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  • richardmitnick 10:55 am on April 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Penn State   

    From Penn State: “Data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has found no evidence for a hypothesized body sometimes referred to as “Planet X.” 

    Penn State Bloc

    Pennsylvania State University

    07 March 2014
    No Writer Credit

    1
    Credit: Penn State University

    Data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has found no evidence for a hypothesized body sometimes referred to as “Planet X.”

    NASA Wise Telescope
    NASA/Wise

    This body was thought to be a large planet or small star orbiting in the far reaches of our solar system. Astronomers searched millions of images taken by WISE over the whole sky, finding no Saturn-like body out to a distance of 10,000 astronomical units (au) from the sun, and no Jupiter-like body out to 26,000 au. One astronomical unit equals 93 million miles. Earth is 1 au, and Pluto about 40 au, from the sun.

    This chart shows what types of objects WISE can and cannot see at certain distances from our sun. Bodies with larger masses are brighter, and therefore can be seen at greater distances. For example, if a Jupiter-mass planet existed at 10,000 au, WISE would have easily seen it. But WISE would not have been able to see a Jupiter-mass planet residing at 100,000 au — it would have been too faint.

    The chart was created by Janella Williams of Penn State University, University Park, Pa.

    WISE was put into hibernation upon completing its primary mission in 2011. In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission to assist NASA’s efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects. NEOWISE will also characterize previously known asteroids and comets to better understand their sizes and compositions.

    More information on WISE, and its latest adaptation, the asteroid-hunting mission NEOWISE, is online here http://www.nasa.gov/wise.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Penn State Campus

    WHAT WE DO BEST

    We teach students that the real measure of success is what you do to improve the lives of others, and they learn to be hard-working leaders with a global perspective. We conduct research to improve lives. We add millions to the economy through projects in our state and beyond. We help communities by sharing our faculty expertise and research.

    Penn State lives close by no matter where you are. Our campuses are located from one side of Pennsylvania to the other. Through Penn State World Campus, students can take courses and work toward degrees online from anywhere on the globe that has Internet service.

    We support students in many ways, including advising and counseling services for school and life; diversity and inclusion services; social media sites; safety services; and emergency assistance.

    Our network of more than a half-million alumni is accessible to students when they want advice and to learn about job networking and mentor opportunities as well as what to expect in the future. Through our alumni, Penn State lives all over the world.

    The best part of Penn State is our people. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in communities near our campuses and across the globe are dedicated to education and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:38 pm on April 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Penn State   

    From Penn State: “Inside the most powerful explosions” 

    Penn State Bloc

    Pennsylvania State University

    April 13, 2015
    Barbara K. Kennedy

    1
    In the most common type of gamma-ray burst, illustrated here, a dying massive star forms a black hole (left), which drives a particle jet into space. Light across the spectrum arises from hot gas near the progenitor star, from collisions within the jet, and through the jet’s interaction with its surroundings.
    Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    New research by an international team that includes Penn State University scientists provides new information about what can happen inside the gigantic bursts of gamma rays that are produced by the catastrophic death of extremely massive stars — the most powerful explosions in the universe. The research has enabled the scientists to begin solving the mystery of whether these gamma ray bursts are the source of extremely high-energy cosmic rays and neutrinos that bombard Earth as astroparticles from space.

    The team’s achievement is based on their construction of some of the most sophisticated computational calculations ever that take into account detailed microphysical processes as well as the complex internal structure of gamma ray bursts. The team’s simulations show that emission of the different kinds of astroparticles should be a key to understanding the roles of gamma-ray bursts as extreme particle accelerators. The study also raises new questions that can be answered by next-generation telescopes for the detection of neutrinos and gamma rays. The research will be published online on April 10, 2015, in the journal Nature Communications.

    “Gamma ray bursts, the brightest explosive phenomena in the universe, are promising accelerators of very-high-energy particles, with energies much higher than those our current technology can achieve on the Earth,” said Kohta Murase, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, a coauthor of the Nature Communications paper along with other scientists from Penn State, Ohio State University, and the DESY national research center in Germany. “Prompt gamma rays are radiated from a relativistic jet, which shoots out into space at velocities that are about 99.9995 percent of the speed of light, leaving behind a newborn black hole or neutron star as a remnant of the massive explosion.”

    A gamma ray burst’s jets form when a dying massive star collapses, and powerful plasma streams penetrate their progenitor star through both of its poles. A good fraction of the jets’ energy is converted into energetic particles including gamma rays and neutrinos, which travel far out into space, sometimes for about ten billion light years before reaching Earth. With the new computer calculation built by the research team, the scientists have been able to model details of the production of the very-high-energy astroparticles inside the gamma ray burst’s jets.

    The scientists say that this new study is a natural outgrowth of recent findings in astroparticle physics, including the first confirmed cosmic neutrinos detected at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole in 2013. Penn State scientists contributed to this previous discovery.

    ICECUBE neutrino detector
    IceCube neutrino detector interior
    IceCube

    “Previously, the details of the inhomogeneity of the gamma ray burst jets were not too important in our models, and that was a totally valid assumption — up until IceCube saw the first cosmic neutrinos a couple of years ago,” said Mauricio Bustamante, a Fellow of the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics at Ohio State and a coauthor of the Nature Communications paper. “Now that we have seen them, we can start excluding some of our initial predictions, and we decided to go one step further and do this kind of analysis.”

    The scientists have developed clever techniques to treat the generation and fate of high-energy particles in detail. They wrote new computer code to take into account the shock waves that are likely to occur within the jets. They simulated what would happen when shells of plasma in the jets collided. And they calculated the particle production in each region. In this internal-shock model, some regions of the jet are denser than others, and some plasma shells travel faster than others — like a long highway where the cars are traveling at different speeds. In the gamma ray burst jets, however, the particles are traveling at close to the speed of light.

    When these plasma shells collide, they create debris consisting of energetic particles, plus turbulent magnetic fields. “The debris contains neutrinos, cosmic rays, and gamma rays, but, depending on where the collisions occurred, one of these typically will dominate the emission,” Bustamante said. The team’s new calculation shows that, in the internal-shock model, neutrinos largely originate from internal collisions that occur closest to the engine of the gamma ray burst, where the concentration of particles is higher; collisions that occur far away will mostly produce the gamma rays that we detect on Earth; and cosmic-ray protons are mostly released from collisions at intermediate distances from the engine.

    The research team’s findings support some ideas developed by Murase, who previously showed the importance of the innermost collisions for the emission of neutrinos. Murase and his collaborators also had suggested that heavier elements like oxygen and iron can be accelerated and emitted as extremely high-energy cosmic rays only if collisions occur sufficiently far away from the engine of the gamma ray burst. The team’s new calculation also implies that the amount of neutrinos that reach the Earth is below the detection threshold that can be achieved by today’s neutrino telescopes such as IceCube.

    “We have found a non-trivial new effect that was not shown in any previous work,” Murase said. “Since our predicted fluxes are more robust than previous expectations, our study enhances the feasibility of testing the hypothesis that extremely high-energy cosmic rays come from gamma ray bursts.” When the next generation of neutrino and gamma ray telescopes begin operating, astrophysicists can use this new calculation to refine notions of gamma ray bursts as particle accelerators, and to better understand the sources of extremely high-energy cosmic particles detected on Earth.

    In addition to Murase and Bustamante, other co-authors of the paper are Philipp Baerwald at Penn State and Walter Winter at DESY in Germany. This work was funded by NASA, the German Research Foundation, and the U.S. National Science Foundation.”

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Penn State Campus

    WHAT WE DO BEST

    We teach students that the real measure of success is what you do to improve the lives of others, and they learn to be hard-working leaders with a global perspective. We conduct research to improve lives. We add millions to the economy through projects in our state and beyond. We help communities by sharing our faculty expertise and research.

    Penn State lives close by no matter where you are. Our campuses are located from one side of Pennsylvania to the other. Through Penn State World Campus, students can take courses and work toward degrees online from anywhere on the globe that has Internet service.

    We support students in many ways, including advising and counseling services for school and life; diversity and inclusion services; social media sites; safety services; and emergency assistance.

    Our network of more than a half-million alumni is accessible to students when they want advice and to learn about job networking and mentor opportunities as well as what to expect in the future. Through our alumni, Penn State lives all over the world.

    The best part of Penn State is our people. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in communities near our campuses and across the globe are dedicated to education and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:39 pm on January 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Human Genome, Penn State   

    From Penn State: “Penn State and Geisinger announce new collaborative gene research project” 

    Penn State Bloc

    Pennsylvania State University

    January 16, 2015

    Marylyn Ritchie
    mdr23@psu.edu
    Home Phone:
    (814) 867-5973

    Barbara Kennedy
    science@psu.edu
    Work Phone:
    815-863-4682

    1
    Conceptual depiction of a DNA molecule with the letters ATCG representing the chemical components that make up DNA sequence and binary numbers (0/1) representing the computational requirements to analyze DNA sequence. Image: Jonathan Bailey, National Human Genome Research Institute

    Marylyn Ritchie, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of the Center for Systems Genomics in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State University, will lead a collaborative effort between Penn State and Geisinger Research to connect the genome data of 100,000 anonymous patients with their medical histories, in order to identify the genetic and environmental basis of human disease.

    This new program was developed to harness the data resources being generated through a large-scale DNA-sequencing project at Geisinger in collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, where at least 100,000 Geisinger patients will be sequenced over the next five years. In recognition of Richie’s key role in this groundbreaking effort, she was named the founding director of the new Biomedical and Translational Informatics Program of Geisinger Research.

    Ritchie noted that “This collaboration with Geisinger provides an enormous opportunity for faculty, graduate students and post docs across Penn State to engage in discovery that seeks to improve human health.” As part of her role as director, Ritchie will work to recruit additional researchers to build the new Geisinger program while continuing to promote collaborations between Geisinger and her Penn State colleagues. Ritchie said, “Geisinger has a unique and robust resource for big-data analysis and Penn State has phenomenal data-science researchers. It is a perfect combination.”

    Scott Selleck, head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State, stated “The union of genomics and computational biology expertise at Penn State with the large and rich data set made possible by the Geisinger-Regeneron collaboration is a powerful combination.”

    The collaborative project between Penn State and Geisinger is a natural extension of Dr. Ritchie’s work for the past 10 years. Doug Cavener, dean of the Eberly College of Science added, “the potential for discovery of genetic and environmental contributors to major diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological diseases of this research program is astounding and ultimately will lead to improvements in disease prevention and treatment.“

    Ritchie was recruited to Penn State in 2011 as part of a genomics and computational biology cluster hire that brought more than 30 faculty members to multiple colleges at Penn State. Ritchie is the lead investigator in coordinating the genomic data in the electronic medical records and genomics network of an initiative in this area, “eMERGE,” funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute. She also is a leader in the Statistical Analysis Resource (P-STAR) of the Pharmacogenomics Research Network. Her awards and honors include being named a Genome Technology Rising Young Investigator in 2006, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow for 2010, a KAVLI Frontiers of Science Fellow as nominated by the National Academy of Science for the past four years, and one of the Thomas-Reuters most highly cited researchers in 2014.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Penn State Campus

    WHAT WE DO BEST

    We teach students that the real measure of success is what you do to improve the lives of others, and they learn to be hard-working leaders with a global perspective. We conduct research to improve lives. We add millions to the economy through projects in our state and beyond. We help communities by sharing our faculty expertise and research.

    Penn State lives close by no matter where you are. Our campuses are located from one side of Pennsylvania to the other. Through Penn State World Campus, students can take courses and work toward degrees online from anywhere on the globe that has Internet service.

    We support students in many ways, including advising and counseling services for school and life; diversity and inclusion services; social media sites; safety services; and emergency assistance.

    Our network of more than a half-million alumni is accessible to students when they want advice and to learn about job networking and mentor opportunities as well as what to expect in the future. Through our alumni, Penn State lives all over the world.

    The best part of Penn State is our people. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in communities near our campuses and across the globe are dedicated to education and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:54 pm on January 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Penn State,   

    From Penn State: “Huge New Astronomy Database Now Available to the Public” 

    Penn State Bloc

    Pennsylvania State University

    January 8, 2015
    CONTACTS at Penn State:
    Niel Brandt 1-814-865-3509 wnb3@psu.edu
    Suvrath Mahadevan 1-814-865-0261 sqm107@psu.edu
    Donald Schneider 1-814-863-9554 dps7@psu.edu
    Penn State Public Information Officer: Barbara Kennedy 1-814-663-4682 science@psu.edu
    CONTACTS at SDSS:
    SDSS Director: Daniel Eisenstein, Harvard University, deisenstein@cfa.harvard.edu, 1-617-495-7530
    SDSS Spokesperson: Michael Woods-Vasey, University of Pittsburgh, wmwv@pitt.edu, 1-412-624-2751
    SDSS Press Officer: Jordan Raddick, SDSS-IV Public Information Officer, Johns Hopkins University, raddick@jhu.edu, 1-410-516-8889

    Penn State University astronomers are among the scientists of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) who this week are releasing to the public a massive collection of new information about the universe. “This set of observations is one of the largest astronomical databases ever assembled,” remarked Donald Schneider, Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State.


    This animated flight through the universe was made by Miguel Aragon of Johns Hopkins University with Mark Subbarao of the Adler Planetarium and Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins. There are close to 400,000 galaxies in the animation, with images of the actual galaxies in these positions (or in some cases their near cousins in type) derived from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Release 7. Vast as this slice of the universe seems, its most distant reach is to redshift 0.1, corresponding to roughly 1.3 billion light years from Earth. SDSS Data Release 9 from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), led by Berkeley Lab scientists, includes spectroscopic data for well over half a million galaxies at redshifts up to 0.8 — roughly 7 billion light years distant — and over a hundred thousand quasars to redshift 3.0 and beyond.

    1
    A still photo from an animated flythrough of the universe using SDSS data. This image shows our Milky Way Galaxy. The galaxy shape is an artist’s conception, and each of the small white dots is one of the hundreds of thousands of stars as seen by the SDSS. Image credits: Dana Berry / SkyWorks Digital, Inc. and Jonathan Bird (Vanderbilt University)

    Sloan Digital Sky Survey Telescope
    The telescope of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)

    “The more than 70 Terabytes we collected during the third epoch of this survey, SDSS-III, contain information on nearly half-a-billion stars and galaxies, including three-dimensional cosmic structures that formed billions of years before the Sun began to shine,” Schneider said. “This data release will undoubtedly form the basis for many future scientific investigations.” Schneider is the SDSS-III survey coordinator and the project’s scientific publication coordinator.

    “The most astonishing feature of the SDSS is the breadth of groundbreaking research it enables,” said SDSS-III Director Daniel Eisenstein of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “We’ve searched nearby stars for planets, probed the history of our Milky Way, and measured nine billion years of our universe’s accelerated expansion. Our data also provide the first direct probe of the expansion rate of the universe ten billion years ago.”

    Niel Brandt, Penn State’s Verne M. Willaman Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, is the SDSS-III leader of a number of projects investigating the properties of quasars, which are supermassive black holes that are devouring enormous amounts of matter, releasing amazing amounts energy in the process. “SDSS-III consists of four independent surveys,” he said. “The fields range from searches for planets around nearby stars, to the chemical and dynamical evolution of our galaxy, to the large-scale structure of our universe.”

    After a decade of design and construction, the SDSS team began mapping the cosmos in 1998, using the dedicated 2.5-meter Sloan Foundation Telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. Each phase of the project has used this telescope, which is equipped with a succession of powerful instruments, for a distinct set of astronomical surveys. SDSS-III started observations in July 2008 and completed its six-year, $45 million program in June 2014. The SDSS-III Collaboration includes 51 member institutions and one thousand scientists from around the world.

    2
    A still photo from an animated flythrough of the Universe using SDSS data. This image shows a small part of the large-scale structure of the Universe as seen by the SDSS – just a few of many millions of galaxies. The galaxies are shown in their proper positions from SDSS data. Image credit: Dana Berry / SkyWorks Digital, Inc.

    “One of the many innovations of SDSS-III was the construction of a high-resolution, infrared instrument that could examine the compositions and motions of hundreds of stars simultaneously,” said Penn State Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Suvrath Muhadevan. “This aspect of SDSS-III produced detailed measurements of over 100,000 stars in the Milky Way and already is providing new insights into the formation and evolution of our galactic home.” Mahadevan has been involved in a number of the SDSS-III investigations of planetary and stellar systems.

    “One of the most important decisions we made at the beginning of the SDSS was that we would release all of our data, so everyone could use it,” said Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins University, which developed the powerful online interfaces that most astronomers and many in the general public use to access the SDSS.

    The Sloan Survey has begun its fourth phase, SDSS-IV, and is continuing on a new six-year mission to study cosmology, galaxies, and the Milky Way. Penn State is an institutional member of SDSS-IV. Funding for SDSS-III has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The SDSS-III web site is http://www.sdss3.org .

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Penn State Campus

    WHAT WE DO BEST

    We teach students that the real measure of success is what you do to improve the lives of others, and they learn to be hard-working leaders with a global perspective. We conduct research to improve lives. We add millions to the economy through projects in our state and beyond. We help communities by sharing our faculty expertise and research.

    Penn State lives close by no matter where you are. Our campuses are located from one side of Pennsylvania to the other. Through Penn State World Campus, students can take courses and work toward degrees online from anywhere on the globe that has Internet service.

    We support students in many ways, including advising and counseling services for school and life; diversity and inclusion services; social media sites; safety services; and emergency assistance.

    Our network of more than a half-million alumni is accessible to students when they want advice and to learn about job networking and mentor opportunities as well as what to expect in the future. Through our alumni, Penn State lives all over the world.

    The best part of Penn State is our people. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in communities near our campuses and across the globe are dedicated to education and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

     
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