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  • 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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    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 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, NASA Kepler Telescope, 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.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:07 pm on December 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A valuable STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) opportunity for education and workforce development, , AO is a technique used to remove the distortions caused by turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere, , , , , High-impact research on the hunt for habitable exoplanets, Keck Observatory, The Keck telescopes were the first large telescopes to be equipped with adaptive optics and subsequently laser guide stars, W. M. Keck Observatory Awarded NSF Grant to Boost Performance of Adaptive Optics System   

    From Keck: “W. M. Keck Observatory Awarded NSF Grant to Boost Performance of Adaptive Optics System” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory.
    Keck, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland

    Keck Observatory

    December 15, 2017
    No writer credit.

    1
    Adaptive optics (AO) measures and then corrects the atmospheric turbulence using a deformable mirror that changes shape 1,000 times per second. Initially, AO relied on the light of a star that was both bright and close to the target celestial object. But there are only enough bright stars to allow AO correction in about one percent of the sky. In response, astronomers developed Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics using a special-purpose laser to excite sodium atoms that sit in an atmospheric layer 60 miles above Earth. Exciting the atoms in the sodium layers creates an artificial “star” for measuring atmospheric distortions which allows the AO to produce sharp images of celestial objects positioned nearly anywhere in the sky. IMAGE CREDIT: ANDREW RICHARD HARA, http://www.andrewhara.com

    One of the most scientifically productive adaptive optics (AO) systems on Earth is getting a major upgrade, one that will further advance high-impact research on the hunt for habitable exoplanets, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded funding to the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii for a significant enhancement of the performance of the AO system on the Keck II telescope.

    “The Keck telescopes were the first large telescopes to be equipped with adaptive optics and subsequently laser guide stars. All major astronomical telescopes now have laser guide star AO systems. Despite this competition, Keck Observatory’s AO systems have remained the most scientifically productive in the world. This upgrade will help maintain our science community’s competitive advantage,” said Principal Investigator Peter Wizinowich, chief of technical development at Keck Observatory.

    AO is a technique used to remove the distortions caused by turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. This results in sharper, more detailed astronomical images. This upgrade will further improve the clarity of the images formed by the telescope.

    The project will deliver a faster, more flexible real-time controller (RTC), as well as a better, lower noise camera for wavefront sensing. This will reduce the camera readout and computation time between the time that an image is captured and a correction for atmospheric blurring is made.

    4

    “Any delay means the correction is applied for atmospheric turbulence that has already started to change. Even if the correction happens in just a few milliseconds, we want to reduce the delay to a minimum. The new RTC computer and camera uses advanced technology to do just that,” said Sylvain Cetre, a software engineer at Keck Observatory who plays a lead role in developing the new RTC.

    Recognizing this as a valuable STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) opportunity for education and workforce development, Keck Observatory will include a postdoc as well as a Hawaii college student from the summer Akamai Internship Program to work on the development of the project.

    “Part of Keck Observatory’s mission is to train and prepare future generations so the work continues long after we are gone,” said Jason Chin, a senior engineer at Keck Observatory and project manager for the new RTC. “Many of Hawaii’s finest students, scientists, and engineers end up working on the mainland away from their families. We want to show them there is a vibrant tech industry in Hawaii. One of the ways we do that is by participating in the Akamai Internship Program, which has one of the highest retention rates for Hawaii college students staying in the STEM field. We are proud that many are working in our local tech industry.”

    Co-Principal Investigators Andrea Ghez, Director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group, Jessica Lu, Assistant Astronomy Professor at UC Berkeley, Dimitri Mawet, Associate Astronomy Professor at Caltech, and Tommaso Treu, Physics and Astronomy Professor at UCLA, will also involve graduate and postdoc students. Their teams will use the new capabilities of Keck Observatory’s AO system to pursue science projects in three fields of study:

    1.Characterizing planets around low mass stars via direct imaging and spectroscopy

    2.Testing Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and understanding supermassive black hole interactions at the Galactic Center

    3.Constraining Dark Matter, the Hubble constant, and Dark Energy via strong gravitational lensing

    “These instrumentation improvements will not only enhance the scientific return of our existing AO system, but it will also provide an excellent platform for future improvements,” said Wizinowich. “We were very pleased to learn that our proposal was successful.”

    The upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

    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 4:06 pm on December 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A New Spin to Solving Mystery of Stellar Companions, Are these planetary-mass companions actually planets or are they instead small "failed" stars called brown dwarfs?, , , , , , , Keck Observatory, These new spin measurements suggest that if these bodies are massive planets located far away from their stars they have properties that are very similar to those of the smallest brown dwarfs   

    From Keck: “A New Spin to Solving Mystery of Stellar Companions” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory.
    Keck, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland

    Keck Observatory

    December 4, 2017
    Mari-Ela Chock, Keck Observatory
    (808) 554-0567
    mchock@keck.hawaii.edu

    Whitney Clavin, Caltech
    (626) 395-1856
    wclavin@caltech.edu

    1
    Credit: Gauza, B. et al 2015, MNRAS, 452, 1677-1683
    Image of the planetary-mass companion VHS 1256-1257 b (bottom right) and its host star (center).

    2
    Credit: Ireland, M. J. et al 2011, ApJ, 726, 113
    Image of the planetary-mass companion GSC 6214-210 b (bottom) and its host star (top).

    3
    Credit: Kraus, A. L. et al. 2014, ApJ, 781, 20
    Image of the planetary-mass companion ROXs 42B b (right, labeled ‘b’) and its host star (left, labeled ‘A’).

    Researchers Measure the Spin Rates of Bodies Thought to be Either Planets or Tiny “Failed” Stars.

    Taking a picture of an exoplanet—a planet in a solar system beyond our sun—is no easy task. The light of a planet’s parent star far outshines the light from the planet itself, making the planet difficult to see. While taking a picture of a small rocky planet like Earth is still not feasible, researchers have made strides by snapping images of about 20 giant planet-like bodies. These objects, known as planetary-mass companions, are more massive than Jupiter, orbit far from the glare of their stars, and are young enough to still glow with heat from their formation—all traits that make them easier to photograph.

    But one big question remains: Are these planetary-mass companions actually planets, or are they instead small “failed” stars called brown dwarfs? Brown dwarfs form like stars do—out of collapsing clouds of gas—but they lack the mass to ignite and shine with starlight. They can be found floating on the their own in space, or they can be found orbiting with other brown dwarfs or stars. The smallest brown dwarfs are similar in size to Jupiter and would look just like a planet when orbiting a star.

    Using the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii, researchers at Caltech have taken a new approach to the mystery: they have measured the spin rates of three of the photographed planetary-mass companions and compared them to spin rates for small brown dwarfs. The results offer a new set of clues that hint at how the companions may have formed.

    “These companions with their high masses and wide separations could have formed either as planets or brown dwarfs,” says graduate student Marta Bryan (MS ’14), lead author of a new study describing the findings in the journal Nature Astronomy . “In this study, we wanted to shed light on their origins.”

    “These new spin measurements suggest that if these bodies are massive planets located far away from their stars, they have properties that are very similar to those of the smallest brown dwarfs,” says Heather Knutson, professor of planetary science at Caltech and a co-author of the paper.

    The astronomers measured the spin rate, or the length of a day, of three planetary-mass companions known as ROXs 42B b, GSC 6214-210 b, and VHS 1256-1257 b. They used an instrument at Keck Observatory called the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) to dissect the light coming from the companions.

    4
    Keck NIRSpec schematic

    As the objects spin on their axes, light from the side that is turning toward us shifts to shorter, bluer wavelengths, while light from the receding side shifts to longer, redder wavelengths. The degree of this shifting indicates the speed of a rotating body. The results showed that the three companions’ spin rates ranged between six to 14 kilometers per second, similar to rotation rates of our solar system’s gas giant planets Saturn and Jupiter.

    For the study, the researchers also included the two planetary-mass companions for which spin rates had already been measured. One, β Pictoris b, has a rotation rate of 25 kilometers per second—the fastest rotation rate of any planetary-mass body measured so far.

    The researchers compared the spin rates for the five companions to those measured previously for small free-floating brown dwarfs. The ranges of rotation rates for the two populations were indistinguishable. In other words, the companions are whirling about their own axes at about the same speeds as their free-floating brown-dwarf counterparts.

    The results suggest two possibilities. One is that the planetary-mass companions are actually brown dwarfs. The second possibility is that the companions looked at in this study are planets that formed, just as planets do, out of disks of material swirling around their stars, but for reasons not yet understood, the objects ended up with spin rates similar to those of brown dwarfs. Some researchers think that both newly forming planets and brown dwarfs are encircled by miniature gas disks that might be helping to slow their spin rates. In other words, similar physical processes may leave planets and brown dwarfs with similar spin rates.

    “It’s a question of nature versus nurture,” says Knutson. “Were the planetary companions born like brown dwarfs, or did they just end up behaving like them with similar spins?”

    The team also says that the companions are spinning more slowly than expected. Growing planets tend to be spun up by the material they pull in from a surrounding gas disk, in the same way that spinning ice skaters increase their speed, or angular momentum, when they pull their arms in. The relatively slow rotation rates observed for these objects indicate that they were able to effectively put the brakes on this spin-up process, perhaps by transferring some of this angular momentum back to encircling gas disks. The researchers are planning future studies of spin rates to further investigate the matter.

    “Spin rates of planetary-mass bodies outside our solar system have not been fully explored,” says Bryan. “We are just now beginning to use this as a tool for understanding formation histories of planetary-mass objects.”

    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 10:33 pm on November 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Keck Observatory, , Newly Discovered Twin Planets Could Solve Puffy Planet Mystery, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy   

    From Keck: “Newly Discovered Twin Planets Could Solve Puffy Planet Mystery” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory.
    Keck, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland

    Keck Observatory

    November 27, 2017
    Sam Grunblatt
    skg3@hawaii.edu
    Cell: 845-430-4603

    Dr. Daniel Huber
    huberd@hawaii.edu
    Office: 808-956-8573

    Dr. Roy Gal
    Media Contact
    Office: 808-956-6235
    Cell: 301-728-8637
    rgal@ifa.hawaii.edu

    1
    Upper left: Schematic of the K2-132 system on the main sequence. Lower left: Schematic of the K2-132 system now. The host star has become redder and larger, irradiating the planet more and thus causing it to expand. Sizes not to scale. Main panel: Gas giant planet K2-132b expands as its host star evolves into a red giant. The energy from the host star is transferred from the planet’s surface to its deep interior, causing turbulence and deep mixing in the planetary atmosphere. The planet orbits its star every nine days and is located about 2000 light years away from us in the constellation Virgo.
    Hot Jupiters. Credit: KAREN TERAMURA, UH ©IFA/Hawaii.

    Since astronomers first measured the size of an extrasolar planet seventeen years ago, they have struggled to answer the question: how did the largest planets get to be so large?

    Thanks to the recent discovery of twin planets by a University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy team led by graduate student Samuel Grunblatt, scientists are getting closer to an answer.

    Gas giant planets are primarily made out of hydrogen and helium, and are at least four times the diameter of Earth. Gas giant planets that orbit scorchingly close to their host stars are known as “hot Jupiters.” These planets have masses similar to Jupiter and Saturn, but tend to be much larger – some are puffed up to sizes even larger than the smallest stars.

    The unusually large sizes of these planets are likely related to heat flowing in and out of their atmospheres, and several theories have been developed to explain this process. “However, since we don’t have millions of years to see how a particular planetary system evolves, planet inflation theories have been difficult to prove or disprove,” said Grunblatt.

    To solve this issue, Grunblatt searched through data collected by NASA’s K2 Mission to hunt for hot Jupiters orbiting red giant stars. These stars, which are in the late stages of their lives, become themselves significantly larger over their companion planet’s lifetime. Following a theory put forth by Eric Lopez of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, hot Jupiters orbiting red giant stars should be highly inflated if direct energy input from the host star is the dominant process inflating planets.

    The search has now revealed two planets, each orbiting their host star with a period of approximately nine days. Using stellar oscillations to precisely calculate the radii of both the stars and planets, the team found that the planets are 30 percent larger than Jupiter.

    Observations using the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii also showed that, despite their large sizes, the planets were only half as massive as Jupiter. Remarkably, the two planets are near twins in terms of their orbital periods, radii, and masses.

    Using models to track the evolution of the planets and their stars over time, the team calculated the planets’ efficiency at absorbing heat from the star and transferring it to their deep interiors, causing the whole planet to expand in size and decrease in density. Their findings show that these planets likely needed the increased radiation from the red giant star to inflate, but the amount of radiation absorbed was also lower than expected.

    It is risky to attempt to reach strong conclusions with only two examples. But these results begin to rule out some explanations of planet inflation, and are consistent with a scenario where planets are directly inflated by the heat from their host stars. The mounting scientific evidence seems to suggest that stellar radiation alone can directly alter the size and density of a planet.

    Our own Sun will eventually become a red giant star, so it’s important to quantify the effect its evolution will have on the rest of the Solar System. “Studying how stellar evolution affects planets is a new frontier, both in other solar systems as well as our own,” said Grunblatt. “With a better idea of how planets respond to these changes, we can start to determine how the Sun’s evolution will affect the atmosphere, oceans, and life here on Earth.”

    The search for gas giant planets around red giant stars continues since additional systems could conclusively distinguish between planet inflation scenarios. Grunblatt and his team have been awarded time with the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to measure the sizes of these twin planets more accurately. In addition, the search for planets around red giants with the NASA K2 Mission will continue for at least another year, and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launching in 2018, will observe hundreds of thousands of red giants across the entire sky.

    Seeing double with K2: Testing re-inflation with two remarkably similar planets orbiting red giant branch stars. published in November 27th edition of The Astronomical Journal.

    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

    Keck NASA

    Keck Caltech

     
  • richardmitnick 8:17 pm on November 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Keck Observatory, , NASA has access to one-sixth of the annually available observing time, NASA has awarded a five-year Cooperative Agreement with the California Association for Research in Astronomy to continue the science program at the W. M. Keck Observatory, The NASA-Keck collaboration has also been instrumental in making 25 years of Keck Observatory data publically accessible via the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA), The W. M. Keck Observatory works closely with many of NASA's observatories, to both 10-meter telescopes:; Keck I and Keck II   

    From NASA: “NASA Awards New Cooperative Agreement to W. M. Keck Observatory” 


    NASA

    Sept. 7, 2017
    Felicia Chou
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0257
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov

    1
    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level
    The W. M. Keck Observatory works closely with several of NASA’s observatories, including the James Webb Space Telescope (not yet launched), Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope.
    Credits: Ethan Tweedie Photography/W. M. Keck Observatory

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    NASA has awarded a five-year Cooperative Agreement with the California Association for Research in Astronomy to continue the science program at the W. M. Keck Observatory.

    “The Keck Observatory has unique, world-class capabilities that we consider essential to realize the scientific potential of many NASA missions, both ongoing and planned,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “NASA’s continuing partnership with Keck will ensure that astronomers and planetary scientists can carry out important ground-based observations necessary for the success of NASA missions and their scientific objectives.”

    The Keck Observatory is privately owned; in 1994 NASA contributed to the observatory and has been a partner ever since.

    “I am pleased to see the powerful synergy between NASA and Keck Observatory continue,” said Keck Observatory Director, Hilton Lewis. “This private/public collaboration in fundamental science is both unusual and extremely effective. The addition of NASA as a strong and committed partner has helped keep the Keck astronomy community at the forefront of science. In addition to supporting the operation of the telescopes, NASA has contributed to our scientific leadership through joint programs and provided access to Keck Observatory for the broader US astronomy community.”

    Under the new agreement, which takes effect March 1, 2018 through February 28, 2023, Keck Observatory will support upcoming NASA missions, including:

    James Web Space Telescope

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

    NASA/TESS


    Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)

    NASA/WFIRST


    Euclid (ESA)

    ESA/Euclid spacecraft


    Mars 2020

    NASA Mars 2020 rover schematic


    Explorers Program: Medium-Class Explorers (MIDEX), Small Explorers (SMEX)
    Planetary Missions: Discovery, New Frontiers

    These next-generation space-based NASA missions, in combination with ground-based support from the world’s most scientifically-productive optical and infrared telescopes at Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii, will allow the nation’s scientists to obtain new knowledge from never-before-seen views of the universe.

    “NASA’s investment gives our science community a seat at the table for observatory governance and scientific planning, helping to shape the future observatory capabilities and operations model in a way that is highly beneficial to the NASA science program,” said Hashima Hasan, NASA program scientist for Keck Observatory.

    “I was personally delighted that NASA was again willing to invest in Keck Observatory,” said Keck Observatory Chief Scientist Anne Kinney. “It brings the national brain-trust to Keck, among the best and the brightest in the entire country, to our observatory, and also links us to groundbreaking NASA missions.”

    Current Keck Observatory observations are already characterizing targets, assembling input catalogs, and refining calibrations for Webb, Euclid, TESS, Europa Clipper, and WFIRST.

    NASA/Europa Clipper

    With this agreement now in place, NASA and Keck Observatory will continue conducting scientific investigations specifically designed to advance quests to find habitable Earth-like exoplanets, unravel the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter, discover potential microbial life on Mars, and support future planetary missions, including a visit to Jupiter’s moon Europa.

    “Keck Observatory’s advanced instrumentation suite continues to evolve and grow, and promises break-through discoveries in several scientific areas,” said Mario Perez, NASA Program Executive for Keck Observatory. “This includes probing the cosmic history of galaxy evolution, tracing chemical evolution, characterizing photospheric properties of planetary system hosts, and mapping and monitoring volcanic hot spots on Jupiter’s moon Io.”

    In the last five years alone, Keck Observatory has been critical in supporting a variety of NASA astrophysics and planetary space missions, such as Cassini, JUNO, Deep Impact (EPOXI), WISE, New Horizons, SOFIA, MESSENGER, LCROSS, and more.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

    NASA/Juno

    NASA/EPOXI

    NASA/WISE Telescope

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    NASA/Messenger satellite

    NASA/ LCROSS

    One prime example that garnered international attention is when NASA’s space observatory, Kepler, and Keck Observatory tag-teamed to verify the largest collection of exoplanets ever discovered. This led NASA to achieve one of its Level 1 science goals – a census of extrasolar planets with data so detailed that demographics of Earth-sized planets are included.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    “Keck Observatory has made critical contributions to the success of NASA’s Kepler/K2 mission, providing high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy to validate and characterize the masses and orbits of hundreds of exoplanets,” said Charles Beichman, executive director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) at Caltech.

    The NASA-Keck collaboration has also been instrumental in making 25 years of Keck Observatory data publically accessible via the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA). KOA capabilities have improved in recent years and it now serves as a repository of all the high-value data obtained at the Observatory.

    “It is a privilege to be able to give community-wide access to our data. We believe it is critical to share the scientific knowledge that we gain with the world, to help solve the hardest problems in astronomy,” said Lewis.

    Through this collaboration, NASA has access to one-sixth of the annually available observing time, to both 10-meter telescopes:; Keck I and Keck II. This observing time is available to the U.S. scientific community through a competitive allocation using a merit-based process.

    NASA partners with NExScI to carry out a Keck Guest Observing Program, implement KOA, and manage Key Science Mission Support Projects and other related activities. NExScI already has an open call underway for professional research proposals for NASA Keck observing time in Spring of 2018.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Maunakea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometers, and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. The 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.

    For more information, visit: http://www.keckobservatory.org

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
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