infrared. The scientists involved said that because COSMOS-Webb is a treasury program, they will rapidly release data to the public so it can lead to countless other studies by other researchers.

    “The sheer scope of our program is so exciting,” said principal investigator Jeyhan Kartaltepe, an assistant professor in RIT’s School of Physics and Astronomy. “The first year of Webb observations will result in a lot of new discoveries that people will want explore more in-depth in future cycles. I think the public legacy of COSMOS-Webb will be that COSMOS will be the field where the community conducts this type of follow-up research.”

    Caitlin Casey, an assistant professor and principal investigator at UT Austin, said “COSMOS-Webb has the potential to be ground-breaking in ways we haven’t even dreamt yet. You don’t know what treasures are there to find until you use an incredible telescope like Webb to stare at the sky for a long time.”

    The survey will map 0.6 square degrees of the sky—about the area of three full moons—using JWST’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument while simultaneously mapping a smaller area of 0.2 square degrees with the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI). Through this approach, the scientists hope to achieve three main goals [above].

    “A key result from the original HST-COSMOS effort over a decade ago was showing that dark matter is the cosmic scaffolding upon which the structures in the universe we see today are formed,” said Rhodes. “COSMOS-Webb will make use of the JWST’s larger mirror to push that dark matter mapping farther in time and to higher resolution maps, allowing us to study how dark matter has influenced the evolution of individual galaxies from the early universe to now.”

    COSMOS-Webb is one of just 286 General Scientific Observer programs selected out of more than 1,000 proposals for the telescope’s first year of science, known as Cycle 1. These specific programs will provide the worldwide astronomical community with one of the first extensive opportunities to investigate scientific targets with Webb. NASA is currently targeting Oct. 31, 2021, for JWST’s launch.

    For more information about COSMOS-Webb, go to the Space Telescope Science Institute website.

    From University of Texas-Austin (US)

    20 April 2021
    Rebecca A Johnson

    Texas Astronomers Lead Major Projects in James Webb Space Telescope’s First Year

    4
    Caitlin Casey

    Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin are set to lead some of the largest programs in the first year of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), including the largest project overall. Set to launch this Halloween, the telescope will become operational by mid-2022. Altogether, UT astronomers received about 500 hours of telescope time in JWST’s first year.

    COSMOS-Webb, a project to map the earliest structures of the universe, is the largest project JWST will undertake in 2022. UT’s Caitlin Casey, assistant professor of astronomy, leads an international team of nearly 50 researchers, along with co-leader Jeyhan Kartaltepe of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

    With more than 200 hours of observing time, COSMOS-Webb will conduct an ambitious survey of half a million galaxies. As a “treasury program,” the team will rapidly release their data to the public for use by other researchers.

    Casey explained that their project will “stare deeply over a large patch of sky, about three times the size of the Moon. Instead of just finding the most distant galaxies, we hope to find them and figure out where they live in the universe, whether it be an ancient cosmic metropolis or a distant cosmic outpost.”

    In probing the galaxies’ habitats, they are looking for bubbles showing where the first pockets of the early universe were reionized — that is, when light from the first stars and galaxies ripped apart hydrogen atoms that filled the cosmos, giving them an electric charge. This ended the cosmic dark ages, and began a new era where the universe was flooded with light, called the epoch of reionization. COSMOS-Webb hopes to map the scale of these reionization bubbles.

    “COSMOS-Webb has the potential to be ground-breaking in ways we haven’t even dreamt yet,” Casey said. “You don’t know what treasures are there to find until you use an incredible telescope like Webb to stare at the sky for a long time.”

    Another major first-year JWST project is led by UT associate professor Steven Finkelstein. The fourth-largest project the telescope will undertake in 2022, it’s called the Webb Deep Extragalactic Exploratory Public (WDEEP) Survey. Finkelstein co-leads a large team along with Casey Papovich of Texas A&M University and Nor Pirzkal of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

    In some ways, WDEEP is similar to COSMOS-Webb, Finkelstein said. Both are studying early galaxies, but at different early epochs in the history of the universe.

    “Together, the projects COSMOS-Webb and WDEEP are bracketing the epoch of reionization,” Finkelstein said. “So with WDEEP, we’re trying to push to the very beginning of reionization when the earliest galaxies really started to form stars, and begin to ionize the intergalactic medium. Whereas Professor Casey’s program is targeting the end of reionization, looking at the descendants of our galaxies and the bubbles they have created around them.”

    In terms of how the projects will be carried out, though, “WDEEP is almost the exact opposite,” Finkelstein said. “While COSMOS-Webb is going very wide to look for the brightest and most massive galaxies, WDEEP is going deep. We are going to pick one place in the sky and stare at it for over 100 hours, following in the footsteps of the original Hubble Deep Field,” he said.

    He explained that the goal of WDEEP is to push the frontier in terms of the most distant galaxies detected. The team expects to find 50 or more galaxies at a time less than 500 million years after the Big Bang, which is “a completely unexplored epoch” in the universe’s history, he said. And if they’re lucky, they might find a galaxy at just 270 million years after the Big Bang, or 2% of the universe’s present age of 13.8 billion years.

    The goal in finding these most-distant galaxies is to help understand the early universe. “There are a wide range of theoretical predictions for what the universe should look like at these times,” Finkelstein said. “Without observations, these predictions are completely unconstrained. Our goal is to try and pin down those models telling us what the earliest galaxies were like.”

    Other UT astronomers lead or co-lead JWST first-year projects on a variety of topics. These include faculty members Brendan Bowler, John Chisholm, Harriet Dinerstein, Neal Evans, and Caroline Morley; postdoctoral researchers Micaela Bagley, Will Best, and Justin Spilker; and graduate student Samuel Factor. The projects include studies of planet formation, the failed stars called brown dwarfs, the chemistry of pre-biotic molecules in newly forming stars, early stages of star formation, the dead stars called planetary nebulae, the formation of massive galaxies in the early universe, and more. Together, they will use about 100 hours of telescope time in the telescope’s first year.

    From California Institute of Technology (US)

    April 19, 2021
    COSMOS-Webb selected as JWST’s largest Cycle 1 program

    When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)—the long-awaited successor to the Hubble Space Telescope—becomes operational in 2022, one of its first orders of business will be mapping the earliest structures of the universe. A team of nearly 50 researchers led by scientists at Rochester Institute of Technology [above] and University of Texas at Austin [above] will attempt to do so through the COSMOS-Webb program, the largest General Observer program selected for JWST’s first year.

    Over the course of 208.6 observing hours, the COSMOS-Webb program will conduct an ambitious survey of half a million galaxies with multi-band, high-resolution near infrared imaging and an unprecedented 32,000 galaxies in mid infrared. The scientists involved said that because COSMOS-Webb is a treasury program, they will rapidly release data to the public so it can lead to countless other studies by other researchers.

    “The sheer scope of our program is so exciting,” said principal investigator Jeyhan Kartaltepe, an assistant professor at RIT. “The first year of Webb observations will result in a lot of new discoveries that people will want explore more in-depth in future cycles. I think the public legacy of COSMOS-Webb will be that COSMOS will be the field where the community conducts this type of follow-up research.”

    Caitlin Casey, an assistant professor and principal investigator at UT Austin, said “COSMOS-Webb has the potential to be ground-breaking in ways we haven’t even dreamt yet. You don’t know what treasures are there to find until you use an incredible telescope like Webb to stare at the sky for a long time.”

    The survey will map 0.6 square degrees of the sky—about the area of three full moons—using JWST’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) [above] instrument while simultaneously mapping a smaller area of 0.2 square degrees with the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) [above]. Through this approach, the scientists hope to achieve three main goals.

    The first goal focuses on the epoch of reionization [above], which took place from 400,000 to 1 billion years after the big bang. When the first stars and galaxies formed, they provided energy to re-ionize the early universe and it likely happened in little pockets, not all at once. COSMOS-Webb aims to map out the scale of these reionization bubbles.

    “At these early epochs, COSMOS-Webb will reveal thousands of galaxies, fainter, more distant and more numerous than those previously discovered with Hubble”, said Anton Koekemoer, a research astronomer in the Webb team at the Space Telescope Science Institute, who helped design the observing strategy for the program.

    A second goal is to use the MIRI instrument to look for fully evolved galaxies at high redshifts that seemingly matured soon after the universe formed. Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has found examples of these galaxies, which challenge existing models about how the universe formed, so the hope is to find more examples of these high redshift galaxies and study them in more detail to understand how they could have evolved so rapidly.

    The third primary objective makes use of a technique called weak lensing [above]. Because gravity is sensitive to all kinds of matter including that we cannot see, scientists can use the distortions of light around galaxies to estimate of the amount of dark matter. Jason Rhodes, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said COSMOS-Webb will provide important insight about how dark matter in galaxies has evolved with the stellar content of galaxies over the age of the universe.

    “A key result from the original HST-COSMOS effort over a decade ago was showing that dark matter is the cosmic scaffolding upon which the structures in the universe we see today are formed,” said Rhodes. “COSMOS-Webb will make use of the JWST’s larger mirror to push that dark matter mapping farther in time and to higher resolution maps, allowing us to study how dark matter has influenced the evolution of individual galaxies from the early universe to now.”

    COSMOS-Webb is one of just 286 General Scientific Observer programs selected out of more than 1,000 proposals for the telescope’s first year of science, known as Cycle 1. These specific programs will provide the worldwide astronomical community with one of the first extensive opportunities to investigate scientific targets with Webb. NASA is currently targeting Oct. 31, 2021, for JWST’s launch.

    The COSMOS-Webb team is made up of 49 astronomers worldwide, including 31 based at US-institutes, 18 at international institutes, and 13 students and postdocs. See the coordinated press release at several institutes, including RIT [above], UT Austin [above], University of California-Santa Cruz (US), University of Durham, University of Bologna [Alma mater studiorum – Università di Bologna](IT), MPG Institute for Astronomy [MPG Institut für Astronomie](DE), Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (JP)-University of Tokyo[(東京大] (JP), and DAWN – University of Copenhagen [Københavns Universitet](DK).

    See the full article here .

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    The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Launch is planned for October 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Launch is scheduled for later in the decade on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch will be from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb will be located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

    ESA50 Logo large

    Canadian Space Agency

     
  • richardmitnick 8:35 pm on August 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stars Are Exploding in Dusty Galaxies. We Just Can’t Always See Them", , , , Infrared Astronomy, , ,   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech (US) : “Stars Are Exploding in Dusty Galaxies. We Just Can’t Always See Them” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech (US)

    Aug 04, 2021
    News Media Contact

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    by Adam Hadhazy

    1
    Hidden Supernova Spotted by NASA Spitzer Infared Space Telescope
    The image shows galaxy Arp 148, captured by NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble telescopes. Specially processed Spitzer data is shown inside the white circle, revealing infrared light from a supernova hidden by dust.
    Credit: National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/JPL-Caltech (US).

    Inside the white circle is specially-processed Spitzer data, which reveals infrared light from a supernova that is hidden by dust. Supernovae are massive stars that have exploded after running out of fuel. They radiate most brightly in visible light (the kind the human eye can detect), but these wavelengths are obscured by dust. Infrared light, however, can pass through dust.

    The analysis of Arp 148 was part of an effort to find hidden supernovae in 40 dust-choked galaxies that also emit high levels of infrared light. These galaxies are known as luminous and ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (LIRGs and ULIRGs, respectively). The dust in LIRGs and ULIRGs absorbs optical light from objects like supernovae but allows infrared light from these same objects to pass through unobstructed for telescopes like Spitzer to detect.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (US), Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology (US), also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU). The Space Telescope Science Institute (US) conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (US), Washington, D.C.

    Exploding stars generate dramatic light shows. Infrared telescopes like Spitzer can see through the haze and to give a better idea of how often these explosions occur.

    You’d think that supernovae – the death throes of massive stars and among the brightest, most powerful explosions in the universe – would be hard to miss. Yet the number of these blasts observed in the distant parts of the universe falls way short of astrophysicists’ predictions.

    A new study [MNRAS] using data from NASA’s recently retired Spitzer Space Telescope reports the detection of five supernovae that, going undetected in optical light, had never been seen before. Spitzer saw the universe in infrared light, which pierces through dust clouds that block optical light – the kind of light our eyes see and that unobscured supernovae radiate most brightly.

    To search for hidden supernovae, the researchers looked at Spitzer observations of 40 dusty galaxies. (In space, dust refers to grain-like particles with a consistency similar to smoke.) Based on the number they found in these galaxies, the study confirms that supernovae do indeed occur as frequently as scientists expect them to. This expectation is based on scientists’ current understanding of how stars evolve. Studies like this are necessary to improve that understanding, by either reinforcing or challenging certain aspects of it.

    “These results with Spitzer show that the optical surveys we’ve long relied on for detecting supernovae miss up to half of the stellar explosions happening out there in the universe,” said Ori Fox, a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and lead author of the new study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society [above]. “It’s very good news that the number of supernovae we’re seeing with Spitzer is statistically consistent with theoretical predictions.”

    The “supernova discrepancy” – that is, the inconsistency between the number of predicted supernovae and the number observed by optical telescopes – is not an issue in the nearby universe. There, galaxies have slowed their pace of star formation and are generally less dusty. In the more distant reaches of the universe, though, galaxies appear younger, produce stars at higher rates, and tend to have higher amounts of dust. This dust absorbs and scatters optical and ultraviolet light, preventing it from reaching telescopes. So researchers have long reasoned that the missing supernovae must exist and are just unseen.

    “Because the local universe has calmed down a bit since its early years of star-making, we see the expected numbers of supernovae with typical optical searches,” said Fox. “The observed supernova-detection percentage goes down, however, as you get farther away and back to cosmic epochs where dustier galaxies dominated.”

    Detecting supernovae at these far distances can be challenging. To perform a search for supernovae shrouded within murkier galactic realms but at less extreme distances, Fox’s team selected a local set of 40 dust-choked galaxies, known as luminous and ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (LIRGs and ULIRGs, respectively). The dust in LIRGs and ULIRGs absorbs optical light from objects like supernovae but allows infrared light from these same objects to pass through unobstructed for telescopes like Spitzer to detect.

    The researchers’ hunch proved correct when the five never-before-seen supernovae came to (infrared) light. “It’s a testament to Spitzer’s discovery potential that the telescope was able to pick up the signal of hidden supernovae from these dusty galaxies,” said Fox.

    “It was especially fun for several of our undergraduate students to meaningfully contribute to this exciting research,” added study co-author Alex Filippenko, a professor of astronomy at the University of California- Berkeley (US). “They helped answer the question, ‘Where have all the supernovae gone?’”

    The types of supernovae detected by Spitzer are known as “core-collapse supernovae,” involving giant stars with at least eight times the mass of the Sun. As they grow old and their cores fill with iron, the big stars can no longer produce enough energy to withstand their own gravity, and their cores collapse, suddenly and catastrophically.

    The intense pressures and temperatures produced during the rapid cave-in forms new chemical elements via nuclear fusion. The collapsing stars ultimately rebound off their ultra-dense cores, blowing themselves to smithereens and scattering those elements throughout space. Supernovae produce “heavy” elements, such as most metals. Those elements are necessary for building up rocky planets, like Earth, as well as biological beings. Overall, supernova rates serve as an important check on models of star formation and the creation of heavy elements in the universe.

    “If you have a handle on how many stars are forming, then you can predict how many stars will explode,” said Fox. “Or, vice versa, if you have a handle on how many stars are exploding, you can predict how many stars are forming. Understanding that relationship is critical for many areas of study in astrophysics.”

    Next-generation telescopes, including NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, will detect infrared light, like Spitzer.

    “Our study has shown that star formation models are more consistent with supernova rates than previously thought,” said Fox. “And by revealing these hidden supernovae, Spitzer has set the stage for new kinds of discoveries with the Webb and Roman space telescopes.”

    More About the Mission

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California conducted mission operations and managed the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations were conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations were based at Lockheed Martin Space (US) in Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech IPAC-Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (US). Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    More information about Spitzer is available at:

    https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/main

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) (US) ) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US). The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo

     
  • richardmitnick 9:50 pm on July 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Watching the Milky Way's supermassive black hole feed", Infrared Astronomy, , ,   

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) via phys.org : “Watching the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole feed” 

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US)

    via

    phys.org

    1
    A three-color image of the central regions of the Milky Way showing the location of Sagittarius A*, the galactic center’s supermassive blackhole; X-ray in blue, optical in yellow, and infrared in red. Astronomers have obtained simultaneous mulit-band observations of a bright flare from SgrA* and modeled the mult-band radiation to estimate properties of the accretion around the black hole. Credit:D. Wang X-ray/ NASA/CXC/UMass/ et al.; Optical: D.Wang et al./ NASA/ESA/STScI/.; IR: S.Stolovy NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC/

    The supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, Sagittarius A*, is by far the closest such object to us, about 27,000 light-years away. Although it is not nearly so active or luminous as other galactic nuclei with supermassive black holes, its relative proximity makes it appear much brighter to us than other similar sources and provides astronomers with a unique opportunity to probe what happens when gas clouds or other objects get close to the “edge” of a black hole.

    Sgr A* has been monitored at radio wavelengths since its discovery in the 1950’s; variability was first reported in the radio in 1984. Astronomers model that on average Sgr A* is accreting material at a few hundredths of an Earth-mass per year, a relatively very low rate. Subsequent infrared, submillimeter, and X-ray observations confirmed this variability but also discovered that the object often flares, with the brightness thereby increasing by as much as a factor of one hundred in X-rays. Most of the steady emission is thought to be produced by electrons spiraling at close to the speed of light (called relativistic motion) around magnetic fields in a small region only about an astronomical unit in radius around the source, but there is no agreement on the mechanism(s) powering the flares.

    CfA astronomers Giovanni Fazio, Mark Gurwell, Joe Hora, Howard Smith, and Steve Willner were members of a large consortium that in July 2019 obtained simultaneous near infrared observations with the IRAC camera on Spitzer, with the GRAVITY interferometer at the European Southern Observatory, and with NASA’s Chandra and NuStar X-ray observatories (scheduled simultaneous observations with the Submillimeter Array were prevented by the Mauna Kea closure). SgrA* serendipitously underwent a major flaring event during these observations, enabling theoreticians for the first time to model a flare in considerable detail.

    Relativistic electrons moving in magnetic fields emit photons by a process known as synchrotron radiation (the most conventional scenario) but there is also a second process possible in which photons (produced either by synchrotron emission or by other sources like dust emission) are scattered off the electrons and thereby acquire additional energy, becoming X-ray photons. Modeling which combination of effects was operative in the small region around SgrA* during the flaring event offers insights into the densities of the gas, the fields, and the origin of the flare’s intensity, timing, and shape. The scientists considered a variety of possibilities and concluded that the most probable scenario is the one in which the infrared flare was produced by the first process but with the X-ray flare produced by the second process. This conclusion has several implications for the activity around this supermassive black hole, including that the electron densities and magnetic fields are comparable in magnitude to those under average conditions but that sustained particle acceleration is required to maintain the observed flare. Although the models successfully match many aspects of the flare emission, the measurements are not able to constrain the detailed physics behind the particle acceleration; these are left to future research.

    Science paper:
    Astronomy & Astrophysics

    See the full article here .


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    Stem Education Coalition

    The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory(US) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory(US) 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(US) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution(US), founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory, founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University(US), and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

    Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the CfA leads a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, Earth and space sciences, as well as science education. The CfA either leads or participates in the development and operations of more than fifteen ground- and space-based astronomical research observatories across the electromagnetic spectrum, including the forthcoming Giant Magellan Telescope(CL) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory(US), one of NASA’s Great Observatories.

    Hosting more than 850 scientists, engineers, and support staff, the CfA is among the largest astronomical research institutes in the world. Its projects have included Nobel Prize-winning advances in cosmology and high energy astrophysics, the discovery of many exoplanets, and the first image of a black hole. The CfA also serves a major role in the global astrophysics research community: the CfA’s Astrophysics Data System(ADS)(US), for example, has been universally adopted as the world’s online database of astronomy and physics papers. Known for most of its history as the “Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics”, the CfA rebranded in 2018 to its current name in an effort to reflect its unique status as a joint collaboration between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. The CfA’s current Director (since 2004) is Charles R. Alcock, who succeeds Irwin I. Shapiro (Director from 1982 to 2004) and George B. Field (Director from 1973 to 1982).

    The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian is not formally an independent legal organization, but rather an institutional entity operated under a Memorandum of Understanding between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. This collaboration was formalized on July 1, 1973, with the goal of coordinating the related research activities of the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) under the leadership of a single Director, and housed within the same complex of buildings on the Harvard campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The CfA’s history is therefore also that of the two fully independent organizations that comprise it. With a combined lifetime of more than 300 years, HCO and SAO have been host to major milestones in astronomical history that predate the CfA’s founding.

    History of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO)

    Samuel Pierpont Langley, the third Secretary of the Smithsonian, founded the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory on the south yard of the Smithsonian Castle (on the U.S. National Mall) on March 1,1890. The Astrophysical Observatory’s initial, primary purpose was to “record the amount and character of the Sun’s heat”. Charles Greeley Abbot was named SAO’s first director, and the observatory operated solar telescopes to take daily measurements of the Sun’s intensity in different regions of the optical electromagnetic spectrum. In doing so, the observatory enabled Abbot to make critical refinements to the Solar constant, as well as to serendipitously discover Solar variability. It is likely that SAO’s early history as a solar observatory was part of the inspiration behind the Smithsonian’s “sunburst” logo, designed in 1965 by Crimilda Pontes.

    In 1955, the scientific headquarters of SAO moved from Washington, D.C. to Cambridge, Massachusetts to affiliate with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO). Fred Lawrence Whipple, then the chairman of the Harvard Astronomy Department, was named the new director of SAO. The collaborative relationship between SAO and HCO therefore predates the official creation of the CfA by 18 years. SAO’s move to Harvard’s campus also resulted in a rapid expansion of its research program. Following the launch of Sputnik (the world’s first human-made satellite) in 1957, SAO accepted a national challenge to create a worldwide satellite-tracking network, collaborating with the United States Air Force on Project Space Track.

    With the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US) the following year and throughout the space race, SAO led major efforts in the development of orbiting observatories and large ground-based telescopes, laboratory and theoretical astrophysics, as well as the application of computers to astrophysical problems.

    History of Harvard College Observatory (HCO)

    Partly in response to renewed public interest in astronomy following the 1835 return of Halley’s Comet, the Harvard College Observatory was founded in 1839, when the Harvard Corporation appointed William Cranch Bond as an “Astronomical Observer to the University”. For its first four years of operation, the observatory was situated at the Dana-Palmer House (where Bond also resided) near Harvard Yard, and consisted of little more than three small telescopes and an astronomical clock. In his 1840 book recounting the history of the college, then Harvard President Josiah Quincy III noted that “…there is wanted a reflecting telescope equatorially mounted…”. This telescope, the 15-inch “Great Refractor”, opened seven years later (in 1847) at the top of Observatory Hill in Cambridge (where it still exists today, housed in the oldest of the CfA’s complex of buildings). The telescope was the largest in the United States from 1847 until 1867. William Bond and pioneer photographer John Adams Whipple used the Great Refractor to produce the first clear Daguerrotypes of the Moon (winning them an award at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London). Bond and his son, George Phillips Bond (the second Director of HCO), used it to discover Saturn’s 8th moon, Hyperion (which was also independently discovered by William Lassell).

    Under the directorship of Edward Charles Pickering from 1877 to 1919, the observatory became the world’s major producer of stellar spectra and magnitudes, established an observing station in Peru, and applied mass-production methods to the analysis of data. It was during this time that HCO became host to a series of major discoveries in astronomical history, powered by the Observatory’s so-called “Computers” (women hired by Pickering as skilled workers to process astronomical data). These “Computers” included Williamina Fleming; Annie Jump Cannon; Henrietta Swan Leavitt; Florence Cushman; and Antonia Maury, all widely recognized today as major figures in scientific history. Henrietta Swan Leavitt, for example, discovered the so-called period-luminosity relation for Classical Cepheid variable stars, establishing the first major “standard candle” with which to measure the distance to galaxies. Now called “Leavitt’s Law”, the discovery is regarded as one of the most foundational and important in the history of astronomy; astronomers like Edwin Hubble, for example, would later use Leavitt’s Law to establish that the Universe is expanding, the primary piece of evidence for the Big Bang model.

    Upon Pickering’s retirement in 1921, the Directorship of HCO fell to Harlow Shapley (a major participant in the so-called “Great Debate” of 1920). This era of the observatory was made famous by the work of Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin, who became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy from Radcliffe College (a short walk from the Observatory). Payne-Gapochkin’s 1925 thesis proposed that stars were composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, an idea thought ridiculous at the time. Between Shapley’s tenure and the formation of the CfA, the observatory was directed by Donald H. Menzel and then Leo Goldberg, both of whom maintained widely recognized programs in solar and stellar astrophysics. Menzel played a major role in encouraging the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to move to Cambridge and collaborate more closely with HCO.

    Joint history as the Center for Astrophysics (CfA)

    The collaborative foundation for what would ultimately give rise to the Center for Astrophysics began with SAO’s move to Cambridge in 1955. Fred Whipple, who was already chair of the Harvard Astronomy Department (housed within HCO since 1931), was named SAO’s new director at the start of this new era; an early test of the model for a unified Directorship across HCO and SAO. The following 18 years would see the two independent entities merge ever closer together, operating effectively (but informally) as one large research center.

    This joint relationship was formalized as the new Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on July 1, 1973. George B. Field, then affiliated with UC Berkeley(US), was appointed as its first Director. That same year, a new astronomical journal, the CfA Preprint Series was created, and a CfA/SAO instrument flying aboard Skylab discovered coronal holes on the Sun. The founding of the CfA also coincided with the birth of X-ray astronomy as a new, major field that was largely dominated by CfA scientists in its early years. Riccardo Giacconi, regarded as the “father of X-ray astronomy”, founded the High Energy Astrophysics Division within the new CfA by moving most of his research group (then at American Sciences and Engineering) to SAO in 1973. That group would later go on to launch the Einstein Observatory (the first imaging X-ray telescope) in 1976, and ultimately lead the proposals and development of what would become the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra, the second of NASA’s Great Observatories and still the most powerful X-ray telescope in history, continues operations today as part of the CfA’s Chandra X-ray Center. Giacconi would later win the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for his foundational work in X-ray astronomy.

    Shortly after the launch of the Einstein Observatory, the CfA’s Steven Weinberg won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on electroweak unification. The following decade saw the start of the landmark CfA Redshift Survey (the first attempt to map the large scale structure of the Universe), as well as the release of the Field Report, a highly influential Astronomy & Astrophysics Decadal Survey chaired by the outgoing CfA Director George Field. He would be replaced in 1982 by Irwin Shapiro, who during his tenure as Director (1982 to 2004) oversaw the expansion of the CfA’s observing facilities around the world.

    CfA-led discoveries throughout this period include canonical work on Supernova 1987A, the “CfA2 Great Wall” (then the largest known coherent structure in the Universe), the best-yet evidence for supermassive black holes, and the first convincing evidence for an extrasolar planet.

    The 1990s also saw the CfA unwittingly play a major role in the history of computer science and the internet: in 1990, SAO developed SAOImage, one of the world’s first X11-based applications made publicly available (its successor, DS9, remains the most widely used astronomical FITS image viewer worldwide). During this time, scientists at the CfA also began work on what would become the Astrophysics Data System (ADS), one of the world’s first online databases of research papers. By 1993, the ADS was running the first routine transatlantic queries between databases, a foundational aspect of the internet today.

    The CfA Today

    Research at the CfA

    Charles Alcock, known for a number of major works related to massive compact halo objects, was named the third director of the CfA in 2004. Today Alcock overseas one of the largest and most productive astronomical institutes in the world, with more than 850 staff and an annual budget in excess of $100M. The Harvard Department of Astronomy, housed within the CfA, maintains a continual complement of approximately 60 Ph.D. students, more than 100 postdoctoral researchers, and roughly 25 undergraduate majors in astronomy and astrophysics from Harvard College. SAO, meanwhile, hosts a long-running and highly rated REU Summer Intern program as well as many visiting graduate students. The CfA estimates that roughly 10% of the professional astrophysics community in the United States spent at least a portion of their career or education there.

    The CfA is either a lead or major partner in the operations of the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, the Submillimeter Array, MMT Observatory, the South Pole Telescope, VERITAS, and a number of other smaller ground-based telescopes. The CfA’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan includes the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope as a driving priority for the Center.

    CFA Harvard Smithsonian Submillimeter Array on MaunaKea, Hawaii, USA, Altitude 4,205 m (13,796 ft).

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL. The SPT collaboration is made up of over a dozen (mostly North American) institutions, including The University of Chicago (US); The University of California Berkeley (US); Case Western Reserve University (US); Harvard/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (US); The University of Colorado, Boulder; McGill(CA) University, The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign;The University of California, Davis; Ludwig Maximilians Universität München(DE); DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory; and The National Institute for Standards and Technology. The University of California, Davis; Ludwig Maximilians Universität München(DE); DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory; and The National Institute for Standards and Technology. It is funded by the National Science Foundation(US).

    Along with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the CfA plays a central role in a number of space-based observing facilities, including the recently launched Parker Solar Probe, Kepler Space Telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), and HINODE. The CfA, via the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, recently played a major role in the Lynx X-ray Observatory, a NASA-Funded Large Mission Concept Study commissioned as part of the 2020 Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics (“Astro2020”). If launched, Lynx would be the most powerful X-ray observatory constructed to date, enabling order-of-magnitude advances in capability over Chandra.

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

    SAO is one of the 13 stakeholder institutes for the Event Horizon Telescope Board, and the CfA hosts its Array Operations Center. In 2019, the project revealed the first direct image of a black hole.

    The result is widely regarded as a triumph not only of observational radio astronomy, but of its intersection with theoretical astrophysics. Union of the observational and theoretical subfields of astrophysics has been a major focus of the CfA since its founding.

    In 2018, the CfA rebranded, changing its official name to the “Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian” in an effort to reflect its unique status as a joint collaboration between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. Today, the CfA receives roughly 70% of its funding from NASA, 22% from Smithsonian federal funds, and 4% from the National Science Foundation. The remaining 4% comes from contributors including the United States Department of Energy, the Annenberg Foundation, as well as other gifts and endowments.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:02 pm on July 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Billion-Dollar Telescope Race", , , , ESO ELT, , Infrared Astronomy, , ,   

    From Nautilus (US) : “The Billion-Dollar Telescope Race” 

    From Nautilus (US)

    March 13, 2014 [Re-issued 7.7.21]
    Mark Anderson

    How three groups are competing to make the first extremely large telescope.

    When Warner Brothers animators wanted to include cutting-edge astronomy in a 1952 Bugs Bunny cartoon [1] they set a scene at an observatory that looks like Palomar Observatory in California.

    The then-newly unveiled Hale Telescope, stationed at Palomar, had a 5-meter-diameter mirror, the world’s largest. In 1989, when cartoonist Bill Watterson included a mention of the world’s largest telescope in a “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoon,[2] he again set the action at Palomar. Although computers had grown a million times faster during those 38 years, and eight different particle colliders had been built and competed for their field’s top ranking, astronomy’s king of the hill stayed perched on its throne.

    This changed in 1992, with the introduction of the Keck telescope and its compound, 10-meter mirror.

    About a dozen 8-10 meter telescopes have been built since, e.g.

    But it has been more than 20 years since this last quantum leap in telescope technology. Now, finally, the next generation is coming. Three telescopes are on their way, and the race among them has already begun.

    Three new observatories are on the drawing boards, all with diameters, or apertures,[3] between 25 and 40 meters, and all with estimated first light being collected in 2022: the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT, headquartered in Pasadena, Calif.); the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT, also in Pasadena); and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT, headquartered in Garching, Germany). At stake are the mapping of asteroids, dwarf planets, and planetary moons in our solar system; imaging whole planetary systems; observing close-in the Goliathan black hole at the Milky Way’s core; discovering the detailed laws governing star and galaxy formation; and taking baby pictures of the farthest objects in the early universe.

    Thanks to these telescopes, astronomy is poised to reinvent itself over the next few decades. Renown and glory, headlines and prestige, and perhaps a few Nobel Prizes too, will go to those astronomers that first reveal a bit of new cosmic machinery. Surprisingly, the story of this race will be written, not just in the technical specifications and design breakthroughs of the instruments themselves, but also in the organizational approaches that each team has taken. The horse race is a unique window both into technology, and into the process of science itself.

    In the 50 years following its 1949 construction, the telescope that came closest to beating the performance of the Palomar Observatory was the Bolshoi Teleskop Alt-azimutalnyi (BTA-6), a Soviet telescope that used a 6-meter mirror and was christened in 1975.

    1
    BTA-6 [Большой Телескоп Альт-азимутальный] Large Altazimuth Telescope, a 6-metre (20 ft) aperture optical telescope at the Special Astrophysical Observatory located in the Zelenchuksky District on the north side of the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia.

    But the BTA-6 only proved how difficult it is to build and operate single-mirror telescopes larger than 5 meters. Its mirror was so elephantine that it cracked under its own weight, and the heat from the light it collected destabilized its sensitive optics. As a result, for productive astronomical observatories, Palomar remained the world’s most powerful until 1992, when the 10-meter W.M. Keck Observatory telescope in Hawaii first opened its eyes.

    Keck’s history began with a single American physicist called Jerry Nelson, an upstart scientist at the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In 1977, conventional wisdom held that a 10-meter instrument, just as subject to gravity’s warp as BTA-6, was extremely impractical if not downright impossible. Nelson’s innovation was not to rely on one mirror but rather on a honeycomb-like structure of small, hexagonal mirror segments. Each flexible and lightweight mirror would be independently mounted and had its own curvature unique to its placement in the array. A mirror in the center would be curved upward on all six sides. A mirror placed off-axis to the right would curve down on its left edges and up on its right. The sum total structure of hexagonal mirrors would be a meta-mirror that behaved exactly like a curved single mirror.

    Nelson’s design was made more complex by the fact that as the telescope’s body rotated, each mirror needed to be adjusted on the fly by arrays of computerized screws and flywheels that nudged the mirrors so as to compensate for gravity’s pull [Active Optics].

    “I remember when Jerry Nelson used to give these talks,” says Michael Bolte, TMT member and astronomy professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz (US). “Everybody thought he was completely nuts. They thought, if you get out in the real world where the wind blows and gravity vectors change and humidity changes, surely this would never work.” Even today, astronomers’ skepticism seems well warranted. To operate a 10-meter telescope using Nelson’s design required continual monitoring and adjustment of each mirror segment’s position to within a few billionths of a meter.

    On top of that, Keck later implemented the further innovation of using another array of computers to monitor minute disturbances in the atmosphere above the telescope. Then an additional, deformable mirror down the line could compensate for the tiny thermal wiggles that the atmosphere introduces to a star’s image.

    In other words, Nelson hoped to design a telescope that could “subtract” off the influence of the earth’s atmosphere, all but launching his instrument into space without ever lifting it off the ground. (Such adaptive optics are being used in all three next-generation telescope projects.)

    No wonder, then, that many leading astronomers in the 1980s and early 1990s had written off Nelson’s scheme. A 1993 Los Angeles Times profile of Nelson, for instance, quotes an anonymous source it describes as “one of the nation’s top telescope designers.” The anonymous source rated Nelson an “arrogant fool” and predicted that the W.M. Keck Observatory’s $200 million price tag would ultimately just be money down the drain.

    Yet when in 1992 the Keck telescope—followed by its cousin Keck II in 1996—instead delivered on its designers’ promise of ushering in a new era of 10-meter class astronomy, other observatories around the world were caught by surprise.

    “These problems you’d been working on your whole career, after one night on Keck, you’d have all the data you’d need,” Bolte says. “We were actually unpopular with much of the world. And there were many people who, when we started thinking about a 30-meter telescope, swore they’d never get ‘Keck’ed again.”

    The history of the Keck design continues to color the field. One of the three teams, TMT, has directly inherited Keck’s design and many of its team members, including Nelson. TMT will also share mountaintop space with Keck, on the dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. Its new design is an extension of Keck’s segmented hexagonal mirror to the 30-meter scale. TMT’s Bolte adds, with not more than the tiniest amount of relish, that the competing E-ELT team developed a similar plan to the TMT/Keck’s, even without any legacy or institutional inertia pushing it toward one telescope design or another.

    “I don’t want to sound like I’m criticizing anybody here,” he says. “But I think if you were really going to design a telescope from scratch, a 25 to 30 meter telescope, you’d almost certainly pick the TMT design over the GMT design. That is, small segments with very tiny gaps. As evidence for that, the Europeans could have done whatever they wanted. They had a clean slate… They did the cost benefit analysis and concluded that a telescope very much like the TMT was the way to build.”

    In fact, TMT and E-ELT’s mirror segments are exactly the same size scale, 1.44 meters. (They’re not interchangeable, though, as each mirror has a different curve and warp.) Asked why his team picked the same mirror component size as TMT, Tim de Zeeuw, [then] director general of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), noted that “there is … no formal intention to collaborate on the production of segments, but since the sizes are the same it is however also not impossible.” The TMT will use its 492 hexagonal mirrors to create an effective 30-meter aperture. E-ELT, to be sited on a mountaintop observatory in the Atacama Desert near Antofagasta, Chile, will use 798 hexagonal mirror segments to create an effective telescope size of 39 meters.

    The GMT telescope, by contrast, uses seven circular 8.4-meter mirrors that all reflect into a central convex mirror suspended above the primary mirror. The seven-mirror structure, to be situated on a mountaintop observatory near La Serena, Chile, together create a meta-mirror with a resolving power equivalent to that of a 24.5 meter single-mirror telescope. The segments (of which [then] one has been completed and two more are being manufactured) use a lightweight honeycomb design that overcomes the 6-meter limit that BTA-6 famously encountered. The University of Arizona (US), a GMT partner institution, is making the mirrors in its U Arizona Steward Observatory Mirror Lab (US), located beneath the university’s football stadium.

    “Completing the first mirror segment was a very significant milestone for us,” says Charles Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) and member of the GMT board. “It has a very complicated shape, since it’s an off-axis segment it’s not symmetrical about its center. And it’s being polished to an accuracy of 19 nanometers. So it is the best large optical surface ever created in human history.”

    Roger Angel,[1] professor of astronomy and optics at the University of Arizona, was the GMT’s chief architect and intellectual forebear. Alcock notes that although Keck was the first 10-meter class telescope, there are other telescopes—including the Magellan Telescopes in Chile (distinct from the Giant Magellan Telescope) and the Multiple Mirror Telescope and Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona—that do not use the Keck design.

    “The TMT is a direct successor to the Kecks, but with 492 segments, up from 36, it is a significantly different design,” Alcock says. “The GMT design … has as much heritage as—arguably more than—the TMT design.”

    With so much hard science in the balance, one might think that the varying designs of the three competing telescopes would decide which is first past the post. But there is a more prosaic aspect to the competition: Securing partners. This boils down to a kind of musical chairs of international corporations, institutes, and national organizations. “Everybody in our world knows who the potential partners are,” says Alcock. “If we’re talking with somebody, you just know that TMT has probably had some contact with them. I think it’s unlikely that any individual potential partner would join both projects. It’s high stakes in that regard.”

    “The GMT realized very early on that they needed to find some more partners to fund their telescope, so we were all running around the world doing the same thing,” says TMT’s Bolte. “We’d show up at the airport in Beijing just as somebody from the E-ELT was leaving. Or we’d run into [GMT leader] Wendy Friedman in the airport in Tokyo. We were all talking up our projects to all of these countries. I don’t know for sure how they made their choices. But I’m really pleased that we got some of the major players to select our project given the choice of all three.”

    A major win for TMT was China, a country whose economic size and scientific stature meant that each telescope’s officials watched its courtship maneuvers closely. China had considered making its own 30-meter class telescope, but the country doesn’t have mountaintop sites that boast the astronomically perfect conditions of the dry Chilean mountains or the Mauna Kea summit. Shude Mao of the National Astronomical Observatories of China at Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院](CN) in Beijing now sits on the TMT board. He says Keck’s impressive track record was an important factor in swaying the world’s second-largest economy toward TMT.

    China’s decision also reveals the different kinds of organizational structures at play in each of the three competing teams. The E-ELT has a European model of national-level cooperation. Joining the E-ELT requires membership in the European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte] (EU) (CL) and a pledge of a small fixed percentage of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) toward the ESO budget. This would have made membership expensive for China, whose GDP in 2013 was $9 trillion.

    Both GMT and TMT have a trim and more corporate American-style organization that is part institutional, part national partnerships. GMT was less attractive to China, however, because it mandates cash contributions. By contrast, Mao says, 70 percent of China’s contribution to TMT in its earliest stages can be “in kind.” This means China may be required to manufacture and then donate a spectrometer or a certain number of the TMT’s 492 mirror segments. But China could then also do this work in-country, stimulating its own industries. “That is extremely important to us,” Mao says.

    By contrast, says Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University (AU), GMT downplays in kind contributions for a good reason. Schmidt, a Nobel Laureate astronomer and a leader in GMT’s effort to sign on Australia, explains that GMT awards its contracts only on the basis of scientific and technical merit. It plays no favorites in awarding its work orders. “It’s a real minimalist structure that’s focused on really getting the thing done,” Schmidt says of the GMT organization.

    Other big countrywide “gets” round out the early tally. As of early 2014, these have been Brazil signing on to ESO (and thus E-ELT), although this still requires ratification by the Brazilian Parliament; South Korea and Australia putting their weight behind GMT; and China, India, and Japan backing TMT.

    The resulting three-way race, as ESO public information officer Richard Hook describes it, is a kind of portmanteau of cooperation and competition. “You could call the situation ‘Co-opetition,’ ” he says.

    For each of the three telescope projects, much of the industrial work and projected completion dates are well-guarded trade secrets. All three telescopes’ websites leave the exact projected date of their completion unknown, expressing the likelihood that each will be completed and conducting actual science by 2022. But each community clearly has a common goal in mind: to be first.

    “I’m really hoping we’re still going to be first,” Bolte says of TMT. “We would have liked to have started building this telescope five years ago. I think technically we were ready to do that. What we didn’t have is our partnerships put together.”

    Says ESO’s Hook of his group’s E-ELT, “Yes, the scientific community that we serve is of course keen to be first.” But he goes on to add, “It is certainly possible to overstate the level of competition. All three will be general-purpose telescopes with long lives. They are not focused on one result.”

    In fact, every official from the three telescopes that Nautilus spoke to for this story was careful to couch their assessments of the competition in collegial terms. More than once it was expressed that they didn’t want to appear sniping or derogatory toward telescopes that, in all likelihood, will be as much collaborators as rivals. No one seemed to want to provide justifiable cause for bad blood. But that each team is also in a race to the finish was plainly obvious.

    Regardless of the winner among the three teams, should all three telescopes be built—and no expert consulted for this story predicted any other outcome—they will likely surge astronomy ahead unlike any time in modern memory. The only precedent within the professional lifetimes of astronomers working today would be Keck’s launch in 1993. Just what new windows on the universe this trio of extraordinary scientific instruments may open remains anyone’s guess.

    “Our experience with previous generations of telescopes is that people do carry out the science programs that led them to build the telescopes,” says Alcock. “But frequently the most exciting science is something that nobody was thinking about. Something entirely unanticipated.”

    Footnotes

    1. The last scene of this 1952 Bugs Bunny cartoon featured an observatory that looked a suspicious amount like the Palomar Observatory in California.

    2. In this 1989 comic, Calvin, disguised as “Stupendous Man,” visits Palomar Observatory.

    3. For more information on the lenses used in telescopes, visit Starizonia.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Welcome to Nautilus (US). We are delighted you joined us. We are here to tell you about science and its endless connections to our lives. Each month we choose a single topic. And each Thursday we publish a new chapter on that topic online. Each issue combines the sciences, culture and philosophy into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. We follow the story wherever it leads us. Read our essays, investigative reports, and blogs. Fiction, too. Take in our games, videos, and graphic stories. Stop in for a minute, or an hour. Nautilus lets science spill over its usual borders. We are science, connected.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:31 am on July 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Let the show begin-APEX’s CONCERTO instrument sees first light", , , , , Infrared Astronomy,   

    From European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte] (EU): “Let the show begin-APEX’s CONCERTO instrument sees first light” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte] (EU)

    6 July 2021

    Guilaine Lagache
    CONCERTO’s Principal Investigator
    Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille
    Marseille, France
    Tel: +33 6 50 77 35 45
    Email: guilaine.lagache@lam.fr

    Alessandro Monfardini
    CONCERTO’s Instrument Scientist
    Institut Néel
    Grenoble, France
    Tel: +33 4 76 88 10 52
    Email: alessandro.monfardini@neel.cnrs.fr

    Carlos De Breuck
    ESO APEX Project Scientist
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6613 Email: cdebreuc@eso.org

    Bárbara Ferreira
    ESO Media Manager
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6670
    Email: press@eso.org

    1
    ESO The CONCERTO instrument on APEX [below].

    2
    An exciting new instrument, a spectrometer called CONCERTO, has successfully produced its first observations: test images of the Cat’s Paw Nebula and the Crab Nebula. The instrument, installed on the ESO-operated Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), will help astronomers probe the mysterious, ancient cosmic epoch during which the first stars lit up.

    The main goal of CONCERTO, which stands for CarbON CII line in post-rEionisation and ReionisaTiOn epoch, is to study the birth of the first generation of stars. To do so, it will look at cosmic objects that formed between 600 million and 1.2 billion years after the Big Bang. This era, known as cosmic reionisation, is poorly understood yet crucial in the history of the cosmos, as it marks the transition between the “dark ages” — a very obscure period in the life of the Universe in which stars had not formed yet — and the time when the most distant galaxies we see in the Universe today formed.

    CONCERTO will also map distant galaxy clusters and star-forming regions in our Milky Way.

    As an instrument that is able to scan the sky at frequencies between infrared and radio waves, CONCERTO will look at radiation emitted by ionised carbon atoms, one of the most valuable tracers of star formation in the early cosmic ages. “The objective of shedding light on the reionisation period is very hard, as the signal we are searching for is very small,” says CONCERTO’s Principal Investigator Guilaine Lagache from the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (FR), in France. “We will tackle this by using a totally innovative and experimental observing technique, called intensity mapping. CONCERTO will be the first instrument in the world to perform intensity mapping of the primordial carbon radiation on a large field of the sky.”

    “CONCERTO is completely unique at APEX,” says ESO Astronomer and APEX Project Scientist Carlos De Breuck. “The other instruments either concentrate on imaging or spectroscopy, but not on both like CONCERTO is doing. And in terms of imaging, with a diameter of about 20 arcminutes on sky, it is by a margin the largest field-of-view ever used at APEX.” The new instrument has replaced the LArge APEX BOlometer CAmera (LABOCA), enabling a four-time improvement in terms of field of view.

    CONCERTO’s first light marks the end of its installation process, which started with the delivery of the instrument to the APEX site in the Chanjantor plateau in the Chilean Atacama Desert in late March 2021.

    The COVID-19 pandemic posed a considerable challenge to the CONCERTO team, who managed to prepare the instrument for fully remote operations, ship it to Chile, and install it at APEX under strict health and safety conditions. “A large part of this success comes from the team spirit and the fact that we all work with passion and determination,” says CONCERTO’s instrument scientist Alessandro Monfardini from Institute Néel[Institut Neel] (FR) in Grenoble, France. The team is also grateful to the local APEX staff for their dedication and help installing and testing the instrument.

    More Information

    CONCERTO received funding from the ERC: European Research Council (EU) under grant agreement No 788212, from the Aix-Marseille Initiative of Excellence (France) and LabEx FOCUS (France). The institutes involved in the CONCERTO consortium are the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (FR), the Institute Néel[Institut Neel] (FR), the French National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics [Institut national de physique nucléaire et de physique des particules](FR), the IPAG | Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (FR) and the Astronomy Instrumentation Group at the Cardiff University [Prifysgol Caerdydd] (WLS). The Institut Néel, LPSC and IPAG are laboratories of the National Centre for Scientific Research [Centre national de la recherche scientifique, [CNRS] (FR) and the University of Grenoble Alpes [Université Grenoble Alpes] (FR). LAM is a laboratory of the CNRS and the Aix-Marseille University [Aix-Marseille Université] (FR).

    APEX is a collaboration between the MPG Institute for Radio Astronomy [MPG Institut für Radioastronomie](DE), the Onsala Space Observatory [Onsala rymdobservatorium] (SE) and ESO. Operation of APEX at Chajnantor is entrusted to ESO.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Visit ESO (EU) in Social Media-

    Facebook

    Twitter

    YouTube

    ESO Bloc Icon

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

    European Southern Observatory(EU) , Very Large Telescope at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ) •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ) •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star). Elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo.


    ESO Very Large Telescope 4 lasers on Yepun (CL)

    European Southern Observatory(EU)/MPG Institute for Radio Astronomy [MPG Institut für Radioastronomie](DE) ESO’s Atacama Pathfinder Experiment(CL) high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft).

    European Southern Observatory(EU) ExTrA telescopes at erro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on June 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA’s Webb Will Use Quasars to Unlock the Secrets of the Early Universe", , , , Infrared Astronomy,   

    From NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope: “NASA’s Webb Will Use Quasars to Unlock the Secrets of the Early Universe” 

    NASA Webb Header

    From NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope

    June 23, 2021

    Ann Jenkins
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Christine Pulliam
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Laura Betz
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

    1
    About This Image

    This is an artist’s concept of a galaxy with a brilliant quasar at its center. A quasar is a very bright, distant and active supermassive black hole that is millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun. Among the brightest objects in the universe, a quasar’s light outshines that of all the stars in its host galaxy combined. Quasars feed on infalling matter and unleash torrents of winds and radiation, shaping the galaxies in which they reside. Using the unique capabilities of Webb, scientists will study six of the most distant and luminous quasars in the universe. Credits: ARTWORK: Joseph Olmsted National Aeronautics Space Agency (US), European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), (Space Telescope Science Institute (US))

    Summary:
    Looking back in time, Webb will see quasars as they appeared billions of years ago.

    Outshining all the stars in their host galaxies combined, quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe. These brilliant, distant and active supermassive black holes shape the galaxies in which they reside. Shortly after its launch, scientists will use Webb to study six of the most far-flung and luminous quasars, along with their host galaxies, in the very young universe. They will examine what part quasars play in galaxy evolution during these early times. The team will also use the quasars to study the gas in the space between galaxies in the infant universe. Only with Webb’s extreme sensitivity to low levels of light and its superb angular resolution will this be possible.

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Quasars are very bright, distant and active supermassive black holes that are millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun. Typically located at the centers of galaxies, they feed on infalling matter and unleash fantastic torrents of radiation. Among the brightest objects in the universe, a quasar’s light outshines that of all the stars in its host galaxy combined, and its jets and winds shape the galaxy in which it resides.

    Shortly after its launch later this year, a team of scientists will train NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope on six of the most distant and luminous quasars. They will study the properties of these quasars and their host galaxies, and how they are interconnected during the first stages of galaxy evolution in the very early universe. The team will also use the quasars to examine the gas in the space between galaxies, particularly during the period of cosmic reionization , which ended when the universe was very young. They will accomplish this using Webb’s extreme sensitivity to low levels of light and its superb angular resolution.
    Webb: Visiting the Young Universe

    As Webb peers deep into the universe, it will actually look back in time. Light from these distant quasars began its journey to Webb when the universe was very young and took billions of years to arrive. We will see things as they were long ago, not as they are today.

    “All these quasars we are studying existed very early, when the universe was less than 800 million years old, or less than 6 percent of its current age. So these observations give us the opportunity to study galaxy evolution and supermassive black hole formation and evolution at these very early times,” explained team member Santiago Arribas, a research professor at the Department of Astrophysics of the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, CSIC-INTA) (ES) , Spain. Arribas is also a member of Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec
    ) Instrument Science Team.

    The light from these very distant objects has been stretched by the expansion of space. This is known as cosmological redshift. The farther the light has to travel, the more it is redshifted. In fact, the visible light emitted at the early universe is stretched so dramatically that it is shifted out into the infrared when it arrives to us. With its suite of infrared-tuned instruments, Webb is uniquely suited to studying this kind of light.

    Studying Quasars, Their Host Galaxies and Environments, and Their Powerful Outflows

    The quasars the team will study are not only among the most distant in the universe, but also among the brightest. These quasars typically have the highest black hole masses, and they also have the highest accretion rates — the rates at which material falls into the black holes.

    “We’re interested in observing the most luminous quasars because the very high amount of energy that they’re generating down at their cores should lead to the largest impact on the host galaxy by the mechanisms such as quasar outflow and heating,” said Chris Willott, a research scientist at the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) (CA) in Victoria, British Columbia. Willott is also the Canadian Space Agency [Agence Spatiale Canadienne](CA)’s Webb project scientist. “We want to observe these quasars at the moment when they’re having the largest impact on their host galaxies.”

    An enormous amount of energy is liberated when matter is accreted by the supermassive black hole. This energy heats and pushes the surrounding gas outward, generating strong outflows that tear across interstellar space like a tsunami, wreaking havoc on the host galaxy.

    Outflows play an important role in galaxy evolution. Gas fuels the formation of stars, so when gas is removed due to outflows, the star-formation rate decreases. In some cases, outflows are so powerful and expel such large amounts of gas that they can completely halt star formation within the host galaxy. Scientists also think that outflows are the main mechanism by which gas, dust and elements are redistributed over large distances within the galaxy or can even be expelled into the space between galaxies – the intergalactic medium. This may provoke fundamental changes in the properties of both the host galaxy and the intergalactic medium.

    Examining Properties of Intergalactic Space During the Era of Reionization

    More than 13 billion years ago, when the universe was very young, the view was far from clear. Neutral gas between galaxies made the universe opaque to some types of light. Over hundreds of millions of years, the neutral gas in the intergalactic medium became charged or ionized, making it transparent to ultraviolet light. This period is called the Era of Reionization.

    But what led to the reionization that created the “clear” conditions detected in much of the universe today? Webb will peer deep into space to gather more information about this major transition in the history of the universe. The observations will help us understand the Era of Reionization, which is one of the key frontiers in astrophysics.

    The team will use quasars as background light sources to study the gas between us and the quasar. That gas absorbs the quasar’s light at specific wavelengths. Through a technique called imaging spectroscopy, they will look for absorption lines in the intervening gas. The brighter the quasar is, the stronger those absorption line features will be in the spectrum. By determining whether the gas is neutral or ionized, scientists will learn how neutral the universe is and how much of this reionization process has occurred at that particular point in time.

    “If you want to study the universe, you need very bright background sources. A quasar is the perfect object in the distant universe, because it’s luminous enough that we can see it very well,” said team member Camilla Pacifici, who is affiliated with the Canadian Space Agency but works as an instrument scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “We want to study the early universe because the universe evolves, and we want to know how it got started.”

    The team will analyze the light coming from the quasars with NIRSpec to look for what astronomers call “metals,” which are elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. These elements were formed in the first stars and the first galaxies and expelled by outflows. The gas moves out of the galaxies it was originally in and into the intergalactic medium. The team plans to measure the generation of these first “metals,” as well as the way they’re being pushed out into the intergalactic medium by these early outflows.

    The Power of Webb

    Webb is an extremely sensitive telescope able to detect very low levels of light. This is important, because even though the quasars are intrinsically very bright, the ones this team is going to observe are among the most distant objects in the universe. In fact, they are so distant that the signals Webb will receive are very, very low. Only with Webb’s exquisite sensitivity can this science be accomplished. Webb also provides excellent angular resolution, making it possible to disentangle the light of the quasar from its host galaxy.

    The quasar programs described here are Guaranteed Time Observations
    involving the spectroscopic capabilities of NIRSpec.

    The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Launch is planned for October 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Launch is scheduled for later in the decade on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch will be from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb will be located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

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    Canadian Space Agency

     
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