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  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on June 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Neutron stars, , Women in STEM- Victoria M Kaspi and Chryssa Kouveliotou Receive the 2021 Shaw Prize in Astronomy   

    From International Astronomical Union (FR) : “Women in STEM- Victoria M Kaspi and Chryssa Kouveliotou Receive the 2021 Shaw Prize in Astronomy” 

    From International Astronomical Union (FR)

    1 June 2021

    Victoria M Kaspi and Chryssa Kouveliotou Receive the 2021 Shaw Prize in Astronomy.

    The Shaw Prize in Astronomy 2021 is shared equally by Victoria M. Kaspi, Professor of Physics and Director of McGill Space Institute, McGill University (CA), Canada and Chryssa Kouveliotou, Professor and Chair, Department of Physics at George Washington University (US) for their contributions to our understanding of magnetars, a class of highly magnetised neutron stars that are linked to a wide range of spectacular, transient astrophysical phenomena.

    This prestigious award is one way in which the Shaw Prize Foundation seeks to promote astronomy, a mission shared by the IAU and one which the two organisations have ongoing collaborations to pursue.

    Through the development of new and precise observational techniques, Victoria M. Kaspi and Chryssa Kouvelioto confirmed the existence of neutron stars with ultra-strong magnetic fields and characterised their physical properties. Their work has established magnetars as a new and important class of astrophysical objects.

    Neutron stars are the ultra-compact remnants of stellar explosions.

    Most are rapidly rotating with periods of milli-seconds to seconds and emit powerful beams of electromagnetic radiation (observed as pulsars).

    As such they are accurate ‘cosmic clocks’ that enable tests of fundamental physics in the presence of a gravitational field many billion times stronger than Earth’s. Reflecting their importance, the Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded twice for work on pulsars (in 1974 and 1993).

    Pulsars also have strong magnetic fields, since the magnetic field lines in the progenitor star are ‘frozen in’ in the stellar remnant as it collapses to become a neutron star. These magnetic fields funnel jets of particles along the magnetic poles, but classical radio pulsars are powered mainly by rotational energy and slowly spin down over their lifetimes.

    The research carried out by Kaspi and Kouveliotou was motivated by the theoretical prediction that neutron stars with extreme magnetic fields up to a thousand times stronger than those in regular pulsars could form if dynamo action were efficient during the first few seconds after gravitational collapse in the core of the supernova. Such objects (termed magnetars) would be powered by their large reservoirs of magnetic energy, rather than by rotation, and were predicted to produce highly-energetic bursts of gamma-rays through the generation of highly energetic ionised particle pairs at their centres.

    From observations of a class of X-ray/gamma-ray sources called “soft gamma-ray repeaters” (SGRs) Chryssa Kouveliotou and her colleagues in 1998–99 established the existence of magnetars and provided a stunning confirmation of the magnetar model. By developing new techniques for pulse timing at X-ray wavelengths and applying these to data from the Rossi X-ray timing satellite (RXTE), Kouveliotou in 1998 was able to detect X-ray pulses with a period of 7.5 seconds within the persistent X-ray emission of SGR 1806-20.

    She then measured a spin-down rate for the pulsar, and derived both the pulsar age and the dipolar magnetic field strength — which lay within the range of values predicted for magnetars, close to 1014 gauss (1010 T). The spin-down measurements were extremely challenging because of the faintness of the pulsed signal and the need to correct the rotation phase across multiple epochs.

    Victoria Kaspi showed that a second class of rare X-ray emitting pulsars, the anomalous X-ray pulsars (AXPs), were also magnetars. Kaspi took the techniques used by radio astronomers to maintain phase coherence in pulsar timing and adapted them to work in the much more challenging X-ray domain. This allowed her to make extremely accurate timing measurements of X-ray pulsars with full phase coherence across intervals of months to years, and hence to measure spin-down rates far smaller than those seen in SGR 1806-20. Kaspi has also made fundamental contributions to the characterisation of magnetars as a population, through the elucidation of their physical properties and their relationship to the classical radio pulsars. Her work has cemented the recognition of magnetars as a distinct source class. Today, magnetars are routinely invoked to explain the physics underlying a diverse range of astrophysical transients including gamma-ray bursts, superluminous supernovae and nascent neutron stars.

    Magnetars probe extreme physical conditions inaccessible on Earth, such as strong gravity, ultra-nuclear densities and the strongest magnetic fields in the Universe. In this high energy environment particle-antiparticle pairs are created from the vacuum, and unique tests of general relativity and quantum electrodynamics become possible. In 2020–2021, the first associations of a Galactic magnetar with millisecond duration outbursts of radio emission, so called Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), were established. These results may suggest that “flaring” magnetars are the central engines of at least some of the spectacular extragalactic FRBs. Future studies will undoubtedly shed further light on these exciting discoveries.

    The Shaw Prize 2021 recognises the seminal contributions of Victoria M. Kaspi and Chryssa Kouveliotou to the understanding of the enigmatic properties of magnetars, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The International Astronomical Union [astronomique internationale] (FR) exists to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy through international cooperation, assign official names and designations to celestial bodies, and liaise with organizations that include amateur astronomers. Founded in 1919 and based in Paris, the IAU is a member of the International Science Council.

    The International Astronomical Union is an international association of professional astronomers, at the PhD level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy. Among other activities, it acts as the recognized authority for assigning designations and names to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them.

    The IAU is a member of the International Science Council (ISC). Its main objective is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU maintains friendly relations with organizations that include amateur astronomers in their membership. The IAU has its head office on the second floor of the Institute of Astrophysics of Paris [Institut Astrophysique de Paris] (FR) in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

    This organisation has many working groups. For example, the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN), which maintains the astronomical naming conventions and planetary nomenclature for planetary bodies, and the Working Group on Star Names (WGSN), which catalogues and standardizes proper names for stars. The IAU is also responsible for the system of astronomical telegrams which are produced and distributed on its behalf by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams at Harvard (US). The Minor Planet Center also operates under the IAU, and is a “clearinghouse” for all non-planetary or non-moon bodies in the Solar System.

  • richardmitnick 9:58 pm on May 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New insights into behavior of ultra-dense star core", , , , Neutron stars   

    From DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (US) : “New insights into behavior of ultra-dense star core” 

    From DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (US)

    May 24, 2021
    Raphael Rosen

    At left, a artist’s conception of a neutron star; at right, two images of PPPL physicist Russell Kulsrud (Collage by Elle Starkman)

    Scattered throughout the universe are unimaginably dense remnants of stellar death, cold cores of large stars that have burned through their fuel, collapsed, and blown off their outer layers in supernova explosions. Known as neutron stars, these exotic remnants are often gravitationally locked with another star and over time siphon off some of the other star’s outermost surfaces.

    Now, a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) has helped explain two phenomena associated with this process that have long baffled researchers. “This research started with abstract questions,” said PPPL physicist Russell Kulsrud, lead author of a paper reporting the results in the Journal of Plasma Physics. “How can matter from a companion star break through a neutron star’s powerful magnetic field to produce X-rays, and what causes the observed changes in those fields?”

    Kulsrud was trying to explain how neutron stars could emit large amounts of X-ray light, which had been observed by telescopes. Scientists know that if plasma from the companion star could fall through a neutron star’s atmosphere, the plasma would slow down and emit the powerful X-ray radiation. But how could it pass through the neutron star’s powerful magnetic field?

    The researchers found that once the plasma accumulates, its bulk puts gravitational pressure on the magnetic field lines, creating an instability that allows the plasma to flow onto the neutron star. The plasma then follows the field lines to the star’s poles and eventually settles across the star’s entire surface while emitting X-rays.

    “Understanding exactly how neutron stars accrete matter and produce X-ray radiation is an unsolved problem in astrophysics,” said PPPL director Steven Cowley. “Kulsrud has now clarified part of this problem and produced yet another fundamental finding.”

    The findings also explain observed deformations of neutron star magnetic fields. “The added mass on the neutron star’s surface can distort the outer region of the star’s magnetic field,” Kulsrud said. “If you’re observing the star, you should see that the radiation emitted by the magnetic field will gradually change. And in fact this is what we see.”

    These new results came about in part because of COVID-19 quarantining. “When the pandemic started and everyone was confined to their homes, I decided to take up the model of a neutron star and work out a few things,” Kulsrud said.

    The findings also pertain to fusion, which scientists are seeking to replicate on Earth for a virtually inexhaustible supply of power to generate electricity. “Though there aren’t any direct applications of this research to the development of fusion energy, the physics is parallel,” he said. “The diffusion of energy through tokamaks, doughnut-shaped fusion facilities used around the word, resembles the diffusion of matter across a neutron star’s magnetic field.”

    Kulsrud and Rashid Sunyaev, a physicist at the MPG Institute for Plasma Physics [MPG Institut für Plasmaphysik] (DE), gathered their data from two spacecraft: the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), an orbiting telescope launched in 2012 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to study high-energy X-ray light; and NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, which was launched in 2004 to study gamma-ray bursts, extremely powerful explosions that occur throughout the universe.

    Neutron stars are one of the wonders of the natural world. Produced when stars larger than the sun undergo supernova explosions, these leftover cores have such strong gravitational fields that the electrons in the remaining atoms are squeezed into the protons, producing neutrons. Neutron stars pack more material than exists in the sun into a sphere about the size of New York City. They are so dense that a tablespoon of neutron star material would weigh as much as Mt. Everest.

    Kulsrud is an institution at PPPL. He joined the lab in 1954 when it was still known as Project Matterhorn, begun by Princeton University astrophysics professor Lyman Spitzer as a base for the study of controlled thermonuclear reactions. Kulsrud’s research topics have ranged from the movement of particles in twisty fusion devices known as stellarators, which Spitzer invented, to magnetic turbulence, black holes, and the origin of the magnetic fields that permeate the universe.

    “Almost 70 years after making fundamental theoretical contributions to theory describing the plasma equilibrium in fusion reactors, Russell is developing new theories that explain recent spacecraft observations of ultra-luminous X-ray sources in nearby galaxies,” said Stuart Hudson, interim head of PPPL’s Theory department. “Russell continues to make important contributions to plasma physics.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    PPPL campus

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (US) is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://energy.gov/science.

    Princeton University

    Princeton University

    See the full article here .


    About Princeton: Overview

    Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey(US). Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later. It was renamed Princeton University in 1896.

    Princeton provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. It offers professional degrees through the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Architecture and the Bendheim Center for Finance. The university also manages the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Princeton has the largest endowment per student in the United States.

    As of October 2020, 69 Nobel laureates, 15 Fields Medalists and 14 Turing Award laureates have been affiliated with Princeton University as alumni, faculty members or researchers. In addition, Princeton has been associated with 21 National Medal of Science winners, 5 Abel Prize winners, 5 National Humanities Medal recipients, 215 Rhodes Scholars, 139 Gates Cambridge Scholars and 137 Marshall Scholars. Two U.S. Presidents, twelve U.S. Supreme Court Justices (three of whom currently serve on the court) and numerous living billionaires and foreign heads of state are all counted among Princeton’s alumni body. Princeton has also graduated many prominent members of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Cabinet, including eight Secretaries of State, three Secretaries of Defense and the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Princeton University, founded as the College of New Jersey, was considered the successor of the “Log College” founded by the Reverend William Tennent at Neshaminy, PA in about 1726. New Light Presbyterians founded the College of New Jersey in 1746 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Its purpose was to train ministers. The college was the educational and religious capital of Scottish Presbyterian America. Unlike Harvard University(US), which was originally “intensely English” with graduates taking the side of the crown during the American Revolution, Princeton was founded to meet the religious needs of the period and many of its graduates took the American side in the war. In 1754, trustees of the College of New Jersey suggested that, in recognition of Governor Jonathan Belcher’s interest, Princeton should be named as Belcher College. Belcher replied: “What a name that would be!” In 1756, the college moved its campus to Princeton, New Jersey. Its home in Princeton was Nassau Hall, named for the royal House of Orange-Nassau of William III of England.

    Following the untimely deaths of Princeton’s first five presidents, John Witherspoon became president in 1768 and remained in that post until his death in 1794. During his presidency, Witherspoon shifted the college’s focus from training ministers to preparing a new generation for secular leadership in the new American nation. To this end, he tightened academic standards and solicited investment in the college. Witherspoon’s presidency constituted a long period of stability for the college, interrupted by the American Revolution and particularly the Battle of Princeton, during which British soldiers briefly occupied Nassau Hall; American forces, led by George Washington, fired cannon on the building to rout them from it.

    In 1812, the eighth president of the College of New Jersey, Ashbel Green (1812–23), helped establish the Princeton Theological Seminary next door. The plan to extend the theological curriculum met with “enthusiastic approval on the part of the authorities at the College of New Jersey.” Today, Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary maintain separate institutions with ties that include services such as cross-registration and mutual library access.

    Before the construction of Stanhope Hall in 1803, Nassau Hall was the college’s sole building. The cornerstone of the building was laid on September 17, 1754. During the summer of 1783, the Continental Congress met in Nassau Hall, making Princeton the country’s capital for four months. Over the centuries and through two redesigns following major fires (1802 and 1855), Nassau Hall’s role shifted from an all-purpose building, comprising office, dormitory, library, and classroom space; to classroom space exclusively; to its present role as the administrative center of the University. The class of 1879 donated twin lion sculptures that flanked the entrance until 1911, when that same class replaced them with tigers. Nassau Hall’s bell rang after the hall’s construction; however, the fire of 1802 melted it. The bell was then recast and melted again in the fire of 1855.

    James McCosh became the college’s president in 1868 and lifted the institution out of a low period that had been brought about by the American Civil War. During his two decades of service, he overhauled the curriculum, oversaw an expansion of inquiry into the sciences, and supervised the addition of a number of buildings in the High Victorian Gothic style to the campus. McCosh Hall is named in his honor.

    In 1879, the first thesis for a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) was submitted by James F. Williamson, Class of 1877.

    In 1896, the college officially changed its name from the College of New Jersey to Princeton University to honor the town in which it resides. During this year, the college also underwent large expansion and officially became a university. In 1900, the Graduate School was established.

    In 1902, Woodrow Wilson, graduate of the Class of 1879, was elected the 13th president of the university. Under Wilson, Princeton introduced the preceptorial system in 1905, a then-unique concept in the United States that augmented the standard lecture method of teaching with a more personal form in which small groups of students, or precepts, could interact with a single instructor, or preceptor, in their field of interest.

    In 1906, the reservoir Carnegie Lake was created by Andrew Carnegie. A collection of historical photographs of the building of the lake is housed at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library on Princeton’s campus. On October 2, 1913, the Princeton University Graduate College was dedicated. In 1919 the School of Architecture was established. In 1933, Albert Einstein became a lifetime member of the Institute for Advanced Study with an office on the Princeton campus. While always independent of the university, the Institute for Advanced Study occupied offices in Jones Hall for 6 years, from its opening in 1933, until its own campus was finished and opened in 1939.


    In 1969, Princeton University first admitted women as undergraduates. In 1887, the university actually maintained and staffed a sister college, Evelyn College for Women, in the town of Princeton on Evelyn and Nassau streets. It was closed after roughly a decade of operation. After abortive discussions with Sarah Lawrence College to relocate the women’s college to Princeton and merge it with the University in 1967, the administration decided to admit women and turned to the issue of transforming the school’s operations and facilities into a female-friendly campus. The administration had barely finished these plans in April 1969 when the admissions office began mailing out its acceptance letters. Its five-year coeducation plan provided $7.8 million for the development of new facilities that would eventually house and educate 650 women students at Princeton by 1974. Ultimately, 148 women, consisting of 100 freshmen and transfer students of other years, entered Princeton on September 6, 1969 amidst much media attention. Princeton enrolled its first female graduate student, Sabra Follett Meservey, as a PhD candidate in Turkish history in 1961. A handful of undergraduate women had studied at Princeton from 1963 on, spending their junior year there to study “critical languages” in which Princeton’s offerings surpassed those of their home institutions. They were considered regular students for their year on campus, but were not candidates for a Princeton degree.

    As a result of a 1979 lawsuit by Sally Frank, Princeton’s eating clubs were required to go coeducational in 1991, after Tiger Inn’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied. In 1987, the university changed the gendered lyrics of “Old Nassau” to reflect the school’s co-educational student body. From 2009 to 2011, Princeton professor Nannerl O. Keohane chaired a committee on undergraduate women’s leadership at the university, appointed by President Shirley M. Tilghman.

    The main campus sits on about 500 acres (2.0 km^2) in Princeton. In 2011, the main campus was named by Travel+Leisure as one of the most beautiful in the United States. The James Forrestal Campus is split between nearby Plainsboro and South Brunswick. The University also owns some property in West Windsor Township. The campuses are situated about one hour from both New York City and Philadelphia.

    The first building on campus was Nassau Hall, completed in 1756 and situated on the northern edge of campus facing Nassau Street. The campus expanded steadily around Nassau Hall during the early and middle 19th century. The McCosh presidency (1868–88) saw the construction of a number of buildings in the High Victorian Gothic and Romanesque Revival styles; many of them are now gone, leaving the remaining few to appear out of place. At the end of the 19th century much of Princeton’s architecture was designed by the Cope and Stewardson firm (same architects who designed a large part of Washington University in St Louis (US) and University of Pennsylvania(US)) resulting in the Collegiate Gothic style for which it is known today. Implemented initially by William Appleton Potter and later enforced by the University’s supervising architect, Ralph Adams Cram, the Collegiate Gothic style remained the standard for all new building on the Princeton campus through 1960. A flurry of construction in the 1960s produced a number of new buildings on the south side of the main campus, many of which have been poorly received. Several prominent architects have contributed some more recent additions, including Frank Gehry (Lewis Library), I. M. Pei (Spelman Halls), Demetri Porphyrios (Whitman College, a Collegiate Gothic project), Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown (Frist Campus Center, among several others), and Rafael Viñoly (Carl Icahn Laboratory).

    A group of 20th-century sculptures scattered throughout the campus forms the Putnam Collection of Sculpture. It includes works by Alexander Calder (Five Disks: One Empty), Jacob Epstein (Albert Einstein), Henry Moore (Oval with Points), Isamu Noguchi (White Sun), and Pablo Picasso (Head of a Woman). Richard Serra’s The Hedgehog and The Fox is located between Peyton and Fine halls next to Princeton Stadium and the Lewis Library.

    At the southern edge of the campus is Carnegie Lake, an artificial lake named for Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie financed the lake’s construction in 1906 at the behest of a friend who was a Princeton alumnus. Carnegie hoped the opportunity to take up rowing would inspire Princeton students to forsake football, which he considered “not gentlemanly.” The Shea Rowing Center on the lake’s shore continues to serve as the headquarters for Princeton rowing.

    Cannon Green

    Buried in the ground at the center of the lawn south of Nassau Hall is the “Big Cannon,” which was left in Princeton by British troops as they fled following the Battle of Princeton. It remained in Princeton until the War of 1812, when it was taken to New Brunswick. In 1836 the cannon was returned to Princeton and placed at the eastern end of town. It was removed to the campus under cover of night by Princeton students in 1838 and buried in its current location in 1840.

    A second “Little Cannon” is buried in the lawn in front of nearby Whig Hall. This cannon, which may also have been captured in the Battle of Princeton, was stolen by students of Rutgers University in 1875. The theft ignited the Rutgers-Princeton Cannon War. A compromise between the presidents of Princeton and Rutgers ended the war and forced the return of the Little Cannon to Princeton. The protruding cannons are occasionally painted scarlet by Rutgers students who continue the traditional dispute.

    In years when the Princeton football team beats the teams of both Harvard University and Yale University in the same season, Princeton celebrates with a bonfire on Cannon Green. This occurred in 2012, ending a five-year drought. The next bonfire happened on November 24, 2013, and was broadcast live over the Internet.


    Princeton’s grounds were designed by Beatrix Farrand between 1912 and 1943. Her contributions were most recently recognized with the naming of a courtyard for her. Subsequent changes to the landscape were introduced by Quennell Rothschild & Partners in 2000. In 2005, Michael Van Valkenburgh was hired as the new consulting landscape architect for the campus. Lynden B. Miller was invited to work with him as Princeton’s consulting gardening architect, focusing on the 17 gardens that are distributed throughout the campus.


    Nassau Hall

    Nassau Hall is the oldest building on campus. Begun in 1754 and completed in 1756, it was the first seat of the New Jersey Legislature in 1776, was involved in the battle of Princeton in 1777, and was the seat of the Congress of the Confederation (and thus capitol of the United States) from June 30, 1783, to November 4, 1783. It now houses the office of the university president and other administrative offices, and remains the symbolic center of the campus. The front entrance is flanked by two bronze tigers, a gift of the Princeton Class of 1879. Commencement is held on the front lawn of Nassau Hall in good weather. In 1966, Nassau Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    Residential colleges

    Princeton has six undergraduate residential colleges, each housing approximately 500 freshmen, sophomores, some juniors and seniors, and a handful of junior and senior resident advisers. Each college consists of a set of dormitories, a dining hall, a variety of other amenities—such as study spaces, libraries, performance spaces, and darkrooms—and a collection of administrators and associated faculty. Two colleges, First College and Forbes College (formerly Woodrow Wilson College and Princeton Inn College, respectively), date to the 1970s; three others, Rockefeller, Mathey, and Butler Colleges, were created in 1983 following the Committee on Undergraduate Residential Life (CURL) report, which suggested the institution of residential colleges as a solution to an allegedly fragmented campus social life. The construction of Whitman College, the university’s sixth residential college, was completed in 2007.

    Rockefeller and Mathey are located in the northwest corner of the campus; Princeton brochures often feature their Collegiate Gothic architecture. Like most of Princeton’s Gothic buildings, they predate the residential college system and were fashioned into colleges from individual dormitories.

    First and Butler, located south of the center of the campus, were built in the 1960s. First served as an early experiment in the establishment of the residential college system. Butler, like Rockefeller and Mathey, consisted of a collection of ordinary dorms (called the “New New Quad”) before the addition of a dining hall made it a residential college. Widely disliked for their edgy modernist design, including “waffle ceilings,” the dormitories on the Butler Quad were demolished in 2007. Butler is now reopened as a four-year residential college, housing both under- and upperclassmen.

    Forbes is located on the site of the historic Princeton Inn, a gracious hotel overlooking the Princeton golf course. The Princeton Inn, originally constructed in 1924, played regular host to important symposia and gatherings of renowned scholars from both the university and the nearby Institute for Advanced Study for many years. Forbes currently houses nearly 500 undergraduates in its residential halls.

    In 2003, Princeton broke ground for a sixth college named Whitman College after its principal sponsor, Meg Whitman, who graduated from Princeton in 1977. The new dormitories were constructed in the Collegiate Gothic architectural style and were designed by architect Demetri Porphyrios. Construction finished in 2007, and Whitman College was inaugurated as Princeton’s sixth residential college that same year.

    The precursor of the present college system in America was originally proposed by university president Woodrow Wilson in the early 20th century. For over 800 years, however, the collegiate system had already existed in Britain at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. Wilson’s model was much closer to Yale University(US)’s present system, which features four-year colleges. Lacking the support of the trustees, the plan languished until 1968. That year, Wilson College was established to cap a series of alternatives to the eating clubs. Fierce debates raged before the present residential college system emerged. The plan was first attempted at Yale, but the administration was initially uninterested; an exasperated alumnus, Edward Harkness, finally paid to have the college system implemented at Harvard in the 1920s, leading to the oft-quoted aphorism that the college system is a Princeton idea that was executed at Harvard with funding from Yale.

    Princeton has one graduate residential college, known simply as the Graduate College, located beyond Forbes College at the outskirts of campus. The far-flung location of the GC was the spoil of a squabble between Woodrow Wilson and then-Graduate School Dean Andrew Fleming West. Wilson preferred a central location for the college; West wanted the graduate students as far as possible from the campus. Ultimately, West prevailed. The Graduate College is composed of a large Collegiate Gothic section crowned by Cleveland Tower, a local landmark that also houses a world-class carillon. The attached New Graduate College provides a modern contrast in architectural style.

    McCarter Theatre

    The Tony-award-winning McCarter Theatre was built by the Princeton Triangle Club, a student performance group, using club profits and a gift from Princeton University alumnus Thomas McCarter. Today, the Triangle Club performs its annual freshmen revue, fall show, and Reunions performances in McCarter. McCarter is also recognized as one of the leading regional theaters in the United States.

    Art Museum

    The Princeton University Art Museum was established in 1882 to give students direct, intimate, and sustained access to original works of art that complement and enrich instruction and research at the university. This continues to be a primary function, along with serving as a community resource and a destination for national and international visitors.

    Numbering over 92,000 objects, the collections range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America. There is a collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, including ceramics, marbles, bronzes, and Roman mosaics from faculty excavations in Antioch. Medieval Europe is represented by sculpture, metalwork, and stained glass. The collection of Western European paintings includes examples from the early Renaissance through the 19th century, with masterpieces by Monet, Cézanne, and Van Gogh, and features a growing collection of 20th-century and contemporary art, including iconic paintings such as Andy Warhol’s Blue Marilyn.

    One of the best features of the museums is its collection of Chinese art, with important holdings in bronzes, tomb figurines, painting, and calligraphy. Its collection of pre-Columbian art includes examples of Mayan art, and is commonly considered to be the most important collection of pre-Columbian art outside of Latin America. The museum has collections of old master prints and drawings and a comprehensive collection of over 27,000 original photographs. African art and Northwest Coast Indian art are also represented. The Museum also oversees the outdoor Putnam Collection of Sculpture.

    University Chapel

    The Princeton University Chapel is located on the north side of campus, near Nassau Street. It was built between 1924 and 1928, at a cost of $2.3 million [approximately $34.2 million in 2020 dollars]. Ralph Adams Cram, the University’s supervising architect, designed the chapel, which he viewed as the crown jewel for the Collegiate Gothic motif he had championed for the campus. At the time of its construction, it was the second largest university chapel in the world, after King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. It underwent a two-year, $10 million restoration campaign between 2000 and 2002.

    Measured on the exterior, the chapel is 277 feet (84 m) long, 76 feet (23 m) wide at its transepts, and 121 feet (37 m) high. The exterior is Pennsylvania sandstone, with Indiana limestone used for the trim. The interior is mostly limestone and Aquia Creek sandstone. The design evokes an English church of the Middle Ages. The extensive iconography, in stained glass, stonework, and wood carvings, has the common theme of connecting religion and scholarship.

    The Chapel seats almost 2,000. It hosts weekly ecumenical Christian services, daily Roman Catholic mass, and several annual special events.

    Murray-Dodge Hall

    Murray-Dodge Hall houses the Office of Religious Life (ORL), the Murray Dodge Theater, the Murray-Dodge Café, the Muslim Prayer Room and the Interfaith Prayer Room. The ORL houses the office of the Dean of Religious Life, Alison Boden, and a number of university chaplains, including the country’s first Hindu chaplain, Vineet Chander; and one of the country’s first Muslim chaplains, Sohaib Sultan.


    Published in 2008, Princeton’s Sustainability Plan highlights three priority areas for the University’s Office of Sustainability: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; conservation of resources; and research, education, and civic engagement. Princeton has committed to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020: Energy without the purchase of offsets. The University published its first Sustainability Progress Report in November 2009. The University has adopted a green purchasing policy and recycling program that focuses on paper products, construction materials, lightbulbs, furniture, and electronics. Its dining halls have set a goal to purchase 75% sustainable food products by 2015. The student organization “Greening Princeton” seeks to encourage the University administration to adopt environmentally friendly policies on campus.


    The Trustees of Princeton University, a 40-member board, is responsible for the overall direction of the University. It approves the operating and capital budgets, supervises the investment of the University’s endowment and oversees campus real estate and long-range physical planning. The trustees also exercise prior review and approval concerning changes in major policies, such as those in instructional programs and admission, as well as tuition and fees and the hiring of faculty members.

    With an endowment of $26.1 billion, Princeton University is among the wealthiest universities in the world. Ranked in 2010 as the third largest endowment in the United States, the university had the greatest per-student endowment in the world (over $2 million for undergraduates) in 2011. Such a significant endowment is sustained through the continued donations of its alumni and is maintained by investment advisers. Some of Princeton’s wealth is invested in its art museum, which features works by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol among other prominent artists.


    Undergraduates fulfill general education requirements, choose among a wide variety of elective courses, and pursue departmental concentrations and interdisciplinary certificate programs. Required independent work is a hallmark of undergraduate education at Princeton. Students graduate with either the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) or the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.).

    The graduate school offers advanced degrees spanning the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. Doctoral education is available in most disciplines. It emphasizes original and independent scholarship whereas master’s degree programs in architecture, engineering, finance, and public affairs and public policy prepare candidates for careers in public life and professional practice.

    The university has ties with the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Theological Seminary and the Westminster Choir College of Rider University(US).


    Undergraduate courses in the humanities are traditionally either seminars or lectures held 2 or 3 times a week with an additional discussion seminar that is called a “precept.” To graduate, all A.B. candidates must complete a senior thesis and, in most departments, one or two extensive pieces of independent research that are known as “junior papers.” Juniors in some departments, including architecture and the creative arts, complete independent projects that differ from written research papers. A.B. candidates must also fulfill a three or four semester foreign language requirement and distribution requirements (which include, for example, classes in ethics, literature and the arts, and historical analysis) with a total of 31 classes. B.S.E. candidates follow a parallel track with an emphasis on a rigorous science and math curriculum, a computer science requirement, and at least two semesters of independent research including an optional senior thesis. All B.S.E. students must complete at least 36 classes. A.B. candidates typically have more freedom in course selection than B.S.E. candidates because of the fewer number of required classes. Nonetheless, in the spirit of a liberal arts education, both enjoy a comparatively high degree of latitude in creating a self-structured curriculum.

    Undergraduates agree to adhere to an academic integrity policy called the Honor Code, established in 1893. Under the Honor Code, faculty do not proctor examinations; instead, the students proctor one another and must report any suspected violation to an Honor Committee made up of undergraduates. The Committee investigates reported violations and holds a hearing if it is warranted. An acquittal at such a hearing results in the destruction of all records of the hearing; a conviction results in the student’s suspension or expulsion. The signed pledge required by the Honor Code is so integral to students’ academic experience that the Princeton Triangle Club performs a song about it each fall. Out-of-class exercises fall under the jurisdiction of the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline. Undergraduates are expected to sign a pledge on their written work affirming that they have not plagiarized the work.


    The Graduate School has about 2,600 students in 42 academic departments and programs in social sciences; engineering; natural sciences; and humanities. These departments include the Department of Psychology; Department of History; and Department of Economics.

    In 2017–2018, it received nearly 11,000 applications for admission and accepted around 1,000 applicants. The University also awarded 319 Ph.D. degrees and 170 final master’s degrees. Princeton has no medical school, law school, business school, or school of education. (A short-lived Princeton Law School folded in 1852.) It offers professional graduate degrees in architecture; engineering; finance and public policy- the last through the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs founded in 1930 as the School of Public and International Affairs and renamed in 1948 after university president (and U.S. president) Woodrow Wilson, and most recently renamed in 2020.


    The Princeton University Library system houses over eleven million holdings including seven million bound volumes. The main university library, Firestone Library, which houses almost four million volumes, is one of the largest university libraries in the world. Additionally, it is among the largest “open stack” libraries in existence. Its collections include the autographed manuscript of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and George F. Kennan’s Long Telegram. In addition to Firestone library, specialized libraries exist for architecture, art and archaeology, East Asian studies, engineering, music, public and international affairs, public policy and university archives, and the sciences. In an effort to expand access, these libraries also subscribe to thousands of electronic resources.


    High Meadows Environmental Institute

    The High Meadows Environmental Institute is an “interdisciplinary center of environmental research, education, and outreach” at the university. The institute was started in 1994. About 90 faculty members at Princeton University are affiliated with it.

    The High Meadows Environmental Institute has the following research centers:

    Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI): This is a 15-year-long partnership between PEI and British Petroleum with the goal of finding solutions to problems related to climate change. The Stabilization Wedge Game has been created as part of this initiative.
    Center for BioComplexity (CBC)
    Cooperative Institute for Climate Science (CICS): This is a collaboration with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
    Energy Systems Analysis Group
    Grand Challenges

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, PPPL, was founded in 1951 as Project Matterhorn, a top secret cold war project aimed at achieving controlled nuclear fusion. Princeton astrophysics professor Lyman Spitzer became the first director of the project and remained director until the lab’s declassification in 1961 when it received its current name.

    PPPL currently houses approximately half of the graduate astrophysics department, the Princeton Program in Plasma Physics. The lab is also home to the Harold P. Furth Plasma Physics Library. The library contains all declassified Project Matterhorn documents, included the first design sketch of a stellarator by Lyman Spitzer.

    Princeton is one of five US universities to have and to operate a Department of Energy(US) national laboratory.

    Student life and culture

    University housing is guaranteed to all undergraduates for all four years. More than 98% of students live on campus in dormitories. Freshmen and sophomores must live in residential colleges, while juniors and seniors typically live in designated upperclassman dormitories. The actual dormitories are comparable, but only residential colleges have dining halls. Nonetheless, any undergraduate may purchase a meal plan and eat in a residential college dining hall. Recently, upperclassmen have been given the option of remaining in their college for all four years. Juniors and seniors also have the option of living off-campus, but high rent in the Princeton area encourages almost all students to live in university housing. Undergraduate social life revolves around the residential colleges and a number of coeducational eating clubs, which students may choose to join in the spring of their sophomore year. Eating clubs, which are not officially affiliated with the university, serve as dining halls and communal spaces for their members and also host social events throughout the academic year.

    Princeton’s six residential colleges host a variety of social events and activities, guest speakers, and trips. The residential colleges also sponsor trips to New York for undergraduates to see ballets, operas, Broadway shows, sports events, and other activities. The eating clubs, located on Prospect Avenue, are co-ed organizations for upperclassmen. Most upperclassmen eat their meals at one of the eleven eating clubs. Additionally, the clubs serve as evening and weekend social venues for members and guests. The eleven clubs are Cannon; Cap and Gown; Charter; Cloister; Colonial; Cottage; Ivy; Quadrangle; Terrace; Tiger; and Tower.

    Princeton hosts two Model United Nations conferences, PMUNC in the fall for high school students and PDI in the spring for college students. It also hosts the Princeton Invitational Speech and Debate tournament each year at the end of November. Princeton also runs Princeton Model Congress, an event that is held once a year in mid-November. The four-day conference has high school students from around the country as participants.

    Although the school’s admissions policy is need-blind, Princeton, based on the proportion of students who receive Pell Grants, was ranked as a school with little economic diversity among all national universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report. While Pell figures are widely used as a gauge of the number of low-income undergraduates on a given campus, the rankings article cautions “the proportion of students on Pell Grants isn’t a perfect measure of an institution’s efforts to achieve economic diversity,” but goes on to say that “still, many experts say that Pell figures are the best available gauge of how many low-income undergrads there are on a given campus.”

    TigerTrends is a university-based student run fashion, arts, and lifestyle magazine.


    Princeton has made significant progress in expanding the diversity of its student body in recent years. The 2019 freshman class was one of the most diverse in the school’s history, with 61% of students identifying as students of color. Undergraduate and master’s students were 51% male and 49% female for the 2018–19 academic year.

    The median family income of Princeton students is $186,100, with 57% of students coming from the top 10% highest-earning families and 14% from the bottom 60%.

    In 1999, 10% of the student body was Jewish, a percentage lower than those at other Ivy League schools. Sixteen percent of the student body was Jewish in 1985; the number decreased by 40% from 1985 to 1999. This decline prompted The Daily Princetonian to write a series of articles on the decline and its reasons. Caroline C. Pam of The New York Observer wrote that Princeton was “long dogged by a reputation for anti-Semitism” and that this history as well as Princeton’s elite status caused the university and its community to feel sensitivity towards the decrease of Jewish students. At the time many Jewish students at Princeton dated Jewish students at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia because they perceived Princeton as an environment where it was difficult to find romantic prospects; Pam stated that there was a theory that the dating issues were a cause of the decline in Jewish students.

    In 1981, the population of African Americans at Princeton University made up less than 10%. Bruce M. Wright was admitted into the university in 1936 as the first African American, however, his admission was a mistake and when he got to campus he was asked to leave. Three years later Wright asked the dean for an explanation on his dismissal and the dean suggested to him that “a member of your race might feel very much alone” at Princeton University.


    Princeton enjoys a wide variety of campus traditions, some of which, like the Clapper Theft and Nude Olympics, have faded into history:

    Arch Sings – Late-night concerts that feature one or several of Princeton’s undergraduate a cappella groups, such as the Princeton Nassoons; Princeton Tigertones; Princeton Footnotes; Princeton Roaring 20; and The Princeton Wildcats. The free concerts take place in one of the larger arches on campus. Most are held in Blair Arch or Class of 1879 Arch.

    Bonfire – Ceremonial bonfire that takes place in Cannon Green behind Nassau Hall. It is held only if Princeton beats both Harvard University and Yale University at football in the same season. The most recent bonfire was lighted on November 18, 2018.

    Bicker – Selection process for new members that is employed by selective eating clubs. Prospective members, or bickerees, are required to perform a variety of activities at the request of current members.

    Cane Spree – An athletic competition between freshmen and sophomores that is held in the fall. The event centers on cane wrestling, where a freshman and a sophomore will grapple for control of a cane. This commemorates a time in the 1870s when sophomores, angry with the freshmen who strutted around with fancy canes, stole all of the canes from the freshmen, hitting them with their own canes in the process.

    The Clapper or Clapper Theft – The act of climbing to the top of Nassau Hall to steal the bell clapper, which rings to signal the start of classes on the first day of the school year. For safety reasons, the clapper has been removed permanently.

    Class Jackets (Beer Jackets) – Each graduating class designs a Class Jacket that features its class year. The artwork is almost invariably dominated by the school colors and tiger motifs.

    Communiversity – An annual street fair with performances, arts and crafts, and other activities that attempts to foster interaction between the university community and the residents of Princeton.

    Dean’s Date – The Tuesday at the end of each semester when all written work is due. This day signals the end of reading period and the beginning of final examinations. Traditionally, undergraduates gather outside McCosh Hall before the 5:00 PM deadline to cheer on fellow students who have left their work to the very last minute.

    FitzRandolph Gates – At the end of Princeton’s graduation ceremony, the new graduates process out through the main gate of the university as a symbol of the fact that they are leaving college. According to tradition, anyone who exits campus through the FitzRandolph Gates before his or her own graduation date will not graduate.

    Holder Howl – The midnight before Dean’s Date, students from Holder Hall and elsewhere gather in the Holder courtyard and take part in a minute-long, communal primal scream to vent frustration from studying with impromptu, late night noise making.

    Houseparties – Formal parties that are held simultaneously by all of the eating clubs at the end of the spring term.

    Ivy stones – Class memorial stones placed on the exterior walls of academic buildings around the campus.

    Lawnparties – Parties that feature live bands that are held simultaneously by all of the eating clubs at the start of classes and at the conclusion of the academic year.

    Princeton Locomotive – Traditional cheer in use since the 1890s. It is commonly heard at Opening Exercises in the fall as alumni and current students welcome the freshman class, as well as the P-rade in the spring at Princeton Reunions. The cheer starts slowly and picks up speed, and includes the sounds heard at a fireworks show.

    Hip! Hip!
    Rah, Rah, Rah,
    Tiger, Tiger, Tiger,
    Sis, Sis, Sis,
    Boom, Boom, Boom, Ah!
    Princeton! Princeton! Princeton!

    Or if a class is being celebrated, the last line consists of the class year repeated three times, e.g. “Eighty-eight! Eighty-eight! Eighty-eight!”

    Newman’s Day – Students attempt to drink 24 beers in the 24 hours of April 24. According to The New York Times, “the day got its name from an apocryphal quote attributed to Paul Newman: ’24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not.'” Newman had spoken out against the tradition, however.

    Nude Olympics – Annual nude and partially nude frolic in Holder Courtyard that takes place during the first snow of the winter. Started in the early 1970s, the Nude Olympics went co-educational in 1979 and gained much notoriety with the American press. For safety reasons, the administration banned the Olympics in 2000 to the chagrin of students.

    Prospect 11 – The act of drinking a beer at all 11 eating clubs in a single night.

    P-rade – Traditional parade of alumni and their families. They process through campus by class year during Reunions.

    Reunions – Massive annual gathering of alumni held the weekend before graduation.


    Princeton supports organized athletics at three levels: varsity intercollegiate, club intercollegiate, and intramural. It also provides “a variety of physical education and recreational programs” for members of the Princeton community. According to the athletics program’s mission statement, Princeton aims for its students who participate in athletics to be “‘student athletes’ in the fullest sense of the phrase. Most undergraduates participate in athletics at some level.

    Princeton’s colors are orange and black. The school’s athletes are known as Tigers, and the mascot is a tiger. The Princeton administration considered naming the mascot in 2007, but the effort was dropped in the face of alumni opposition.


    Princeton is an NCAA Division I school. Its athletic conference is the Ivy League. Princeton hosts 38 men’s and women’s varsity sports. The largest varsity sport is rowing, with almost 150 athletes.

    Princeton’s football team has a long and storied history. Princeton played against Rutgers University in the first intercollegiate football game in the U.S. on Nov 6, 1869. By a score of 6–4, Rutgers won the game, which was played by rules similar to modern rugby. Today Princeton is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision of NCAA Division I. As of the end of the 2010 season, Princeton had won 26 national football championships, more than any other school.

    Club and intramural

    In addition to varsity sports, Princeton hosts about 35 club sports teams. Princeton’s rugby team is organized as a club sport. Princeton’s sailing team is also a club sport, though it competes at the varsity level in the MAISA conference of the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association.

    Each year, nearly 300 teams participate in intramural sports at Princeton. Intramurals are open to members of Princeton’s faculty, staff, and students, though a team representing a residential college or eating club must consist only of members of that college or club. Several leagues with differing levels of competitiveness are available.


    Notable among a number of songs commonly played and sung at various events such as commencement, convocation, and athletic games is Princeton Cannon Song, the Princeton University fight song.

    Bob Dylan wrote Day of The Locusts (for his 1970 album New Morning) about his experience of receiving an honorary doctorate from the University. It is a reference to the negative experience he had and it mentions the Brood X cicada infestation Princeton experienced that June 1970.

    “Old Nassau”

    Old Nassau has been Princeton University’s anthem since 1859. Its words were written that year by a freshman, Harlan Page Peck, and published in the March issue of the Nassau Literary Review (the oldest student publication at Princeton and also the second oldest undergraduate literary magazine in the country). The words and music appeared together for the first time in Songs of Old Nassau, published in April 1859. Before the Langlotz tune was written, the song was sung to Auld Lang Syne’s melody, which also fits.

    However, Old Nassau does not only refer to the university’s anthem. It can also refer to Nassau Hall, the building that was built in 1756 and named after William III of the House of Orange-Nassau. When built, it was the largest college building in North America. It served briefly as the capitol of the United States when the Continental Congress convened there in the summer of 1783. By metonymy, the term can refer to the university as a whole. Finally, it can also refer to a chemical reaction that is dubbed “Old Nassau reaction” because the solution turns orange and then black.
    Princeton Shield

  • richardmitnick 5:03 pm on April 2, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Distant stars spiralling towards a collision give clues to the forces that bind sub-atomic particles", , , , , From University of Bath (UK), Neutron stars   

    From University of Bath (UK) : “Distant stars spiralling towards a collision give clues to the forces that bind sub-atomic particles” 

    From University of Bath (UK)

    1 April 2021

    Vittoria D’Alessio
    +44 (0)1225 383135

    Artistic representation: In a merger of neutron stars extreme temperatures and densities occur. Credit: Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital, Inc.

    The physics of massive nuclei can be studied by measuring the ‘note’ at which tidal resonance between merging neutron stars causes the solid crust of the neutron stars to shatter.

    Space scientists at the University of Bath have found a new way to probe the internal structure of neutron stars, giving nuclear physicists a novel tool for studying the structures that make up matter at an atomic level.

    Neutron stars are dead stars that have been compressed by gravity to the size of small cities. They contain the most extreme matter in the universe, meaning they are the densest objects in existence (for comparison, if Earth were compressed to the density of a neutron star, it would measure just a few hundred meters in diameter, and all humans would fit in a teaspoon). This makes neutron stars unique natural laboratories for nuclear physicists, whose understanding of the force that binds sub-atomic particles is limited to their work on Earth-bound atomic nuclei. Studying how this force behaves under more extreme conditions offers a way to deepen their knowledge.

    Step in astrophysicists, who look to distant galaxies to unravel the mysteries of physics.

    In a study described in the MNRAS, Bath astrophysicists have found that the action of two neutron stars moving ever faster as they spiral towards a violent collision gives a clue to the composition of neutron-star material. From this information, nuclear physicists will be in a stronger position to calculate the forces that determine the structure of all matter.


    It is through the phenomenon of resonance that the Bath team has made its discovery. Resonance occurs when force is applied to an object at its natural frequency, generating a large, often catastrophic, vibrational motion. A well-known example of resonance is found when an opera singer shatters a glass by singing loudly enough at a frequency that matches the oscillation modes of the glass.

    When a pair of in-spiralling neutron stars reach a state of resonance, their solid crust – which is thought to be 10-billion times stronger than steel – shatters. This results in the release of a bright burst of gamma-rays (called a Resonant Shattering Flare) that can be seen by satellites. The in-spiralling stars also release gravitational waves that can be detected by instruments on Earth. The Bath researchers found that by measuring both the flare and the gravitational-wave signal, they can calculate the ‘symmetry energy’ of the neutron star.

    Symmetry energy is one of the properties of nuclear matter. It controls the ratio of the sub-atomic particles (protons and neutrons) that make up a nucleus, and how this ratio changes when subjected to the extreme densities found in neutron stars. A reading for symmetry energy would therefore give a strong indication of the makeup of neutron stars, and by extension, the processes by which all protons and neutrons couple, and the forces that determine the structure of all matter.

    The researchers stress that measurements obtained by studying the resonance of neutron stars using a combination of gamma-rays and gravitational-waves would be complementary to, rather than a replacement for, the lab experiments of nuclear physicists.

    “By studying neutron stars, and the cataclysmic final motions of these massive objects, we’re able to understand something about the tiny, tiny nuclei that make up extremely dense matter,” said Bath astrophysicist Dr David Tsang. “The enormous difference in scale makes this fascinating.”

    Astrophysics PhD student Duncan Neill, who led the research, added: “I like that this work looks at the same thing being studied by nuclear physicists. They look at tiny particles and we astrophysicists look at objects and events from many millions of light years away. We are looking at the same thing in a completely different way.”

    Dr Will Newton, astrophysicist at the Texas A&M University (US)-Commerce and project collaborator, said: “Though the force that binds quarks into neutrons and protons is known, how it actually works when large numbers of neutrons and protons come together is not well understood. The quest to improve this understanding is helped by experimental nuclear physics data, but all the nuclei we probe on Earth have similar numbers of neutrons and protons bound together at roughly the same density.

    “In neutron stars, nature provides us with a vastly different environment to explore nuclear physics: matter made mostly of neutrons and spanning a wide range of densities, up to about ten times the density of atomic nuclei. In this paper, we show how we can measure a certain property of this matter – the symmetry energy – from distances of hundreds of millions of light years away. This can shed light on the fundamental workings of nuclei.”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Bath is a public research university located in Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1966, along with a number of other institutions following the Robbins Report. Like the University of Bristol and University of the West of England, Bath can trace its roots to the Merchant Venturers’ Technical College, established in Bristol as a school in 1595 by the Society of Merchant Venturers. The university’s main campus is located on Claverton Down, a site overlooking the city of Bath, and was purpose-built, constructed from 1964 in the modernist style of the time.

    In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 32% of Bath’s submitted research activity achieved the highest possible classification of 4*, defined as world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour. 87% was graded 4*/3*, defined as world-leading/internationally excellent.[4] The annual income of the institution for 2017–18 was £287.9 million of which £37.0 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £283.1 million.[2]

    The university is a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Association of MBAs, the European Quality Improvement System, the European University Association, Universities UK and GW4.

  • richardmitnick 10:58 am on August 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Neutron stars, Vela Pulsar   

    From McGill University: “Glitch in Neutron Star Reveals Its Hidden Secrets” 

    McGill University

    From McGill University

    12 Aug 2019

    Cynthia Lee
    Senior Communications Officer, Media Relations, McGill

    Neutron stars are not only the densest objects in the Universe, they also rotate very fast and regularly. Until they suddenly don’t.


    If parts of the neutron star interior start to move outwards, the star spins faster. This is called a “glitch,” and it’s providing astronomers with a brief insight into what lies within these mysterious objects.

    In a paper published August 12 in the journal Nature Astronomy, a team from Monash University in Melbourne, the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), McGill University, and the University of Tasmania, studied a neutron star known as the Vela Pulsar. Located in the southern sky, and approximately 1,000 light years from Earth, the Vela Pulsar is known to glitch about once every three years. Only five percent of pulsars glitch, so the Vela Pulsar’s regularity has made it a favourite of glitch hunters.

    By reanalysing data from the 2016 Vela glitch, taken by co-author Jim Palfreyman from the University of Tasmania, the team found that the glitching star started spinning faster than previously observed, before relaxing down to a final state.

    According to Paul Lasky from Monash University, this observation gives scientists the first-ever detailed glimpse into the interior of the star – revealing that the inside actually has three different components.

    “One of these components, a soup of superfluid neutrons in the inner layer of the crust, moves outwards first and hits the rigid outer crust of the star, causing it to spin up,” says Lasky. “But then, a second soup of superfluid that moves in the core catches up to the first, causing the spin of the star to slow back down.”

    This overshoot has been predicted by researchers—including study co-author Vanessa Graber from McGill University, who visited the Monash team as an OzGrav International Visitor at the end of last year–but had never been observed until now.

    One glitching mystery, however, has led to another. “Immediately before the glitch, we noticed that the star seems to slow down its rotation rate before spinning back up,” says the study’s first author, Greg Ashton from the Monash School of Physics and Astronomy. “We actually have no idea why this is, and it’s the first time it’s ever been seen! We speculate it’s related to the cause of the glitch, but we’re honestly not sure,” he said adding that he suspects this new paper to spur some new theories on neutron stars and glitches.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    All about

    With some 300 buildings, more than 38,500 students and 250,000 living alumni, and a reputation for excellence that reaches around the globe, McGill has carved out a spot among the world’s greatest universities.
    Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill is a leading Canadian post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 11 professional schools, 300 programs of study and some 39,000 students, including more than 9,300 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 8,200 international students making up 21 per cent of the student body.

  • richardmitnick 11:39 am on February 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , First observed in 2008 a binary system known as IGR J18245–2452 from its x-ray outbursts and PSR J1824–2452I for its radio emissions, , , Neutron stars, , The fastest millisecond pulsar PSR J1748–2446ad   

    From Medium: “IGR J18245–2452: The most important neutron star you’ve never heard of” 

    From Medium

    Jan 21, 2019
    Graham Doskoch

    Astronomers have spent thirty years on the theory behind how millisecond pulsars form. Now we know they got it right.

    Neutron stars are known for their astonishing rotational speeds, with most spinning around their axes many times each second. The mechanism behind this is simple: When a fairly massive star several times the radius of the Sun collapses into a dense ball about ten kilometers in diameter, conservation of angular momentum dictates that it must spin quicker.

    However, one class of neutron stars can’t be explained this way: millisecond pulsars. These exotic objects spin hundreds of times each second, with the fastest, PSR J1748–2446ad, rotating at over 700 Hertz! Since their discovery in the 1980s, a slightly different evolutionary path has been proposed. After studying dozens of systems, astronomers theorized that millisecond pulsars are very old — old enough that they’ve lost much of their original angular momentum to radiation. However, they’re also in binary systems, and under certain conditions, a companion star can transfer matter — and thus angular momentum — to the pulsar, spinning it back up again.

    A plot of the periods and magnetic fields of pulsars. Millisecond pulsars have extremely short periods, and comparatively weak magnetic fields. Image credit: Swinburne University of Technology

    During this period of accretion, the system should become an x-ray binary, featuring strong emission from the hot plasma in the neutron star’s accretion disk. There should also be periods where the neutron star behaves like an ordinary radio pulsar, emitting radio waves we can detect on Earth. If we could detect both types of radiation from a single system, it might be the clinching bit of evidence for the spin-up model of millisecond pulsar formation.

    In 2013, astronomers discovered just that: a binary system known as IGR J18245–2452 from its x-ray outbursts, and PSR J1824–2452I for its radio emissions. First observed in 2008, it had exhibited both radio pulsations and x-ray outbursts within a short period of time, clear evidence of the sort of transitional stage everyone had been looking for. This was it: a confirmation of the ideas behind thirty years of work on how these strange systems form.

    INTEGRAL observations of IGR J18245–2452 from February 2013 (top) and March/April 2013 (bottom). The system is only visible in x-rays in the second period. Image credit: ESA/INTEGRAL/IBIS/Jörn Wilms.


    The 2013 outburst

    Towards the end of March of 2013, the INTEGRAL and Swift space telescopes detected x-rays from an energetic event coming from the core of the globular cluster M28 (Papitto et al. 2013).

    NASA Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

    It appeared to be an outburst of some kind — judging by the Swift observations, likely a thermonuclear explosion. A number of scenarios can lead to x-ray transients, including novae and certain types of supernovae. Binary systems are often the culprits, where mass can be transferred from one star or compact object to another.

    Fig. 7, Papitto et al. Swift data from observations of an outburst show its characteristic exponentially decreasing cooling.

    One thermonuclear burst observed by Swift followed a time evolution profile expected for such a detonation: An increase in luminosity for 10 seconds, followed by an exponential decrease with a time constant of 38.9 seconds. This decrease represents the start of post-burst cooling. The other outbursts from the system should have had similar profiles characteristic of x-ray-producing thermonuclear explosions, and indeed later observations of the system have confirmed that this is indeed the case (De Falco et al. 2017 [Astronomy and Astrophysics]), albeit with slightly different rise times and decay constants.

    To determine the identity of the transient, now designated IGR J18245–2452, astronomers made follow-up observations using the XMM-Newton telescope.

    ESA/XMM Newton

    The nature of the outburst would determine how it evolved over time. For instance, supernovae (usually) decrease in brightness over the course of weeks or months. In this case, however, the x-rays were still detected — albeit a bit weaker. More surprisingly, the strength of the emission appeared to be modulated, varying with a period of 3.93 milliseconds.

    Such a short period seemed to indicate that a pulsar might be responsible. The team checked databases of known radio pulsars and found one that matched the x-ray source: PSR J1824–2452I, a millisecond pulsar in a binary system. Even after this radio counterpart had been found, however, two questions remained: Were these x-ray pulses new or a long-term process, and how did they relate to the radio emission?

    Diving into the archives

    A handy tool for observational astronomers is archival images. By looking at observations taken months, years or decades before an event, scientists can — if they’re lucky — peek into the past to see what an object of interest looked like long before it became interesting. Archival data is often of use for teams studying supernovae, as even a previously uninteresting or unnoticed star can tell the story of a supernova’s progenitor.

    Fig. 3, Papitto et al. Chandra images from 2008, showing the system in quiescent (top) and active (bottom) states.

    NASA/Chandra X-ray Telescope

    In this case, Papitto et al. looked at Chandra observations from 2008, comparing them with new data from April 2013. They found x-ray variability occurring shortly after a period of radio activity by the pulsar, indicating that the system had switched off its radio emissions and started emitting x-rays. This was extremely interesting, because new observations with three sensitive radio telescopes — Green Bank, Parkes, and Westerbork — indicated that the pulsar was no longer active in radio waves.

    Green Bank Radio Telescope, West Virginia, USA, now the center piece of the GBO, Green Bank Observatory, being cut loose by the NSF

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, an aperture synthesis interferometer near World War II Nazi detention and transit camp Westerbork, north of the village of Westerbork, Midden-Drenthe, in the northeastern Netherlands

    It was possible that the pulsar had been eclipsed and emission was ongoing, and this may indeed have happened at some points, but was not likely to be the main factor behind the apparent quiescence.

    A few weeks later, however, the exact opposite happened: the pulsar exited its quiescent radio state and was again picked up by the three radio telescopes. In short, over a period of months, it had oscillated between behaving like an x-ray binary and a normal millisecond pulsar. Finally, x-ray observations had conclusively shown that this sort of bizarre transitional state was possible!

    The mechanism

    IGR J18245–2452 spends the vast majority of its time in what is known as a “quiescent” state, during which there is comparatively little x-ray activity. The pulsar’s magnetosphere exerts a pressure on the infalling gas, forming a disk at a suitable distance from the surface. Eventually, however, there is enough buildup that an x-ray outburst occurs, lasting for a few months. The outburst decreases the mass accretion rate, and the magnetosphere pushes away much of the transferred gas, allowing radio pulsations to take place once more.

    Fig. 2, De Falco et al. Over a period of a few weeks, IGR J18245–2452 underwent a number of individual x-ray outbursts, themselves indicative of a brief period of x-ray activity and radio silence.

    It’s expected that the pulsar will eventually be spun-up until its rotational period is on the order of a millisecond or so. It will cease x-ray emissions, and be visible mainly through radio pulses. All of this, however, is far in the future, and during our lifetimes, IGR J18245–2452 will stay in its current transitional state, halfway between an x-ray binary and a millisecond pulsar.

    Women in STEM – Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discovered pulsars with radio astronomy. Jocelyn Bell at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge University, taken for the Daily Herald newspaper in 1968. Denied the Nobel.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About Medium

    Medium is an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams, and launched in August 2012. It is owned by A Medium Corporation. The platform is an example of social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers on Medium, and is regularly regarded as a blog host.

    Williams developed Medium as a way to publish writings and documents longer than Twitter’s 140-character (now 280-character) maximum.

  • richardmitnick 1:51 pm on January 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Neutron stars, , Radio magnetars, The team looked at the magnetar named PSR J1745-2900 located in the Milky Way's galactic center using the largest of NASA's Deep Space Network radio dishes in Australia   

    From Caltech: “Magnetar Mysteries in our Galaxy and Beyond” 

    Caltech Logo

    From Caltech


    Whitney Clavin
    (626) 395-1856

    Illustration of a magnetar—a rotating neutron star with incredibly powerful magnetic fields.
    Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

    The 70-meter radio dish (DSS-43) in Canberra, Australia, part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.
    Credit: NASA/DSN

    New research looks at possible links between magnetars and extragalactic radio bursts.

    In a new Caltech-led study, researchers from campus and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have analyzed pulses of radio waves coming from a magnetar—a rotating, dense, dead star with a strong magnetic field—that is located near the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy. The new research provides clues that magnetars like this one, lying in close proximity to a black hole, could perhaps be linked to the source of “fast radio bursts,” or FRBs. FRBs are high-energy blasts that originate beyond our galaxy but whose exact nature is unknown.

    “Our observations show that a radio magnetar can emit pulses with many of the same characteristics as those seen in some FRBs,” says Caltech graduate student Aaron Pearlman, who presented the results today at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. “Other astronomers have also proposed that magnetars near black holes could be behind FRBs, but more research is needed to confirm these suspicions.”

    The research team was led by Walid Majid, a visiting associate at Caltech and principal research scientist at JPL, which is managed by Caltech for NASA, and Tom Prince, the Ira S. Bowen Professor of Physics at Caltech. The team looked at the magnetar named PSR J1745-2900, located in the Milky Way’s galactic center, using the largest of NASA’s Deep Space Network radio dishes in Australia. PSR J1745-2900 was initially spotted by NASA’s Swift X-ray telescope, and later determined to be a magnetar by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), in 2013.

    NASA Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

    NASA NuSTAR X-ray telescope

    “PSR J1745-2900 is an amazing object. It’s a fascinating magnetar, but it also has been used as a probe of the conditions near the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole,” says Fiona Harrison, the Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics at Caltech and the principal investigator of NuSTAR. “It’s interesting that there could be a connection between PSR J1745-2900 and the enigmatic FRBs.”

    Magnetars are a rare subtype of a group of objects called pulsars; pulsars, in turn, belong to a class of rotating dead stars known as neutron stars. Magnetars are thought to be young pulsars that spin more slowly than ordinary pulsars and have much stronger magnetic fields, which suggests that perhaps all pulsars go through a magnetar-like phase in their lifetime.

    Women in STEM – Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discovered pulsars with radio astronomy. Jocelyn Bell at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge University, taken for the Daily Herald newspaper in 1968. Denied the Nobel.

    The magnetar PSR J1745-2900 is the closest-known pulsar to the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, separated by a distance of only 0.3 light-years, and it is the only pulsar known to be gravitationally bound to the black hole and the environment around it.

    In addition to discovering similarities between the galactic-center magnetar and FRBs, the researchers also gleaned new details about the magnetar’s radio pulses. Using one of the Deep Space Network’s largest radio antennas, the scientists were able to analyze individual pulses emitted by the star every time it rotated, a feat that is very rare in radio studies of pulsars. They found that some pulses were stretched, or broadened, by a larger amount than predicted when compared to previous measurements of the magnetar’s average pulse behavior. Moreover, this behavior varied from pulse to pulse.

    “We are seeing these changes in the individual components of each pulse on a very fast time scale. This behavior is very unusual for a magnetar,” says Pearlman. The radio components, he notes, are separated by only 30 milliseconds on average.

    One theory to explain the signal variability involves clumps of plasma moving at high speeds near the magnetar. Other scientists have proposed that such clumps might exist but, in the new study, the researchers propose that the movement of these clumps may be a possible cause of the observed signal variability. Another theory proposes that the variability is intrinsic to the magnetar itself.

    “Understanding this signal variability will help in future studies of both magnetars and pulsars at the center of our galaxy,” says Pearlman.

    In the future, Pearlman and his colleagues hope to use the Deep Space Network radio dish to solve another outstanding pulsar mystery: Why are there so few pulsars near the galactic center? Their goal is to find a non-magnetar pulsar near the galactic-center black hole.

    “Finding a stable pulsar in a close, gravitationally bound orbit with the supermassive black hole at the galactic center could prove to be the Holy Grail for testing theories of gravity,” says Pearlman. “If we find one, we can do all sorts of new, unprecedented tests of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.”

    The new study, titled, “Pulse Morphology of the Galactic Center Magnetar PSR J1745-2900,” appeared in the October 20, 2018, issue of The Astrophysical Journal and was funded by a Research and Technology Development grant through a contract with NASA; JPL and Caltech’s President’s and Director’s Fund; the Department of Defense; and the National Science Foundation. Other authors include Jonathon Kocz of Caltech and Shinji Horiuchi of the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) Astronomy & Space Science, Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

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

    Caltech campus

    Caltech campus

  • richardmitnick 11:58 am on December 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ‘PulChron’ system measures the passing of time using millisecond-frequency radio pulses from multiple fast-spinning neutron stars, , , , , ESA sets clock by distant spinning stars, Neutron stars,   

    From European Space Agency: “ESA sets clock by distant spinning stars” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    24 December 2018

    ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands has begun running a pulsar-based clock. The ‘PulChron’ system measures the passing of time using millisecond-frequency radio pulses from multiple fast-spinning neutron stars.

    Operating since the end of November, this pulsar-based timing system is hosted in the Galileo Timing and Geodetic Validation Facility of ESA’s ESTEC establishment, at Noordwijk in the Netherlands, and relies on ongoing observations by a five-strong array of radio telescopes across Europe.

    Pulsar encased in supernova bubble

    Neutron stars are the densest form of observable matter in the cosmos, formed out of the collapsed core of exploding stars. Tiny in cosmic terms, on the order of a dozen kilometres in diameter, they still have a higher mass than Earth’s Sun.

    A pulsar is a type of rapidly rotating neutron star with a magnetic field that emits a beam of radiation from its pole. Because of their spin – kept steady by their extreme density – pulsars as seen from Earth appear to emit highly regular radio bursts – so much so that in 1967 their discoverer, UK astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell, initially considered they might be evidence of ‘little green men’.

    Women in STEM – Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discovered pulsars with radio astronomy. Jocelyn Bell at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge University, taken for the Daily Herald newspaper in 1968. Denied the Nobel.

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell 2009

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943 – ), still working from http://www. famousirishscientists.weebly.com


    “PulChron aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of a pulsar-based timescale for the generation and monitoring of satellite navigation timing in general, and Galileo System Time in particular,” explains navigation engineer Stefano Binda, overseeing the PulChron project.

    “A timescale based on pulsar measurements is typically less stable than one using atomic or optical clocks in the short term but it could be competitive in the very long term, over several decades or more, beyond the working life of any individual atomic clock.

    “In addition, this pulsar time scale works quite independently of whatever atomic clock technology is employed – it doesn’t rely on switches between atomic energy states but the rotation of neutron stars.”

    PulChron sources batches of pulsar measurements from the five 100-m class radio telescopes comprising the European Pulsar Timing Array – the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, Germany’s Effelsberg Radio Telescope, the Lovell Telescope in the UK , France’s Nancay Radio Telescope and the Sardinia Radio Telescope in Italy.

    Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, an aperture synthesis interferometer near World War II Nazi detention and transit camp Westerbork, north of the village of Westerbork, Midden-Drenthe, in the northeastern Netherlands

    MPIFR/Effelsberg Radio Telescope, in the Ahrgebirge (part of the Eifel) in Bad Münstereifel, Germany

    Lovell Telescope, Jodrell Bank

    Nancay decametric radio telescope located in the small commune of Nançay, two hours’ drive south of Paris, France

    Sardinia Radio Telescope based in Pranu Sanguni, near Sant’Andrea Frius and San Basilio, about 35 km north of Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy).

    This multinational effort monitors 18 highly precise pulsars in the European sky to search out any timing anomalies, potential evidence of gravitational waves – fluctuations in the fabric of spacetime caused by powerful cosmic events.

    For PulChron, these radio telescope measurements are used to steer the output of an active hydrogen maser atomic clock with equipment based in the Galileo Timing and Geodetic Validation Facility – combining its extreme short- and medium-term stability with the longer-term reliability of the pulsars. A ‘paper clock’ record is also generated out of the measurements, for subsequent post-processing checks.

    Atomic clocks at ESTEC

    ESA established the Timing and Geodetic Validation Facility in the early days of the Galileo programme, first to prepare for ESA’s two GIOVE test satellites and then in support of the world-spanning Galileo system, based on ‘Galileo System Time’ which needs to remain accurate to a few billionths of a second. The Facility continues to serve as an independent yardstick of Galileo performance, linked to monitoring stations across the globe, as well as a tool for anomaly investigation.

    Stefano adds: “The TGVF provided a perfect opportunity to host the PulChron because it is capable of integrating such new elements with little effort, and has a long tradition in time applications, having been used even to synchronise time and frequency offset of the Galileo satellites themselves.”

    PulChron setup

    PulChron’s accuracy is being monitored down to a few billionths of a second using ESA’s adjacent UTC Laboratory, which harnesses three such atomic hydrogen maser clocks plus a trio of caesium clocks to produce a highly-stable timing signal, contributing to the setting of Coordinated Universal Time, UTC – the world’s time.

    The gradual diversion of pulsar time from ESTEC’s UTC time can therefore be tracked – anticipated at a rate of around 200 trillionths of a second daily.

    This project is supported through ESA’s Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP), applying ESA’s hard-won expertise from Galileo and Europe’s EGNOS satellite augmentation system to new satellite navigation and – more widely – positioning, navigation and timing challenges.

    PulChron is being led for ESA by GMV in the UK in collaboration with the University of Manchester and the UK’s NPL National Physical Laboratory.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA50 Logo large

  • richardmitnick 5:54 pm on October 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Neutron stars, Newly discovered 23.5-second pulsar, Source is a highly magnetised radio pulsar, The LOFAR telescope whose core is located in the Netherlands   

    Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy: “Super-slow pulsar challenges theory” 

    ASTRON bloc

    Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy


    Artist’s conception of the newly discovered 23.5-second pulsar. Radio pulses originating from a source in the constellation Cassiopeia are seen travelling towards the core of the LOFAR telescope array. This source is a highly magnetised radio pulsar, shown in the inset image. The pulses and sky image are derived from the actual LOFAR data. Credit: Danielle Futselaar and ASTRON.

    Women in STEM-Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discovered pulsars with radio astronomy. Jocelyn Bell at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge University, taken for the Daily Herald newspaper in 1968. Denied the Nobel.

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell 2009

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell (1943 – ), still working from http://www. famousirishscientists.weebly.com

    An international team of astronomers have discovered the slowest-spinning radio pulsar yet known. The neutron star spins around only once every 23.5 seconds and is a challenge for theory to explain. The researchers, including astronomers at the University of Manchester, ASTRON and the University of Amsterdam, carried out their observations with the LOFAR telescope, whose core is located in the Netherlands.

    SKA LOFAR core (“superterp”) near Exloo, Netherlands

    ASTRON LOFAR Radio Antenna Bank, Netherlands

    Their findings will soon appear in the Astrophysical Journal.

    Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars that produce electromagnetic radiation in beams that emanate from their magnetic poles. These “cosmic lighthouses” are born when a massive star explodes in a supernova. Thereafter, a super-dense ball of material is left behind – rapidly spinning, and with a diameter of only about 20 kilometers. The fastest-spinning pulsar rotates once each 1.4 milliseconds. Until now, the slowest-spinning pulsar known had a period of 8.5 seconds. Now researchers have discovered a much slower, 23.5-second, pulsar, which is located in the constellation Cassiopeia.

    “It is incredible to think that this pulsar spins more than 15.000 times more slowly than the fastest spinning pulsar known.” said Chia Min Tan a PhD Student at the University of Manchester who discovered the pulsar. “We hope that there are more to be found with LOFAR”.

    The astronomers discovered this new pulsar during the LOFAR Tied-Array All-Sky Survey. This survey is searching for pulsars in the Northern sky. Each survey snapshot of the sky lasts for one hour. This is much longer compared to previous surveys, and gave the sensitivity needed to discover this surprising pulsar.

    Not only did the astronomers ‘hear’ the regular ticks of the pulsar signal, they could also ‘see’ the pulsar in LOFAR’s imaging survey. Co-author Cees Bassa (ASTRON): “This pulsar spins so remarkably slowly that we could see it blinking on and off in our LOFAR radio images. With faster pulsars that’s not possible.”

    The pulsar is approximately 14 million years old, but still has a strong magnetic field. Co-author Jason Hessels (ASTRON and University of Amsterdam): “This pulsar was completely unexpected. We’re still a bit shocked that a pulsar can spin so slowly and still create radio pulses. Apparently radio pulsars can be slower than we expected. This challenges and informs our theories for how pulsars shine.”

    Moving forward, the astronomers are continuing their LOFAR survey for new pulsars. They are also planning to observe their new find with the XMM-Newton space telescope. This telescope is designed to detect X-rays. If the super-slow pulsar is detected as a source of X-rays, then this will give important insights into its history and origin.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    LOFAR is a radio telescope composed of an international network of antenna stations and is designed to observe the universe at frequencies between 10 and 250 MHz. Operated by ASTRON, the network includes stations in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, the U.K., France, Poland and Ireland.
    ASTRON-Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope
    Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT)

    ASTRON was founded in 1949, as the Foundation for Radio radiation from the Sun and Milky Way (SRZM). Its original charge was to develop and operate radio telescopes, the first being systems using surplus wartime radar dishes. The organisation has grown from twenty employees in the early 1960’s to about 180 staff members today.

  • richardmitnick 8:08 am on March 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Neutron stars,   

    From Caltech: “A Better Way to Model Stellar Explosions” 

    Caltech Logo



    Whitney Clavin
    (626) 395-1856

    Artist’s concept of two neutron stars colliding. Credit: NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet

    Caltech scientists create new computer code for calculating neutron stars’ “equation of state”.

    Neutron stars consist of the densest form of matter known: a neutron star the size of Los Angeles can weigh twice as much as our sun.

    Astrophysicists don’t fully understand how matter behaves under these crushing densities, let alone what happens when two neutron stars smash into each other or when a massive star explodes, creating a neutron star.

    One tool scientists use to model these powerful phenomena is the “equation of state.” Loosely, the equation of state describes how matter behaves under different densities and temperatures. The temperatures and densities that occur during these extreme events can vary greatly, and strange behaviors can emerge; for example, protons and neutrons can arrange themselves into complex shapes known as nuclear “pasta.”

    But, until now, there were only about 20 equations of state readily available for simulations of astrophysical phenomena. Caltech postdoctoral scholar in theoretical astrophysics Andre da Silva Schneider decided to tackle this problem using computer codes. Over the past three years, he has been developing open-source software that allows astrophysicists to generate their own equations of state. In a new paper in the journal Physical Review C, he and his colleagues describe the code and demonstrate how it works by simulating supernovas of stars 15 and 40 times the mass of the sun.

    The research has immediate applications for researchers studying neutron stars, including those analyzing data from the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, which made the first detection of ripples in space and time, known as gravitational waves, from a neutron star collision, in 2017. That event was also witnessed by a cadre of telescopes around the world, which captured light waves from the same event.

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz


    A UC Santa Cruz special report

    Tim Stephens

    Astronomer Ryan Foley says “observing the explosion of two colliding neutron stars” [see https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/from-ucsc-first-observations-of-merging-neutron-stars-mark-a-new-era-in-astronomy ]–the first visible event ever linked to gravitational waves–is probably the biggest discovery he’ll make in his lifetime. That’s saying a lot for a young assistant professor who presumably has a long career still ahead of him.

    The first optical image of a gravitational wave source was taken by a team led by Ryan Foley of UC Santa Cruz using the Swope Telescope at the Carnegie Institution’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. This image of Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (SSS17a, indicated by arrow) shows the light emitted from the cataclysmic merger of two neutron stars. (Image credit: 1M2H Team/UC Santa Cruz & Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley)

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

    A neutron star forms when a massive star runs out of fuel and explodes as a supernova, throwing off its outer layers and leaving behind a collapsed core composed almost entirely of neutrons. Neutrons are the uncharged particles in the nucleus of an atom, where they are bound together with positively charged protons. In a neutron star, they are packed together just as densely as in the nucleus of an atom, resulting in an object with one to three times the mass of our sun but only about 12 miles wide.

    “Basically, a neutron star is a gigantic atom with the mass of the sun and the size of a city like San Francisco or Manhattan,” said Foley, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    These objects are so dense, a cup of neutron star material would weigh as much as Mount Everest, and a teaspoon would weigh a billion tons. It’s as dense as matter can get without collapsing into a black hole.


    Like other stars, neutron stars sometimes occur in pairs, orbiting each other and gradually spiraling inward. Eventually, they come together in a catastrophic merger that distorts space and time (creating gravitational waves) and emits a brilliant flare of electromagnetic radiation, including visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light, x-rays, gamma rays, and radio waves. Merging black holes also create gravitational waves, but there’s nothing to be seen because no light can escape from a black hole.

    Foley’s team was the first to observe the light from a neutron star merger that took place on August 17, 2017, and was detected by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

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

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

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

    Now, for the first time, scientists can study both the gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space-time), and the radiation emitted from the violent merger of the densest objects in the universe.

    The UC Santa Cruz team found SSS17a by comparing a new image of the galaxy N4993 (right) with images taken four months earlier by the Hubble Space Telescope (left). The arrows indicate where SSS17a was absent from the Hubble image and visible in the new image from the Swope Telescope. (Image credits: Left, Hubble/STScI; Right, 1M2H Team/UC Santa Cruz & Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley)

    It’s that combination of data, and all that can be learned from it, that has astronomers and physicists so excited. The observations of this one event are keeping hundreds of scientists busy exploring its implications for everything from fundamental physics and cosmology to the origins of gold and other heavy elements.

    A small team of UC Santa Cruz astronomers were the first team to observe light from two neutron stars merging in August. The implications are huge.


    It turns out that the origins of the heaviest elements, such as gold, platinum, uranium—pretty much everything heavier than iron—has been an enduring conundrum. All the lighter elements have well-explained origins in the nuclear fusion reactions that make stars shine or in the explosions of stars (supernovae). Initially, astrophysicists thought supernovae could account for the heavy elements, too, but there have always been problems with that theory, says Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    The violent merger of two neutron stars is thought to involve three main energy-transfer processes, shown in this diagram, that give rise to the different types of radiation seen by astronomers, including a gamma-ray burst and a kilonova explosion seen in visible light. (Image credit: Murguia-Berthier et al., Science)

    A theoretical astrophysicist, Ramirez-Ruiz has been a leading proponent of the idea that neutron star mergers are the source of the heavy elements. Building a heavy atomic nucleus means adding a lot of neutrons to it. This process is called rapid neutron capture, or the r-process, and it requires some of the most extreme conditions in the universe: extreme temperatures, extreme densities, and a massive flow of neutrons. A neutron star merger fits the bill.

    Ramirez-Ruiz and other theoretical astrophysicists use supercomputers to simulate the physics of extreme events like supernovae and neutron star mergers. This work always goes hand in hand with observational astronomy. Theoretical predictions tell observers what signatures to look for to identify these events, and observations tell theorists if they got the physics right or if they need to tweak their models. The observations by Foley and others of the neutron star merger now known as SSS17a are giving theorists, for the first time, a full set of observational data to compare with their theoretical models.

    According to Ramirez-Ruiz, the observations support the theory that neutron star mergers can account for all the gold in the universe, as well as about half of all the other elements heavier than iron.


    Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity, but until recently they were impossible to observe. LIGO’s extraordinarily sensitive detectors achieved the first direct detection of gravitational waves, from the collision of two black holes, in 2015. Gravitational waves are created by any massive accelerating object, but the strongest waves (and the only ones we have any chance of detecting) are produced by the most extreme phenomena.

    Two massive compact objects—such as black holes, neutron stars, or white dwarfs—orbiting around each other faster and faster as they draw closer together are just the kind of system that should radiate strong gravitational waves. Like ripples spreading in a pond, the waves get smaller as they spread outward from the source. By the time they reached Earth, the ripples detected by LIGO caused distortions of space-time thousands of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom.

    The rarefied signals recorded by LIGO’s detectors not only prove the existence of gravitational waves, they also provide crucial information about the events that produced them. Combined with the telescope observations of the neutron star merger, it’s an incredibly rich set of data.

    LIGO can tell scientists the masses of the merging objects and the mass of the new object created in the merger, which reveals whether the merger produced another neutron star or a more massive object that collapsed into a black hole. To calculate how much mass was ejected in the explosion, and how much mass was converted to energy, scientists also need the optical observations from telescopes. That’s especially important for quantifying the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements during the merger.

    LIGO can also provide a measure of the distance to the merging neutron stars, which can now be compared with the distance measurement based on the light from the merger. That’s important to cosmologists studying the expansion of the universe, because the two measurements are based on different fundamental forces (gravity and electromagnetism), giving completely independent results.

    “This is a huge step forward in astronomy,” Foley said. “Having done it once, we now know we can do it again, and it opens up a whole new world of what we call ‘multi-messenger’ astronomy, viewing the universe through different fundamental forces.”


    Neutron stars
    A team from UC Santa Cruz was the first to observe the light from a neutron star merger that took place on August 17, 2017 and was detected by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)

    Graduate students and post-doctoral scholars at UC Santa Cruz played key roles in the dramatic discovery and analysis of colliding neutron stars.Astronomer Ryan Foley leads a team of young graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have pulled off an extraordinary coup. Following up on the detection of gravitational waves from the violent merger of two neutron stars, Foley’s team was the first to find the source with a telescope and take images of the light from this cataclysmic event. In so doing, they beat much larger and more senior teams with much more powerful telescopes at their disposal.

    “We’re sort of the scrappy young upstarts who worked hard and got the job done,” said Foley, an untenured assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    David Coulter, graduate student

    The discovery on August 17, 2017, has been a scientific bonanza, yielding over 100 scientific papers from numerous teams investigating the new observations. Foley’s team is publishing seven papers, each of which has a graduate student or postdoc as the first author.

    “I think it speaks to Ryan’s generosity and how seriously he takes his role as a mentor that he is not putting himself front and center, but has gone out of his way to highlight the roles played by his students and postdocs,” said Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and the most senior member of Foley’s team.

    “Our team is by far the youngest and most diverse of all of the teams involved in the follow-up observations of this neutron star merger,” Ramirez-Ruiz added.

    Charles Kilpatrick, postdoctoral scholar

    Charles Kilpatrick, a 29-year-old postdoctoral scholar, was the first person in the world to see an image of the light from colliding neutron stars. He was sitting in an office at UC Santa Cruz, working with first-year graduate student Cesar Rojas-Bravo to process image data as it came in from the Swope Telescope in Chile. To see if the Swope images showed anything new, he had also downloaded “template” images taken in the past of the same galaxies the team was searching.

    Ariadna Murguia-Berthier, graduate student

    “In one image I saw something there that was not in the template image,” Kilpatrick said. “It took me a while to realize the ramifications of what I was seeing. This opens up so much new science, it really marks the beginning of something that will continue to be studied for years down the road.”

    At the time, Foley and most of the others in his team were at a meeting in Copenhagen. When they found out about the gravitational wave detection, they quickly got together to plan their search strategy. From Copenhagen, the team sent instructions to the telescope operators in Chile telling them where to point the telescope. Graduate student David Coulter played a key role in prioritizing the galaxies they would search to find the source, and he is the first author of the discovery paper published in Science.

    Matthew Siebert, graduate student

    “It’s still a little unreal when I think about what we’ve accomplished,” Coulter said. “For me, despite the euphoria of recognizing what we were seeing at the moment, we were all incredibly focused on the task at hand. Only afterward did the significance really sink in.”

    Just as Coulter finished writing his paper about the discovery, his wife went into labor, giving birth to a baby girl on September 30. “I was doing revisions to the paper at the hospital,” he said.

    It’s been a wild ride for the whole team, first in the rush to find the source, and then under pressure to quickly analyze the data and write up their findings for publication. “It was really an all-hands-on-deck moment when we all had to pull together and work quickly to exploit this opportunity,” said Kilpatrick, who is first author of a paper comparing the observations with theoretical models.

    César Rojas Bravo, graduate student

    Graduate student Matthew Siebert led a paper analyzing the unusual properties of the light emitted by the merger. Astronomers have observed thousands of supernovae (exploding stars) and other “transients” that appear suddenly in the sky and then fade away, but never before have they observed anything that looks like this neutron star merger. Siebert’s paper concluded that there is only a one in 100,000 chance that the transient they observed is not related to the gravitational waves.

    Ariadna Murguia-Berthier, a graduate student working with Ramirez-Ruiz, is first author of a paper synthesizing data from a range of sources to provide a coherent theoretical framework for understanding the observations.

    Another aspect of the discovery of great interest to astronomers is the nature of the galaxy and the galactic environment in which the merger occurred. Postdoctoral scholar Yen-Chen Pan led a paper analyzing the properties of the host galaxy. Enia Xhakaj, a new graduate student who had just joined the group in August, got the opportunity to help with the analysis and be a coauthor on the paper.

    Yen-Chen Pan, postdoctoral scholar

    “There are so many interesting things to learn from this,” Foley said. “It’s a great experience for all of us to be part of such an important discovery.”

    Enia Xhakaj, graduate student


    Scientific Papers from the 1M2H Collaboration

    Coulter et al., Science, Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (SSS17a), the Optical Counterpart to a Gravitational Wave Source

    Drout et al., Science, Light Curves of the Neutron Star Merger GW170817/SSS17a: Implications for R-Process Nucleosynthesis

    Shappee et al., Science, Early Spectra of the Gravitational Wave Source GW170817: Evolution of a Neutron Star Merger

    Kilpatrick et al., Science, Electromagnetic Evidence that SSS17a is the Result of a Binary Neutron Star Merger

    Siebert et al., ApJL, The Unprecedented Properties of the First Electromagnetic Counterpart to a Gravitational-wave Source

    Pan et al., ApJL, The Old Host-galaxy Environment of SSS17a, the First Electromagnetic Counterpart to a Gravitational-wave Source

    Murguia-Berthier et al., ApJL, A Neutron Star Binary Merger Model for GW170817/GRB170817a/SSS17a

    Kasen et al., Nature, Origin of the heavy elements in binary neutron star mergers from a gravitational wave event

    Abbott et al., Nature, A gravitational-wave standard siren measurement of the Hubble constant (The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and The Virgo Collaboration, The 1M2H Collaboration, The Dark Energy Camera GW-EM Collaboration and the DES Collaboration, The DLT40 Collaboration, The Las Cumbres Observatory Collaboration, The VINROUGE Collaboration & The MASTER Collaboration)

    Abbott et al., ApJL, Multi-messenger Observations of a Binary Neutron Star Merger


    Watch Ryan Foley tell the story of how his team found the neutron star merger in the video below. 2.5 HOURS.

    Press releases:

    UC Santa Cruz Press Release

    UC Berkeley Press Release

    Carnegie Institution of Science Press Release

    LIGO Collaboration Press Release

    National Science Foundation Press Release

    Media coverage:

    The Atlantic – The Slack Chat That Changed Astronomy

    Washington Post – Scientists detect gravitational waves from a new kind of nova, sparking a new era in astronomy

    New York Times – LIGO Detects Fierce Collision of Neutron Stars for the First Time

    Science – Merging neutron stars generate gravitational waves and a celestial light show

    CBS News – Gravitational waves – and light – seen in neutron star collision

    CBC News – Astronomers see source of gravitational waves for 1st time

    San Jose Mercury News – A bright light seen across the universe, proving Einstein right

    Popular Science – Gravitational waves just showed us something even cooler than black holes

    Scientific American – Gravitational Wave Astronomers Hit Mother Lode

    Nature – Colliding stars spark rush to solve cosmic mysteries

    National Geographic – In a First, Gravitational Waves Linked to Neutron Star Crash

    Associated Press – Astronomers witness huge cosmic crash, find origins of gold

    Science News – Neutron star collision showers the universe with a wealth of discoveries

    UCSC press release
    First observations of merging neutron stars mark a new era in astronomy


    Writing: Tim Stephens
    Video: Nick Gonzales
    Photos: Carolyn Lagattuta
    Header image: Illustration by Robin Dienel courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science
    Design and development: Rob Knight
    Project managers: Sherry Main, Scott Hernandez-Jason, Tim Stephens

    Dark Energy Survey

    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL

    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam at an altitude of 7200 feet

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

    Noted in the vdeo but not in te article:

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    NASA/SWIFT Telescope

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA

    Prompt telescope CTIO Chile

    NASA NuSTAR X-ray telescope

    “The equations of state help astrophysicists study the outcome of neutron star mergers—they indicate whether a neutron star is ‘soft’ or ‘stiff,’ which in turn determines whether a more massive neutron star or a black hole forms out of the collision,” says da Silva Schneider. “The more observations we have from LIGO and other light-based telescopes, the more we can refine the equation of state—and update our software so that astrophysicists can generate new and more realistic equations for future studies.”

    See the full article here

    That event was also witnessed by a cadre of telescopes around the world, which captured light waves from the same event.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

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

    Caltech campus

  • richardmitnick 10:32 am on February 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Neutron stars,   

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

    Science Magazine

    Feb. 15, 2018
    Adrian Cho

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

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