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  • richardmitnick 8:46 am on September 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Penn Today, , Xeuss 2.0 X-ray scattering instrument   

    From Penn Today: “Researchers think small to make progress towards better fuel cells” 


    From Penn Today

    September 13, 2019
    Erica K. Brockmeier
    Eric Sucar Photographer

    A collaborative study describes how fuel cells, which use chemical energy to power cars and devices, can be developed using nanomaterials to be more cost-effective and efficient in the long term.

    1
    Graduate student Jennifer Lee uses a large transmission electron microscope, housed in the Singh Center, to take a closer look at the nanomaterials and nanocrystals that are synthesized in the lab.

    As renewable sources such as wind and solar are quickly changing the energy landscape, scientists are looking for ways to better store energy for when it’s needed. Fuel cells, which convert chemical energy into electrical power, are one possible solution for long-term energy storage, and could someday be used to power trucks and cars without burning fuel. But before fuel cells can be widely used, chemists and engineers need to find ways to make this technology more cost-effective and stable.

    A new study from the lab of Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Christopher Murray, led by graduate student Jennifer Lee, shows how custom-designed nanomaterials can be used to address these challenges. In ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, researchers show how a fuel cell can be built from cheaper, more widely available metals using an atomic-level design that also gives the material long-term stability. Former post-doc Davit Jishkariani and former students Yingrui Zhao and Stan Najmr, current student Daniel Rosen, and professors James Kikkawa and Eric Stach, also contributed to this work.

    The chemical reaction that powers a fuel cell relies on two electrodes, a negative anode and a positive cathode, separated by an electrolyte, a substance that allows the ions to move. When fuel enters the anode, a catalyst separates molecules into protons and electrons, with the latter traveling toward the cathode and creating an electric current.

    Catalysts are typically made of precious metals, like platinum, but because the chemical reactions only occur on the surface of the material, any atoms that are not presented on the surface of the material are wasted. It’s also important for catalysts to be stable for months and years because fuel cells are very difficult to replace.

    Chemists can address these two problems by designing custom nanomaterials that have platinum at the surface while using more common metals, such as cobalt, in the bulk to provide stability. The Murray group excels at creating well-controlled nanomaterials, known as nanocrystals, in which they can control the size, shape, and composition of any composite nanomaterial.

    2
    When not busy at the microscope or analyzing data, researchers in the Murray group work on synthesizing new nanomaterials.

    In this study, Lee focused on the catalyst in the cathode of a specific type of fuel cell known as a proton exchange membrane fuel cell. “The cathode is more of a problem, because the materials are either platinum or platinum-based, which are expensive and have slower reaction rates,” she says. “Designing the catalyst for the cathode is the main focus of designing a good fuel cell.”

    The challenge, explains Jishkariani, was in creating a cathode in which platinum and cobalt atoms would form into a stable structure. “We know cobalt and platinum mixes well; however, if you make alloys of these two, you have added atoms of platinum and cobalt in a random order,” he says. Adding more cobalt in a random order causes it to leach out into the electrode, meaning that the fuel cell will only function for a short time.

    To solve this problem, researchers designed a catalyst made of layered platinum and cobalt known as an intermetallic phase. By controlling exactly where each atom sat in the catalyst and locking the structure in place, the cathode catalyst was able to work for longer periods than when the atoms were arranged randomly. As an additional unexpected finding, the researchers found that adding more cobalt to the system led to greater efficiency, with a 1-to-1 ratio of platinum to cobalt, better than many other structures with a wide range of platinum-to-cobalt ratios.

    The next step will be to test and evaluate the intermetallic material in fuel cell assemblies to make direct comparisons to commercially-available systems. The Murray group will also be working on new ways to create the intermetallic structure without high temperatures and seeing if adding additional atoms improve the catalyst’s performance.

    3
    The Xeuss 2.0 X-ray scattering instrument, which came to the LRSM in 2018, helps researchers characterize the structures of a wide range of hard and soft materials.

    This work required high-resolution microscopic imaging, work that Lee previously did at Brookhaven National Lab but, thanks to recent acquisitions, can now be done at Penn in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology. “Many of the high-end experiments that we would have had to travel to around the country, sometimes around the world, we can now do much closer to home,” says Murray. “The advances that we’ve brought in electron microscopy and X-ray scattering are a fantastic addition for people that work on energy conversion and catalytic studies.”

    Lee also experienced first-hand how chemistry research directly connects to real world challenges. She recently presented this work at the International Precious Metals Institute conference and says that meeting members of the precious-metals community was enlightening. “There are companies looking at fuel cell technology and talking about the newest design of the fuel cell cars,” she says. “You get to interact with people that think of your project from different perspectives.”

    Murray sees this fundamental research as a starting point towards commercial implementation and real world application, emphasizing that future progress relies on the forward-looking research that’s happening now. “Thinking about a world where we’ve displaced a lot of the traditional fossil fuel-based inputs, if we can figure out this interconversion of electrical and chemical energy, that will address a couple of very important problems simultaneously.”

    This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Technology Office. This research used resources of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program.


    BNL Center for Functional Nanomaterials

    Magnetic property measurements were supported by the National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Grant DMR-1720530.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Penn campus

    Academic life at Penn is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:18 pm on August 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "GRASP Lab’s high-flying robots", Autonomous airborne robots which can link together and work together to complete tasks and break apart., David Saldaña, From a remote computer Saldaña can send a command to eight robots simultaneously to perform a certain task., GRASP- General Robotics; Automation; Sensing Perception Laboratory, Penn Engineering Research and Collaboration Hub, Penn Today, , Saldaña also spends much of his time designing the shape and structure of the modular robots., The typical workflow for creating the modular robots is to create a mathematical model; write computer code; and run simulations before testing a new program out on actual drones.   

    From Penn Today: “GRASP Lab’s high-flying robots” 


    From Penn Today

    August 19, 2019

    Credits
    Gina Vitale Writer
    Eric Sucar Photographer

    Postdoctoral researcher David Saldaña is working on algorithms and designs for autonomous airborne robots which can link together, break apart, and work together to complete tasks.

    1
    David Saldaña, a postdoctoral researcher with the GRASP lab, works on flying robots that can self-assemble into specific structures or align themselves around an object to lift it up.

    In the Penn Engineering Research and Collaboration Hub, there is a wide-open space with high ceilings and a padded floor. All around it are aisles of soldering equipment, propped-up prototypes, and metal parts of many shapes and sizes. Nestled on the third floor of the looming Pennovation Center building in the Grays Ferry neighborhood, it’s the perfect venue for robotics research.

    This is where Saldaña, a member of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception (GRASP) Laboratory, and his collaborators in the School of Engineering and Applied Science perform test flights with some of his robots. Although the designs vary in size, the newest square prototype is about the size of a shoebox. Each can be remote controlled like most drones, but when he activates several of them at once, they autonomously come together in the air.

    From a remote computer, Saldaña can send a command to eight robots simultaneously to perform a certain task such as getting into a formation of four across, two wide. The robots rise, communicate with each other to determine their spots in the two rows, align, and snap together using the magnets on their corners. When he tells them to disassemble, one coupling at a time, they break apart by angling down in opposite directions similar to a pencil being snapped in half.

    3
    The typical workflow for creating the modular robots is to create a mathematical model, write computer code, and run simulations before testing a new program out on actual drones. Saldaña also spends much of his time designing the shape and structure of the modular robots.

    If you ask Saldaña, there are a lot of problems that can be solved by robots. With a little more honing, robots like this could have major real-world applications. Saldaña uses the example of a remote area where a bridge has collapsed, leaving people stranded during a natural disaster. These robots, which are small and easy to transport, could self-assemble and hover where the bridge used to stand, providing a pathway for stranded people to safely cross.

    One of the reasons this isn’t already common practice is because autonomous control of robots is a hard task in obstacle-filled environments like the outdoors. Operating hundreds of them in those situations is no small challenge.

    “Autonomous control of a single robot is difficult,” he says. “Somebody’s going to hit the robot. It has to avoid obstacles. Simple tasks, like moving from point A to point B, can be very complicated if you do it in a forest. So that’s for a single robot, but now when you have 100 robots, the things become even more complicated. The problem is even harder. And that’s what we tried to solve here.”

    3
    Some examples of the prototypes made and tested by the ModLab.

    Another part of the challenge is making sure the robots are communicating sufficiently with each other. Because they don’t have predetermined positions for a given formation, they must figure out which unit can go in each spot based on current position. Then, once together, they must move smoothly as a single unit.

    “It’s like when you walk with someone, and you are holding on to the other person. It’s not that easy to walk,” Saldaña says. “That’s the same with these robots. Now one robot is holding the other, and if they don’t coordinate, they crash.”

    Looking to the future, Saldaña says another application could be for package delivery. Delivery drones grasp objects with a mechanical claw-like mechanism, but with the way Saldaña’s robots work, the robots can both grasp and lift the object by forming a shell around it and rising upwards.

    Saldaña shows how four of these robots fly down to a coffee cup on the floor and arrange themselves in a diamond pattern around it, touching each other only at their magnetized edges. When they are formed closely enough that the lip of the coffee cup extends just over the top of them, they gently rise, lifting the coffee cup and transporting it to a preprogrammed destination.

    5

    “We can also transport soda, beers, depending on what you want,” Saldaña jokes. Right now, the prototypes haven’t yet moved beyond lifting small beverage cups. But as their designs are continually refined, there is potential for lifting even bigger objects.

    With a number of scientific publications under his belt, including his most recent work published in Robotics and Automation Letters, Saldaña emphasizes the collaborative nature of his project, with support from his advisors Vijay Kumar and Mark Yim, along with the ModLab and the many graduate students he’s worked with during his two years at Penn.

    “David’s work is a great example of what the GRASP Lab and Penn Engineering is all about,” says Kumar, the dean of Penn Engineering. “When you bring people with lots of different ideas and skills together, that’s where real innovation occurs.”

    In his time as a post-doctoral researcher, Saldaña has made the flying robots smaller and more efficient through several iterations. This fall, as he leaves to accept a position at Lehigh University, he hopes to continue to collaborate with GRASP, now as an alumni.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Penn campus

    Academic life at Penn is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:15 am on July 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Bioengineers shed light on folding genomes", , “3D Epigenetics”, , , Penn Today   

    From Penn Today: “Bioengineers shed light on folding genomes” 


    From Penn Today

    July 18, 2019

    A light-triggered technique that allows genomes to be folded into specific configurations at high speeds has potential to advance the field of 3D epigenetics.

    1

    The genome is identical in every cell of the body. However, this tightly-packed genetic material isn’t always folded into the same shape in each cell. The folding pattern can lead to variations in which genes are activated to make proteins.

    A genome can be thought of as a beaded string, with each bead representing a gene. Reporting in Nature Methods, Jennifer Phillips-Cremins, an assistant professor in Penn Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering, led a team in using light to force both ends of that string together, folding it into specific shapes so that certain genes are in direct physical contact with each other. By controlling which genes are touching, Phillips-Cremins and colleagues hope to determine how different configurations lead to different combinations of genes that are expressed in the body.

    This field of genomic shape manipulation is known as “3D Epigenetics,” and Phillips-Cremins is one of the researchers at its forefront. Her team’s light-triggered folding method, known as light-activated dynamic looping (LADL), can fold genomes into specific loops in a matter of hours. The loops are temporary and can be easily undone. Since prior research from the Phillips-Cremins lab indicates that these looping mechanisms may play a role in some neurodevelopmental diseases, this speedy new folding tool may one day be of use in further research or even treatments.

    “It is critical to understand the genome structure-function relationship on short timescales because the spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression is essential to faithful human development and because the mis-expression of genes often goes wrong in human disease,” Phillips-Cremins says. “The engineering of genome topology with light opens up new possibilities to understanding the cause-and-effect of this relationship. Moreover we anticipate that, over the long term, the use of light will allow us to target specific human tissues and even to control looping in specific neuron subtypes in the brain.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Penn campus

    Academic life at Penn is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:32 pm on April 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Penn Today, ,   

    From Penn Today: “Making sense of string theory” 


    From Penn Today

    April 25, 2019
    Erica K. Brockmeier

    1

    A Q&A with theoretical physicists Mirjam Cvetic, Ling Lin, and Muyang Liu about what string theory is and how their recent discovery of a “quadrillion solutions” might change the course of the field.

    Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity provided physicists with both an improved understanding of gravity as well as new, unanswered questions. While it was groundbreaking, it wasn’t able to describe gravity as a consistent quantum theory, or one that successfully describes all of the forces of nature. To this day, Einstein’s dream of linking gravity with electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces into a single framework has yet to be realized.

    Two scientists later proposed an idea where gravity and electromagnetism could emerge from the same theoretical approach, but only with additional dimensions in the equations. While their theory was too simple to completely describe the universe, their idea of the “compactification” of dimensions eventually became the foundation of string theory research.

    Physicists at Penn have published a paper with a “quadrillion” string theory solutions that each describes a hypothetical universe with the same particles and fundamental forces as our own.

    Penn Today sat down with co-authors Mirjam Cvetic, Ling Lin, and Muyang Liu to learn more about what these solutions mean, how physicists use tiny strings to explain physical phenomena, and how the field of theoretical physics will progress in the future.

    What, broadly speaking, is string theory, and how did this theory come about?

    Cvetic: In understanding how nature works, we want to understand the origin of fundamental forces of nature. And in this context we explain particle physics in terms of quantum mechanical phenomena. Elementary particle physics is consistent with quantum mechanics, but we also have gravity theory that we want to describe in terms of quantum phenomena, and that’s where things get hard.

    Lin: It’s like the people who invented gravity had a different language than people who invented quantum mechanics.

    Cvetic: That’s the main motivation of string theory: Originally intended as a description of the strong nuclear force, people realized that it allows for a quantum description of gravity. The way we identify quantum particles in string theory, including quantum particles of gravity, is by vibrations, excitations of tiny strings. String theory as a consistent quantum theory does not live in three spatial/one time dimensions, but in 10 dimensions. So we are dealing with the idea of compactifying six extra dimensions, namely, shrinking them to small sizes. While unobservable to us, these dimensions can still be probed by the microscopic strings and affect how they behave.

    But there is a byproduct here: The shrinking of extra dimensions allows us to start describing particle physics. We observe not only the quantum particle of gravity but also the quantum particle of, say, electromagnetic interactions, which we call a photon.

    In some ways you say, “Oh gosh, extra dimensions, that’s trouble,” but these extra dimensions also naturally produce types of interactions in four dimensions other than gravity, which we did not ask for in the beginning. Depending on the geometric shapes of the extra dimensions, we may identify these interactions with other forces of nature, like electromagnetism and nuclear forces.

    In our current understanding, these forces are described by the so-called standard model of particle physics, but this does not include gravity. And that’s where string theory becomes an interesting field of research.

    What are the challenges of finally realizing Einstein’s dream of unifying the other forces with gravity?

    Lin: If you think about music, it’s like someone invented the notation, but what we actually observe in an experiment is a particular piece. The problem is that we don’t have a good system that allows us to write down what we observe in experiments, or, to use that same analogy, what we listen to in a concert hall, using the system we have.

    It’s like our sheet music can distinguish between half-tone steps, but there is other music that has finer intonational increments. So our current sheet music will never be able to capture that, and, if there’s a particular piece that has these kinds of changes, how do we capture these things?

    String theory is trying to propose a new system of writing down music, a new system of writing down theories of quantum gravity. But it’s not just a system to write down what we know for our world because we don’t even know all the features that are worth writing down.

    We have a few hints what specific features our system needs to provide, and what we are trying to do is explore more technical things, like do these kinds of mathematical tools actually help us in capturing features of the standard model.

    Your paper relied on methods from the F-theory branch of string theory. What are the benefits of this approach, and what does having a quadrillion solutions really mean?

    Cvetic: The beautiful thing about this regime of string theory is that we can describe its properties in terms of geometry: The shape of this additional compact space, how singular it is, how it determines properties of the particles in three space/one time dimension. So for certain properties, in particular to get the standard model particles out, the power of geometry helped us uncover examples where we can match it to the music of the standard model.

    Lin: The quadrillion solutions are related to the question of how special is our universe, the standard model and the particle physics phenomena that we observe, in what we call the string landscape. From a particle physics perspective, people think that, if I change certain parameters of the standard model, our world would be very drastically different, so it is special in some sense.

    In string theory we have this nice feature that everything comes in discrete numbers, so we can count how many solutions there are. What we show is that, yes, the standard model is special, but within string theory it has the potential to be realized in many different ways.

    What are the challenges of your work, and where do you go next?

    Cvetic: For consistency, the constructions from string theory rely on something called supersymmetry. We include supersymmetry because it’s a technical tool we need for deriving these properties, but it can be broken at large energies. This is an important issue because people would like to match, in all details, our constructions to experimental constraints where we don’t observe supersymmetry at low energies, so we would be required to address those things in more details.

    Lin: That’s one of the conceptual problems of string theory. If someone builds a new detector and finds these additional particles, associated with supersymmetry, at some higher energies than what we are currently reaching in experiments, that would be an advance on the experimental side which could help us a lot. On the other hand, not observing supersymmetry in the near future does not mean that string theory is wrong. It just means that we need to develop new frameworks and methods to improve our toolkit.

    In terms of what to do with these quadrillion examples, these are not just something to be put in a museum, but you can actually use these examples to test new conceptual frameworks and computational methods in string theory. Somebody else will maybe have some ideas, for example, how to break supersymmetry, and now that we have this huge ensemble to explore these ideas, and it’s so large that you could even think about using big data techniques.

    It’s like you produce a bunch of cars, and, even if you just smash them into a wall to test if your airbags are working, they are still providing some usefulness.

    What continues to excite you and inspire you about this area of research?

    Cvetic: I think one of the strengths of the Penn effort is that we ask questions from theory that are relevant to our colleagues in experimental high energy physics. So on one side, the questions we are asking are questions related to things that high energy experimentalists are testing in colliders, and on the other hand we are using techniques of formal string theory that tie us closely to our math department colleagues.

    Lin: What I find interesting about what we do, and more broadly what string theory provides, is the idea of dual descriptions for the same phenomena that suddenly makes certain aspects much easier to grasp. There have been these sorts of ideas floating around in theoretical physics, but it’s string theory that has made this notion of dualities much more present. These ideas have, for example, influenced works in condensed matter which have no immediate connection to string theory.

    And if one thinks from the mathematician’s perspective, what’s also very intriguing is that suddenly, after centuries where mathematicians provided tools for physicists, we’re now at a stage where we can use our intuition to tell mathematicians what to do. That’s unprecedented throughout the history of science, that physics is now guiding math.

    Liu: This interplay between physics and math is particularly fascinating to me in F-theory. The powerful dictionary between concepts in fundamental theoretical physics and beautiful abstract math allows us to translate many demanding questions that intrigue physicists into solvable questions in geometry. Conversely, our physical intuition can uncover novel theorems which are tough to prove under pure mathematical circumstances.

    Cvetic: I think F-theory is amazing. But to understand on a deeper level it’s like uncovering something beyond quantum gravity or beyond string theory. I think that, specifically, the important role of geometry in string theory and more generally in theoretical physics, has led to tremendous conceptual progress, and we may be just scratching the tip of the iceberg of some of these fundamental ideas.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Penn campus

    Academic life at Penn is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:40 pm on April 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Penn Today, Planets 9 and maybe 10 and maybe more   

    From Penn Today: “The search for Planet 9, 10, and beyond” 

    From Penn Today

    April 11, 2019
    Erica K. Brockmeier

    Planetary scientists and cosmologists at Penn work together to find planets that might be hiding in the far reaches of the solar system.

    2
    Artist’s impression of Planet Nine, depicted as a dark sphere with the Milky Way in the background. Neptune’s orbit is shown as a small ellipse around the Sun. The sky view and appearance are based on the conjectures of Planet Nine’s co-proposer, Mike Brown (Image: Tom Ruen).

    Students learning about the solar system might use the mnemonic “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos” to remember the order of the planets—much to the chagrin of those who were served “Nine Pizzas” before Pluto lost planet status in 2006. And, while astronomers found evidence in 2015 that there might be planets beyond Neptune, efforts to confirm the existence of Planet Nine and, more recently Planet Ten, have yet to find anything conclusive.

    Researchers at Penn hosted a first-of-its-kind workshop by bringing together experts in planetary science and cosmology to develop a strategy for finding new planets and studying objects in the outer reaches of the solar system. Cullen Blake and Bhuvnesh Jain hosted the two-day workshop, which featured presentations from field-leading experts, including Penn researchers Gary Bernstein; Pedro Bernardinelli, a graduate student working with Bernstein; and researcher Eric Baxter.

    The challenge with finding a planet-sized needle in a cosmic haystack is that there’s a lot of sky to search with only a limited number of surveys, equipment, and time. Planet Nine “is faint, and the problem is that you have to scan the whole sky and you have to see it move,” says Blake. “There’s a lot of sky to observe, and we don’t really have a single facility to look for it.”

    By studying and finding new trans-Neptunian objects, pieces of rock and ice that are found in a region beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper belt, researchers can gain insights into how the solar system formed, a fundamental question that astronomers are still trying to answer.

    Combining different types of surveys could help astronomers find planets beyond Neptune. Cosmic microwave background (CMB) surveys, for example, can be used to determine the age and composition of distant materials, while optical surveys can spot moving objects as they pass in front of stars as well as measuring the movement itself.

    CMB per ESA/Planck

    ESA/Planck 2009 to 2013

    The problem is that the data collected from CMB and optical surveys aren’t easy to analyze together.

    A white paper, which was led by researchers at Penn, provides guidance on how to combine survey data, and was a starting point for discussions between more than 20 researchers with expertise in CMB and optical surveys and planetary science. “Penn is a very special place for this topic,” says Jain. “We have very strong representation of the two types of datasets of CMB and optical surveys, experts in planetary astronomy, and real interactions between researchers in these diverse fields.”

    At the workshop, researchers delved into the data which show abnormal orbits of several trans-Neptunian objects and discussed how the existence of additional planets was the best hypothesis for this phenomenon.

    Many were excited about the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and its ability to detect planets 9 and 10. LSST is an optical survey that will be able to detect a single Earth-mass planet as far away as 1000 astronomical units, or 1,000 times the distance between Earth and the sun.

    LSST


    LSST Camera, built at SLAC



    LSST telescope, currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.


    LSST Data Journey, Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    Workshop participants also talked about how to use other surveys including WFIRST, Euclid, TAOS, the South Pole Telescope, the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, SPHEREx, and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

    NASA/WFIRST

    ESA/Euclid spacecraft

    TAOS Taiwanese–American Occultation Survey at the Lulin Observatory in Yushan National Park in Taiwan, Altitude 3,952m (12,966 ft)

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL. The SPT collaboration is made up of over a dozen (mostly North American) institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of California, Berkeley, Case Western Reserve University, Harvard/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the University of Colorado Boulder, McGill University, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California, Davis, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. It is funded by the National Science Foundation. Altitude 2.8 km (9,200 ft)

    LBL The Simons Array in the Atacama in Chile, with the 6 meter Atacama Cosmology Telescope

    NASA’s SPHEREx Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer depiction

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets

    Gil Holder, a co-author of the white paper, and Baxter both discussed how to use CMB surveys to find planets. They noted that the thermal “glow” of distant planets peaks near the microwave band that is targeted by CMB surveys. Many agreed that CMB surveys would be useful for spotting potential planets which could then be validated using optical data.

    Researchers discussed the technical and the computational hurdles of trying to combine CMB and optical data. Bernardinelli, an optical astronomer who collaborates with CMB researchers like Mark Devlin and John Orlowski-Scherer, says these discussions were fruitful. “It helped me to understand the challenges, both on the optical side and on the CMB side,” he says.

    The workshop concluded with a presentation by Bernardinelli on a Penn-led project using data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES) to search for objects in the Kuiper belt, where Bernardinelli and his collaborators have so far found more than 250 new trans-Neptunian objects, roughly 10 percent of all known distant solar system objects.

    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

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    Now that data collection is complete, a final analysis of the complete dataset will mean more chances to find new objects, including new planets.

    While there’s no concrete evidence of Planet 9 or 10 yet, finding new objects in the Kuiper belt is still exciting. “It’s actually more scientifically useful,” says Masao Sako. “We can study things like the distribution of the orbital elements because the way that they are distributed tells us things about the formation and history of the solar system.” And after the New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule earlier this year, the ability to track small, distant objects is becoming increasingly important for missions across the sky and on the ground.

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft annotated

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Penn campus

    Academic life at Penn is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

     
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