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  • richardmitnick 7:50 am on July 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Galaxy BX418, , Keck Observatory   

    From Keck Observatory: “YOUNG GALAXY’S HALO OFFERS CLUES TO ITS GROWTH AND EVOLUTION” 

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland


    From Keck Observatory

    7.24.18

    A team of astronomers has discovered a new way to unlock the mysteries of how the first galaxies formed and evolved.

    In a study published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, lead author Dawn Erb of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her team – for the very first time – used new capabilities at W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii to examine Q2343-BX418, a small, young galaxy located about 10 billion light years away from Earth.

    This distant galaxy is an analog for younger galaxies that are too faint to study in detail, making it an ideal candidate for learning more about what galaxies looked like shortly after the birth of the universe.

    BX418 is also attracting astronomers’ attention because its gas halo is giving off a special type of light.

    “In the last several years, we’ve learned that the gaseous halos surrounding galaxies glow with a particular ultraviolet wavelength called Lyman alpha emission. There are a lot of different theories about what produces this Lyman alpha emission in the halos of galaxies, but at least some of it is probably due to light that is originally produced by star formation in the galaxy being absorbed and re-emitted by gas in the halo,” said Erb.

    1
    An artist’s concept showing the gaseous halo surrounding a galaxy, illuminated by a narrow band of ultraviolet light called Lyman alpha emission. BX418’s gas halo is about ten times the size of the galaxy itself. CREDIT: T. KLEIN, UWM

    Erb’s team, which includes Charles Steidel and Yuguang Chen of Caltech, used one of the observatory’s newest instruments, the Keck Cosmic Web Imager (KCWI), to perform a detailed spectral analysis of BX418’s gas halo; its properties could offer clues about the stars forming within the galaxy.

    Keck Cosmic Web Imager schematic


    Keck Cosmic Web Imager

    “Most of the ordinary matter in the universe isn’t in the form of a star or a planet, but gas. And most of that gas exists not in galaxies, but around and between them,” said Erb.

    The halo is where gas enters and exits the system. The gas surrounding galaxies can fuel them; gas from within a galaxy can also escape into the halo. This inflow and outflow of gas influences the fate of stars.

    “The inflow of new gas accreting into a galaxy provides fuel for new star formation, while outflows of gas limit a galaxy’s ability to form stars by removing gas,” says Erb. “So, understanding the complex interactions happening in this gaseous halo is key to finding out how galaxies form stars and evolve.”

    This study is part of a large ongoing survey that Steidel has been leading for many years. Previously, Steidel’s team studied BX418 using other instruments at Keck Observatory.

    This most recent study using KCWI adds detail and clarity to the image of the galaxy and its gas halo that was not possible before; the instrument is specifically engineered to study wispy currents of faint gas that connect galaxies, known as the cosmic web.

    “Our study was really enabled by the design and sensitivity of this new instrument. It’s not just an ordinary spectrograph—it’s an integral field spectrograph, which means that it’s a sort of combination camera and spectrograph, where you get a spectrum of every pixel in the image,” said Erb.

    The power of KCWI, combined with the Keck telescopes’ location on Maunakea where viewing conditions are among the most pristine on Earth, provides some of the most detailed glimpses of the cosmos.

    Erb’s team used KCWI to take spectra of the Lyman alpha emission of BX418’s halo. This allowed them to trace the gas, plot its velocity and spatial extent, then create a 3-D map showing the structure of the gas and its behavior.

    The team’s data suggests that the galaxy is surrounded by a roughly spherical outflow of gas and that there are significant variations in the density and velocity range of this gas.

    2
    Astronomer Dawn Erb, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has devoted her life to uncovering the secrets of galaxy growth and evolution. CREDIT: T. FOX, UWM

    Erb says this analysis is the first of its kind. Because it has only been tested on one galaxy, other galaxies need to be studied to see if these results are typical.

    Now that the team has discovered a new way to learn about the properties of the gaseous halo, the hope is that further analysis of the data they collected and computer simulations modeling the processes will yield additional insights into the characteristics of the first galaxies in our universe.

    “As we work to complete more detailed modeling, we will be able to test how the properties of Lyman alpha emission in the gas halo are related to the properties of the galaxies themselves, which will then tell us something about how the star formation in the galaxy influences the gas in the halo,” Erb said.

    Erb is supported by the US National Science Foundation through the Faculty Early Career Development Program, grant AST-125591. Steidel and Chen acknowledge support from the Caltech/JPL President’s and Director’s Fund.

    ____________________________________________________________
    ABOUT KCWI

    The Keck Cosmic Web Imager (KCWI) is designed to provide visible band, integral field spectroscopy with moderate to high spectral resolution formats and excellent sky-subtraction. The astronomical seeing and large aperture of the telescope will enable studies of the connection between galaxies and the gas in their dark matter halos, stellar relics, star clusters, and lensed galaxies. Support for this project was provided by The Heising-Simons Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Mt. Cuba Astronomical Foundation, and other Friends of Keck Observatory.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.


    Keck UCal

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  • richardmitnick 5:36 pm on June 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Bizarre objects at the Galactic Center, , Keck Observatory, ,   

    From Keck Observatory: “More Mystery Objects Detected Near Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole” 

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland


    From Keck Observatory

    June 6, 2018
    No writer credit

    1
    This 3-D spectro-imaging data cube was produced using software called OsrsVol, short for OSIRIS-Volume Display. W. M. Keck Observatory Science Operations Lead Randy Campbell developed this custom volume rendering tool to separate G3, G4, and G5 from the background emission. Once the 3-D analysis was performed, the team could clearly distinguish the G-objects, which allowed them to follow their movement and see how they behave around the supermassive black hole.

    Astronomers have discovered several bizarre objects at the Galactic Center that are concealing their true identity behind a smoke screen of dust; they look like gas clouds, but behave like stars.

    At today’s American Astronomical Society Meeting in Denver, a team of researchers led by UCLA Postdoctoral Scholar Anna Ciurlo announced their results, which they obtained using 12 years of data taken from W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii

    “These compact dusty stellar objects move extremely fast and close to our Galaxy’s supermassive black hole. It is fascinating to watch them move from year to year,” said Ciurlo. “How did they get there? And what will they become? They must have an interesting story to tell.”

    The researchers made their discovery by obtaining spectroscopic measurements of the Galactic Center’s gas dynamics using Keck Observatory’s OH-Suppressing Infrared Imaging Spectrograph (OSIRIS).

    Keck OSIRIS

    “We started this project thinking that if we looked carefully at the complicated structure of gas and dust near the supermassive black hole, we might detect some subtle changes to the shape and velocity,” said Randy Campbell, science operations lead at Keck Observatory. “It was quite surprising to detect several objects that have very distinct movement and characteristics that place them in the G-object class, or dusty stellar objects.”

    Astronomers first discovered G-objects at the Milky Way’s monster black hole more than a decade ago; G1 was first seen in 2004, and G2 was discovered in 2012. Both were thought to be gas clouds until they made their closest approach to the supermassive black hole. G1 and G2 somehow managed to survive the black hole’s gravitational pull, which can shred gas clouds apart.

    “If they were gas clouds, G1 and G2 would not have been able to stay intact,” said UCLA Astronomy Professor Mark Morris, a co-principal investigator and fellow member of UCLA’s Galactic Center Orbits Initiative (GCOI). “Our view of the G-objects is that they are bloated stars – stars that have become so large that the tidal forces exerted by the central black hole can pull matter off of their stellar atmospheres when the stars get close enough, but have a stellar core with enough mass to remain intact. The question is then, why are they so large?”

    It appears that a lot of energy was dumped into the G-objects, causing them to swell up and grow larger than typical stars.

    GCOI thinks that these G-objects are the result of stellar mergers – where two stars orbiting each other, known as binaries, crash into each other due to the gravitational influence of the giant black hole. Over a long period of time, the black hole’s gravity alters the binary stars’ orbits until the duo collides. The combined object that results from this violent merger could explain where the excess energy came from.

    “In the aftermath of such a merger, the resulting single object would be “puffed up”, or distended, for a rather long period of time, perhaps a million years, before it settles down and appears like a normal-sized star,” said Morris.

    “This is what I find most exciting,” said Andrea Ghez, founder and director of GCOI.

    Andrea Ghez, UCLA Galactic Center Group

    “If these objects are indeed binary star systems that have been driven to merge through their interaction with the central supermassive black hole, this may provide us with insight into a process which may be responsible for the recently discovered stellar mass black hole mergers that have been detected through gravitational waves.”

    What makes G-objects unusual is their “puffiness.” It is rare for a star to be cloaked by a layer of dust and gas so thick that astronomers do not see the star directly. They only see the glowing envelope of dust. To see the objects through their hazy environment, Campbell developed a tool called OSIRIS-Volume Display (OsrsVol).

    “OsrsVol allowed us to isolate these G-objects from the background emission and analyze the spectral data in three dimensions: two spatial dimensions, and the wavelength dimension that provides velocity information,” said Campbell. “Once we were able to distinguish the objects in a 3-D data cube, we could then track their motion over time relative to the black hole.”

    “Keck Observatory has been observing the Galactic Center every year for 20 years with some of the best instruments and technologies,” said Ciurlo. “This alone gives a very high quality and consistent data set, which allowed us to go deep into the analysis of the data.

    These newly discovered infrared sources could potentially be G-objects – G3, G4, and G5 – because they share the physical characteristics of G1 and G2.

    The team will continue to follow the size and shape of the G-objects’ orbits, which could provide important clues as to how they formed.

    The astronomers will especially be paying close attention when these dusty stellar compact objects make their closest approach to the supermassive black hole. This will allow them to further observe their behavior and see whether the objects remain intact just as G1 and G2 did, or become a snack for the supermassive black hole. Only then will they give away their true nature.

    “We’ll have to wait a few decades for this to happen; about 20 years for G3, and decades longer for G4 and G5,” said Morris. “In the meantime, we can learn more about these puffballs by following their dynamical evolution using OSIRIS.”

    “Understanding G-objects can teach us a lot about the Galactic Center’s fascinating and still mysterious environment. There are so many things going on that every localized process can help explain how this extreme, exotic environment works,” said Ciurlo.

    This research is conducted through a collaboration between Randy Campbell at the W.M. Keck Observatory, members of the Galactic Center Group at UCLA (Anna Ciurlo, Mark Morris, and Andrea Ghez) and Rainer Schoedel of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia (CSIC) in Granada, Spain.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.


    Keck UCal

     
  • richardmitnick 9:52 am on April 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Keck Observatory, New WM Keck Observatory Remote Viewing Facility opens at Swinburne,   

    From Swinburne: “New WM Keck Observatory Remote Viewing Facility opens at Swinburne” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University of Technology

    12 April 2018

    Lea Kivivali
    +61 3 9214 5428
    lkivivali@swin.edu.au


    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft), above sea level, showing also NASA’s IRTF and NAOJ Subaru

    World-class facility enables researchers to remotely control the twin Keck Observatory telescopes in Hawaii from Hawthorn.
    Swinburne researchers have access to the observatory for up to 10 nights a year.
    The facility is partially funded through a donation from the Eric Ormond Baker Charitable fund.

    Pioneering astrophysics research in Australia has received a boost with the launch of the WM Keck Observatory Remote Viewing Facility at Swinburne University of Technology’s Luton Lane offices in Hawthorn.

    This world-class facility enables researchers and astronomy students to remotely control the twin Keck Observatory telescopes – the world’s most scientifically productive optical and infrared telescopes – based in Hawaii.

    More than 9000 kilometres from the observatory, Swinburne astronomers have been able to control the Keck telescopes with a direct video link to the telescopes since 2009 from a small on-campus control room.

    Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Development), Professor Aleksandar Subic, says the Caltech partnership and access to Keck remote viewing and observation has allowed Swinburne researchers to conduct world leading research that is leading to new discoveries and transforming knowledge.

    A strategic research agreement with the California Institute for Technology (Caltech) for a further five years gives Swinburne access to the W M Keck Observatory for up to 10 nights a year until 2023.

    “The potential discoveries have the ability to answer some of life’s biggest questions and lead to breakthrough technologies that could benefit many fields and industries. We are already seeing a huge impact that the recent discovery of gravitational waves is having,” Professor Subic says.

    2
    No image caption or credit.

    The new facility can accommodate larger research teams and provides a new base for the Deeper, Wider Faster astrophysics program that has been searching for Fast Radio Bursts, the fastest explosions in the Universe.

    “The ability to remotely operate the Keck telescopes from Melbourne has placed the Swinburne campus in the frontline of international astrophysics,” says Director of Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Professor Karl Glazebrook.

    “It is really exciting to be in the remote observing room and see, in real time, the newest and faintest signals from the most distant objects coming in live. It allows Swinburne astronomers to make decisions on the spot that lead to major discoveries about the Universe and facilitates wide engagement of our staff and students in these moments.”

    Using the W M Keck Observatory’s cutting-edge instrumentation, Swinburne astronomers have produced landmark discoveries about the Universe such as:

    The monster galaxy that grew up too fast.
    New method solves 40 year-old mystery on the size of shadowy galaxies.
    New spin on star forming galaxies.
    The detection of superluminous supernovae.

    Astronomers from other research centres will also have access to the new facility.

    Researchers will also be able to remotely control the Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales.

    The new facility was unveiled at a special event held for Swinburne alumni and donors. It has been partially funded through a generous donation from the Eric Ormond Baker Charitable fund, represented by trustee and Swinburne Online staff member Graeme Baker, and managed by Equity Trustees.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:53 pm on March 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Dark Matter is a No Show in Ghostly Galaxy, , , , , , Gemini Multi Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on Gemini North on Hawai‘i’s Maunakea, , Keck DIEMOS on Keck 2, Keck Observatory, , NGC1052-DF2,   

    From Gemini and Keck: “Dark Matter is a No Show in Ghostly Galaxy” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland


    Keck Observatory

    Science Contacts:

    Pieter van Dokkum
    Astronomy Department
    Yale University
    pieter.vandokkum@yale.edu
    Phone: 203-432-5048

    Shany Danieli
    Astronomy Department
    Yale University
    shany.danieli@yale.edu
    Phone: 857-919-3674

    Media Contacts:

    Mari-Ela Chock
    W.M. Keck Observatory
    mchock@keck.hawaii.edu
    Phone: 808-554-0567

    Jasmin Silva
    Gemini Observatory
    jsilva@gemini.edu
    Desk: 808 974-2575

    1
    Composite color image of NGC1052-DF2 constructed from observations using the Gemini Multi Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on Gemini North on Hawai‘i’s Maunakea. The ultra-diffuse galaxy was observed using deep imaging in two filters (g’ and i’). Image credit: Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA/Keck/Jen Miller.

    GEMINI North GMOS

    2
    Left: The ultra-diffuse galaxy is swarming with globular clusters, which hold the key to understanding this mysterious object’s origin and mass.
    Right: A closer look at one of the globular clusters within the galaxy, which are all much brighter than typical, the brightest emitting almost as much light as the brightest within the Milky Way. The spectrum, obtained by Keck Observatory shows the absorption lines used to determine the velocity of this object. Ten clusters were observed, providing the information needed to determine the mass of the galaxy, revealing its lack of dark matter. Image credit: Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA/Keck/Jen Miller/Joy Pollard.

    Astronomers using data from the Gemini and W. M. Keck Observatories in Hawai‘i have encountered a galaxy that appears to have almost no dark matter. Since the Universe is dominated by dark matter, and it is the foundation upon which galaxies are built, “…this is a game changer,” according to Principal Investigator Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University.

    Galaxies and dark matter go hand in hand; you typically don’t find one without the other. So when researchers uncovered a galaxy, known as NGC1052-DF2, that is almost completely devoid of the stuff, they were shocked.

    “Finding a galaxy without dark matter is unexpected because this invisible, mysterious substance is the most dominant aspect of any galaxy,” said lead author Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University. “For decades, we thought that galaxies start their lives as blobs of dark matter. After that everything else happens: gas falls into the dark matter halos, the gas turns into stars, they slowly build up, then you end up with galaxies like the Milky Way. NGC1052-DF2 challenges the standard ideas of how we think galaxies form.”

    The research, published in the March 29th issue of the journal Nature, amassed data from the Gemini North and W. M. Keck Observatories, both on Maunakea, Hawai‘i, the Hubble Space Telescope, and other telescopes around the world.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Given its large size and faint appearance, astronomers classify NGC1052-DF2 as an ultra-diffuse galaxy, a relatively new type of galaxy that was first discovered in 2015. Ultra-diffuse galaxies are surprisingly common. However, no other galaxy of this type yet-discovered is so lacking in dark matter.

    “NGC1052-DF2 is an oddity, even among this unusual class of galaxy,” said Shany Danieli, a Yale University graduate student on the team.

    To peer even deeper into this unique galaxy, the team used the Gemini Multi Object Spectrograph (GMOS) to capture detailed images of NGC1052-DF2, assess its structure, and confirm that the galaxy had no signs of interactions with other galaxies.

    “Without the Gemini images dissecting the galaxy’s morphology we would have lacked context for the rest of the data,” said Danieli. “Also, Gemini’s confirmation that NGC1052-DF2 is not currently interacting with another galaxy will help us answer questions about the conditions surrounding its birth.”

    Van Dokkum and his team first spotted NGC1052-DF2 with the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a custom-built telescope in New Mexico that they designed to find these ghostly galaxies.

    U Toronta Dragon Fly Telescope Array housed in New Mexico

    NGC1052-DF2 stood out in stark contrast when comparisons were made between images from the Dragonfly Telephoto Array and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).

    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot NM, USA, Altitude 2,788 meters (9,147 ft)

    The Dragonfly images show a faint “blob-like” object, while SDSS data reveal a collection of relatively bright point-like sources.

    In addition to the Gemini observations, to further assess this inconsistency the team dissected the light from several of the bright sources within NGC1052-DF2 using Keck’s Deep Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS) and Low-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (LRIS), identifying 10 globular clusters. These clusters are large compact groups of stars that orbit the galactic core.

    Keck/DEIMOS on Keck 2

    Keck LRIS

    The spectral data obtained on the Keck telescopes revealed that the globular clusters were moving much slower than expected. The slower the objects in a system move, the less mass there is in that system. The team’s calculations show that all of the mass in the galaxy could be attributed to the mass of the stars, which means there is almost no dark matter in NGC1052-DF2.

    “If there is any dark matter at all, it’s very little,” van Dokkum explained. “The stars in the galaxy can account for all of the mass, and there doesn’t seem to be any room for dark matter.”

    The team’s results demonstrate that dark matter is separable from galaxies. “This discovery shows that dark matter is real – it has its own separate existence apart from other components of galaxies,” said van Dokkum.

    NGC1052-DF2’s globular clusters and atypical structure has perplexed astronomers aiming to determine the conditions this galaxy formed under.

    “It’s like you take a galaxy and you only have the stellar halo and globular clusters, and it somehow forgot to make everything else,” van Dokkum said. “There is no theory that predicted these types of galaxies. The galaxy is a complete mystery, as everything about it is strange. How you actually go about forming one of these things is completely unknown.”

    However, researchers do have some ideas. NGC1052-DF2 resides about 65 million light years away in a collection of galaxies that is dominated by the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1052. Galaxy formation is turbulent and violent, and van Dokkum suggests that the growth of the fledgling massive galaxy billions of years ago perhaps played a role in NGC1052-DF2’s dark-matter deficiency.

    Another idea is that a cataclysmic event within the oddball galaxy, such as the birth of myriad massive stars, swept out all the gas and dark matter, halting star formation.

    These possibilities are speculative, however, and don’t explain all of the characteristics of the observed galaxy, the researchers add.

    The team continues the hunt for more dark-matter-deficient galaxies. They are analyzing Hubble images of 23 other diffuse galaxies. Three of them appear to share similarities with NGC1052-DF2, which van Dokkum plans to follow up on in the coming months at Keck Observatory.

    “Every galaxy we knew about before has dark matter, and they all fall in familiar categories like spiral or elliptical galaxies,” van Dokkum said. “But what would you get if there were no dark matter at all? Maybe this is what you would get.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.


    Keck UCal

    Gemini/North telescope at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet

    AURA Icon

    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:00 am on February 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Keck Observatory, S0-2 Star is Single and Ready for Big Einstein Test, ,   

    From Keck: “Astronomers Discover S0-2 Star is Single and Ready for Big Einstein Test” 

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland


    Keck Observatory

    February 21, 2018
    Mari-Ela Chock, Communications Officer
    (808) 554-0567
    mchock@keck.hawaii.edu

    1
    Credit: S. SAKAI/The Great Astronomer Andrea Ghez who spotted SgrA* by waching S0-2 Star /W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY/ UCLA GALACTIC CENTER GROUP
    The orbit of S0-2 (light blue) located near the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole will be used to test Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and generate potentially new gravitational models.

    Andrea Ghez, UCLA

    No companion found for famous young bright star orbiting Milky Way’s supermassive black hole SgrA*.

    2
    Lead author Devin Chu of Hilo, Hawaii is an astronomy graduate student at UCLA. The Hilo High School and 2014 Dartmouth College alumnus conducts his research with the UCLA Galactic Center Group, which uses the W. M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii Island to obtain scientific data. “Growing up on Hawaii Island, it feels surreal doing important research with telescopes on my home island. I find it so rewarding to be able to return home to conduct observations,” Chu said. Credit: D. CHU

    3
    The UCLA Galactic Center Group takes a photo together during a visit to Keck Observatory, located atop Maunakea, Hawaii. Members of the group will return to the Observatory this spring to begin observations of S0-2 as the star travels towards its closest distance to the Galactic Center’s supermassive black hole. Credit: UCLA GALACTIC CENTER GROUP

    Astronomers have the “all-clear” for an exciting test of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, thanks to a new discovery about S0-2’s star status.

    Up until now, it was thought that S0-2 may be a binary, a system where two stars circle around each other. Having such a partner would have complicated the upcoming gravity test.

    But in a study published recently in The Astrophysical Journal, a team of astronomers led by a UCLA scientist from Hawaii has found that S0-2 does not have a significant other after all, or at least one that is massive enough to get in the way of critical measurements that astronomers need to test Einstein’s theory.

    The researchers made their discovery by obtaining spectroscopic measurements of S0-2 using W. M. Keck Observatory’s OH-Suppressing Infrared Imaging Spectrograph (OSIRIS) and Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics.

    Keck OSIRIS

    “This is the first study to investigate S0-2 as a spectroscopic binary,” said lead author Devin Chu of Hilo, an astronomy graduate student with UCLA’s Galactic Center Group. “It’s incredibly rewarding. This study gives us confidence that a S0-2 binary system will not significantly affect our ability to measure gravitational redshift.”

    Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity predicts that light coming from a strong gravitational field gets stretched out, or “redshifted.” Researchers expect to directly measure this phenomenon beginning in the spring as S0-2 makes its closest approach to the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

    This will allow the Galactic Center Group to witness the star being pulled at maximum gravitational strength – a point where any deviation to Einstein’s theory is expected to be the greatest.

    “It will be the first measurement of its kind,” said co-author Tuan Do, deputy director of the Galactic Center Group. “Gravity is the least well-tested of the forces of nature. Einstein’s theory has passed all other tests with flying colors so far, so if there are deviations measured, it would certainly raise lots of questions about the nature of gravity!”

    “We have been waiting 16 years for this,” said Chu. “We are anxious to see how the star will behave under the black hole’s violent pull. Will S0-2 follow Einstein’s theory or will the star defy our current laws of physics? We will soon find out!”

    The study also sheds more light on the strange birth of S0-2 and its stellar neighbors in the S-Star Cluster. The fact that these stars exist so close to the supermassive black hole is unusual because they are so young; how they could’ve formed in such a hostile environment is a mystery.

    “Star formation at the Galactic Center is difficult because the brute strength of tidal forces from the black hole can tear gas clouds apart before they can collapse and form stars,” said Do.

    “S0-2 is a very special and puzzling star,” said Chu. “We don’t typically see young, hot stars like S0-2 form so close to a supermassive black hole. This means that S0-2 must have formed a different way.”

    There are several theories that provide a possible explanation, with S0-2 being a binary as one of them. “We were able to put an upper limit on the mass of a companion star for S0-2,” said Chu. This new constraint brings astronomers closer to understanding this unusual object.

    “Stars as massive as S0-2 almost always have a binary companion. We are lucky that having no companion makes the measurements of general relativistic effects easier, but it also deepens the mystery of this star,” said Do.

    The Galactic Center Group now plans to study other S-Stars orbiting the supermassive black hole, in hopes of differentiating between the varying theories that attempt to explain why S0-2 is single.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.


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  • richardmitnick 4:31 pm on February 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amateur Astronomer Captures Rare First Light of Massive Exploding Star, , , , , Keck Observatory   

    From Keck: “Amateur Astronomer Captures Rare First Light of Massive Exploding Star” 

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland


    Keck Observatory

    February 21, 2018

    Mari-Ela Chock, Communications Officer
    mchock@keck.hawaii.edu
    (808) 554-0567

    Thanks to lucky snapshots taken by an amateur astronomer in Argentina, scientists have obtained their first view of the initial burst of light from the explosion of a massive star.

    1
    Supernova 2016gkg in spiral galaxy NGC 613; color image taken by a group of UC Santa Cruz astronomers on Feb. 18, 2017, with the 1-meter Swope telescope.


    Carnegie Institution Swope telescope at Las Campanas, Chile, 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena. near the north end of a 7 km (4.3 mi) long mountain ridge. Cerro Las Campanas, near the southern end and over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high, at Las Campanas, Chile

    During tests of a new camera, Víctor Buso captured images of a distant galaxy before and after the supernova’s “shock breakout” – when a supersonic pressure wave from the exploding core of the star hits and heats gas at the star’s surface to a very high temperature, causing it to emit light and rapidly brighten.

    To date, no one has been able to capture the “first optical light” from a normal supernova (one not associated with a gamma-ray or x-ray burst), since stars explode seemingly at random in the sky and the light from shock breakout is fleeting. The new data provide important clues to the physical structure of the star just before its catastrophic demise and to the nature of the explosion itself.

    “Professional astronomers have long been searching for such an event,” said UC Berkeley astronomer Alex Filippenko, who followed up the discovery with observations at the Lick and Keck observatories that proved critical to a detailed analysis of explosion, called SN 2016gkg. “Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that cannot be directly obtained in any other way.”

    “Buso’s data are exceptional,” he added. “This is an outstanding example of a partnership between amateur and professional astronomers.”

    The discovery and results of follow-up observations from around the world will be published in the Feb. 22 issue of the journal Nature.

    2
    Sequence of combined images (negatives, so black corresponds to bright) obtained by Víctor Buso as SN 2016gkg appears and brightens in the outskirts of the spiral galaxy NGC 613. Labels indicate the time each image was taken. The object steadily brightens for about 25 minutes, as shown quantitatively in the lower-right panel. Credit: V. BUSO, M. BERSTEN, ET AL.

    3
    Co-author Alex Filippenko, a UC Berkeley astronomer (right) with UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor Ryan Foley (left), both of whom are longtime W. M. Keck Observatory users. Credit: © LAURIE HATCH

    On Sept. 20, 2016, Buso of Rosario, Argentina, was testing a new camera on his 16-inch telescope by taking a series of short-exposure photographs of the spiral galaxy NGC 613, which is about 80 million light years from Earth and located within the southern constellation Sculptor.

    Luckily, he examined these images immediately and noticed a faint point of light quickly brightening near the end of a spiral arm that was not visible in his first set of images.

    Astronomer Melina Bersten and her colleagues at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata in Argentina soon learned of the serendipitous discovery and realized that Buso had caught a rare event, part of the first hour after light emerges from a massive exploding star.

    She estimated Buso’s chances of such a discovery, his first supernova, at one in 10 million or perhaps even as low as one in 100 million.

    “It’s like winning the cosmic lottery,” said Filippenko.

    Bersten immediately contacted an international group of astronomers to help conduct additional frequent observations of SN 2016gkg over the next two months, revealing more about the type of star that exploded and the nature of the explosion.

    Filippenko and his colleagues obtained a series of seven spectra, where the light is broken up into its component colors, as in a rainbow, with the Shane 3-meter telescope at the University of California’s Lick Observatory near San Jose, California.


    The UCO Lick C. Donald Shane telescope is a 120-inch (3.0-meter) reflecting telescope located at the Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    The researchers also performed spectroscopic observations using the Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (LRIS) and the DEep Imaging and Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS) at W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii.

    Keck LRIS

    Keck/DEIMOS

    The data allowed the international team to determine that the explosion was a Type IIb supernova: the explosion of a massive star that had previously lost most of its hydrogen envelope, a species of exploding star first observationally identified by Filippenko in 1987.

    Combining the data with theoretical models, the team estimated that the initial mass of the star was about 20 times the mass of our sun, though it lost most of its mass, probably to a companion star, and slimmed down to about five solar masses prior to exploding.

    Filippenko’s team continued to monitor the supernova’s changing brightness over two months with other Lick telescopes: the 0.76-meter Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope and the 1- meter Nickel telescope.

    KAIT Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope at the Lick Observatory, UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz Lick Observatory One meter Nickel Telescope

    “The Lick spectra, obtained with just a 3-meter telescope, are of outstanding quality in part because of a recent major upgrade to the Kast spectrograph, made possible by the Heising- Simons Foundation as well as William and Marina Kast,” Filippenko said.

    UC Santa Cruz Lick Observatory KAST Double Beam Spectrograph

    Filippenko’s group, which included numerous undergraduate students, is supported by the Christopher R. Redlich Fund, Gary and Cynthia Bengier, the TABASGO Foundation, the Sylvia and Jim Katzman Foundation, many individual donors, the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science and NASA through the Space Telescope Science Institute. Research at Lick Observatory is partially supported by a generous gift from Google.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.


    Keck UCal

     
  • richardmitnick 1:07 pm on January 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Apache Point Observatory, , , , , Keck Observatory, , , Researchers Catch Supermassive Black Hole Burping – Twice, SDSS J1354+1327   

    From Hubble: “Researchers Catch Supermassive Black Hole Burping – Twice” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Jan 11, 2018

    Julie Comerford
    University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
    303-735-7032
    julie.comerford@colorado.edu

    Trent Knoss
    University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
    303-735-0528
    trent.knoss@colorado.edu

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    Megan Watzke
    Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts
    617-496-7998
    mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu

    1
    Supermassive black holes, weighing millions of times as much as our Sun, are gatherers not hunters. Embedded in the hearts of galaxies, they will lie dormant for a long time until the next meal happens to come along.
    The team of astronomers using observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and as well as the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Apache Point Observatory (APO) near Sunspot, New Mexico, zeroed in on a flickering black hole.

    NASA/Chandra Telescope


    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft), above sea level, showing also NASA’s IRTF and NAOJ Subaru

    Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot, New Mexico Altitude 2,788 meters (9,147 ft)

    A black hole in the center of galaxy SDSS J1354+1327, located about 800 million light-years away, appears to have consumed large amounts of gas while blasting off an outflow of high-energy particles. The fresh burst of fuel might have been supplied by a bypassing galaxy. The outflow eventually switched off then turned back on about 100,000 years later. This is strong evidence that accreting black holes can switch their power output off and on again over timescales that are short compared to the 13.8-billion-year age of the universe.

    Astronomers have caught a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy snacking on gas and then “burping” — not once, but twice.

    The galaxy under study, called SDSS J1354+1327 (J1354 for short), is about 800 million light-years from Earth.

    Chandra detected a bright, point-like source of X-ray emission from J1354, a telltale sign of the presence of a supermassive black hole millions or billions of times more massive than our Sun. The X-rays are produced by gas heated to millions of degrees by the enormous gravitational and magnetic forces near the black hole. Some of this gas will fall into the black hole, while a portion will be expelled in a powerful outflow of high-energy particles.

    By comparing X-ray images from Chandra and visible-light (optical) images from Hubble, the team determined that the black hole is located in the center of the galaxy, the expected address for such an object. The X-ray data also provide evidence that the supermassive black hole is embedded in a heavy veil of dust and gas.

    The results indicate that in the past, the supermassive black hole in J1354 appears to have consumed, or accreted, large amounts of gas while blasting off an outflow of high-energy particles. The outflow eventually switched off then turned back on about 100,000 years later. This is strong evidence that accreting black holes can switch their power output off and on again over timescales that are short compared to the 13.8-billion-year age of the universe.

    “We are seeing this object feast, burp, and nap, and then feast and burp once again, which theory had predicted,” said Julie Comerford of the University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder’s Department of Astrophysical and Space Science, who led the study. “Fortunately, we happened to observe this galaxy at a time when we could clearly see evidence for both events.”

    So why did the black hole have two separate meals? The answer lies in a companion galaxy that is linked to J1354 by streams of stars and gas produced by a collision between the two galaxies. The team concluded that clumps of material from the companion galaxy swirled toward the center of J1354 and then were eaten by the supermassive black hole.

    The team used optical data from Hubble, Keck, and APO to show that electrons had been stripped from atoms in a cone of gas extending some 30,000 light-years south from the galaxy’s center. This stripping was likely caused by a burst of radiation from the vicinity of the black hole, indicating that a feasting event had occurred. To the north they found evidence for a shock wave, similar to a sonic boom, located about 3,000 light-years from the black hole. This suggests that a burp occurred after a different clump of gas had been consumed roughly 100,000 years later.

    “This galaxy really caught us off guard,” said CU Boulder doctoral student Rebecca Nevin, a study co-author who used data from APO to look at the velocities and intensities of light from the gas and stars in J1354. “We were able to show that the gas from the northern part of the galaxy was consistent with an advancing edge of a shock wave, and the gas from the south was consistent with an older outflow from the black hole.”

    Our Milky Way galaxy’s supermassive black hole has had at least one burp. In 2010, another research team discovered a Milky Way belch using observations from the orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Observatory to look at the galaxy edge on. Astronomers saw gas outflows dubbed “Fermi bubbles” that shine in the gamma-ray, X-ray, and radio wave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

    “These are the kinds of bubbles we see after a black hole feeding event,” said CU postdoctoral fellow Scott Barrows. “Our galaxy’s supermassive black hole is now napping after a big meal, just like J1354’s black hole has in the past. So we also expect our massive black hole to feast again, just as J1354’s has.”

    Other co-authors on the new study include postdoctoral fellow Francisco Muller-Sanchez of CU Boulder, Jenny Greene of Princeton University, David Pooley from Trinity University, Daniel Stern from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Fiona Harrison from the California Institute of Technology.

    A paper on the subject was published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal. Comerford presented the team’s findings in a January 11th, 2018 press briefing at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in Washington D.C.

    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 11:16 am on January 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , California Kepler Survey team, , Keck Observatory, , Planets around Other Stars are like Peas in a Pod, Université de Montréal astrophysicist Lauren Weiss   

    From KECK: “Planets around Other Stars are like Peas in a Pod” 

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland


    Keck Observatory

    January 9, 2018

    Mari-Ela Chock, Communications Officer
    W. M. Keck Observatory
    (808) 554-0567
    mchock@keck.hawaii.edu

    1
    The Kepler-11 planetary system is one of the multi-planet systems studied by Dr. Weiss and her colleagues. Credit: NASA/T. PYLE

    2
    Université de Montréal astrophysicist Lauren Weiss visiting Keck Observatory where she conducts observations of planetary systems discovered by the Kepler Telescope. Credit: LAUREN WEISS

    An international research team led by Université de Montréal astrophysicist Lauren Weiss has discovered that exoplanets orbiting the same star tend to have similar sizes and a regular orbital spacing.

    This pattern, revealed by new W. M. Keck Observatory observations of planetary systems discovered by the Kepler Telescope, could suggest that most planetary systems have a different formation history than our solar system.

    Thanks in large part to the NASA Kepler Telescope, launched in 2009, many thousands of exoplanets are now known. This large sample allows researchers to not only study individual systems, but also to draw conclusions on planetary systems in general.

    Dr. Weiss is part of the California Kepler Survey team, which used the Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii, to obtain high-resolution spectra of 1305 stars hosting 2025 transiting planets originally discovered by Kepler. From these spectra, they measured precise sizes of the stars and their planets.

    In this new analysis led by Weiss and published in The Astronomical Journal, the team focused on 909 planets belonging to 355 multi-planet systems. These planets are mostly located between 1,000 and 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

    Using a statistical analysis, the team found two surprising patterns. They found that exoplanets tend to be the same sizes as their neighbors. If one planet is small, the next planet around that same star is very likely to be small as well, and if one planet is big, the next is likely to be big. They also found that planets orbiting the same star tend to have a regular orbital spacing.

    “The planets in a system tend to be the same size and regularly spaced, like peas in a pod. These patterns would not occur if the planet sizes or spacing were drawn at random,” explains Weiss.

    This discovery has implications for how most planetary systems form. In classic planet formation theory, planets form in the protoplanetary disk that surrounds a newly formed star. The planets might form in compact configurations with similar sizes and a regular orbital spacing, in a manner similar to the newly observed pattern in exoplanetary systems.

    However, in our solar system, the inner planets have surprisingly large spacing and diverse sizes. Abundant evidence in the solar system suggests that Jupiter and Saturn disrupted our system’s early structure, resulting in the four widely-spaced terrestrial planets we have today. That planets in most systems are still similarly sized and regularly spaced suggests that perhaps they have been mostly undisturbed since their formation.

    To test that hypothesis, Weiss is conducting a new study at the Keck Observatory to search for Jupiter analogs around Kepler’s multi-planet systems. The planetary systems studied by Weiss and her team have multiple planets quite close to their star. Because of the limited duration of the Kepler Mission, little is known about what kind of planets, if any, exist at larger orbital distances around these systems. They hope to test how the presence or absence of Jupiter-like planets at large orbital distances relate to patterns in the inner planetary systems.

    Regardless of their outer populations, the similarity of planets in the inner regions of extrasolar systems requires an explanation. If the deciding factor for planet sizes can be identified, it might help determine which stars are likely to have terrestrial planets that are suitable for life.

    The team for this study was Lauren M. Weiss, Geoffrey W. Marcy, Erik A. Petigur, Benjamin J. Fulton, Andrew W. Howard, Joshua N. Winn, Howard T. Isaacson, Timothy D. Morton, Lea A. Hirsch, Evan J. Sinukoff5, Andrew Cumming, Leslie Hebb, and Phillip A. Cargile

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.


    Keck UCal

     
  • richardmitnick 3:33 pm on January 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Caltech-built Near-Infrared Echellette Spectrometer (NIRES), , Keck Observatory   

    From Keck: “W. M. Keck Observatory Achieves First Light with NIRES” 

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland


    Keck Observatory

    January 5, 2018
    MEDIA CONTACT:
    Mari-Ela Chock, Communications Officer
    (808) 554-0567
    mchock@keck.hawaii.edu

    1
    NIRES arrived at Keck Observatory from Caltech on April 17 and was installed on Keck II on September 28. This long-awaited instrument is perfectly suited for time domain astronomy follow-up observations of targets identified by new surveys that are designed to find transients and exotic objects. Credit: W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY

    2
    The “first-light” image from NIRES is of NGC 7027, a planetary nebula. The NIRES spectrum shows the near-IR spectrum of this nebula dominated by emission lines of hydrogen and helium. The direct image shows NBC 7027 in the K’ filters at 2.2 microns. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory

    3
    NIRES Principal Investigator Keith Matthews of Caltech (left) with W. M. Keck Observatory Director Hilton Lewis (right) after successfully achieving “first light” with a spectral image of planetary nebula NGC 7027. Credit: W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY

    4
    Left to right: Keck Observatory Director Hilton Lewis, NIRES Principal Investigator Keith Matthews of Caltech, and Keck Observatory Senior Software Engineer Kevin Tsubota celebrated with a toast alongside the entire NIRES team after achieving first light. Credit: W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY

    Astronomers at W. M. Keck Observatory have successfully met a major milestone after capturing the very first science data from Keck Observatory’s newest instrument, the Caltech-built Near-Infrared Echellette Spectrometer (NIRES).

    The Keck Observatory-Caltech NIRES team just completed the instrument’s first set of commissioning observations and achieved “first light” with a spectral image of the planetary nebula NGC 7027.

    “The Keck Observatory continually strives to provide instrumentation that meets the high aspirations of our scientific community and responds to changing scientific needs,” said Keck Observatory Director Hilton Lewis. “NIRES is expected to be one of the most efficient single-object, near-infrared spectrographs on an eight to ten-meter telescope, designed to study explosive, deep sky phenomena such as supernovae and gamma ray bursts, a capability that is in high demand.”

    “The power of NIRES is that it can cover a whole spectral range simultaneously with one observation,” said Keith Matthews, the instrument’s principal investigator and a chief instrument scientist at Caltech. “It’s a cross-dispersed spectrograph that works in the infrared from where the visual cuts off out to 2.4 microns where the background from the thermal emission gets severe.”

    Matthews developed the instrument with the help of Tom Soifer, the Harold Brown Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Caltech and member of the Keck Observatory Board of Directors, Jason Melbourne, a former postdoctoral scholar at Caltech, and University of Toronto Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor Dae-Sik Moon, who is also associated with Dunlap Institute, and started working on NIRES with Matthews and Soifer when he was a Millikan postdoctoral fellow at Caltech about a decade ago.

    Because NIRES will be on the telescope at all times, its specialty will be capturing Targets of Opportunity (ToO) – astronomical objects that unexpectedly go ‘boom.’ This capability is now more important than ever, especially with the recent discovery, announced October 16, of gravitational waves caused by the collision of two neutron stars. For the first time in history, astronomers around the world detected both light and gravitational waves of this event, triggering a new era in astronomy.

    “NIRES will be very useful in this new field of ‘multi-messenger’ astronomy,” said Soifer. “NIRES does not have to be taken off of the telescope, so it can respond very quickly to transient phenomena. Astronomers can easily turn NIRES to the event and literally use it within a moment’s notice.”

    With its high-sensitivity, NIRES will also allow astronomers to observe extremely faint objects found with the Spitzer and WISE infrared space telescopes. Such ancient objects, like high-redshift galaxies and quasars, can give clues about what happened just after the Big Bang.

    “NIRES is yet another revolutionary Keck Observatory instrument developed by Keith and Tom; they built our very first instrument, NIRC, which was so sensitive it could detect the equivalent of a single candle flame on the Moon,” said Lewis. “Keith and Tom also developed its successor, NIRC2, and Keith was key to the success of MOSFIRE. They are instrumentation pioneers, and we are grateful to them and the entire NIRES team for helping Keck Observatory continue to advance our technological capabilities.”

    NIRES arrived at Keck Observatory in April. It will be available to the Keck Observatory science community in February.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.


    Keck UCal

     
  • richardmitnick 1:08 am on December 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: All spun up, , , , , , Keck Observatory, NIRSPEC spectrograph at the Keck II telescope   

    From astrobites: “All spun up” 

    Astrobites bloc

    astrobites

    Title: Constraints on the spin evolution of young planetary-mass companions
    Authors: M.L. Bryan, B. Benneke, H.A. Knutson, K. Batygin, B.P. Bowler
    First Author’s Institution: California Institute of Technology

    Status: Published in Nature Astronomy, open access

    Every star has its own spin. Surprisingly, the rates at which stars spin are not completely random. This is because a star’s spin rate contains the imprint of the star’s evolution and interactions with its environment. For example, if a star were a perfect, isolated sphere, conservation of angular momentum would cause a contracting star to spin faster. There are complicating factors, like magnetic fields which thread through circumstellar material, and cause angular momentum to be transferred from the star to the disk. Stellar winds can blow away material, which carries angular momentum away with it. Angular momentum can also be transferred between different layers of a star— for example, a star that appears to be rotating slowly could be hiding a reservoir of angular momentum in a rapidly-spinning core.

    Knowledge of the spin evolution of stars can reveal a lot about the physics of all those processes, and astronomers have accordingly scrutinized the spins of stars in young open clusters, which provide an entire sample of stars of similar age. These studies have provided thousands of measurements of stellar spin, and there are models that go at least some way to explaining the spin evolution over stellar lifetimes.

    But for the spin of young, massive planets, there is… almost no data at all. Our own solar system has planets that are old and small enough so that the primordial physics is difficult to disentangle (though the fast spins of the gas giants undoubtedly harbor a trace of their primordial states). To probe the spin states of young planets, we must turn to exoplanets.

    Before today’s paper, only two bona fide exoplanets had had their spins measured: Beta pic b and 2M1207 b. The authors of today’s paper elected to use spectroscopy to measure the rotation rates of three more planetary-mass objects on wide orbits. To link the physics of the planetary mass regime with the brown-dwarf-mass regime, they also looked at some brown dwarfs of similar age and spectral type.

    The authors’ tool of choice was the NIRSPEC spectrograph at the Keck II telescope.

    1
    NIRSPEC spectrograph at the Keck II telescope schematic. www2.keck.hawaii.edu

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    NIRSPEC allowed them to take spectra of sufficiently high resolution of water and CO absorption bandheads around 2.3 microns, and Keck’s 10-m diameter mirror allowed them to scoop up just about as many photons as they could from the ground.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    What do we do?

    Astrobites is a daily astrophysical literature journal written by graduate students in astronomy. Our goal is to present one interesting paper per day in a brief format that is accessible to undergraduate students in the physical sciences who are interested in active research.
    Why read Astrobites?

    Reading a technical paper from an unfamiliar subfield is intimidating. It may not be obvious how the techniques used by the researchers really work or what role the new research plays in answering the bigger questions motivating that field, not to mention the obscure jargon! For most people, it takes years for scientific papers to become meaningful.
    Our goal is to solve this problem, one paper at a time. In 5 minutes a day reading Astrobites, you should not only learn about one interesting piece of current work, but also get a peek at the broader picture of research in a new area of astronomy.

     
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