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  • richardmitnick 3:34 pm on August 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Did nature or nurture shape the Milky Way’s most common planets?", , , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS   

    From Carnegie Institution for Science (US) : “Did nature or nurture shape the Milky Way’s most common planets?” 

    Carnegie Institution for Science

    From Carnegie Institution for Science (US)

    August 06, 2021

    A Carnegie-led survey of exoplanet candidates identified by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanets Satellite Survey (TESS) is laying the groundwork to help astronomers understand how the Milky Way’s most common planets formed and evolved, and determine why our Solar System’s pattern of planetary orbits and sizes is so unusual.


    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) TESS

    NASA/MIT Tess in the building
    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US) TESS – Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite replaced the Kepler Space Telescope in search for exoplanets. TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US)

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the NASA Space Telescope Science Institute (US) in Baltimore.

    Carnegie’s Johanna Teske, Tsinghua University’s Sharon Wang (formerly of Carnegie), and Angie Wolfgang (formerly of Penn State University (US) and now at SiteZeus® (US)), headed up the Magellan-TESS Survey (MTS), which is halfway through its three-year planned duration. Their mid-survey findings, in collaboration with a large, international group of researchers, will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

    NASA’s Kepler Mission revealed that our galaxy is teeming with planets—discovering thousands of confirmed worlds and predicting that billions more exist.

    NASA Kepler Space Telescope (US).

    One of the surprises contained in this bounty is that exoplanets between the size of Earth and Neptune are the most common discovered so far, despite the fact that none exist in our own Solar System.

    This diagram illustrates how planets are assembled and sorted into two distinct size classes. First, the rocky cores of planets are formed from smaller pieces. Then, the gravity of the planets attracts hydrogen and helium gas. Finally, the planets are “baked” by the starlight and lose some gas. The Magellan-TESS Survey aims to understand in more detail how the formation pathways for super-Earths and mini-Neptunes may differ. Credit: R. Hurt/National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/NASA Kepler Space Telescope (US)/California Institute of Technology(US).

    These “in between” planets appear to come in two distinct sizes—roughly one to 1.7 (super-Earths) and roughly two to three (mini-Neptunes) times the size of the Earth—indicating different gas content in their compositions.

    “We want to understand whether super-Earths and mini-Neptunes were distinct from their earliest origins, or whether some aspect of their evolution made them deviate from each other,” Teske explained. “In a sense, we are hoping to probe the nature-nurture question for the galaxy’s most common exoplanets—were these planets born differently, or did they diverge due to their environment? Or is it something in between?”

    The survey is using TESS data and observations from the Magellan telescopes at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to study a selection of 30 small, relatively short-period planet candidates.

    Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory in the southern Atacama Desert of Chile in the Atacama Region approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena,near the southern end and over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high.

    The TESS data show dips in brightness when an object passes in front of its host star. The amount of dimming allows the survey team to measure the radius of a planet candidate. This information is combined with observations gathered by the Planet Finder Spectrograph at Las Campanas that works by using a technique called the radial velocity method, which is currently the most common way for astronomers to measure the masses of individual planets.

    The Magellan-TESS survey team is interested in the interplay between key variables that could help astronomers better characterize the formation pathways of super-Earth and mini-Neptune planets. They are looking for trends in the relationships between a planet’s mass and its radius; the properties of its host star, including composition and the amount of energy it radiates onto the planet; and the architecture of the planetary system of which it the planet a member.

    “The underlying relationship between radius and mass for these small planets is crucial to figuring out their general compositions, via their overall density, as well as how much variation there is in their compositions,” explained Wolfgang. “Quantifying this relation will help us discern whether there is one formation pathway or multiple avenues.”

    What sets this survey apart from prior work is its scope—the team designed the survey from the start to try to account for biases that could skew how the results are interpreted in a broader context. Their goal is to be able to draw robust conclusions about super-Earths and mini-Neptune planets as a population, versus just a collection of 30 individual objects.

    The mid-survey findings, which represent a significant contribution to the number of small planets with known masses and radii, already hint at evidence for small observational selection biases that may have affected scientists’ work on mass measurements. The MTS could thus provide an important framework for future radial velocity studies of transiting planets.

    Looking forward, the next half of the survey will focus on completing the sample—this paper contains 22 of the planned 30 candidates—as well as continuing to monitor all the systems for longer-period planets not detected by TESS to probe system architectures. Checking the influence of the host star composition is another next step, since past work has suggested that the compositions of planets may be related to those of the stars they orbit.

    “We hope that gaining this multidimensional understanding will significantly improve our knowledge of exoplanet evolution, and perhaps explain why our own Solar System seems unusual,” Wang concluded.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Carnegie Institution of Washington Bldg

    Carnegie Institution for Science (US)

    Andrew Carnegie established a unique organization dedicated to scientific discovery “to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner investigation; research; and discovery and the application of knowledge to the improvement of mankind…” The philosophy was and is to devote the institution’s resources to “exceptional” individuals so that they can explore the most intriguing scientific questions in an atmosphere of complete freedom. Carnegie and his trustees realized that flexibility and freedom were essential to the institution’s success and that tradition is the foundation of the institution today as it supports research in the Earth, space, and life sciences.

    The Carnegie Institution of Washington (US) (the organization’s legal name), known also for public purposes as the Carnegie Institution for Science (US) (CIS), is an organization in the United States established to fund and perform scientific research. The institution is headquartered in Washington, D.C. As of June 30, 2020, the Institution’s endowment was valued at $926.9 million. In 2018 the expenses for scientific programs and administration were $96.6 million.


    When the United States joined World War II Vannevar Bush was president of the Carnegie Institution. Several months before on June 12, 1940 Bush had been instrumental in persuading President Franklin Roosevelt to create the National Defense Research Committee (later superseded by the Office of Scientific Research and Development) to mobilize and coordinate the nation’s scientific war effort. Bush housed the new agency in the Carnegie Institution’s administrative headquarters at 16th and P Streets, NW, in Washington, DC, converting its rotunda and auditorium into office cubicles. From this location Bush supervised, among many other projects the Manhattan Project. Carnegie scientists cooperated with the development of the proximity fuze and mass production of penicillin.


    Carnegie scientists continue to be involved with scientific discovery. Composed of six scientific departments on the East and West Coasts the Carnegie Institution for Science is involved presently with six main topics: Astronomy at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (Washington, D.C.) and the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (Pasadena, CA and Las Campanas, Chile); Earth and planetary science also at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and the Geophysical Laboratory (Washington, D.C.); Global Ecology at the Department of Global Ecology (Stanford, CA); Genetics and developmental biology at the Department of Embryology (Baltimore, MD); Matter at extreme states also at the Geophysical Laboratory; and Plant science at the Department of Plant Biology (Stanford, CA).

    [caption id="attachment_71193" align="alignnone" width="632"] Mt Wilson Hooker 100 inch Telescope, Mount Wilson, California, US, Altitude 1,742 m (5,715 ft). Credit: Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Credit: Huntington Library in San Marino, California, USA.

    Carnegie 6.5 meter Magellan Baade and Clay Telescopes located at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, Chile. over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high.

    Carnegie Las Campanas 2.5 meter Irénée Dupont telescope, Atacama Desert, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena,Chile.

    Carnegie Institution 1-meter 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.

  • richardmitnick 8:48 pm on August 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Unparalleled bounty of oscillating red giant stars detected", , , , , NASA/MIT TESS, , , University of Hawaiʻi-Manoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA)(US)   

    From University of Hawai’i-Manoa (US) : “Unparalleled bounty of oscillating red giant stars detected” 

    From University of Hawai’i-Manoa (US)

    August 4, 2021

    Illustration of red giant stars near and far sweeping across the sky. Credit: Chris Smith (KBRwyle) NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US).

    An unprecedented collection of pulsating giant red stars has been identified by astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi-Manoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA)(US). Using observations from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the researchers detected the stars, whose rhythms arise from internal sound waves and provide the opening chords of a symphonic exploration of our galactic neighborhood.
    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) TESS

    NASA/MIT Tess in the building.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US) TESS – Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite replaced the Kepler Space Telescope in search for exoplanets. TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US).

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the NASA Space Telescope Science Institute (US) in Baltimore.


    Since its launch in 2018, TESS has primarily hunted for exoplanets–worlds beyond our solar system. But its sensitive measurements of changing stellar brightness make the telescope ideal for observing stellar oscillations or material within the internal structure of stars. It’s an area of research called asteroseismology.

    “Our initial result, using only a month of stellar measurements from TESS’s first two years, shows that we can determine the masses and sizes of these oscillating giants with high precision that will only improve as TESS goes on,” said Marc Hon, a NASA Hubble Fellow at IfA. “What’s really unparalleled is that TESS’s broad coverage allows us to make these measurements uniformly across almost the entire sky.”

    This large bounty of oscillating red giants will be used for unprecedented detailed studies using the ground-based telescopes on Maunakea.

    “We have already started follow-up observations of some of the most intriguing oddballs we have uncovered in our large TESS dataset, which will tell us more about their origin,” said Hon. “We have just scratched the surface of the treasure trove of data enabled by TESS.”

    Hon presented the research on Wednesday during the TESS Science Conference, an event held virtually, August 2–6 and supported by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) in Cambridge, where scientists discuss the latest results of the mission. He is the lead author of the study that is accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, with co-authors including fellow IfA colleagues Jamie Tayar and Daniel Huber.

    Widening opportunities

    TESS has identified more than 158,000 pulsating red giants over nearly the entire sky. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith (KBRwyle).

    Oscillations in the Sun were first observed in the 1960s. But solar-like oscillations in thousands of stars weren’t detected until the French-led Convection, Rotation and Planetary Transits space telescope, which operated from 2006 to 2013. NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions, which surveyed from 2009 to 2018, found tens of thousands of oscillating giants. TESS is expanding access to these oscillations through its observations in space.

    NASA Kepler Space Telescope (US).

    “With a sample this large, giants that might occur only one percent of the time become pretty numerous,” said Tayar, a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at IfA. “Now we can start thinking about finding even rarer stars.”

    TESS monitors large swaths of the sky for about a month at a time using its four cameras, covering about 75% of the sky during its two-year primary mission. Each camera captures a full image 24-by-24 degrees (48 times the size of the Moon in our sky) across, every 30 minutes. Since late summer 2020, the cameras have been collecting these images at an even faster rate.

    The images are used to generate light curves—graphs of changing brightness—for nearly 24 million stars, each spanning 27 days, the length of time TESS stares at one patch of the sky. To sift through this immense accumulation of measurements, Hon and his colleagues taught a computer how to recognize pulsating giants. The team used machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence that trains computers to make decisions based on general patterns without explicitly programming them.

    To train the system, the team used Kepler light curves for more than 150,000 stars, of which about 20,000 were oscillating red giants. When the neural network finished processing all of the TESS data, it had identified 158,505 pulsating giants.

    The team determined colors and distances for each giant using data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, and plotted the masses of these stars across the sky. A fundamental prediction in galactic astronomy is that younger, higher-mass stars should lie closer to the plane of the galaxy, marked by the high density of stars that create the glow of the Milky Way in the night sky.

    “Our map demonstrates for the first time that this is indeed the case across nearly the whole sky,” said Huber. “With the help of Gaia, TESS has now given us tickets to a red giant concert in the sky.”

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

    This research is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise, one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan, updated in December 2020.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i (US) includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

    The University of Hawaiʻi system, formally the University of Hawaiʻi (US) is a public college and university system that confers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through three university campuses, seven community college campuses, an employment training center, three university centers, four education centers and various other research facilities distributed across six islands throughout the state of Hawaii in the United States. All schools of the University of Hawaiʻi system are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The U.H. system’s main administrative offices are located on the property of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Honolulu CDP.

    The University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa (US) is the flagship institution of the University of Hawaiʻi (US) system. It was founded as a land-grant college under the terms of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Programs include Hawaiian/Pacific Studies, Astronomy, East Asian Languages and Literature, Asian Studies, Comparative Philosophy, Marine Science, Second Language Studies, along with Botany, Engineering, Ethnomusicology, Geophysics, Law, Business, Linguistics, Mathematics, and Medicine. The second-largest institution is the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo on the “Big Island” of Hawaiʻi, with over 3,000 students. The University of Hawaiʻi-West Oʻahu in Kapolei primarily serves students who reside in Honolulu’s western and central suburban communities. The University of Hawaiʻi Community College system comprises four community colleges island campuses on O’ahu and one each on Maui, Kauaʻi, and Hawaiʻi. The schools were created to improve accessibility of courses to more Hawaiʻi residents and provide an affordable means of easing the transition from secondary school/high school to college for many students. University of Hawaiʻi education centers are located in more remote areas of the State and its several islands, supporting rural communities via distance education.

    Research facilities

    Center for Philippine Studies
    Cancer Research Center of Hawaiʻi
    East-West Center
    Haleakalā Observatory
    Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute
    Institute for Astronomy
    Institute of Geophysics and Planetology
    Institute of Marine Biology
    Lyon Arboretum
    Mauna Kea Observatory
    W. M. Keck Observatory
    Waikīkī Aquarium

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth.

    The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes near the summit of Maunakea on the island of Hawai’i feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrographs and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

  • richardmitnick 1:59 pm on July 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA’s TESS Discovers Stellar Siblings Host ‘Teenage’ Exoplanets", , NASA/MIT TESS, TOI 2076 and TOI 1807 reside over 130 light-years away with some 30 light-years between them.   

    From NASA/MIT TESS: “NASA’s TESS Discovers Stellar Siblings Host ‘Teenage’ Exoplanets” 


    Jul 12, 2021

    Jeanette Kazmierczak
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    Media contact:
    Claire Andreoli
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
    (301) 286-1940


    Thanks to data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an international collaboration of astronomers has identified four exoplanets, worlds beyond our solar system, orbiting a pair of related young stars called TOI 2076 and TOI 1807.

    These worlds may provide scientists with a glimpse of a little-understood stage of planetary evolution.

    “The planets in both systems are in a transitional, or teenage, phase of their life cycle,” said Christina Hedges, an astronomer at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute (US) in Moffett Field and NASA’s Ames Research Center (US) in Silicon Valley, both in California. “They’re not newborns, but they’re also not settled down. Learning more about planets in this teen stage will ultimately help us understand older planets in other systems.”

    A paper describing the findings, led by Hedges, was published in The Astronomical Journal.

    TESS Finds Related Stars Have Young Exoplanets.
    Stellar siblings over 130 light-years away host two systems of teenage planets. Watch to learn how NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite discovered these young worlds and what they might tell us about the evolution of planetary systems everywhere, including our own.
    Credits: Chris Smith (KBRwyle)/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    TOI 2076 and TOI 1807 reside over 130 light-years away with some 30 light-years between them, which places the stars in the northern constellations of Boötes and Canes Venatici, respectively. Both are K-type stars, dwarf stars more orange than our Sun, and around 200 million years old, or less than 5% of the Sun’s age. In 2017, using data from ESA’s (the European Space Agency’s) Gaia satellite, scientists showed that the stars are traveling through space in the same direction.

    Astronomers think the stars are too far apart to be orbiting each other, but their shared motion suggests they are related, born from the same cloud of gas.

    Both TOI 2076 and TOI 1807 experience stellar flares that are much more energetic and occur much more frequently than those produced by our own Sun.

    “The stars produce perhaps 10 times more UV light than they will when they reach the Sun’s age,” said co-author George Zhou, an astrophysicist at the University of Southern Queensland (AU). “Since the Sun may have been equally as active at one time, these two systems could provide us with a window into the early conditions of the solar system.”

    TESS monitors large swaths of the sky for nearly a month at a time. This long gaze allows the satellite to find exoplanets by measuring small dips in stellar brightness caused when a planet crosses in front of, or transits, its star.

    Alex Hughes initially brought TOI 2076 to astronomers’ attention after spotting a transit in the TESS data while working on an undergraduate project at Loughborough University (UK), and he has since graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics. Hedges’ team eventually discovered three mini-Neptunes, worlds between the diameters of Earth and Neptune, orbiting the star. Innermost planet TOI 2076 b is about three times Earth’s size and circles its star every 10 days. Outer worlds TOI 2076 c and d are both a little over four times larger than Earth, with orbits exceeding 17 days.

    TOI 1807 hosts only one known planet, TOI 1807 b, which is about twice Earth’s size and orbits the star in just 13 hours. Exoplanets with such short orbits are rare. TOI 1807 b is the youngest example yet discovered of one of these so-called ultra-short period planets.

    Scientists are currently working to measure the planets’ masses, but interference from the hyperactive young stars could make this challenging.

    According to theoretical models, planets initially have thick atmospheres left over from their formation in disks of gas and dust around infant stars. In some cases, planets lose their initial atmospheres due to stellar radiation, leaving behind rocky cores. Some of those worlds go on to develop secondary atmospheres through planetary processes like volcanic activity.

    The ages of the TOI 2076 and TOI 1807 systems suggest that their planets may be somewhere in the middle of this atmospheric evolution. TOI 2076 b receives 400 times more UV light from its star than Earth does from the Sun – and TOI 1807 b gets around 22,000 times more.

    If scientists can discover the planets’ masses, the information could help them determine if missions like NASA’s Hubble and upcoming James Webb space telescopes can study the planets’ atmospheres – if they have them.

    The team is particularly interested in TOI 1807 b because it’s an ultra-short period planet. Theoretical models suggest it should be difficult for worlds to form so close to their stars, but they can form farther out and then migrate inward. Because it would have had to both form and migrate in just 200 million years, TOI 1807 b will help scientists further understand the life cycles of these types of planets. If it doesn’t have a very thick atmosphere and its mass is mostly rock, the planet’s proximity to its star could potentially mean its surface is covered in oceans or lakes of molten lava.

    “Many objects we study in astronomy evolve on such long timescales that a human being can’t see changes month to month or year to year,” said co-author Trevor David, a research fellow at the Flatiron Institute’s (US) Center for Computational Astrophysics (US) in New York. “If you want to see how planets evolve, your best bet is to find many planets of different ages and then ask how they’re different. The TESS discovery of the TOI 2076 and TOI 1807 systems advances our understanding of the teenage exoplanet stage.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest dwarf stars in the sky. In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will monitor the brightness of stars for periodic drops caused by planet transits. The TESS mission is finding planets ranging from small, rocky worlds to giant planets, showcasing the diversity of planets in the galaxy.

    Astronomers predict that TESS will discover dozens of Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of Earth. In addition to Earth-sized planets, TESS is expected to find some 20,000 exoplanets in its two-year prime mission. TESS will find upwards of 17,000 planets larger than Neptune.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

    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.

  • richardmitnick 9:39 pm on May 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mixing Massive Stars", , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS, ,   

    From University of California-Santa Barbara (US) : “Mixing Massive Stars” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc

    From University of California-Santa Barbara (US)

    May 13, 2021
    Harrison Tasoff
    (805) 893-7220

    A simulation of a 3-solar-mass star shows the central, convective core and the waves it generates in the rest of the star’s interior. Photo Credit: Philipp Edelmann.

    Astronomers commonly refer to massive stars as the chemical factories of the Universe. They generally end their lives in spectacular supernovae, events that forge many of the elements on the periodic table. How elemental nuclei mix within these enormous stars has a major impact on our understanding of their evolution prior to their explosion. It also represents the largest uncertainty for scientists studying their structure and evolution.

    A team of astronomers led by May Gade Pedersen, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Santa Barbara’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, have now measured the internal mixing within an ensemble of these stars using observations of waves from their deep interiors. While scientists have used this technique before, this paper marks the first time this has been accomplished for such a large group of stars at once. The results, published in Nature Astronomy, show that the internal mixing is very diverse, with no clear dependence on a star’s mass or age.

    Stars spend the majority of their lives fusing hydrogen into helium deep in their cores. However, the fusion in particularly massive stars is so concentrated at the center that it leads to a turbulent convective core similar to a pot of boiling water. Convection, along with other processes like rotation, effectively removes helium ash from the core and replaces it with hydrogen from the envelope. This enables the stars to live much longer than otherwise predicted.

    Astronomers believe this mixing arises from various physical phenomena, like internal rotation and internal seismic waves in the plasma excited by the convecting core. However, the theory has remained largely unconstrained by observations as it occurs so deep within the star. That said, there is an indirect method of peering into stars: asteroseismology, the study and interpretation of stellar oscillations. The technique has parallels to how seismologists use earthquakes to probe the interior of the Earth.

    “The study of stellar oscillations challenges our understanding of stellar structure and evolution,” Pedersen said. “They allow us to directly probe the stellar interiors and make comparisons to the predictions from our stellar models.”

    Pedersen and her collaborators from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven [Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven] (BE), the Hasselt University [Universiteit Hasselt] (BE), and the The University of Newcastle (AU) have been able to derive the internal mixing for an ensemble of such stars using asteroseismology. This is the first time such a feat has been achieved, and was possible thanks only to a new sample of 26 slowly pulsating B-type stars with identified stellar oscillations from NASA’s Kepler mission.

    Mixing transports fused material away and replaces it with more hydrogen fuel from the star’s outer layers.

    Slowly pulsating B-type stars are between three and eight times more massive than the Sun. They expand and contract on time scales of the order of 12 hours to 5 days, and can change in brightness by up to 5%. Their oscillation modes are particularly sensitive to the conditions near the core, Pedersen explained.

    “The internal mixing inside stars has now been measured observationally and turns out to be diverse in our sample, with some stars having almost no mixing while others reveal levels a million times higher,” Pedersen said. The diversity turns out to be unrelated to the mass or age of the star. Rather, it’s primarily influenced by the internal rotation, though that is not the only factor at play.

    “These asteroseismic results finally allow astronomers to improve the theory of internal mixing of massive stars, which has so far remained uncalibrated by observations coming straight from their deep interiors,” she added.

    The precision at which astronomers can measure stellar oscillations depends directly on how long a star is observed. Increasing the time from one night to one year results in a thousand-fold increase in the measured precision of oscillation frequencies.

    “May and her collaborators have really shown the value of asteroseismic observations as probes of the deep interiors of stars in a new and profound way,” said KITP Director Lars Bildsten, the Gluck Professor of Theoretical Physics. “I am excited to see what she finds next.”

    The best data currently available for this comes from the Kepler space mission, which observed the same patch of the sky for four continuous years. The slowly pulsating B-type stars were the highest mass pulsating stars that the telescope observed. While most of these are slightly too small to go supernova, they do share the same internal structure as the more massive stellar chemical factories. Pedersen hopes insights gleaned from studying the B type stars will shed light on the inner workings of their higher mass, O type counterparts.

    She plans to use data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to study groups of oscillating high-mass stars in OB associations.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) TESS

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the NASA Space Telescope Science Institute (US) in Baltimore.

    These groups comprise 10 to more than 100 massive stars between 3 and 120 solar masses. Stars in OB associations are born from the same molecular cloud and share similar ages, she explained. The large sample of stars, and constraint from their common ages, provides exciting new opportunities to study the internal mixing properties of high-mass stars.

    In addition to unveiling the processes hidden within stellar interiors, research on stellar oscillations can also provide information on other properties of the stars.

    “The stellar oscillations not only allow us to study the internal mixing and rotation of the stars, but also determine other stellar properties such as mass and age,” Pedersen explained. “While these are both two of the most fundamental stellar parameters, they are also some of the most difficult to measure.”

    See the full article here .

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    UC Santa Barbara Seal

    The University of California-Santa Barbara (US) is a public land-grant research university in Santa Barbara, California, and one of the ten campuses of the University of California(US) system. Tracing its roots back to 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944, and is the third-oldest undergraduate campus in the system.

    The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges and schools offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. It is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to the National Science Foundation(US), UC Santa Barbara spent $235 million on research and development in fiscal year 2018, ranking it 100th in the nation. In his 2001 book The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Public Universities, author Howard Greene labeled UCSB a “Public Ivy”.

    UC Santa Barbara is a research university with 10 national research centers, including the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (US) and the Center for Control, Dynamical-Systems and Computation. Current UCSB faculty includes six Nobel Prize laureates; one Fields Medalist; 39 members of the National Academy of Sciences; 27 members of the National Academy of Engineering; and 34 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. UCSB was the No. 3 host on the ARPANET and was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1995. The faculty also includes two Academy and Emmy Award winners and recipients of a Millennium Technology Prize; an IEEE Medal of Honor; a National Medal of Technology and Innovation; and a Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

    The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos compete in the Big West Conference of the NCAA Division I. The Gauchos have won NCAA national championships in men’s soccer and men’s water polo.


    UCSB traces its origins back to the Anna Blake School, which was founded in 1891, and offered training in home economics and industrial arts. The Anna Blake School was taken over by the state in 1909 and became the Santa Barbara State Normal School which then became the Santa Barbara State College in 1921.

    In 1944, intense lobbying by an interest group in the City of Santa Barbara led by Thomas Storke and Pearl Chase persuaded the State Legislature, Gov. Earl Warren, and the Regents of the University of California to move the State College over to the more research-oriented University of California system. The State College system sued to stop the takeover but the governor did not support the suit. A state constitutional amendment was passed in 1946 to stop subsequent conversions of State Colleges to University of California campuses.

    From 1944 to 1958, the school was known as Santa Barbara College of the University of California, before taking on its current name. When the vacated Marine Corps training station in Goleta was purchased for the rapidly growing college Santa Barbara City College moved into the vacated State College buildings.

    Originally the regents envisioned a small several thousand–student liberal arts college a so-called “Williams College (US) of the West”, at Santa Barbara. Chronologically, UCSB is the third general-education campus of the University of California, after UC Berkeley (US) and UCLA (US) (the only other state campus to have been acquired by the UC system). The original campus the regents acquired in Santa Barbara was located on only 100 acres (40 ha) of largely unusable land on a seaside mesa. The availability of a 400-acre (160 ha) portion of the land used as Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara until 1946 on another seaside mesa in Goleta, which the regents could acquire for free from the federal government, led to that site becoming the Santa Barbara campus in 1949.

    Originally only 3000–3500 students were anticipated but the post-WWII baby boom led to the designation of general campus in 1958 along with a name change from “Santa Barbara College” to “University of California, Santa Barbara,” and the discontinuation of the industrial arts program for which the state college was famous. A chancellor- Samuel B. Gould- was appointed in 1959.

    In 1959 UCSB professor Douwe Stuurman hosted the English writer Aldous Huxley as the university’s first visiting professor. Huxley delivered a lectures series called The Human Situation.

    In the late ’60s and early ’70s UCSB became nationally known as a hotbed of anti–Vietnam War activity. A bombing at the school’s faculty club in 1969 killed the caretaker Dover Sharp. In the spring of 1970 multiple occasions of arson occurred including a burning of the Bank of America branch building in the student community of Isla Vista during which time one male student Kevin Moran was shot and killed by police. UCSB’s anti-Vietnam activity impelled then-Gov. Ronald Reagan to impose a curfew and order the National Guard to enforce it. Armed guardsmen were a common sight on campus and in Isla Vista during this time.

    In 1995 UCSB was elected to the Association of American Universities– an organization of leading research universities with a membership consisting of 59 universities in the United States (both public and private) and two universities in Canada.

    On May 23, 2014 a killing spree occurred in Isla Vista, California, a community in close proximity to the campus. All six people killed during the rampage were students at UCSB. The murderer was a former Santa Barbara City College student who lived in Isla Vista.

    Research activity

    According to the National Science Foundation (US), UC Santa Barbara spent $236.5 million on research and development in fiscal 2013, ranking it 87th in the nation.

    From 2005 to 2009 UCSB was ranked fourth in terms of relative citation impact in the U.S. (behind Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US), California Institute of Technology(US), and Princeton University (US)) according to Thomson Reuters.

    UCSB hosts 12 National Research Centers, including the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the Southern California Earthquake Center, the UCSB Center for Spatial Studies, an affiliate of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, and the California Nanosystems Institute. Eight of these centers are supported by the National Science Foundation. UCSB is also home to Microsoft Station Q, a research group working on topological quantum computing where American mathematician and Fields Medalist Michael Freedman is the director.

    Research impact rankings

    The Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked UCSB 48th worldwide for 2016–17, while the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) in 2016 ranked UCSB 42nd in the world; 28th in the nation; and in 2015 tied for 17th worldwide in engineering.

    In the United States National Research Council rankings of graduate programs, 10 UCSB departments were ranked in the top ten in the country: Materials; Chemical Engineering; Computer Science; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Physics; Marine Science Institute; Geography; History; and Theater and Dance. Among U.S. university Materials Science and Engineering programs, UCSB was ranked first in each measure of a study by the National Research Council of the NAS.

    The Centre for Science and Technologies Studies at

  • richardmitnick 12:05 pm on May 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New sub-Neptune exoplanet discovered by astronomers", , , , , NASA/MIT TESS, Newly found alien world designated TOI-269 b,   

    From phys.org : “New sub-Neptune exoplanet discovered by astronomers” 

    From phys.org

    May 10, 2021
    Tomasz Nowakowski

    TESS target pixel file image of TOI-269 in Sector 3. Credit: Cointepas et al., 2021.

    A team of astronomers from the Grenoble Alps University [Université Grenoble Alpes] (FR) and elsewhere, reports the detection of a new sub-Neptune exoplanet orbiting an M dwarf star. The newly found alien world, designated TOI-269 b, is nearly three times larger than the Earth. The finding was detailed in a paper published April 30 in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is conducting a survey of about 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun with the aim of searching for transiting exoplanets. So far, it has identified nearly 2,700 candidate exoplanets (TESS Objects of Interest, or TOI), of which 125 have been confirmed so far.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) TESS

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the NASA Space Telescope Science Institute (US) in Baltimore.

    TOI-269 (also known as TIC 220479565) is an M dwarf located some 186 light years away from the Earth. It has a spectral type of M2V, radius of about 0.4 solar radii and mass of approximately 0.39 solar masses. The star’s effective temperature is estimated to be some 3,500 K, while its metallicity is at a level of around -0.29.

    TOI-269 was observed by the TESS spacecraft between September 2018 and July 2019, which resulted in the identification of a transit signal in its light curve. Now, using various ground-based telescopes, including the Exoplanets in Transits and their Atmospheres (ExTrA) facility at La Silla Observatory in Chile, a group of astronomers led by Marion Cointepas has confirmed the planetary nature of this signal.

    “We present the confirmation of a new sub-Neptune close to the transition between super-Earths and sub-Neptunes transiting the M2 dwarf TOI-269,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

    The newly detected alien world has a radius of about 2.77 Earth radii, is 8.8 times more massive than our planet and orbits its host every 3.7 days. The observations show that TOI-269 b is separated by around 0.0345 AU from the parent star and its equilibrium temperature is most likely at a level of 530 K.

    What is interesting is that TOI-269 b has an unusually high orbital eccentricity—approximately 0.425. This is one of the highest eccentricities among the known extrasolar planets with periods below 10 days and suggests that the object may have recently arrived in its position.

    “We surmise TOI-269 b may have acquired its high eccentricity as it migrated inward through planet-planet interactions,” the astronomers wrote in the study.

    Moreover, the density of TOI-269 b, calculated to be some 2.28 g/cm3, is significantly lower than the typical density of rock planets and indicates the presence of a volatile envelope. Such low density and its other properties make it an interesting target for atmospheric characterization in order to compare it with other sub-Neptunes. In particular, the authors of the paper propose to probe the atmosphere of TOI-269 b with transmission spectroscopy to shed more light on its composition.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About Science X in 100 words
    Science X™ is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004 (Physorg.com), Science X’s readership has grown steadily to include 5 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Science X publishes approximately 200 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Science X community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.
    Mission 12 reasons for reading daily news on Science X Organization Key editors and writersinclude 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

  • richardmitnick 8:36 am on April 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "TESS’s exoplanet catalog grows to over 2200 worlds", , , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS,   

    From MIT via From EarthSky: “TESS’s exoplanet catalog grows to over 2200 worlds” 

    MIT News

    From MIT



    a href=”http://earthsky.org/”> From EarthSky

    April 1, 2021
    Paul Scott Anderson

    When the TESS planet hunter launched nearly 3 years ago, some 4,000 exoplanets were known.

    NASA confirmed in late March that TESS has discovered over 2,200 additional exoplanet candidates orbiting distant stars.

    NASA’s TESS space telescope has found more than 2,200 exoplanet candidates so far, including hundred of smaller rocky worlds. National Aeronautics Space Agency(US).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private land-grant research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The institute has an urban campus that extends more than a mile (1.6 km) alongside the Charles River. The institute also encompasses a number of major off-campus facilities such as the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the Bates Center, and the Haystack Observatory, as well as affiliated laboratories such as the Broad and Whitehead Institutes.

    MIT Haystack Observatory, Westford, Massachusetts, USA, Altitude 131 m (430 ft).

    Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength. It is frequently regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

    As of December 2020, 97 Nobel laureates, 26 Turing Award winners, and 8 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT as alumni, faculty members, or researchers. In addition, 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 29 National Medals of Technology and Innovation recipients, 50 MacArthur Fellows, 80 Marshall Scholars, 3 Mitchell Scholars, 22 Schwarzman Scholars, 41 astronauts, and 16 Chief Scientists of the U.S. Air Force have been affiliated with MIT. The university also has a strong entrepreneurial culture and MIT alumni have founded or co-founded many notable companies. MIT is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU).

    Foundation and vision

    In 1859, a proposal was submitted to the Massachusetts General Court to use newly filled lands in Back Bay, Boston for a “Conservatory of Art and Science”, but the proposal failed. A charter for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proposed by William Barton Rogers, was signed by John Albion Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, on April 10, 1861.

    Rogers, a professor from the University of Virginia, wanted to establish an institution to address rapid scientific and technological advances. He did not wish to found a professional school, but a combination with elements of both professional and liberal education, proposing that:

    The true and only practicable object of a polytechnic school is, as I conceive, the teaching, not of the minute details and manipulations of the arts, which can be done only in the workshop, but the inculcation of those scientific principles which form the basis and explanation of them, and along with this, a full and methodical review of all their leading processes and operations in connection with physical laws.

    The Rogers Plan reflected the German research university model, emphasizing an independent faculty engaged in research, as well as instruction oriented around seminars and laboratories.

    Early developments

    Two days after MIT was chartered, the first battle of the Civil War broke out. After a long delay through the war years, MIT’s first classes were held in the Mercantile Building in Boston in 1865. The new institute was founded as part of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act to fund institutions “to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes” and was a land-grant school. In 1863 under the same act, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts founded the Massachusetts Agricultural College, which developed as the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1866, the proceeds from land sales went toward new buildings in the Back Bay.

    MIT was informally called “Boston Tech”. The institute adopted the European polytechnic university model and emphasized laboratory instruction from an early date. Despite chronic financial problems, the institute saw growth in the last two decades of the 19th century under President Francis Amasa Walker. Programs in electrical, chemical, marine, and sanitary engineering were introduced, new buildings were built, and the size of the student body increased to more than one thousand.

    The curriculum drifted to a vocational emphasis, with less focus on theoretical science. The fledgling school still suffered from chronic financial shortages which diverted the attention of the MIT leadership. During these “Boston Tech” years, MIT faculty and alumni rebuffed Harvard University president (and former MIT faculty) Charles W. Eliot’s repeated attempts to merge MIT with Harvard College’s Lawrence Scientific School. There would be at least six attempts to absorb MIT into Harvard. In its cramped Back Bay location, MIT could not afford to expand its overcrowded facilities, driving a desperate search for a new campus and funding. Eventually, the MIT Corporation approved a formal agreement to merge with Harvard, over the vehement objections of MIT faculty, students, and alumni. However, a 1917 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court effectively put an end to the merger scheme.

    In 1916, the MIT administration and the MIT charter crossed the Charles River on the ceremonial barge Bucentaur built for the occasion, to signify MIT’s move to a spacious new campus largely consisting of filled land on a one-mile-long (1.6 km) tract along the Cambridge side of the Charles River. The neoclassical “New Technology” campus was designed by William W. Bosworth and had been funded largely by anonymous donations from a mysterious “Mr. Smith”, starting in 1912. In January 1920, the donor was revealed to be the industrialist George Eastman of Rochester, New York, who had invented methods of film production and processing, and founded Eastman Kodak. Between 1912 and 1920, Eastman donated $20 million ($236.6 million in 2015 dollars) in cash and Kodak stock to MIT.
    Curricular reforms

    In the 1930s, President Karl Taylor Compton and Vice-President (effectively Provost) Vannevar Bush emphasized the importance of pure sciences like physics and chemistry and reduced the vocational practice required in shops and drafting studios. The Compton reforms “renewed confidence in the ability of the Institute to develop leadership in science as well as in engineering”. Unlike Ivy League schools, MIT catered more to middle-class families, and depended more on tuition than on endowments or grants for its funding. The school was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1934.

    Still, as late as 1949, the Lewis Committee lamented in its report on the state of education at MIT that “the Institute is widely conceived as basically a vocational school”, a “partly unjustified” perception the committee sought to change. The report comprehensively reviewed the undergraduate curriculum, recommended offering a broader education, and warned against letting engineering and government-sponsored research detract from the sciences and humanities. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the MIT Sloan School of Management were formed in 1950 to compete with the powerful Schools of Science and Engineering. Previously marginalized faculties in the areas of economics, management, political science, and linguistics emerged into cohesive and assertive departments by attracting respected professors and launching competitive graduate programs. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences continued to develop under the successive terms of the more humanistically oriented presidents Howard W. Johnson and Jerome Wiesner between 1966 and 1980.

    MIT’s involvement in military science surged during World War II. In 1941, Vannevar Bush was appointed head of the federal Office of Scientific Research and Development and directed funding to only a select group of universities, including MIT. Engineers and scientists from across the country gathered at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory, established in 1940 to assist the British military in developing microwave radar. The work done there significantly affected both the war and subsequent research in the area. Other defense projects included gyroscope-based and other complex control systems for gunsight, bombsight, and inertial navigation under Charles Stark Draper’s Instrumentation Laboratory; the development of a digital computer for flight simulations under Project Whirlwind; and high-speed and high-altitude photography under Harold Edgerton. By the end of the war, MIT became the nation’s largest wartime R&D contractor (attracting some criticism of Bush), employing nearly 4000 in the Radiation Laboratory alone and receiving in excess of $100 million ($1.2 billion in 2015 dollars) before 1946. Work on defense projects continued even after then. Post-war government-sponsored research at MIT included SAGE and guidance systems for ballistic missiles and Project Apollo.

    These activities affected MIT profoundly. A 1949 report noted the lack of “any great slackening in the pace of life at the Institute” to match the return to peacetime, remembering the “academic tranquility of the prewar years”, though acknowledging the significant contributions of military research to the increased emphasis on graduate education and rapid growth of personnel and facilities. The faculty doubled and the graduate student body quintupled during the terms of Karl Taylor Compton, president of MIT between 1930 and 1948; James Rhyne Killian, president from 1948 to 1957; and Julius Adams Stratton, chancellor from 1952 to 1957, whose institution-building strategies shaped the expanding university. By the 1950s, MIT no longer simply benefited the industries with which it had worked for three decades, and it had developed closer working relationships with new patrons, philanthropic foundations and the federal government.

    In late 1960s and early 1970s, student and faculty activists protested against the Vietnam War and MIT’s defense research. In this period MIT’s various departments were researching helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war in Vietnam as well as guidance systems for nuclear missiles. The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded on March 4, 1969 during a meeting of faculty members and students seeking to shift the emphasis on military research toward environmental and social problems. MIT ultimately divested itself from the Instrumentation Laboratory and moved all classified research off-campus to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory facility in 1973 in response to the protests. The student body, faculty, and administration remained comparatively unpolarized during what was a tumultuous time for many other universities. Johnson was seen to be highly successful in leading his institution to “greater strength and unity” after these times of turmoil. However six MIT students were sentenced to prison terms at this time and some former student leaders, such as Michael Albert and George Katsiaficas, are still indignant about MIT’s role in military research and its suppression of these protests. (Richard Leacock’s film, November Actions, records some of these tumultuous events.)

    In the 1980s, there was more controversy at MIT over its involvement in SDI (space weaponry) and CBW (chemical and biological warfare) research. More recently, MIT’s research for the military has included work on robots, drones and ‘battle suits’.

    Recent history

    MIT has kept pace with and helped to advance the digital age. In addition to developing the predecessors to modern computing and networking technologies, students, staff, and faculty members at Project MAC, the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and the Tech Model Railroad Club wrote some of the earliest interactive computer video games like Spacewar! and created much of modern hacker slang and culture. Several major computer-related organizations have originated at MIT since the 1980s: Richard Stallman’s GNU Project and the subsequent Free Software Foundation were founded in the mid-1980s at the AI Lab; the MIT Media Lab was founded in 1985 by Nicholas Negroponte and Jerome Wiesner to promote research into novel uses of computer technology; the World Wide Web Consortium standards organization was founded at the Laboratory for Computer Science in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee; the OpenCourseWare project has made course materials for over 2,000 MIT classes available online free of charge since 2002; and the One Laptop per Child initiative to expand computer education and connectivity to children worldwide was launched in 2005.

    MIT was named a sea-grant college in 1976 to support its programs in oceanography and marine sciences and was named a space-grant college in 1989 to support its aeronautics and astronautics programs. Despite diminishing government financial support over the past quarter century, MIT launched several successful development campaigns to significantly expand the campus: new dormitories and athletics buildings on west campus; the Tang Center for Management Education; several buildings in the northeast corner of campus supporting research into biology, brain and cognitive sciences, genomics, biotechnology, and cancer research; and a number of new “backlot” buildings on Vassar Street including the Stata Center. Construction on campus in the 2000s included expansions of the Media Lab, the Sloan School’s eastern campus, and graduate residences in the northwest. In 2006, President Hockfield launched the MIT Energy Research Council to investigate the interdisciplinary challenges posed by increasing global energy consumption.

    In 2001, inspired by the open source and open access movements, MIT launched OpenCourseWare to make the lecture notes, problem sets, syllabi, exams, and lectures from the great majority of its courses available online for no charge, though without any formal accreditation for coursework completed. While the cost of supporting and hosting the project is high, OCW expanded in 2005 to include other universities as a part of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which currently includes more than 250 academic institutions with content available in at least six languages. In 2011, MIT announced it would offer formal certification (but not credits or degrees) to online participants completing coursework in its “MITx” program, for a modest fee. The “edX” online platform supporting MITx was initially developed in partnership with Harvard and its analogous “Harvardx” initiative. The courseware platform is open source, and other universities have already joined and added their own course content. In March 2009 the MIT faculty adopted an open-access policy to make its scholarship publicly accessible online.

    MIT has its own police force. Three days after the Boston Marathon bombing of April 2013, MIT Police patrol officer Sean Collier was fatally shot by the suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, setting off a violent manhunt that shut down the campus and much of the Boston metropolitan area for a day. One week later, Collier’s memorial service was attended by more than 10,000 people, in a ceremony hosted by the MIT community with thousands of police officers from the New England region and Canada. On November 25, 2013, MIT announced the creation of the Collier Medal, to be awarded annually to “an individual or group that embodies the character and qualities that Officer Collier exhibited as a member of the MIT community and in all aspects of his life”. The announcement further stated that “Future recipients of the award will include those whose contributions exceed the boundaries of their profession, those who have contributed to building bridges across the community, and those who consistently and selflessly perform acts of kindness”.

    In September 2017, the school announced the creation of an artificial intelligence research lab called the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. IBM will spend $240 million over the next decade, and the lab will be staffed by MIT and IBM scientists. In October 2018 MIT announced that it would open a new Schwarzman College of Computing dedicated to the study of artificial intelligence, named after lead donor and The Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman. The focus of the new college is to study not just AI, but interdisciplinary AI education, and how AI can be used in fields as diverse as history and biology. The cost of buildings and new faculty for the new college is expected to be $1 billion upon completion.

    The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)(US) was designed and constructed by a team of scientists from California Institute of Technology, MIT, and industrial contractors, and funded by the National Science Foundation.

    MIT/Caltech Advanced aLigo .

    It was designed to open the field of gravitational-wave astronomy through the detection of gravitational waves predicted by general relativity. Gravitational waves were detected for the first time by the LIGO detector in 2015. For contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves, two Caltech physicists, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, and MIT physicist Rainer Weiss won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2017. Weiss, who is also an MIT graduate, designed the laser interferometric technique, which served as the essential blueprint for the LIGO.

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

    USPS “Forever” postage stamps celebrating Innovation at MIT.

    MIT Campus

  • richardmitnick 9:48 pm on March 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "MAROON-X Embarks on its Exoplanet Quest", , , , , MAROON-X on Gemini North, NASA/MIT TESS, ,   

    From NOIRLab: “MAROON-X Embarks on its Exoplanet Quest” 

    NOIRLab composite

    From NOIRLab

    Astronomers using the recently installed instrument MAROON-X on Gemini North have determined the mass of a transiting exoplanet orbiting the nearby star Gliese 486. As well as putting the innovative new instrument through its paces, this result, when combined with data from the TESS satellite, precisely measures key properties of a rocky planet that is ideal for follow-up observations with the next generation of ground- and space-based telescopes.

    MAROON-X Exoplanet hunter on NOIRLab Gemini North Telescope from Bean Exoplanet Group at U Chicago.

    MAROON-X on NOIRLab Gemini North Telescope

    NASA/MIT Tess

    NASA/MIT Tess in the building.

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian in Cambridge; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

    The exoplanet-hunting instrument MAROON-X has obtained its first scientific result from its new home at the 8.1-meter Gemini North telescope, part of the international Gemini Observatory, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab [1].

    NSF’s NOIRLab Frederick C Gillett Gemini North Telescope Maunakea, Hawaii, USA, Altitude 4,213 m (13,822 ft).

    Shipped from the University of Chicago(US) in mid-2019, the instrument arrived at Gemini in a collection of wooden packing crates. Despite exhausting 12-hour shifts in the thin air at an altitude of 4300 meters (14,000 feet), the MAROON-X team successfully constructed and installed the instrument in a six-month process known as commissioning. The assembled instrument takes advantage of Gemini North’s location on Maunakea in Hawai‘i — one of the best observing sites on the planet.

    “It’s been an intense six-month stretch,” explained Jacob Bean, head of the University of Chicago team behind MAROON-X. “We’ve spent ten years developing the instrument and with MAROON-X now installed on Gemini we will start to get real insights into habitable worlds around other stars.”

    The technical core of MAROON-X lies at the end of a bundle of fibers trailing from behind the main mirror of Gemini North to a small room several floors below. Inside this temperature-controlled room and encased in a vacuum chamber, a collection of high-precision optical devices forms the spectrometer at the heart of MAROON-X. This spectrometer measures variations in the light from distant stars to detect the subtle influence of orbiting worlds — making MAROON-X an outstanding exoplanet hunter [2].

    MAROON-X’s first science result determined the mass of the newly discovered rocky planet Gliese 486 b, which orbits Gliese 486, a star smaller and dimmer than our own Sun [3]. The planet has a mass roughly three times that of the Earth, but has a similar density. The composition of this newly discovered exoplanet is not its only distinguishing feature — its relative closeness to Earth makes it an ideal candidate for observations with the next generation of astronomical technology.

    “The proximity of this exoplanet is exciting because it will be possible to study it in more detail with powerful telescopes such as the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and the various Extremely Large Telescopes such as the GMT and TMT,” explained Trifon Trifonov, lead author of the paper reporting this discovery.

    NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope annotated.


    Giant Magellan Telescope, 21 meters, to be at the NOIRLab NOAO Carnegie Institution for Science’s Las Campanas Observatory, some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high.

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed and now approved for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA , Altitude 4,050 m or 13,290 ft, the only giant 30 meter class telescope for the Northern hemisphere.

    “Within the next few years, we hope to use transit spectroscopy to search for signs of an atmosphere and possibly determine this planet’s surface composition.”

    MAROON-X was developed to find and characterize exactly this type of exoplanet — rocky worlds around nearby stars whose atmospheres are suitable for follow-up investigation using future instruments. As well as next-generation telescopes, MAROON-X was designed to work alongside NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). In the case of Gliese 486 b, the team used MAROON-X measurements and additional data from the CARMENES [4] spectrograph at the Calar Alto Observatory to determine the exoplanet’s mass, and combined this with the planetary radius measured by the TESS mission to find the density of Gliese 486 b — revealing it to be a rocky super-Earth.

    CARMENES spectrograph, mounted on the Calar Alto 3.5 meter Telescope, located in Almería province in Spain on Calar Alto, a 2,168-meter-high (7,113 ft) mountain in Sierra de Los Filabres.

    Calar Alto 3.5 meter Telescope, located in Almería province in Spain on Calar Alto, a 2,168-meter-high (7,113 ft) mountain in Sierra de Los Filabres(ES).

    “MAROON-X provides a new, valuable addition to Gemini’s visiting instrument program. Demonstrating exciting precision and sensitivity, it is available for use by the astronomical community to discover and characterize new worlds,” said National Science Foundation Division of Astronomical Sciences Program Officer Martin Still.

    MAROON-X’s capabilities are already popular amongst the astronomical community, with a surge of requests for observation time following the instrument’s commissioning. Four long observation campaigns have already been completed despite the impact of COVID-19, as MAROON-X can be operated fully remotely. In fact, the observations of Gliese 486 b were some of the first observations obtained with Gemini North after it restarted operations in May 2020. Even without astronomers on site, the capabilities of Gemini and MAROON-X have been impressive — the instrument can detect exoplanets around stars that are 150 times fainter than those visible to the naked eye.

    “This result demonstrates the unprecedented capability of MAROON-X,” concluded Jacob Bean. “This is only our first result, and as we find more we will determine what kinds of rocky planets are out there, ultimately helping us learn more about the formation and evolution of the Earth.”


    [1] MAROON-X (M dwarf Advanced Radial velocity Observer Of Neighboring eXoplanets) is a visitor instrument at Gemini North. The Gemini Visiting Instrument program allows the observatory to respond to the emerging needs of the astronomical community by hosting instruments developed by astronomers themselves. This program gives astronomers the opportunity to use specialized instruments for their scientific needs while sharing a diverse range of instruments with the wider astronomical community.

    [2] Astronomers can measure the mass of an exoplanet by observing its host star, as the vast majority of exoplanets cannot be directly imaged. Instead, astronomers measure the tiny movements of host stars as they are tugged back and forth by the gravitational attraction of an orbiting planet; the more massive the exoplanet, the more the host star will be tugged to and fro. MAROON-X measures this stellar motion by capturing incredibly precise shifts in the star’s spectrum.

    [3] The convention for naming exoplanets is to take the name of the parent star and add a lower case letter as a suffix, starting with the letter b. As this exoplanet is the first to be discovered orbiting the star Gliese 486, it takes the name Gliese 486 b.

    [4] CARMENES is the Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths with optical and Near-infrared Echelle spectrographs.
    More information

    This research was published in the paper A nearby transiting rocky planet ideal for atmospheric investigation to appear in the journal Science.

    The team was composed of T. Trifonov (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie), J. A. Caballero (Centro de Astrobiología), J. C. Morales (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai in University of Barcelona [Universitat de Barcelona](ES) and Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia [Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya](ES), A. Seifahrt (The University of Chicago(US)), I. Ribas (Institute of Space Sciences [Institut de Ciències de l’Espai](ES) and Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia [Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya](ES)), A. Reiners (Institut für Astrophysik, Georg-August-Universität), J. L. Bean (The University of Chicago), R. Luque (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Universidad de La Laguna), H. Parviainen (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Universidad de La Laguna), E. Pallé (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Universidad de La Laguna), S. Stock (Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg(DE)) , M. Zechmeister (The University of Chicago), P. J. Amado (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía), G. Anglada-Escudé (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai and Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya), M. Azzaro (Centro Astronómico Hispano-Alemán), T. Barclay (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center(US), and University of Maryland(US)), V. J. S. Béjar (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Universidad de La Laguna), P. Bluhm (Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg), N. Casasayas-Barris (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Universidad de La Laguna), C. Cifuentes (Centro de Astrobiología), K. A. Collins (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian), K. I. Collins (George Mason University), M. Cortés-Contreras (Centro de Astrobiología), J. de Leon (The University of Tokyo), S. Dreizler (Institut für Astrophysik, Georg-August-Universität), C. D. Dressing (University of California at Berkeley), E. Esparza-Borges (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Universidad de La Laguna), N. Espinoza (Space Telescope Science Institute), M. Fausnaugh (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), A. Fukui (The University of Tokyo), A. P. Hatzes (Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg), C. Hellier (Keele University(UK)), Th. Henning (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie), C. E. Henze (NASA Ames Research Center(US)), E. Herrero (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai and Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya), S. V. Jeffers (Institut für Astrophysik, Georg-August-Universität), J. M. Jenkins (NASA Ames Research Center), E. L. N. Jensen (Swarthmore College(US)), A. Kaminski (Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg), D. Kasper (The University of Chicago), D. Kossakowski (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie), M. Kürster (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie), M.Lafarga (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai and Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya), D. W. Latham (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian), A. W. Mann (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill(US),), K. Molaverdikhani (Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg), D. Montes (Departamento de Física de la Tierra y Astrofísica & Complutense University of Madrid[Universidad Complutense Madrid](ES) Institute of Particle and Cosmos Physics [Instituto de Física de Partículas y Cosmos]), B. T. Montet (University of New South Wales(AU)), F. Murgas (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Departamento de Astrofísica, Universidad de La Laguna), N. Narita (The University of Tokyo, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Astrobiology Center, and Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias), M. Oshagh (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Universidad de La Laguna), V. M. Passegger (University of Hamburg [Universität Hamburg](DE) and University of Oklahoma(US),), D. Pollacco (University of Warwick(UK)), S. N. Quinn (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian), A. Quirrenbach (Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg), G. R. Ricker (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), C. Rodríguez López (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía), J. Sanz-Forcada (Centro de Astrobiología), R. P. Schwarz (Patashnick Voorheesville Observatory), A. Schweitzer (Universität Hamburg), S. Seager (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), A. Shporer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), M. Stangret (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and Universidad de La Laguna), J. Stürmer (Universität Heidelberg), T. G. Tan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), P. Tenenbaum (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), J. D. Twicken (SETI Institute(US) and NASA Ames Research), R. Vanderspek (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and J. N. Winn (Princeton University(US)).

    See the full article here.


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    What is NSF’s NOIRLab?

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

  • richardmitnick 5:20 pm on January 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "TESS discovers four exoplanets orbiting a nearby sun-like star", , , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS   

    From MIT: “TESS discovers four exoplanets orbiting a nearby sun-like star” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    January 28, 2021
    Kelso Harper | MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

    MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

    An artist’s rendering of five planets orbiting TOI-1233, four of which were discovered using the Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey (TESS), an MIT-led NASA mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    MIT researchers have discovered four new exoplanets orbiting a sun-like star just over 200 light-years from Earth. Because of the diversity of these planets and brightness of their star, this system could be an ideal target for atmospheric characterization with NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. Tansu Daylan, a postdoc at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, led the study published in The Astronomical Journal on Jan. 25.

    With further study, says Daylan, this bright star and its many planets could be critical to understanding how planets take shape and evolve. “When it comes to characterizing planetary atmospheres around sun-like stars, this is likely one of the best targets we will ever get,” he says of the results he presented earlier in the month at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

    Transit method

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames.

    Daylan and his colleagues detected these planets with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an MIT-led NASA mission [above]. To identify exoplanets with TESS, researchers look for changes in the amount of light coming from a star. A small dip in a star’s light could mean that a planet has passed in front of it, blocking some of its light from reaching Earth. By measuring these transits, scientists can approximate the size of a planet, how long it takes to orbit its star, and whether it has other planetary neighbors. Combined with other observation methods, like measuring the gravitational effects a planet has on its host star, researchers can determine if a planet is rocky or gaseous, hot or cold, and even if it has a thick or thin atmosphere.

    If light from a distant star passes through the atmosphere of an exoplanet on its way to Earth, certain wavelengths of light will get absorbed by the gases in that atmosphere. When the light reaches Earth, wavelengths of light corresponding to specific gases –– like water, carbon dioxide, or methane –– will be missing, informing scientists of the atmosphere’s composition. This can give astronomers vital information about a planet’s environment, evolution, and habitability. Although TESS can’t characterize atmospheres, the telescope is key in identifying which exoplanets should be prioritized for atmospheric study by other, higher-resolution telescopes like NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope set to launch in fall 2021.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope.

    NASA James Webb Space Telescope annotated.

    Using data from TESS as well as ground-based telescopes, Daylan determined that this star hosts a large, rocky inner planet, or super-Earth, and three gaseous outer planets just smaller than Neptune, known as sub-Neptunes. Compared to our own solar system, these planets live very close to their sun; their orbits range from 19 days to just under four days. This makes them blazing hot, their average surface temperatures ranging from 700 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,500 F.

    Although this means the planets are unlikely to host life, it gives astronomers much more data to work with; a short orbit allows for more frequent transits and therefore more opportunities to examine the light passing through its atmosphere. However, there may also be yet undiscovered planets further out in this system, perhaps even in the star’s habitable zone. Recently, another research team used the CHaracterising Exoplanet Satellite (CHEOPS) to confirm a fifth planet, which takes 29 days to orbit the star.

    The planets’ host star, TOI-1233, will provide ample light for future study, Daylan says. The star is similar in size and temperature to our own sun, but because it is relatively close to Earth, it appears very bright compared to other stars. From our view, it is the brightest known sun-like star and one of the brightest stars to harbor at least four transiting planets. This is helpful, because a brighter star gives astronomers more light to work with when characterizing its planets.

    Stars with many exoplanets are particularly exciting to astronomers, because they open up new avenues for studying solar systems. “With multi-planetary systems, you’re kind of hitting the jackpot,” says Daylan. “The planets originate from the same disk of matter around the same star, but they end up being different planets with different atmospheres and different climates due to their different orbits. So, we would like to understand the fundamental processes of planet formation and evolution using this planetary system, which acts as a controlled experiment.”

    NASA/MIT Tess

    NASA/MIT Tess in the building.

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian in Cambridge; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

    See the full article here .

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 3:55 pm on January 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/MIT TESS, , The source named TIC 168789840 is a system of six stars.   

    From The New York Times: “Six Stars, Six Eclipses: ‘The Fact That It Exists Blows My Mind’” 

    From The New York Times

    Jan. 23, 2021
    Robin George Andrews

    A handful of other six-star systems have been discovered, but this one is unique.

    NASA/MIT Tess in the building.

    From star-destroying black holes to exploding comets, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, has spotted its share of surprises since it began searching the galaxy for exoplanets in 2018. But the source of starlight that was mysteriously brightening and dimming some 1,900 light-years away may top all those discoveries for its science fiction-like grandeur.

    The source, named TIC 168789840, is a system of six stars. That alone makes it a rarity, but what makes this sextuplet even more remarkable is that they consist of three pairs of binary stars: three different stellar couplets revolving around three different centers of mass, but with the trio remaining gravitationally bound to one another and circling the galactic center as a single star system. Although a handful of other six-star systems have been discovered, this one is unique: It is the first in which the stars within each of those three pairings pass in front of and behind each other, eclipsing the other member of its stellar dance troupe, at least from our space telescope’s line of sight.

    In other words, scientists have found a sextuply eclipsing sextuple star system. The discovery, posted online this month, has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

    Exoplanets within the star cluster have not yet been confirmed, but if you lived on a world within, the night sky would be something special, said Tamás Borkovits, an astronomer at the Baja Astronomical Observatory in Hungary and co-author. Any inhabitants of these worlds, “could see two suns, just like Luke Skywalker on Tatooine,” Dr. Borkovits said, as well as four other very bright stars dancing around the sky.

    Three images made using TESS data of stars in the TIC 168789840 binaries eclipsing one another.Credit…B. Powell et al., AAS Journals, 2021

    But only one of the pairs could have any planets. Two of the system’s binaries orbit extremely close to one another, forming their own quadruple subsystem. Any planets there would likely be ejected or engulfed by one of the four stars. The third binary is farther out, orbiting the other two once every 2,000 years or so, making it a possible exoplanetary haven.

    Exotic stellar collections like this don’t just look cool. They refine and challenge our understanding of how multiple star systems form, said Patricia Cruz, an astrophysicist at the Center of Astrobiology in Madrid who was not involved with the work.

    The depth and duration of TIC 168789840’s eclipses let astronomers determine the dimensions, masses and relative temperatures of its stars — vital information that can be plugged into models of star formation. But even with those clues, the origin of this whirling six-star system will remain a puzzle until we find others like it.

    A mosaic of thirteen images of the southern sky taken by the TESS spacecraft during its first year of observations, including the Eridanus constellation, the approximate location of TIC 168789840. Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS and Ethan Kruse/USRA.

    “The system exists against the odds,” said Brian Powell, a data scientist at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center in Greenbelt, Md. and the study’s lead author.

    NASA’s TESS satellite looks for exoplanets by searching for temporary dips in a star’s light, caused by a planet orbiting in front of it from our perspective.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames.

    But, Dr. Cruz said, scientists originally used the same light-blocking principle with other telescopes to spy stars obscuring other stars.

    Using this concept, Mr. Powell, working with Veselin Kostov, an astrophysicist at the SETI Institute, designed a neural network that could identify eclipsing binary stars using TESS data.

    The neural network studied an archive of nearly 80 million records of light-intensity changes, way more than humans alone could handle. “What machine learning can do is take this intractable data set and turn it into something a human can work with,” Mr. Powell said. It found a surfeit of multiple star systems, including the superlative TIC 168789840 last March.

    Late last year the data was turned over to “hawk-eyed and very enthusiastic” professional and amateur stargazers all over the world, Dr. Borkovits said. Their efforts confirmed that TIC 168789840 was a sextuple system and helped clarify its stars’ characteristics, orbital dimensions and paths.

    Andrei Tokovinin, an astronomer at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in La Serena, Chile, and a co-author of the study, suggests one explanation for how the system came to be: Three stars formed within an expansive gas cloud, all orbiting each other in a triple-star system. Later, they encountered a dense clump of gas from the same cloud. That encounter led to disks forming around the original trio of stars, eventually giving each of them smaller companions.

    Trying to unravel its origins is a worthwhile endeavor. But for Mr. Powell, “working with literally the most interesting data in the universe” to simply find this strange sextuplet is reward enough.

    “Just the fact that it exists blows my mind,” he said. “I’d love to just be in a spaceship, park next to this thing and see it in person.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 3:08 pm on January 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , A University of Arizona-led research team has found bands and stripes on the brown dwarf closest to Earth Luhman 16B, , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS,   

    From University of Arizona: “Striped or Spotted? Winds and Jet Streams Found on the Closest Brown Dwarf” 

    From University of Arizona

    Mikayla Mace Kelley

    Planetary scientists wondered if bands of winds or swirling storms dominated the atmospheres of brown dwarfs. UArizona-led research has solved the mystery.

    Using high-precision brightness measurements from NASA’s TESS space telescope, astronomers found that the nearby brown dwarf Luhman 16B’s atmosphere is dominated by high-speed, global winds akin to Earth’s jet stream system. This global circulation determines how clouds are distributed in the brown dwarf’s atmosphere, giving it a striped appearance. Credit: Daniel Apai.

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets.

    A University of Arizona-led research team has found bands and stripes on the brown dwarf closest to Earth, hinting at the processes churning the brown dwarf’s atmosphere from within.

    Brown dwarfs are mysterious celestial objects that are not quite stars and not quite planets. They are about the size of Jupiter but typically dozens of times more massive. Still, they are less massive than the smallest stars, so their cores do not have enough pressure to fuse atoms the way stars do. They are hot when they form and gradually cool, glowing faintly and dimming slowly throughout their lives, making them hard to find. No telescope can clearly see the atmospheres of these objects.

    “We wondered, do brown dwarfs look like Jupiter, with its regular belts and bands shaped by large, parallel, longitudinal jets, or will they be dominated by an ever-changing pattern of gigantic storms known as vortices like those found on Jupiter’s poles?” said UArizona researcher Daniel Apai, an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

    Apai is lead author of a new study published today in The Astrophysical Journal that seeks to answer that question using a novel technique.

    Chasing Storms in Brown Dwarfs with NASA’s TESS Exoplanet Hunter Telescope.

    He and his team found that brown dwarfs look strikingly similar to Jupiter. The patterns in the atmospheres reveal high-speed winds running parallel to to the brown drawfs’ equators. These winds are mixing the atmospheres, redistributing heat that emerges from the brown dwarfs’ hot interiors. Also, like Jupiter, vortices dominate the polar regions.

    Some atmospheric models predicted this atmospheric pattern, Apai said, including models by the late Adam Showman, a UArizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory professor and a leader in brown dwarf atmosphere models.

    “Wind patterns and large-scale atmospheric circulation often have profound effects on planetary atmospheres, from Earth’s climate to Jupiter’s appearance, and now we know that such large-scale atmospheric jets also shape brown dwarf atmospheres,” said Apai, whose co-authors on the paper include the Astronomical Observatory of Padua’s Luigi Bedin and Domenico Nardiello, who is also affiliated with Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille in France.

    “Knowing how the winds blow and redistribute heat in one of the best-studied and closest brown dwarfs helps us to understand the climates, temperature extremes and evolution of brown dwarfs in general,” Apai said.

    Apai’s group at UArizona is a world leader in mapping the atmospheres of brown dwarfs and planets outside of our solar system using space telescopes and a new method.

    The team used NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, space telescope to study the two brown dwarfs closest to Earth. At only 6 1/2 light-years away, the brown dwarfs are called Luhman 16 A and B. While both are about the same size as Jupiter, they are both more dense and therefore contain more mass. Luhman 16 A is about 34 times more massive than Jupiter, and Luhman 16 B – which was the main subject of Apai’s study – is about 28 times more massive than Jupiter and about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit hotter.

    “The TESS space telescope, although designed to hunt for extrasolar planets, also provided this incredibly rich and exciting dataset on the closest brown dwarf to us,” Apai said. “With advanced algorithms developed by members of our team, we were able to obtain very precise measurements of the brightness changes as the two brown dwarfs rotated. The brown dwarfs get brighter whenever brighter atmospheric regions turn into the visible hemisphere and darker when these rotate out of view.”

    Since the space telescope provides extremely precise measurements and it is not interrupted by daylight, the team collected more rotations than ever before, providing the most detailed view of a brown dwarf’s atmospheric circulation.

    “No telescope is large enough to provide detailed images of planets or brown dwarfs,” Apai said. “But by measuring how the brightness of these rotating objects changes over time, it is possible to create crude maps of their atmospheres – a technique that, in the future, could also be used to map Earthlike planets in other solar systems that might otherwise be hard to see.”

    The researchers’ results show that there is a lot of similarity between the atmospheric circulation of solar system planets and brown dwarfs. As a result, brown dwarfs can serve as more massive analogs of giant planets existing outside of our solar system in future studies.

    “Our study provides a template for future studies of similar objects on how to explore – and even map – the atmospheres of brown dwarfs and giant extrasolar planets without the need for telescopes powerful enough to resolve them visually,” Apai said.

    Apai’s team hopes to further explore the clouds, storm systems and circulation zones present in brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets to deepen our understanding of atmospheres beyond the solar system.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    U Arizona mirror lab-Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium?

    University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert. An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

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