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  • richardmitnick 9:13 pm on October 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Nature of unknown gamma-ray sources revealed", , , , , Gamma-ray Astronomy, , phys.org, , ,   

    From Xinglong Observatory [兴隆观测站] (CN) via phys.org : “Nature of unknown gamma-ray sources revealed” 

    LAMOST telescope located in Xinglong Station, Hebei Province, China, Altitude 960 m (3,150 ft).

    From Xinglong Observatory [兴隆观测站] (CN)

    Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院] (CN)

    via

    phys.org

    October 11, 2021
    Li Yuan, Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院] (CN)

    1
    Fig. 1 Artistic representation of an active galaxy jet. Credit: M. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte](EU)(CL).

    An international team of astronomers has unveiled the nature of hundreds of gamma-ray emitting sources, discovering that most of them belong to the class of active galaxies known as blazars.

    Their recent study was published in The Astronomical Journal.

    One of the most intriguing challenges in modern gamma-ray astronomy is searching for low-energy counterparts of unidentified gamma-ray sources. Unidentified sources constitute about 1/3 of all celestial objects detected by the Fermi satellite to date, the most recent gamma-ray mission with unprecedented capabilities for observing the high energy sky.

    Since the largest population of known gamma-ray sources are blazars, astronomers believe they can also classify most unidentified gamma-ray sources as blazars. However, they can completely understand their nature only by observing blazar candidates at visible frequencies.

    Blazars are extremely rare, black hole-powered galaxies. They host a supermassive black hole in their central regions that sweep out matter at almost the speed of light in the form of a powerful jet pointing towards the Earth. Particles accelerated in these jets can emit light up to the most energetic gamma-rays, thus being visible by instruments onboard the Fermi satellite.

    2
    Fig. 2 Example of the completely featureless optical spectrum of the BL Lac known as J065046.49+250259.6. Credit: Harold A. Peña Herazo.

    The team, led by Dr. Harold Peña Herazo from The National Institute for Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics(MX), analyzed hundreds of optical spectra collected by the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fabre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) at the Xinglong Station in China [above].

    LAMOST is hosted by The National Astronomical Observatories of China [ 国家天文台] at Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院](CN). It provided a unique opportunity to unveil the nature of blazar-like sources that can potentially be counterparts of unidentified gamma-ray sources.

    From the list of sources discovered by the Fermi satellite, the researchers selected a sample of Blazar Candidates of Uncertain type (BCUs), which share several properties in common with blazars. However, optical spectroscopic observations are necessary to determine their proper classification and confirm their nature.

    Using spectroscopic data available in the LAMOST archive, the researchers were able to classify tens of BCUs as blazars. “LAMOST data also permitted verifying the nature of hundreds of additional blazars by searching for emission or absorption lines used to determine their cosmological distances,” said Prof. GU Minfeng from The Shanghai Astronomical Observatory [上海天文台]Chinese Academy of Sciences [上海天文台](CN).

    The vast majority of sources belong to the blazar class known as BL Lac objects and have a completely featureless optical spectrum. This makes measuring their cosmological distances an extremely challenging task. However, thanks to the LAMOST observations, a few more of them have luckily revealed visible signatures in their optical spectra.

    “Our analysis showed great potential for the LAMOST survey and allowed us to discover a few changing-look blazars,” said Dr. Peña Herazo, currently a postdoctoral fellow at The East Asian Observatory – Hilo, Hawaii(US).

    “It is worth noting that the possibility of using LAMOST observations to estimate blazar cosmological distances is critical to studying this population, its cosmological evolution, the imprint in the extragalactic gamma-ray background light in the gamma-ray spectra, and the blazar contribution to the extragalactic gamma-ray background,” said Prof. Francesco Massaro from the University of Turin.

    “I started working on this optical campaign and analyzing spectroscopic data in 2015, and nowadays, thanks to the observations available in LAMOST archive, we certainly made a significant step toward the identification of gamma-ray sources with blazars. Future perspectives achievable thanks to LAMOST datasets will definitively reveal the nature of hundreds of new blazars in the years to come,” commented Dr. Federica Ricci at The University of Bologna [Alma mater studiorum – Università di Bologna](IT) and INAF-Institute for Radio Astronomy of Bologna [Istituto di Radioastronomia di Bologna](IT).

    The group’s previous study was also published in The Astronomical Journal.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Xinglong Observatory [兴隆观测站] (CN) of the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) (IAU code: 327, coordinates: 40°23′39′′ N, 117°34′30′′ E) was founded in 1968. At present, it is one of most primary observing stations of NAOC. As the largest optical astronomical observatory site in the continent of Asia, it has 9 telescopes with effective aperture larger than 50 cm. These are the Guo Shoujing Telescope, also called the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), the 2.16-m Telescope, a 1.26-m optical & near-infrared telescope, a 1-m Alt-Az telescope, an 85-cm telescope (NAOC-Beijing Normal University [北京師範大學](CN) Telescope, NBT), an 80-cm telescope (Tsinghua University [清华大学](CN)-NAOC Telescope, TNT), a 60-cm telescope, a 50-cm telescope and a 60/90-cm Schmidt telescope.

    The average altitude of the Xinglong Observatory is about 900 m. The Xinglong Observatory is located at the south of the main peak of the Yanshan Mountains, in the Xinglong County, Hebei Province, which lies about 120 km (about 2 hours’ drive) to the northeast of Beijing. A shuttle bus runs between NAOC campus and Xinglong Observatory every Tuesday and Friday. The mean and media seeing values of the Xinglong Observatory are 1.9′′ and 1.7′′, respectively. On average, there are 117 photometric nights and 230 observable nights per year based on the data of 2007-2014. Most of the time, the wind speed is less than 4 m/s (the mean value is 2 m/s), and the sky brightness is about 21.1 mag arcsec2 in V band at the zenith.

    Each year, more than a hundred astronomers use the telescopes of the Xinglong Observatory to perform the observations for the studies on Galactic sciences (stellar parameters, extinction measurements, Galactic structures, exoplanets, etc.) and extragalactic sciences (including nearby galaxies, AGNs, high-redshift quasars), as well as time-domain astronomy (supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, stellar tidal disruption events, and different types of variable stars). In recent years, besides the basic daily maintenance of the telescopes, new techniques and methods have been explored by the engineers and technicians of the Xinglong Observatory to improve the efficiency of observations. Meanwhile, the Xinglong Observatory is also a National populscience and education base of China for training students from graduate schools, colleges, high schools and other education institutes throughout China, and it has hosted a number of international workshops and summer schools.

    The Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院] (CN) is the linchpin of China’s drive to explore and harness high technology and the natural sciences for the benefit of China and the world. Comprising a comprehensive research and development network, a merit-based learned society and a system of higher education, CAS brings together scientists and engineers from China and around the world to address both theoretical and applied problems using world-class scientific and management approaches.

    Since its founding, CAS has fulfilled multiple roles — as a national team and a locomotive driving national technological innovation, a pioneer in supporting nationwide S&T development, a think tank delivering S&T advice and a community for training young S&T talent.

    Now, as it responds to a nationwide call to put innovation at the heart of China’s development, CAS has further defined its development strategy by emphasizing greater reliance on democratic management, openness and talent in the promotion of innovative research. With the adoption of its Innovation 2020 programme in 2011, the academy has committed to delivering breakthrough science and technology, higher caliber talent and superior scientific advice. As part of the programme, CAS has also requested that each of its institutes define its “strategic niche” — based on an overall analysis of the scientific progress and trends in their own fields both in China and abroad — in order to deploy resources more efficiently and innovate more collectively.

    As it builds on its proud record, CAS aims for a bright future as one of the world’s top S&T research and development organizations.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:13 pm on October 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "B-mode polarization", "Latest results from cosmic microwave background measurements", , phys.org, The BICEP3 telescope located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica.   

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) via phys.org : “Latest results from cosmic microwave background measurements” 

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US)

    via

    phys.org

    October 8, 2021
    Steffen Richter

    1
    The BICEP3 telescope located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. (The metal skirt around the telescope shields it from reflected light from the surrounding ice.) New results analyzing BICEP3 data together with earlier data and the datasets from space missions have improved previous constraints on the kinds of models of inflation that could describe the earliest moments of the universe. Credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    The universe was created about 13.8 billion years ago in a blaze of light: the big bang. Roughly 380,000 years later, after matter (mostly hydrogen) had cooled enough for neutral atoms to form, light was able to traverse space freely. That light, the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, comes to us from every direction in the sky uniformly … or so it first seemed.

    In the last decades astronomers have discovered that the radiation has faint ripples and bumps in it at a level of brightness of only a part in one hundred thousand—the seeds for future structures, like galaxies.

    Astronomers have conjectured that these ripples also contain traces of an initial burst of expansion—the so-called inflation—which swelled the new universe by thirty-three orders of magnitude in a mere ten-to-the-power-minus-33 seconds. Clues about the inflation should be faintly present in the way the cosmic ripples are curled, an effect due to gravitational waves in cosmic infancy that is expected to be perhaps one hundred times or more fainter than the ripples themselves.

    The curling effect produces patterns in the light known as “B-mode polarization,” and it is expected to be exceedingly faint. Other exotic processes are at work in the universe to make this daunting measurement even more challenging. The principal one is the faint glow of light from dust particles in our galaxy that have been aligned by magnetic fields. This light is also polarized and can be twisted by magnetic fields to produce B-mode polarization patterns. Radio waves from our galaxy can produce similar effects. About six years ago, CfA astronomers working at the South Pole reported the first evidence for such curling, “B-mode polarization,” at levels consistent with simple models of inflation, but subsequent measurements at different frequencies (or colors) of microwave light revealed the signal to be explainable by galactic dust.

    In the years since those first measurements of B-mode polarization astronomers have continued their meticulous observations, adding powerful data from new telescopes at many different frequencies operating at the South Pole. CfA astronomers D. Barkats, H. Boenish, J. Connors, J. Cornelison, M. Dierickx, M. Eiben, D.C. Goldfinger, P. Grimes, S. Harrison, K.S. Karkare, J. M. Kovac, B. Racine, S. Richter, B.L. Schmitt, T. St. Germaine, C. Verges, C.L. Wong, L. Zeng and a large team of colleagues have just completed an analysis of all the data from the South Pole experiments BICEP2, Keck Array, and BICEP3 through 2018, and correlate the results with results from the CMB space missions Planck and WMAP.

    (Although data collection for those missions ended in 2013 and 2010, respectively, the data processing continues and the scientists used the 2018 release.) The new results improve the previous best constraints on curling by about a factor of two, and now provide powerful guidance on the kinds of models of inflation that could describe the earliest moments of the universe.

    A broad class of simple models is now largely ruled out. The team reports that the most favored of the remaining class of models predict primordial gravitational waves at levels that should be detected (or ruled out) within the next decade with upgraded telescopes at the South Pole. The team is already in the process of upgrading the BICEP system and expects to gain another factor of about three improvements within five years, enough to set tight constraints to inflationary models.

    The research was published in Physical Review Letters.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory(US) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory(US) under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory(US) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution(US), founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory, founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University(US), and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

    Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the CfA leads a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, Earth and space sciences, as well as science education. The CfA either leads or participates in the development and operations of more than fifteen ground- and space-based astronomical research observatories across the electromagnetic spectrum, including the forthcoming Giant Magellan Telescope(CL) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory(US), one of NASA’s Great Observatories.

    Hosting more than 850 scientists, engineers, and support staff, the CfA is among the largest astronomical research institutes in the world. Its projects have included Nobel Prize-winning advances in cosmology and high energy astrophysics, the discovery of many exoplanets, and the first image of a black hole. The CfA also serves a major role in the global astrophysics research community: the CfA’s Astrophysics Data System(ADS)(US), for example, has been universally adopted as the world’s online database of astronomy and physics papers. Known for most of its history as the “Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics”, the CfA rebranded in 2018 to its current name in an effort to reflect its unique status as a joint collaboration between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. The CfA’s current Director (since 2004) is Charles R. Alcock, who succeeds Irwin I. Shapiro (Director from 1982 to 2004) and George B. Field (Director from 1973 to 1982).

    The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian is not formally an independent legal organization, but rather an institutional entity operated under a Memorandum of Understanding between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. This collaboration was formalized on July 1, 1973, with the goal of coordinating the related research activities of the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) under the leadership of a single Director, and housed within the same complex of buildings on the Harvard campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The CfA’s history is therefore also that of the two fully independent organizations that comprise it. With a combined lifetime of more than 300 years, HCO and SAO have been host to major milestones in astronomical history that predate the CfA’s founding.

    History of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO)

    Samuel Pierpont Langley, the third Secretary of the Smithsonian, founded the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory on the south yard of the Smithsonian Castle (on the U.S. National Mall) on March 1,1890. The Astrophysical Observatory’s initial, primary purpose was to “record the amount and character of the Sun’s heat”. Charles Greeley Abbot was named SAO’s first director, and the observatory operated solar telescopes to take daily measurements of the Sun’s intensity in different regions of the optical electromagnetic spectrum. In doing so, the observatory enabled Abbot to make critical refinements to the Solar constant, as well as to serendipitously discover Solar variability. It is likely that SAO’s early history as a solar observatory was part of the inspiration behind the Smithsonian’s “sunburst” logo, designed in 1965 by Crimilda Pontes.

    In 1955, the scientific headquarters of SAO moved from Washington, D.C. to Cambridge, Massachusetts to affiliate with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO). Fred Lawrence Whipple, then the chairman of the Harvard Astronomy Department, was named the new director of SAO. The collaborative relationship between SAO and HCO therefore predates the official creation of the CfA by 18 years. SAO’s move to Harvard’s campus also resulted in a rapid expansion of its research program. Following the launch of Sputnik (the world’s first human-made satellite) in 1957, SAO accepted a national challenge to create a worldwide satellite-tracking network, collaborating with the United States Air Force on Project Space Track.

    With the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US) the following year and throughout the space race, SAO led major efforts in the development of orbiting observatories and large ground-based telescopes, laboratory and theoretical astrophysics, as well as the application of computers to astrophysical problems.

    History of Harvard College Observatory (HCO)

    Partly in response to renewed public interest in astronomy following the 1835 return of Halley’s Comet, the Harvard College Observatory was founded in 1839, when the Harvard Corporation appointed William Cranch Bond as an “Astronomical Observer to the University”. For its first four years of operation, the observatory was situated at the Dana-Palmer House (where Bond also resided) near Harvard Yard, and consisted of little more than three small telescopes and an astronomical clock. In his 1840 book recounting the history of the college, then Harvard President Josiah Quincy III noted that “…there is wanted a reflecting telescope equatorially mounted…”. This telescope, the 15-inch “Great Refractor”, opened seven years later (in 1847) at the top of Observatory Hill in Cambridge (where it still exists today, housed in the oldest of the CfA’s complex of buildings). The telescope was the largest in the United States from 1847 until 1867. William Bond and pioneer photographer John Adams Whipple used the Great Refractor to produce the first clear Daguerrotypes of the Moon (winning them an award at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London). Bond and his son, George Phillips Bond (the second Director of HCO), used it to discover Saturn’s 8th moon, Hyperion (which was also independently discovered by William Lassell).

    Under the directorship of Edward Charles Pickering from 1877 to 1919, the observatory became the world’s major producer of stellar spectra and magnitudes, established an observing station in Peru, and applied mass-production methods to the analysis of data. It was during this time that HCO became host to a series of major discoveries in astronomical history, powered by the Observatory’s so-called “Computers” (women hired by Pickering as skilled workers to process astronomical data). These “Computers” included Williamina Fleming; Annie Jump Cannon; Henrietta Swan Leavitt; Florence Cushman; and Antonia Maury, all widely recognized today as major figures in scientific history. Henrietta Swan Leavitt, for example, discovered the so-called period-luminosity relation for Classical Cepheid variable stars, establishing the first major “standard candle” with which to measure the distance to galaxies. Now called “Leavitt’s Law”, the discovery is regarded as one of the most foundational and important in the history of astronomy; astronomers like Edwin Hubble, for example, would later use Leavitt’s Law to establish that the Universe is expanding, the primary piece of evidence for the Big Bang model.

    Upon Pickering’s retirement in 1921, the Directorship of HCO fell to Harlow Shapley (a major participant in the so-called “Great Debate” of 1920). This era of the observatory was made famous by the work of Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin, who became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy from Radcliffe College (a short walk from the Observatory). Payne-Gapochkin’s 1925 thesis proposed that stars were composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, an idea thought ridiculous at the time. Between Shapley’s tenure and the formation of the CfA, the observatory was directed by Donald H. Menzel and then Leo Goldberg, both of whom maintained widely recognized programs in solar and stellar astrophysics. Menzel played a major role in encouraging the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to move to Cambridge and collaborate more closely with HCO.

    Joint history as the Center for Astrophysics (CfA)

    The collaborative foundation for what would ultimately give rise to the Center for Astrophysics began with SAO’s move to Cambridge in 1955. Fred Whipple, who was already chair of the Harvard Astronomy Department (housed within HCO since 1931), was named SAO’s new director at the start of this new era; an early test of the model for a unified Directorship across HCO and SAO. The following 18 years would see the two independent entities merge ever closer together, operating effectively (but informally) as one large research center.

    This joint relationship was formalized as the new Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on July 1, 1973. George B. Field, then affiliated with UC Berkeley(US), was appointed as its first Director. That same year, a new astronomical journal, the CfA Preprint Series was created, and a CfA/SAO instrument flying aboard Skylab discovered coronal holes on the Sun. The founding of the CfA also coincided with the birth of X-ray astronomy as a new, major field that was largely dominated by CfA scientists in its early years. Riccardo Giacconi, regarded as the “father of X-ray astronomy”, founded the High Energy Astrophysics Division within the new CfA by moving most of his research group (then at American Sciences and Engineering) to SAO in 1973. That group would later go on to launch the Einstein Observatory (the first imaging X-ray telescope) in 1976, and ultimately lead the proposals and development of what would become the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra, the second of NASA’s Great Observatories and still the most powerful X-ray telescope in history, continues operations today as part of the CfA’s Chandra X-ray Center. Giacconi would later win the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for his foundational work in X-ray astronomy.

    Shortly after the launch of the Einstein Observatory, the CfA’s Steven Weinberg won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on electroweak unification. The following decade saw the start of the landmark CfA Redshift Survey (the first attempt to map the large scale structure of the Universe), as well as the release of the Field Report, a highly influential Astronomy & Astrophysics Decadal Survey chaired by the outgoing CfA Director George Field. He would be replaced in 1982 by Irwin Shapiro, who during his tenure as Director (1982 to 2004) oversaw the expansion of the CfA’s observing facilities around the world.

    CfA-led discoveries throughout this period include canonical work on Supernova 1987A, the “CfA2 Great Wall” (then the largest known coherent structure in the Universe), the best-yet evidence for supermassive black holes, and the first convincing evidence for an extrasolar planet.

    The 1990s also saw the CfA unwittingly play a major role in the history of computer science and the internet: in 1990, SAO developed SAOImage, one of the world’s first X11-based applications made publicly available (its successor, DS9, remains the most widely used astronomical FITS image viewer worldwide). During this time, scientists at the CfA also began work on what would become the Astrophysics Data System (ADS), one of the world’s first online databases of research papers. By 1993, the ADS was running the first routine transatlantic queries between databases, a foundational aspect of the internet today.

    The CfA Today

    Research at the CfA

    Charles Alcock, known for a number of major works related to massive compact halo objects, was named the third director of the CfA in 2004. Today Alcock overseas one of the largest and most productive astronomical institutes in the world, with more than 850 staff and an annual budget in excess of $100M. The Harvard Department of Astronomy, housed within the CfA, maintains a continual complement of approximately 60 Ph.D. students, more than 100 postdoctoral researchers, and roughly 25 undergraduate majors in astronomy and astrophysics from Harvard College. SAO, meanwhile, hosts a long-running and highly rated REU Summer Intern program as well as many visiting graduate students. The CfA estimates that roughly 10% of the professional astrophysics community in the United States spent at least a portion of their career or education there.

    The CfA is either a lead or major partner in the operations of the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, the Submillimeter Array, MMT Observatory, the South Pole Telescope, VERITAS, and a number of other smaller ground-based telescopes. The CfA’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan includes the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope as a driving priority for the Center.

    CFA Harvard Smithsonian Submillimeter Array on MaunaKea, Hawaii, USA, Altitude 4,205 m (13,796 ft).

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL. The SPT collaboration is made up of over a dozen (mostly North American) institutions, including The University of Chicago (US); The University of California Berkeley (US); Case Western Reserve University (US); Harvard/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (US); The University of Colorado, Boulder; McGill(CA) University, The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign;The University of California, Davis; Ludwig Maximilians Universität München(DE); DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory; and The National Institute for Standards and Technology. The University of California, Davis; Ludwig Maximilians Universität München(DE); DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory; and The National Institute for Standards and Technology. It is funded by the National Science Foundation(US).

    Along with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the CfA plays a central role in a number of space-based observing facilities, including the recently launched Parker Solar Probe, Kepler Space Telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), and HINODE. The CfA, via the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, recently played a major role in the Lynx X-ray Observatory, a NASA-Funded Large Mission Concept Study commissioned as part of the 2020 Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics (“Astro2020”). If launched, Lynx would be the most powerful X-ray observatory constructed to date, enabling order-of-magnitude advances in capability over Chandra.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    SAO is one of the 13 stakeholder institutes for the Event Horizon Telescope Board, and the CfA hosts its Array Operations Center. In 2019, the project revealed the first direct image of a black hole.

    The result is widely regarded as a triumph not only of observational radio astronomy, but of its intersection with theoretical astrophysics. Union of the observational and theoretical subfields of astrophysics has been a major focus of the CfA since its founding.

    In 2018, the CfA rebranded, changing its official name to the “Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian” in an effort to reflect its unique status as a joint collaboration between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. Today, the CfA receives roughly 70% of its funding from NASA, 22% from Smithsonian federal funds, and 4% from the National Science Foundation. The remaining 4% comes from contributors including the United States Department of Energy, the Annenberg Foundation, as well as other gifts and endowments.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:06 pm on October 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Supercomputers reveal how X chromosomes fold; deactivate", , phys.org   

    From DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (US) via phys.org : “Supercomputers reveal how X chromosomes fold; deactivate” 

    LANL bloc

    From DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (US)

    via

    phys.org

    October 4, 2021

    1
    RNA particles swarm an X chromosome from a mouse in a new visualization of X chromosome inactivation. Credit: DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    Using supercomputer-driven dynamic modeling based on experimental data, researchers can now probe the process that turns off one X chromosome in female mammal embryos. This new capability is helping biologists understand the role of RNA and the chromosome’s structure in the X inactivation process, leading to a deeper understanding of gene expression and opening new pathways to drug treatments for gene-based disorders and diseases.

    “This is the first time we’ve been able to model all the RNA spreading around the chromosome and shutting it down,” said Anna Lappala, a visiting scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a polymer physicist at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard University (US) Department of Molecular Biology. Lappala is first author of the paper published Oct. 4 in the bioRxiv. “From experimental data alone, which is 2D and static, you don’t have the resolution to see a whole chromosome at this level of detail. With this modeling, we can see the processes regulating gene expression, and the modeling is grounded in 2D experimental data from our collaborators at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard.”

    The model—considered 4D because it shows motion, including time as the fourth dimension—runs on Los Alamos supercomputers. The model also incorporates experimental data from mice genomes obtained through a molecular method called 4DHiC. The combined molecular and computational methodology is a first.

    In the visualization, RNA particles swarm over the X chromosome. The tangled-spaghetti-like strands writhe, changing shape, then the particles engulf and penetrate the depths of the chromosome, turning it off. See the visualization:


    3D models reveal hidden process in X chromosome inactivation

    “The method allows us to develop an interactive model of this epigenetic process,” said Jeannie T. Lee, professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and vice chair in molecular biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, whose lab contributed the experimental data underpinning the model.

    Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression and heritable traits that don’t involve mutations in the genome.

    “What’s been missing in the field is some way for a user who’s not computationally savvy to go interactively into a chromosome,” Lee said. She compared using the Los Alamos model to using Google Earth, where “you can zoom into any location on an X chromosome, pick your favorite gene, see the other genes around it, and see how they interact.” That capability could lend insight into how diseases spread, for instance, she said.

    Based on the work in this paper, Los Alamos is currently developing a Google Earth-style browser where any scientist can upload their genomic data and view it dynamically in 3D at various magnifications, said Karissa Sanbonmatsu, a structural biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, corresponding author of the paper, and a project leader in developing the computational method.

    In mammals, a female embryo is conceived with two X chromosomes, one inherited from each parent. X inactivation shuts off the chromosome, a crucial step for the embryo to survive, and variations in X inactivation can trigger a variety of developmental disorders.

    The new Los Alamos model will facilitate a deeper understanding of gene expression and related problems, which could lead to pharmacological treatments for various gene-based diseases and disorders, Lee said.

    “Our main goal was to see the chromosome change its shape and to see gene-expression levels over time,” said Sanbonmatsu.

    To understand how genes are turned on and off, Sanbonmatsu said, “it really helps to know the structure of the chromosome. The hypothesis is that a compacted, tightly structured chromosome tends to turn off genes, but there are not a lot of smoking guns about this. By modeling 3D structures in motion, we can get closer to the relationship between structural compaction and turning off genes.”

    Lee likened the chromosome’s structure to origami. A complicated shape akin to an origami crane offers lots of surface for gene expression and might be biologically preferred to remain active.

    The model shows a variety of substructures in the chromosome. When it is shut down, “it’s a piecemeal process in which some substructures are kept but some are dissolved,” Sanbonmatsu said. “We see beginning, intermediate, and end stages, through a gradual transition. That’s important for epigenetics because it’s the first time we have been able to analyze the detailed structural transition in an epigenetic change.”

    The modeling also shows genes on the surface of the chromosome that escape X chromosome inactivation, confirming early experimental work. In the model, they cluster and apparently interact or work together on the surface of the chromosome.

    In another insight from the modeling, “As the chromosome goes from an active X, when it’s still fairly large, to a compact inactive X, that’s smaller, we notice there’s a core of the chromosome that’s extremely dense, but the surface is much less dense. We see a lot more motion on the surface too,” Lappala said. “Then there’s an intermediate region that’s not too fast or slow, where the chromosome can rearrange.”

    An inactive X can activate later in a process called age-related activation of inactive X. “It’s associated with problems in blood cells in particular that are known to cause autoimmunity,” Lee said. “Some research is trying pharmacologically to activate the inactive X to treat neurological disorders in children by giving them something back that’s missing on their active X chromosome. For instance, a child could have a mutation that can cause disease. We think if we can reactivate the normal copy on the inactive X, then we would have an epigenetic treatment for that mutation.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (US) mission is to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.

    LANL campus
    DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is managed by Triad, a public service oriented, national security science organization equally owned by its three founding members: The University of California Texas A&M University (US), Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle) for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:57 am on September 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Unusual structure of giant radio galaxy J0133−1302 detected by astronomers", phys.org,   

    From phys.org : “Unusual structure of giant radio galaxy J0133−1302 detected by astronomers” 

    From phys.org

    September 27, 2021
    Tomasz Nowakowski

    1
    Radio image of the GRG J0133−1302. Credit: Mhlahlo et al., 2021.

    Using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), astronomers from South Africa and Poland have conducted radio observations of a giant radio galaxy (GRG) known as J0133−1302.

    The observational campaign revealed that the galaxy has an unusual complex structure. The finding is reported in a paper published September 17 for MNRAS.

    GRGs are radio galaxies with an overall projected linear length exceeding at least 2.28 million light years. They are rare objects grown in low-density environments. GRGs are important for astronomers to study the formation and the evolution of radio sources.

    GRG J0133−1302 was discovered at a redshift of approximately 0.3 by the 7-dish Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7) in the field of the cluster of galaxies ACO209 at a frequency of 1.83 GHz.

    2
    KAT-7. Square Kilometre Array site, north of Carnarvon, Northern Cape, South Africa.

    KAT-7 observations also detected extended emission from J0133−1302 in the form of two symmetric lobes. Further monitoring of the field of this GRG, mainly as part of the NRAO VLA Sky Survey (NVSS), identified four peculiar sources that received designations: S1 (southern-east SE lobe), S2 (core), S3 and S4 (northern-west NW lobe).

    However, due to poor resolution of the KAT-7 radio telescope and small collecting area, it was difficult to resolve the detected components of J0133−1302 into distinct sources. That is why astronomers led by Nceba Mhlahlo of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg decided to perform follow-up radio observations of this GRG with GMRT, hoping to shed more light on these sources.

    “For a deeper and detailed analysis, there was a need for high-resolution observations, which we obtained from the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT; Swarup et al. 1991). For the first time, our GMRT observations have resolved the extended sources in Colafrancesco et al. (2016) into new sources which were not previously observed in the KAT-7 and NVSS structures,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

    Using GMRT, Mhlahlo’s team has analyzed the radio core and lobes of J0133−1302. The lobes, designated L1 and L2, turned out to have a steep spectrum, what is contrasted by the flat inverted spectrum of the core. L1 and L2 have spectral index values of about −0.92 and −0.79, respectively, while the spectral index of the core is approximately 0.7. This suggests decaying emission of the lobes and restarting core activity for J0133−1302.

    The research found that the two lobes are not symmetric as previously thought but exceptionally asymmetric—the upper lobe is much further from the core when compared to the lower lobe. The observations also revealed that the upper lobe has a complex structure.

    According to the astronomers, the complex structure of the upper lobe suggests the presence of another unidentified source. This source, located in the proximity to the upper lobe’s edge resembles a bent-double, or distorted bent tail (DBT) radio galaxy.

    Summing up the results, the authors of the paper noted that J0133−1302 is restarting activity in the nucleus, which makes it one of only few known sources with episodic activity in an active galactic nucleus (AGN). The collected data also suggest that J0133−1302 may be GigaHertz Peaked Spectrum (GPS) radio galaxy; however, further observations of this object are required in order to confirm this.

    See the full article here .

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    Science X™ is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004 (Physorg.com), Science X’s readership has grown steadily to include 5 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Science X publishes approximately 200 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Science X community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.
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  • richardmitnick 5:11 pm on September 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Gigantic cavity in space sheds new light on how stars form", , , , , , phys.org   

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) via phys.org : “Gigantic cavity in space sheds new light on how stars form” 

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US)

    via

    phys.org

    1
    Astronomers have discovered a giant, spherical cavity within the Milky Way galaxy; its location is depicted on the right. A zoomed in view of the cavity (left) shows the Perseus and Taurus molecular clouds in blue and red, respectively. Though they appear to sit within the cavity and touch, new 3D images of the clouds show they border the cavity and are quite a distance apart. This image was produced in glue using the WorldWide Telescope. Credit: Alyssa Goodman/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US).

    Astronomers analyzing 3D maps of the shapes and sizes of nearby molecular clouds have discovered a gigantic cavity in space.

    The sphere-shaped void, described today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, spans about 150 parsecs—nearly 500 light years—and is located on the sky among the constellations Perseus and Taurus. The research team, which is based at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, believes the cavity was formed by ancient supernovae that went off some 10 million years ago.

    The mysterious cavity is surrounded by the Perseus and Taurus molecular clouds—regions in space where stars form.

    “Hundreds of stars are forming or exist already at the surface of this giant bubble,” says Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) who led the study. “We have two theories—either one supernova went off at the core of this bubble and pushed gas outward forming what we now call the ‘Perseus-Taurus Supershell,’ or a series of supernovae occurring over millions of years created it over time.”

    The finding suggests that the Perseus and Taurus molecular clouds are not independent structures in space. But rather, they formed together from the very same supernova shockwave. “This demonstrates that when a star dies, its supernova generates a chain of events that may ultimately lead to the birth of new stars,” Bialy explains.

    Mapping Stellar Nurseries

    The 3D map of the bubble and surrounding clouds were created using new data from Gaia, a space-based observatory launched by the European Space Agency (ESA).

    Descriptions of exactly how 3D maps of the Perseus and Taurus molecular clouds and other nearby clouds were analyzed appear in a separate study published today in The Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) . Both studies make use of a dust reconstruction created by researchers at The MPG Institute for Astronomy [MPG Institut für Astronomie](DE).

    The maps represent the first-time molecular clouds have been charted in 3D. Previous images of the clouds were constrained to two dimensions.

    “We’ve been able to see these clouds for decades, but we never knew their true shape, depth or thickness. We also were unsure how far away the clouds were,” says Catherine Zucker, a postdoctoral researcher at the CfA who led the ApJ study. “Now we know where they lie with only 1 percent uncertainty, allowing us to discern this void between them.”

    But why map clouds in the first place?

    “There are many different theories for how gas rearranges itself to form stars,” Zucker explains. “Astronomers have tested these theoretical ideas using simulations in the past, but this is the first time we can use real—not simulated—3D views to compare theory to observation, and evaluate which theories work best.”

    The Universe at Your Fingertips

    The new research marks the first time journals of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) publish astronomy visualizations in augmented reality. Scientists and the public may interact with the visualization of the cavity and its surrounding molecular clouds by simply scanning a QR code in the paper with their smartphone.

    “You can literally make the universe float over your kitchen table,” says Harvard professor and CfA astronomer Alyssa Goodman, a co-author on both studies and founder of glue, the data visualization software that was used to create the maps of molecular clouds.

    Goodman calls the new publications examples of the “paper of the future” and considers them important steps toward the interactivity and reproducibility of science, which AAS committed to in 2015 as part of their effort to modernize publications.

    “We need richer records of scientific discovery,” Goodman says. “And current scholarly papers could be doing much better. All of the data in these papers are available online—on Harvard’s Dataverse—so that anyone can build on our results.”

    Goodman envisions future scientific articles where audio, video and enhanced visuals are regularly included, allowing all readers to more easily understand the research presented.

    She says, “It’s 3D visualizations like these that can help both scientists and the public understand what’s happening in space and the powerful effects of supernovae.”

    See the full article here .


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    The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory(US) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory(US) under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory(US) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution(US), founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory, founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University(US), and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

    Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the CfA leads a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, Earth and space sciences, as well as science education. The CfA either leads or participates in the development and operations of more than fifteen ground- and space-based astronomical research observatories across the electromagnetic spectrum, including the forthcoming Giant Magellan Telescope(CL) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory(US), one of NASA’s Great Observatories.

    Hosting more than 850 scientists, engineers, and support staff, the CfA is among the largest astronomical research institutes in the world. Its projects have included Nobel Prize-winning advances in cosmology and high energy astrophysics, the discovery of many exoplanets, and the first image of a black hole. The CfA also serves a major role in the global astrophysics research community: the CfA’s Astrophysics Data System(ADS)(US), for example, has been universally adopted as the world’s online database of astronomy and physics papers. Known for most of its history as the “Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics”, the CfA rebranded in 2018 to its current name in an effort to reflect its unique status as a joint collaboration between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. The CfA’s current Director (since 2004) is Charles R. Alcock, who succeeds Irwin I. Shapiro (Director from 1982 to 2004) and George B. Field (Director from 1973 to 1982).

    The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian is not formally an independent legal organization, but rather an institutional entity operated under a Memorandum of Understanding between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. This collaboration was formalized on July 1, 1973, with the goal of coordinating the related research activities of the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) under the leadership of a single Director, and housed within the same complex of buildings on the Harvard campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The CfA’s history is therefore also that of the two fully independent organizations that comprise it. With a combined lifetime of more than 300 years, HCO and SAO have been host to major milestones in astronomical history that predate the CfA’s founding.

    History of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO)

    Samuel Pierpont Langley, the third Secretary of the Smithsonian, founded the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory on the south yard of the Smithsonian Castle (on the U.S. National Mall) on March 1,1890. The Astrophysical Observatory’s initial, primary purpose was to “record the amount and character of the Sun’s heat”. Charles Greeley Abbot was named SAO’s first director, and the observatory operated solar telescopes to take daily measurements of the Sun’s intensity in different regions of the optical electromagnetic spectrum. In doing so, the observatory enabled Abbot to make critical refinements to the Solar constant, as well as to serendipitously discover Solar variability. It is likely that SAO’s early history as a solar observatory was part of the inspiration behind the Smithsonian’s “sunburst” logo, designed in 1965 by Crimilda Pontes.

    In 1955, the scientific headquarters of SAO moved from Washington, D.C. to Cambridge, Massachusetts to affiliate with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO). Fred Lawrence Whipple, then the chairman of the Harvard Astronomy Department, was named the new director of SAO. The collaborative relationship between SAO and HCO therefore predates the official creation of the CfA by 18 years. SAO’s move to Harvard’s campus also resulted in a rapid expansion of its research program. Following the launch of Sputnik (the world’s first human-made satellite) in 1957, SAO accepted a national challenge to create a worldwide satellite-tracking network, collaborating with the United States Air Force on Project Space Track.

    With the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US) the following year and throughout the space race, SAO led major efforts in the development of orbiting observatories and large ground-based telescopes, laboratory and theoretical astrophysics, as well as the application of computers to astrophysical problems.

    History of Harvard College Observatory (HCO)

    Partly in response to renewed public interest in astronomy following the 1835 return of Halley’s Comet, the Harvard College Observatory was founded in 1839, when the Harvard Corporation appointed William Cranch Bond as an “Astronomical Observer to the University”. For its first four years of operation, the observatory was situated at the Dana-Palmer House (where Bond also resided) near Harvard Yard, and consisted of little more than three small telescopes and an astronomical clock. In his 1840 book recounting the history of the college, then Harvard President Josiah Quincy III noted that “…there is wanted a reflecting telescope equatorially mounted…”. This telescope, the 15-inch “Great Refractor”, opened seven years later (in 1847) at the top of Observatory Hill in Cambridge (where it still exists today, housed in the oldest of the CfA’s complex of buildings). The telescope was the largest in the United States from 1847 until 1867. William Bond and pioneer photographer John Adams Whipple used the Great Refractor to produce the first clear Daguerrotypes of the Moon (winning them an award at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London). Bond and his son, George Phillips Bond (the second Director of HCO), used it to discover Saturn’s 8th moon, Hyperion (which was also independently discovered by William Lassell).

    Under the directorship of Edward Charles Pickering from 1877 to 1919, the observatory became the world’s major producer of stellar spectra and magnitudes, established an observing station in Peru, and applied mass-production methods to the analysis of data. It was during this time that HCO became host to a series of major discoveries in astronomical history, powered by the Observatory’s so-called “Computers” (women hired by Pickering as skilled workers to process astronomical data). These “Computers” included Williamina Fleming; Annie Jump Cannon; Henrietta Swan Leavitt; Florence Cushman; and Antonia Maury, all widely recognized today as major figures in scientific history. Henrietta Swan Leavitt, for example, discovered the so-called period-luminosity relation for Classical Cepheid variable stars, establishing the first major “standard candle” with which to measure the distance to galaxies. Now called “Leavitt’s Law”, the discovery is regarded as one of the most foundational and important in the history of astronomy; astronomers like Edwin Hubble, for example, would later use Leavitt’s Law to establish that the Universe is expanding, the primary piece of evidence for the Big Bang model.

    Upon Pickering’s retirement in 1921, the Directorship of HCO fell to Harlow Shapley (a major participant in the so-called “Great Debate” of 1920). This era of the observatory was made famous by the work of Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin, who became the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy from Radcliffe College (a short walk from the Observatory). Payne-Gapochkin’s 1925 thesis proposed that stars were composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, an idea thought ridiculous at the time. Between Shapley’s tenure and the formation of the CfA, the observatory was directed by Donald H. Menzel and then Leo Goldberg, both of whom maintained widely recognized programs in solar and stellar astrophysics. Menzel played a major role in encouraging the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to move to Cambridge and collaborate more closely with HCO.

    Joint history as the Center for Astrophysics (CfA)

    The collaborative foundation for what would ultimately give rise to the Center for Astrophysics began with SAO’s move to Cambridge in 1955. Fred Whipple, who was already chair of the Harvard Astronomy Department (housed within HCO since 1931), was named SAO’s new director at the start of this new era; an early test of the model for a unified Directorship across HCO and SAO. The following 18 years would see the two independent entities merge ever closer together, operating effectively (but informally) as one large research center.

    This joint relationship was formalized as the new Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on July 1, 1973. George B. Field, then affiliated with UC Berkeley(US), was appointed as its first Director. That same year, a new astronomical journal, the CfA Preprint Series was created, and a CfA/SAO instrument flying aboard Skylab discovered coronal holes on the Sun. The founding of the CfA also coincided with the birth of X-ray astronomy as a new, major field that was largely dominated by CfA scientists in its early years. Riccardo Giacconi, regarded as the “father of X-ray astronomy”, founded the High Energy Astrophysics Division within the new CfA by moving most of his research group (then at American Sciences and Engineering) to SAO in 1973. That group would later go on to launch the Einstein Observatory (the first imaging X-ray telescope) in 1976, and ultimately lead the proposals and development of what would become the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra, the second of NASA’s Great Observatories and still the most powerful X-ray telescope in history, continues operations today as part of the CfA’s Chandra X-ray Center. Giacconi would later win the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for his foundational work in X-ray astronomy.

    Shortly after the launch of the Einstein Observatory, the CfA’s Steven Weinberg won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on electroweak unification. The following decade saw the start of the landmark CfA Redshift Survey (the first attempt to map the large scale structure of the Universe), as well as the release of the Field Report, a highly influential Astronomy & Astrophysics Decadal Survey chaired by the outgoing CfA Director George Field. He would be replaced in 1982 by Irwin Shapiro, who during his tenure as Director (1982 to 2004) oversaw the expansion of the CfA’s observing facilities around the world.

    CfA-led discoveries throughout this period include canonical work on Supernova 1987A, the “CfA2 Great Wall” (then the largest known coherent structure in the Universe), the best-yet evidence for supermassive black holes, and the first convincing evidence for an extrasolar planet.

    The 1990s also saw the CfA unwittingly play a major role in the history of computer science and the internet: in 1990, SAO developed SAOImage, one of the world’s first X11-based applications made publicly available (its successor, DS9, remains the most widely used astronomical FITS image viewer worldwide). During this time, scientists at the CfA also began work on what would become the Astrophysics Data System (ADS), one of the world’s first online databases of research papers. By 1993, the ADS was running the first routine transatlantic queries between databases, a foundational aspect of the internet today.

    The CfA Today

    Research at the CfA

    Charles Alcock, known for a number of major works related to massive compact halo objects, was named the third director of the CfA in 2004. Today Alcock overseas one of the largest and most productive astronomical institutes in the world, with more than 850 staff and an annual budget in excess of $100M. The Harvard Department of Astronomy, housed within the CfA, maintains a continual complement of approximately 60 Ph.D. students, more than 100 postdoctoral researchers, and roughly 25 undergraduate majors in astronomy and astrophysics from Harvard College. SAO, meanwhile, hosts a long-running and highly rated REU Summer Intern program as well as many visiting graduate students. The CfA estimates that roughly 10% of the professional astrophysics community in the United States spent at least a portion of their career or education there.

    The CfA is either a lead or major partner in the operations of the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, the Submillimeter Array, MMT Observatory, the South Pole Telescope, VERITAS, and a number of other smaller ground-based telescopes. The CfA’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan includes the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope as a driving priority for the Center.

    CFA Harvard Smithsonian Submillimeter Array on MaunaKea, Hawaii, USA, Altitude 4,205 m (13,796 ft).

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL. The SPT collaboration is made up of over a dozen (mostly North American) institutions, including The University of Chicago (US); The University of California Berkeley (US); Case Western Reserve University (US); Harvard/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (US); The University of Colorado, Boulder; McGill(CA) University, The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign;The University of California, Davis; Ludwig Maximilians Universität München(DE); DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory; and The National Institute for Standards and Technology. The University of California, Davis; Ludwig Maximilians Universität München(DE); DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory; and The National Institute for Standards and Technology. It is funded by the National Science Foundation(US).

    Along with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the CfA plays a central role in a number of space-based observing facilities, including the recently launched Parker Solar Probe, Kepler Space Telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), and HINODE. The CfA, via the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, recently played a major role in the Lynx X-ray Observatory, a NASA-Funded Large Mission Concept Study commissioned as part of the 2020 Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics (“Astro2020”). If launched, Lynx would be the most powerful X-ray observatory constructed to date, enabling order-of-magnitude advances in capability over Chandra.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    SAO is one of the 13 stakeholder institutes for the Event Horizon Telescope Board, and the CfA hosts its Array Operations Center. In 2019, the project revealed the first direct image of a black hole.

    The result is widely regarded as a triumph not only of observational radio astronomy, but of its intersection with theoretical astrophysics. Union of the observational and theoretical subfields of astrophysics has been a major focus of the CfA since its founding.

    In 2018, the CfA rebranded, changing its official name to the “Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian” in an effort to reflect its unique status as a joint collaboration between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution. Today, the CfA receives roughly 70% of its funding from NASA, 22% from Smithsonian federal funds, and 4% from the National Science Foundation. The remaining 4% comes from contributors including the United States Department of Energy, the Annenberg Foundation, as well as other gifts and endowments.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on September 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Iceland's volcanic eruption the longest in half a century", , Mount Fagradalsfjall, phys.org,   

    From phys.org : “Iceland’s volcanic eruption the longest in half a century” 

    From phys.org

    September 18, 2021

    1
    The first lava began spewing out of a fissure close to Mount Fagradalsfjall on the evening of March 19 on the Reykjanes peninsula to the south west of Reykjavik.

    It will be six months on Sunday that the volcanic eruption currently mesmerising spectators near Reykjavik first began, making it the longest Iceland has witnessed in more than 50 years.

    The first lava began spewing out of a fissure close to Mount Fagradalsfjall on the evening of March 19 on the Reykjanes peninsula to the southwest of Reykjavik.

    And the ensuing spectacle—ranging from just a slow trickle of lava at times to more dramatic geyser-like spurts of rocks and stones at others—has become a major tourist attraction, drawing 300,000 visitors so far, according to the Iceland Tourist Board.

    Iceland’s sixth volcanic eruption in 20 years is already longer than the preceding one in Holuhraun, in the centre-east of the island, which lasted from the end of August 2014 until the end of February 2015.

    “Six months is a reasonably long eruption,” volcanologist Thorvaldur Thordarson told AFP.

    The lava field that has formed this time has been christened “Fagradalshraun”—which can be translated as “beautiful valley of lava”—and takes its name from nearby Mount Fagradalsfjall.

    Almost 143 million cubic metres of lava have been spewed out so far.

    But that is actually comparatively small, representing just under a tenth of the volume of the Holuhraun eruption, which spewed out the biggest basalt lava flow in Iceland in 230 years.

    2
    Iceland’s sixth volcanic eruption in 20 years has already lasted longer than the preceding one in Holuhraun, in the centre-east of the island.

    The latest eruption is “special in the sense that it has kept a relatively steady outflow, so it’s been going quite strong,” said Halldor Geirsson, a geophysicist at the Institute of Earth Science.

    “The usual behaviour that we know from volcanoes in Iceland is that they start really active and pour out lava, and then the outflow sort of decreases over time until it stops,” he said.

    Iceland’s longest-ever eruption took place more than 50 years ago—on Surtsey island just off the southern coast—and lasted nearly four years, from November 1963 until June 1967.

    No end in sight

    After subsiding for nine days, the lava reappeared at Fagradalshraun in early September, occasionally spurting red-hot from the crater and accompanied by a powerful plume of smoke.

    It also accumulated in fiery tunnels beneath the solidified surface, forming pockets that eventually gave way and unfurled like a wave onto the shore.

    The real number of visitors trekking to the rough hills to view the spectacle is probably even higher than the estimated 300,000, as the first counter installed on the paths leading to the site was only set up five days after the eruption.

    In the first month, 10 fissures opened up, forming seven small craters, of which only two are still visible.

    Only one crater is still active, measuring 334 metres (1,100 feet), according to the Institute of Earth Science, just a few dozen metres short of the highest peak in the surrounding area.

    Nevertheless, the volcano is showing no sign of fading anytime soon.

    “There seems to be still enough magma from whatever reservoir the eruption is tapping. So it could go on for a long time,” said Geirsson.

    See the full article here .

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    Science X™ is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004 (Physorg.com), Science X’s readership has grown steadily to include 5 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Science X publishes approximately 200 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Science X community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.
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  • richardmitnick 8:55 pm on September 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "All is quiet among newly studied Centaurs", , , , , phys.org,   

    From Planetary Science Institute (US) via phys.org : “All is quiet among newly studied Centaurs” 

    From Planetary Science Institute (US)

    via

    phys.org

    September 15, 2021

    1
    Centaurs look like nothing more than moving dots in the sky when viewed from Earth. These images are inverted—bright objects appear black—to make it easier to see faint targets. Credit: Lilly et al.

    Often, the squeaky wheel, or at least the shiniest object, seems to get all the attention. In a new study led by PSI Research Scientist Eva Lilly, it is the inactive Centaurs that take center stage and illuminate why other Centaurs may be so flashy. Centaurs are icy objects out between the orbits of Neptune and Jupiter that in some cases display comet-like tails and jets. This somehow happens despite being located where it is too cold for this kind of activity to occur due to normal solar-driven sublimation processes. Instead, changes to object’s orbits or other interactions may be the force driving some Centaurs to become active like comets.

    This work appears in the Planetary Science Journal. In addition to Lilly, PSI researchers Henry Hsieh and Jordan Steckloff also collaborated on this work.

    In doing this research, Lilly and her team were not looking for inactive Centaurs. Instead, objects were drawn from a list of 29 Centaurs recently discovered in the Pan-STARRS1 survey, and selections were based on the ability to observe the Centaurs with the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii during the planned time of observations, and if they would be near their closest approach to the Sun around the time of observation.

    Because these criteria were based strictly on object positions, they expected that any activity that is due strictly to the Sun’s heating effects should be easily detected.

    Active Centaurs are clustered within a distance of about 14 Astronomical Units from the Sun, which is a little bit beyond Saturn. An AU is the distance from the center of the Sun to the center of Earth. “That gives us a hint on what makes Centaurs turn on,” Lilly said. “Some models suggest Centaurs contain amorphous water ice, which is very special, because it does not have crystalline structure like the ice here on Earth, and its structure allows it to trap a large amount of gas in between its molecules during the formation of the body. When the body reaches warm enough parts of the Solar System (at around 14 AU), the ice undergoes a rapid phase transition from amorphous to crystalline structure where it releases the trapped gasses.”

    Prior to this work, many researchers thought the release of gasses as water crystallizes was an exothermic process that would release the energy necessary to make Centaurs active. This work confirms alternative lab data that suggests that the crystallization process doesn’t release heat. Centaur activity isn’t triggered by this phase change specifically. Instead, Lilly explains, “The escaping gas from the amorphous water ice builds up pressure, which can in turn open sinkholes or cause landslides exposing other ices that will sublimate and create visible coma. This pressure can be so great it could eject boulders or chunks of the Centaur, similarly to what was observed during the outburst of Centaur Echeclus in 2005.”

    This work suggests that landslides and other dynamic surface events triggered by the release of gas may in turn trigger activity that looks comet-like but isn’t predictable like in comets, and can occur long after the Centaur passed its perihelion – the closest point to the Sun. At the same time, not every object in the Centaur region will have the kind of orbit that would allow the activity to start. Based on their analysis of Centaur orbital evolution, Lilly and her team suggest that sudden changes in the shape of the orbit, caused by close encounters with giant planets, can jump start the activity on previously quiescent Centaurs. Even an inward shift of 0.5 AU could cause enough of a thermal wave to trigger additional crystallization and ultimately explosive gas buildup in a comet’s interior. Therefore the orbital evolution is a key puzzle piece in building a picture of a Centaur’s life cycle.

    The objects in this study have had steady orbits for at least the past ten thousand years, and dynamically appear to have been stable for far longer. It may be that they were active in the past, after arriving at their current locations. They also may one day become active when their orbits are changed once again. Centaurs are transitory objects; they start their lives as Kuiper Belt or Oort cloud objects in the outer Solar System, and through a variety of interactions are driven into orbits closer to the Sun.

    Once located between Neptune and Jupiter, their days are limited, and it is believed that interactions with these two giant worlds fling Centaurs into the inner Solar System within 10 million years of their arrival. Whatever the future of these 13 Centaurs may be, they currently remain quiet, and their silence tells us Centaur activity is far more complex than simple heating.

    See the full article here.

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Planetary Science Institute (PSI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research institute based in Tucson, Arizona, focusing on planetary science.

    Founded in 1972, PSI is involved in many NASA missions, the study of Mars, asteroids, comets, interplanetary dust, the formation of the Solar System, extrasolar planets, the origin of life, and other scientific topics. It actively participated in the Dawn mission, which explored Vesta between 2011 and 2012, and Ceres between 2015 and 2018. It managed the spacecraft’s Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector, which mapped the surfaces of the two minor planets to determine how they were formed and evolved.

    PSI’s orbit@home was a distributed computing project through which the public can help in the search for near-Earth objects. The Institute is also involved in science education through school programs, popular science books and art.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:34 pm on September 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers solve 900-year-old cosmic mystery surrounding Chinese supernova of 1181C.E.", A faint fast expanding cloud (or nebula) called Pa30 surrounding one of the hottest stars in the Milky Way known as Parker's Star fits the profile location and age of the historic supernova., , , , , Parker's star and Pa30 are the counterparts of SN 1181., phys.org,   

    From University of Manchester (UK) via phys.org : “Astronomers solve 900-year-old cosmic mystery surrounding Chinese supernova of 1181C.E.” 

    U Manchester bloc

    From University of Manchester (UK)

    via

    phys.org

    September 15, 2021

    1
    Credit: The University of Manchester (UK).

    A 900-year-old cosmic mystery surrounding the origins of a famous supernova first spotted over China in 1181 C.E. has finally been solved, according to an international team of astronomers.

    New research published today (September 15, 2021) [The Astrophysical Journal Letters] says that a faint fast expanding cloud (or nebula) called Pa30 surrounding one of the hottest stars in the Milky Way known as Parker’s Star fits the profile location and age of the historic supernova.

    There have only been five bright supernovae in the Milky Way in the last millennium (starting in 1006 C.E.). Of these, the Chinese supernova, which is also known as the “Chinese Guest Star” of 1181 C.E. has remained a mystery. It was originally seen and documented by Chinese and Japanese astronomers in the 12th century who said it was as bright as the planet Saturn and remained visible for six months. They also recorded an approximate location in the sky of the sighting, but no confirmed remnant of the explosion has even been identified by modern astronomers. The other four supernovae are all now well known to modern day science and include the famous Crab nebula.

    The source of this 12th century explosion remained a mystery until this latest discovery made by a team of international astronomers from Hong Kong, the UK, Spain, Hungary and France, including Professor Albert Zijlstra from The University of Manchester (UK). In the new paper, the astronomers found that the Pa 30 nebula is expanding at an extreme velocity of more than 1,100 km per second (at this speed, traveling from the Earth to the moon would take only five minutes). They use this velocity to derive an age at around 1,000 years, which would coincide with the events of 1181 C.E.

    Prof Zijlstra (Professor in Astrophysics at the University of Manchester) explains: “The historical reports place the guest star between two Chinese constellations, Chuanshe and Huagai. Parker’s Star fits the position well. That means both the age and location fit with the events of 1181 C.E.”

    Pa 30 and Parker’s Star have previously been proposed as the result of a merger of two White Dwarfs. Such events are thought to lead to a rare and relatively faint type of supernova, called a Type Iax supernova.

    Prof Zijlstra added: “Only around 10% of supernovae are of this type and they are not well understood. The fact that SN1181 was faint but faded very slowly fits this type. It is the only such event where we can study both the remnant nebula and the merged star, and also have a description of the explosion itself.”

    The merging of remnant stars, white dwarfs and neutron stars, give rise to extreme nuclear reactions and form heavy, highly neutron-rich elements such as gold and platinum. Prof. Zijlstra said: “Combining all this information such as the age, location, event brightness and historically recorded 185-day duration, indicates that Parker’s star and Pa30 are the counterparts of SN 1181. This is the only Type Iax supernova where detailed studies of the remnant star and nebula are possible. It is nice to be able to solve both a historical and an astronomical mystery.”

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Manchester campus
    The University of Manchester (UK) is a public research university in the city of Manchester, England, formed in 2004 by the merger of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (renamed in 1966, est. 1956 as Manchester College of Science and Technology) which had its ultimate origins in the Mechanics’ Institute established in the city in 1824 and the Victoria University of Manchester founded by charter in 1904 after the dissolution of the federal Victoria University (which also had members in Leeds and Liverpool), but originating in Owens College, founded in Manchester in 1851. The University of Manchester is regarded as a red brick university, and was a product of the civic university movement of the late 19th century. It formed a constituent part of the federal Victoria University between 1880, when it received its royal charter, and 1903–1904, when it was dissolved.

    The main campus is south of Manchester city centre on Oxford Road. The university owns and operates major cultural assets such as the Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, John Rylands Library and Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics -The University of Manchester (UK)—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2019/20, the university had 40,485 students and 10,400 staff, making it the 3rd largest university in the UK (out of 169 including the Open University), and the largest single-site university. The university had a consolidated income of £1.1 billion in 2019–20, of which £264.7 million was from research grants and contracts (6th place nationally behind University of Oxford (UK), University College London (UK), University of Cambridge (UK), Imperial College London (UK) and University of Edinburgh (SCT). It has the fifth-largest endowment of any university in the UK, after the universities of Cambridge (UK), Oxford, Edinburgh and King’s College London (UK). It is a member of the worldwide Universities Research Association, the Russell Group (UK) of British research universities and the N8 Research Partnership (UK).

    The University of Manchester has 25 Nobel laureates among its past and present students and staff, the fourth-highest number of any single university in the United Kingdom.

    The University of Manchester is ranked 33rd in the world by QS World University Rankings 2015-16. In the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities, Manchester is ranked 41st in the world and 5th in the UK. In an employability ranking published by Emerging in 2015, where CEOs and chairmen were asked to select the top universities which they recruited from, Manchester placed 24th in the world and 5th nationally. The Global Employability University Ranking conducted by THE places Manchester at 27th world-wide and 10th in Europe, ahead of academic powerhouses such as Cornell University (US), University of Pennsylvania (US) and LSE. It is ranked joint 56th in the world and 18th in Europe in the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Manchester came fifth in terms of research power and seventeenth for grade point average quality when including specialist institutions. More students try to gain entry to the University of Manchester than to any other university in the country, with more than 55,000 applications for undergraduate courses in 2014 resulting in 6.5 applicants for every place available. According to the 2015 High Fliers Report, Manchester is the most targeted university by the largest number of leading graduate employers in the UK.

    The university owns and operates major cultural assets such as the Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, John Rylands Library and Jodrell Bank Observatory which includes the Grade I listed Lovell Telescope.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:00 pm on September 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Have we detected dark energy? Scientists say it's a possibility", A fifth force can only operate on the largest scales where Einstein's theory of gravity fails to explain the acceleration of the Universe., Any fifth force associated to dark energy is unwanted and must be 'hidden' or 'screened' when it comes to small scales., , Calculations suggest that experiments like XENON1T which are designed to detect Dark Matter could also be used to detect Dark Energy., Despite both components being invisible we know a lot more about dark matter since its existence was suggested as early as the 1920s while dark energy wasn't discovered until 1998., Everything our eyes can see in the skies and in our everyday world—from tiny moons to massive galaxies-from ants to blue whales—makes up less than five percent of the universe. The rest is dark., Large-scale experiments like XENON1T have been designed to directly detect dark matter., On the largest scales the gravitational effect of dark energy is repulsive pulling things away from each other and making the Universe's expansion accelerate., , phys.org, , Upgrades to the XENON1T experiment and other experiments pursuing similar goals such as LUX-Zeplin and PandaX-xT mean it could be possible to directly detect Dark Energy within the next decade., We are far from fully understanding what dark energy is but most physical models for dark energy would lead to the existence of a so-called fifth force.   

    From University of Cambridge (UK) via phys.org : “Have we detected dark energy? Scientists say it’s a possibility” 

    U Cambridge bloc

    From University of Cambridge (UK)

    via

    phys.org

    1
    Credit: CC0 Public Domain

    A new study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge and reported in the journal Physical Review D, suggests that some unexplained results from the XENON1T experiment in Italy may have been caused by Dark Energy, and not the Dark Matter the experiment was designed to detect.

    They constructed a physical model to help explain the results, which may have originated from dark energy particles produced in a region of the Sun with strong magnetic fields, although future experiments will be required to confirm this explanation. The researchers say their study could be an important step toward the direct detection of dark energy.

    Everything our eyes can see in the skies and in our everyday world—from tiny moons to massive galaxies-from ants to blue whales—makes up less than five percent of the universe. The rest is dark. About 27% is Dark Matter—the invisible force holding galaxies and the cosmic web together—while 68% is Dark Energy, which causes the universe to expand at an accelerated rate.

    “Despite both components being invisible we know a lot more about dark matter since its existence was suggested as early as the 1920s while dark energy wasn’t discovered until 1998,” said Dr. Sunny Vagnozzi from Cambridge’s Kavli Institute for Cosmology (UK), the paper’s first author. “Large-scale experiments like XENON1T have been designed to directly detect dark matter, by searching for signs of dark matter ‘hitting’ ordinary matter, but dark energy is even more elusive.”

    To detect dark energy, scientists generally look for gravitational interactions: the way gravity pulls objects around. And on the largest scales the gravitational effect of dark energy is repulsive pulling things away from each other and making the Universe’s expansion accelerate.

    About a year ago, the XENON1T experiment reported an unexpected signal, or excess, over the expected background. “These sorts of excesses are often flukes, but once in a while they can also lead to fundamental discoveries,” said Dr. Luca Visinelli, a researcher at INFN-National Laboratory of Frascati [Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati](IT), a co-author of the study. “We explored a model in which this signal could be attributable to dark energy, rather than the dark matter the experiment was originally devised to detect.”

    At the time, the most popular explanation for the excess were axions—hypothetical, extremely light particles—produced in the Sun. However, this explanation does not stand up to observations, since the amount of axions that would be required to explain the XENON1T signal would drastically alter the evolution of stars much heavier than the Sun, in conflict with what we observe.

    We are far from fully understanding what dark energy is but most physical models for dark energy would lead to the existence of a so-called fifth force. There are four fundamental forces in the universe, and anything that can’t be explained by one of these forces is sometimes referred to as the result of an unknown fifth force.

    However, we know that Einstein’s theory of gravity works extremely well in the local universe. Therefore, any fifth force associated to dark energy is unwanted and must be ‘hidden’ or ‘screened’ when it comes to small scales, and can only operate on the largest scales where Einstein’s theory of gravity fails to explain the acceleration of the Universe. To hide the fifth force, many models for dark energy are equipped with so-called screening mechanisms, which dynamically hide the fifth force.

    Vagnozzi and his co-authors constructed a physical model, which used a type of screening mechanism known as chameleon screening, to show that dark energy particles produced in the Sun’s strong magnetic fields could explain the XENON1T excess.

    “Our chameleon screening shuts down the production of dark energy particles in very dense objects, avoiding the problems faced by solar axions,” said Vagnozzi. “It also allows us to decouple what happens in the local very dense Universe from what happens on the largest scales, where the density is extremely low.”

    The researchers used their model to show what would happen in the detector if the dark energy was produced in a particular region of the Sun, called the tachocline, where the magnetic fields are particularly strong.

    “It was really surprising that this excess could in principle have been caused by dark energy rather than dark matter,” said Vagnozzi. “When things click together like that, it’s really special.”

    Their calculations suggest that experiments like XENON1T which are designed to detect Dark Matter could also be used to detect Dark Energy. However, the original excess still needs to be convincingly confirmed. “We first need to know that this wasn’t simply a fluke,” said Visinelli. “If XENON1T actually saw something, you’d expect to see a similar excess again in future experiments, but this time with a much stronger signal.”

    If the excess was the result of dark energy, upcoming upgrades to the XENON1T experiment as well as experiments pursuing similar goals such as LUX-Zeplin and PandaX-xT mean that it could be possible to directly detect Dark Energy within the next decade.

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Dark Matter Background
    Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter in the 1930s when observing the movement of the Coma Cluster., Vera Rubin a Woman in STEM, denied the Nobel, some 30 years later, did most of the work on Dark Matter.

    Fritz Zwicky from http:// palomarskies.blogspot.com.

    Coma cluster via NASA/ESA Hubble.

    In modern times, it was astronomer Fritz Zwicky, in the 1930s, who made the first observations of what we now call dark matter. His 1933 observations of the Coma Cluster of galaxies seemed to indicated it has a mass 500 times more than that previously calculated by Edwin Hubble. Furthermore, this extra mass seemed to be completely invisible. Although Zwicky’s observations were initially met with much skepticism, they were later confirmed by other groups of astronomers.

    Thirty years later, astronomer Vera Rubin provided a huge piece of evidence for the existence of dark matter. She discovered that the centers of galaxies rotate at the same speed as their extremities, whereas, of course, they should rotate faster. Think of a vinyl LP on a record deck: its center rotates faster than its edge. That’s what logic dictates we should see in galaxies too. But we do not. The only way to explain this is if the whole galaxy is only the center of some much larger structure, as if it is only the label on the LP so to speak, causing the galaxy to have a consistent rotation speed from center to edge.

    Vera Rubin, following Zwicky, postulated that the missing structure in galaxies is dark matter. Her ideas were met with much resistance from the astronomical community, but her observations have been confirmed and are seen today as pivotal proof of the existence of dark matter.

    Astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in 1965, worked on Dark Matter (The Carnegie Institution for Science).

    Vera Rubin measuring spectra, worked on Dark Matter (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL).

    Vera Rubin, with Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) image tube spectrograph attached to the Kitt Peak 84-inch telescope, 1970

    Dark Matter Research

    NOIRLab(US)NSF NOIRLab NOAO (US) Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory(CL) approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters.

    Timeline of the Inflationary Universe WMAP

    The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is an international, collaborative effort to map hundreds of millions of galaxies, detect thousands of supernovae, and find patterns of cosmic structure that will reveal the nature of the mysterious dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of our Universe. DES began searching the Southern skies on August 31, 2013.

    According to Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, gravity should lead to a slowing of the cosmic expansion. Yet, in 1998, two teams of astronomers studying distant supernovae made the remarkable discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up. To explain cosmic acceleration, cosmologists are faced with two possibilities: either 70% of the universe exists in an exotic form, now called dark energy, that exhibits a gravitational force opposite to the attractive gravity of ordinary matter, or General Relativity must be replaced by a new theory of gravity on cosmic scales.

    DES is designed to probe the origin of the accelerating universe and help uncover the nature of dark energy by measuring the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion with high precision. More than 400 scientists from over 25 institutions in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia are working on the project. The collaboration built and is using an extremely sensitive 570-Megapixel digital camera, DECam, mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, high in the Chilean Andes, to carry out the project.

    Over six years (2013-2019), the DES collaboration used 758 nights of observation to carry out a deep, wide-area survey to record information from 300 million galaxies that are billions of light-years from Earth. The survey imaged 5000 square degrees of the southern sky in five optical filters to obtain detailed information about each galaxy. A fraction of the survey time is used to observe smaller patches of sky roughly once a week to discover and study thousands of supernovae and other astrophysical transients.
    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    See the full article here.

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Cambridge Campus

    The University of Cambridge (UK) [legally The Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Cambridge] is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209 Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university. It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford(UK) after a dispute with townsfolk. The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge”.

    Cambridge is formed from a variety of institutions which include 31 semi-autonomous constituent colleges and over 150 academic departments, faculties and other institutions organised into six schools. All the colleges are self-governing institutions within the university, each controlling its own membership and with its own internal structure and activities. All students are members of a college. Cambridge does not have a main campus and its colleges and central facilities are scattered throughout the city. Undergraduate teaching at Cambridge is organised around weekly small-group supervisions in the colleges – a feature unique to the Oxbridge system. These are complemented by classes, lectures, seminars, laboratory work and occasionally further supervisions provided by the central university faculties and departments. Postgraduate teaching is provided predominantly centrally.

    Cambridge University Press a department of the university is the oldest university press in the world and currently the second largest university press in the world. Cambridge Assessment also a department of the university is one of the world’s leading examining bodies and provides assessment to over eight million learners globally every year. The university also operates eight cultural and scientific museums, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as a botanic garden. Cambridge’s libraries – of which there are 116 – hold a total of around 16 million books, around nine million of which are in Cambridge University Library, a legal deposit library. The university is home to – but independent of – the Cambridge Union – the world’s oldest debating society. The university is closely linked to the development of the high-tech business cluster known as “Silicon Fe”. It is the central member of Cambridge University Health Partners, an academic health science centre based around the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

    By both endowment size and consolidated assets Cambridge is the wealthiest university in the United Kingdom. In the fiscal year ending 31 July 2019, the central university – excluding colleges – had a total income of £2.192 billion of which £592.4 million was from research grants and contracts. At the end of the same financial year the central university and colleges together possessed a combined endowment of over £7.1 billion and overall consolidated net assets (excluding “immaterial” historical assets) of over £12.5 billion. It is a member of numerous associations and forms part of the ‘golden triangle’ of English universities.

    Cambridge has educated many notable alumni including eminent mathematicians; scientists; politicians; lawyers; philosophers; writers; actors; monarchs and other heads of state. As of October 2020 121 Nobel laureates; 11 Fields Medalists; 7 Turing Award winners; and 14 British prime ministers have been affiliated with Cambridge as students; alumni; faculty or research staff. University alumni have won 194 Olympic medals.

    History

    By the late 12th century the Cambridge area already had a scholarly and ecclesiastical reputation due to monks from the nearby bishopric church of Ely. However it was an incident at Oxford which is most likely to have led to the establishment of the university: three Oxford scholars were hanged by the town authorities for the death of a woman without consulting the ecclesiastical authorities who would normally take precedence (and pardon the scholars) in such a case; but were at that time in conflict with King John. Fearing more violence from the townsfolk scholars from the University of Oxford started to move away to cities such as Paris; Reading; and Cambridge. Subsequently enough scholars remained in Cambridge to form the nucleus of a new university when it had become safe enough for academia to resume at Oxford. In order to claim precedence it is common for Cambridge to trace its founding to the 1231 charter from Henry III granting it the right to discipline its own members (ius non-trahi extra) and an exemption from some taxes; Oxford was not granted similar rights until 1248.

    A bull in 1233 from Pope Gregory IX gave graduates from Cambridge the right to teach “everywhere in Christendom”. After Cambridge was described as a studium generale in a letter from Pope Nicholas IV in 1290 and confirmed as such in a bull by Pope John XXII in 1318 it became common for researchers from other European medieval universities to visit Cambridge to study or to give lecture courses.

    Foundation of the colleges

    The colleges at the University of Cambridge were originally an incidental feature of the system. No college is as old as the university itself. The colleges were endowed fellowships of scholars. There were also institutions without endowments called hostels. The hostels were gradually absorbed by the colleges over the centuries; but they have left some traces, such as the name of Garret Hostel Lane.

    Hugh Balsham, Bishop of Ely, founded Peterhouse – Cambridge’s first college in 1284. Many colleges were founded during the 14th and 15th centuries but colleges continued to be established until modern times. There was a gap of 204 years between the founding of Sidney Sussex in 1596 and that of Downing in 1800. The most recently established college is Robinson built in the late 1970s. However Homerton College only achieved full university college status in March 2010 making it the newest full college (it was previously an “Approved Society” affiliated with the university).

    In medieval times many colleges were founded so that their members would pray for the souls of the founders and were often associated with chapels or abbeys. The colleges’ focus changed in 1536 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry VIII ordered the university to disband its Faculty of Canon Law and to stop teaching “scholastic philosophy”. In response, colleges changed their curricula away from canon law and towards the classics; the Bible; and mathematics.

    Nearly a century later the university was at the centre of a Protestant schism. Many nobles, intellectuals and even commoners saw the ways of the Church of England as too similar to the Catholic Church and felt that it was used by the Crown to usurp the rightful powers of the counties. East Anglia was the centre of what became the Puritan movement. In Cambridge the movement was particularly strong at Emmanuel; St Catharine’s Hall; Sidney Sussex; and Christ’s College. They produced many “non-conformist” graduates who, greatly influenced by social position or preaching left for New England and especially the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the Great Migration decade of the 1630s. Oliver Cromwell, Parliamentary commander during the English Civil War and head of the English Commonwealth (1649–1660), attended Sidney Sussex.

    Modern period

    After the Cambridge University Act formalised the organisational structure of the university the study of many new subjects was introduced e.g. theology, history and modern languages. Resources necessary for new courses in the arts architecture and archaeology were donated by Viscount Fitzwilliam of Trinity College who also founded the Fitzwilliam Museum. In 1847 Prince Albert was elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge after a close contest with the Earl of Powis. Albert used his position as Chancellor to campaign successfully for reformed and more modern university curricula, expanding the subjects taught beyond the traditional mathematics and classics to include modern history and the natural sciences. Between 1896 and 1902 Downing College sold part of its land to build the Downing Site with new scientific laboratories for anatomy, genetics, and Earth sciences. During the same period the New Museums Site was erected including the Cavendish Laboratory which has since moved to the West Cambridge Site and other departments for chemistry and medicine.

    The University of Cambridge began to award PhD degrees in the first third of the 20th century. The first Cambridge PhD in mathematics was awarded in 1924.

    In the First World War 13,878 members of the university served and 2,470 were killed. Teaching and the fees it earned came almost to a stop and severe financial difficulties followed. As a consequence the university first received systematic state support in 1919 and a Royal Commission appointed in 1920 recommended that the university (but not the colleges) should receive an annual grant. Following the Second World War the university saw a rapid expansion of student numbers and available places; this was partly due to the success and popularity gained by many Cambridge scientists.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:39 pm on September 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , phys.org, ,   

    From Northwestern University (US) via phys.org : “Researchers develop new tool for analyzing large superconducting circuits” 

    Northwestern U bloc

    From Northwestern University (US)

    via

    phys.org

    September 13, 2021

    1
    Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain.

    The next generation of computing and information processing lies in the intriguing world of quantum mechanics. Quantum computers are expected to be capable of solving large, extremely complex problems that are beyond the capacity of today’s most powerful supercomputers.

    New research tools are needed to advance the field and fully develop quantum computers. Now Northwestern University researchers have developed and tested a theoretical tool for analyzing large superconducting circuits. These circuits use superconducting quantum bits, or qubits, the smallest units of a quantum computer, to store information.

    Circuit size is important since protection from detrimental noise tends to come at the cost of increased circuit complexity. Currently there are few tools that tackle the modeling of large circuits, making the Northwestern method an important contribution to the research community.

    “Our framework is inspired by methods originally developed for the study of electrons in crystals and allows us to obtain quantitative predictions for circuits that were previously hard or impossible to access,” said Daniel Weiss, corresponding and first author of the paper. He is a fourth-year graduate student in the research group of Jens Koch, an expert in superconducting qubits.

    Koch, an associate professor of physics and astronomy in Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is a member of the Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center (SQMS) and the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage (C2QA). Both national centers were established last year by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). SQMS is focused on building and deploying a beyond-state-of-the-art quantum computer based on superconducting technologies. C2QA is building the fundamental tools necessary to create scalable, distributed and fault-tolerant quantum computer systems.

    “We are excited to contribute to the missions pursued by these two DOE centers and to add to Northwestern’s visibility in the field of quantum information science,” Koch said.

    In their study, the Northwestern researchers illustrate the use of their theoretical tool by extracting from a protected circuit quantitative information that was unobtainable using standard techniques.

    Details were published today (Sept. 13) in the open access journal Physical Review Research.

    The researchers specifically studied protected qubits. These qubits are protected from detrimental noise by design and could yield coherence times (how long quantum information is retained) that are much longer than current state-of-the-art qubits.

    These superconducting circuits are necessarily large, and the Northwestern tool is a means for quantifying the behavior of these circuits. There are some existing tools that can analyze large superconducting circuits, but each works well only when certain conditions are met. The Northwestern method is complementary and works well when these other tools may give suboptimal results.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Northwestern South Campus
    South Campus

    Northwestern University (US) is a private research university in Evanston, Illinois. Founded in 1851 to serve the former Northwest Territory, the university is a founding member of the Big Ten Conference.

    On May 31, 1850, nine men gathered to begin planning a university that would serve the Northwest Territory.

    Given that they had little money, no land and limited higher education experience, their vision was ambitious. But through a combination of creative financing, shrewd politicking, religious inspiration and an abundance of hard work, the founders of Northwestern University were able to make that dream a reality.

    In 1853, the founders purchased a 379-acre tract of land on the shore of Lake Michigan 12 miles north of Chicago. They established a campus and developed the land near it, naming the surrounding town Evanston in honor of one of the University’s founders, John Evans. After completing its first building in 1855, Northwestern began classes that fall with two faculty members and 10 students.
    Twenty-one presidents have presided over Northwestern in the years since. The University has grown to include 12 schools and colleges, with additional campuses in Chicago and Doha, Qatar.

    Northwestern is known for its focus on interdisciplinary education, extensive research output, and student traditions. The university provides instruction in over 200 formal academic concentrations, including various dual degree programs. The university is composed of eleven undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, which include the Kellogg School of Management, the Pritzker School of Law, the Feinberg School of Medicine, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Bienen School of Music, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Medill School of Journalism, the School of Communication, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Education and Social Policy, and The Graduate School. As of fall 2019, the university had 21,946 enrolled students, including 8,327 undergraduates and 13,619 graduate students.

    Valued at $12.2 billion, Northwestern’s endowment is among the largest university endowments in the United States. Its numerous research programs bring in nearly $900 million in sponsored research each year.

    Northwestern’s main 240-acre (97 ha) campus lies along the shores of Lake Michigan in Evanston, 12 miles north of Downtown Chicago. The university’s law, medical, and professional schools, along with its nationally ranked Northwestern Memorial Hospital, are located on a 25-acre (10 ha) campus in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. The university also maintains a campus in Doha, Qatar and locations in San Francisco, California, Washington, D.C. and Miami, Florida.

    As of October 2020, Northwestern’s faculty and alumni have included 1 Fields Medalist, 22 Nobel Prize laureates, 40 Pulitzer Prize winners, 6 MacArthur Fellows, 17 Rhodes Scholars, 27 Marshall Scholars, 23 National Medal of Science winners, 11 National Humanities Medal recipients, 84 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 10 living billionaires, 16 Olympic medalists, and 2 U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Northwestern alumni have founded notable companies and organizations such as the Mayo Clinic, The Blackstone Group, Kirkland & Ellis, U.S. Steel, Guggenheim Partners, Accenture, Aon Corporation, AQR Capital, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Melvin Capital.

    The foundation of Northwestern University can be traced to a meeting on May 31, 1850, of nine prominent Chicago businessmen, Methodist leaders, and attorneys who had formed the idea of establishing a university to serve what had been known from 1787 to 1803 as the Northwest Territory. On January 28, 1851, the Illinois General Assembly granted a charter to the Trustees of the North-Western University, making it the first chartered university in Illinois. The school’s nine founders, all of whom were Methodists (three of them ministers), knelt in prayer and worship before launching their first organizational meeting. Although they affiliated the university with the Methodist Episcopal Church, they favored a non-sectarian admissions policy, believing that Northwestern should serve all people in the newly developing territory by bettering the economy in Evanston.

    John Evans, for whom Evanston is named, bought 379 acres (153 ha) of land along Lake Michigan in 1853, and Philo Judson developed plans for what would become the city of Evanston, Illinois. The first building, Old College, opened on November 5, 1855. To raise funds for its construction, Northwestern sold $100 “perpetual scholarships” entitling the purchaser and his heirs to free tuition. Another building, University Hall, was built in 1869 of the same Joliet limestone as the Chicago Water Tower, also built in 1869, one of the few buildings in the heart of Chicago to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In 1873 the Evanston College for Ladies merged with Northwestern, and Frances Willard, who later gained fame as a suffragette and as one of the founders of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), became the school’s first dean of women (Willard Residential College, built in 1938, honors her name). Northwestern admitted its first female students in 1869, and the first woman was graduated in 1874.

    Northwestern fielded its first intercollegiate football team in 1882, later becoming a founding member of the Big Ten Conference. In the 1870s and 1880s, Northwestern affiliated itself with already existing schools of law, medicine, and dentistry in Chicago. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law is the oldest law school in Chicago. As the university’s enrollments grew, these professional schools were integrated with the undergraduate college in Evanston; the result was a modern research university combining professional, graduate, and undergraduate programs, which gave equal weight to teaching and research. By the turn of the century, Northwestern had grown in stature to become the third largest university in the United States after Harvard University(US) and the University of Michigan(US).

    Under Walter Dill Scott’s presidency from 1920 to 1939, Northwestern began construction of an integrated campus in Chicago designed by James Gamble Rogers, noted for his design of the Yale University(US) campus, to house the professional schools. The university also established the Kellogg School of Management and built several prominent buildings on the Evanston campus, including Dyche Stadium, now named Ryan Field, and Deering Library among others. In the 1920s, Northwestern became one of the first six universities in the United States to establish a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC). In 1939, Northwestern hosted the first-ever NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship game in the original Patten Gymnasium, which was later demolished and relocated farther north, along with the Dearborn Observatory, to make room for the Technological Institute.

    After the golden years of the 1920s, the Great Depression in the United States (1929–1941) had a severe impact on the university’s finances. Its annual income dropped 25 percent from $4.8 million in 1930-31 to $3.6 million in 1933-34. Investment income shrank, fewer people could pay full tuition, and annual giving from alumni and philanthropists fell from $870,000 in 1932 to a low of $331,000 in 1935. The university responded with two salary cuts of 10 percent each for all employees. It imposed hiring and building freezes and slashed appropriations for maintenance, books, and research. Having had a balanced budget in 1930-31, the university now faced deficits of roughly $100,000 for the next four years. Enrollments fell in most schools, with law and music suffering the biggest declines. However, the movement toward state certification of school teachers prompted Northwestern to start a new graduate program in education, thereby bringing in new students and much needed income. In June 1933, Robert Maynard Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago(US), proposed a merger of the two universities, estimating annual savings of $1.7 million. The two presidents were enthusiastic, and the faculty liked the idea; many Northwestern alumni, however, opposed it, fearing the loss of their Alma Mater and its many traditions that distinguished Northwestern from Chicago. The medical school, for example, was oriented toward training practitioners, and alumni feared it would lose its mission if it were merged into the more research-oriented University of Chicago Medical School. The merger plan was ultimately dropped. In 1935, the Deering family rescued the university budget with an unrestricted gift of $6 million, bringing the budget up to $5.4 million in 1938-39. This allowed many of the previous spending cuts to be restored, including half of the salary reductions.

    Like other American research universities, Northwestern was transformed by World War II (1939–1945). Regular enrollment fell dramatically, but the school opened high-intensity, short-term programs that trained over 50,000 military personnel, including future president John F. Kennedy. Northwestern’s existing NROTC program proved to be a boon to the university as it trained over 36,000 sailors over the course of the war, leading Northwestern to be called the “Annapolis of the Midwest.” Franklyn B. Snyder led the university from 1939 to 1949, and after the war, surging enrollments under the G.I. Bill drove dramatic expansion of both campuses. In 1948, prominent anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits founded the Program of African Studies at Northwestern, the first center of its kind at an American academic institution. J. Roscoe Miller’s tenure as president from 1949 to 1970 saw an expansion of the Evanston campus, with the construction of the Lakefill on Lake Michigan, growth of the faculty and new academic programs, and polarizing Vietnam-era student protests. In 1978, the first and second Unabomber attacks occurred at Northwestern University. Relations between Evanston and Northwestern became strained throughout much of the post-war era because of episodes of disruptive student activism, disputes over municipal zoning, building codes, and law enforcement, as well as restrictions on the sale of alcohol near campus until 1972. Northwestern’s exemption from state and municipal property-tax obligations under its original charter has historically been a source of town-and-gown tension.

    Although government support for universities declined in the 1970s and 1980s, President Arnold R. Weber was able to stabilize university finances, leading to a revitalization of its campuses. As admissions to colleges and universities grew increasingly competitive in the 1990s and 2000s, President Henry S. Bienen’s tenure saw a notable increase in the number and quality of undergraduate applicants, continued expansion of the facilities and faculty, and renewed athletic competitiveness. In 1999, Northwestern student journalists uncovered information exonerating Illinois death-row inmate Anthony Porter two days before his scheduled execution. The Innocence Project has since exonerated 10 more men. On January 11, 2003, in a speech at Northwestern School of Law’s Lincoln Hall, then Governor of Illinois George Ryan announced that he would commute the sentences of more than 150 death-row inmates.

    In the 2010s, a 5-year capital campaign resulted in a new music center, a replacement building for the business school, and a $270 million athletic complex. In 2014, President Barack Obama delivered a seminal economics speech at the Evanston campus.

    Organization and administration

    Governance

    Northwestern is privately owned and governed by an appointed Board of Trustees, which is composed of 70 members and, as of 2011, has been chaired by William A. Osborn ’69. The board delegates its power to an elected president who serves as the chief executive officer of the university. Northwestern has had sixteen presidents in its history (excluding interim presidents). The current president, economist Morton O. Schapiro, succeeded Henry Bienen whose 14-year tenure ended on August 31, 2009. The president maintains a staff of vice presidents, directors, and other assistants for administrative, financial, faculty, and student matters. Kathleen Haggerty assumed the role of interim provost for the university in April 2020.

    Students are formally involved in the university’s administration through the Associated Student Government, elected representatives of the undergraduate students, and the Graduate Student Association, which represents the university’s graduate students.

    The admission requirements, degree requirements, courses of study, and disciplinary and degree recommendations for each of Northwestern’s 12 schools are determined by the voting members of that school’s faculty (assistant professor and above).

    Undergraduate and graduate schools

    Evanston Campus:

    Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (1851)
    School of Communication (1878)
    Bienen School of Music (1895)
    McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (1909)
    Medill School of Journalism (1921)
    School of Education and Social Policy (1926)
    School of Professional Studies (1933)

    Graduate and professional

    Evanston Campus

    Kellogg School of Management (1908)
    The Graduate School

    Chicago Campus

    Feinberg School of Medicine (1859)
    Kellogg School of Management (1908)
    Pritzker School of Law (1859)
    School of Professional Studies (1933)

    Northwestern University had a dental school from 1891 to May 31, 2001, when it closed.

    Endowment

    In 1996, Princess Diana made a trip to Evanston to raise money for the university hospital’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at the invitation of then President Bienen. Her visit raised a total of $1.5 million for cancer research.

    In 2003, Northwestern finished a five-year capital campaign that raised $1.55 billion, exceeding its fundraising goal by $550 million.

    In 2014, Northwestern launched the “We Will” campaign with a fundraising goal of $3.75 billion. As of December 31, 2019, the university has received $4.78 billion from 164,026 donors.

    Sustainability

    In January 2009, the Green Power Partnership (sponsored by the EPA) listed Northwestern as one of the top 10 universities in the country in purchasing energy from renewable sources. The university matches 74 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of its annual energy use with Green-e Certified Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). This green power commitment represents 30 percent of the university’s total annual electricity use and places Northwestern in the EPA’s Green Power Leadership Club. The Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), supporting research, teaching and outreach in these themes, was launched in 2008.

    Northwestern requires that all new buildings be LEED-certified. Silverman Hall on the Evanston campus was awarded Gold LEED Certification in 2010; Wieboldt Hall on the Chicago campus was awarded Gold LEED Certification in 2007, and the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center on the Evanston campus was awarded Silver LEED Certification in 2006. New construction and renovation projects will be designed to provide at least a 20% improvement over energy code requirements where feasible. At the beginning of the 2008–09 academic year, the university also released the Evanston Campus Framework Plan, which outlines plans for future development of the university’s Evanston campus. The plan not only emphasizes sustainable building construction, but also focuses on reducing the energy costs of transportation by optimizing pedestrian and bicycle access. Northwestern has had a comprehensive recycling program in place since 1990. The university recycles over 1,500 tons of waste, or 30% of all waste produced on campus, each year. All landscape waste at the university is composted.

    Academics

    Education and rankings

    Northwestern is a large, residential research university, and is frequently ranked among the top universities in the United States. The university is a leading institution in the fields of materials engineering, chemistry, business, economics, education, journalism, and communications. It is also prominent in law and medicine. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the respective national professional organizations for chemistry, psychology, business, education, journalism, music, engineering, law, and medicine, the university offers 124 undergraduate programs and 145 graduate and professional programs. Northwestern conferred 2,190 bachelor’s degrees, 3,272 master’s degrees, 565 doctoral degrees, and 444 professional degrees in 2012–2013. Since 1951, Northwestern has awarded 520 honorary degrees. Northwestern also has chapters of academic honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa (Alpha of Illinois), Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Sigma Phi (Beta Chapter), Lambda Pi Eta, and Alpha Sigma Lambda (Alpha Chapter).

    The four-year, full-time undergraduate program comprises the majority of enrollments at the university. Although there is no university-wide core curriculum, a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences is required for all majors; individual degree requirements are set by the faculty of each school. The university heavily emphasizes interdisciplinary learning, with 72% of undergrads combining two or more areas of study. Northwestern’s full-time undergraduate and graduate programs operate on an approximately 10-week academic quarter system with the academic year beginning in late September and ending in early June. Undergraduates typically take four courses each quarter and twelve courses in an academic year and are required to complete at least twelve quarters on campus to graduate. Northwestern offers honors, accelerated, and joint degree programs in medicine, science, mathematics, engineering, and journalism. The comprehensive doctoral graduate program has high coexistence with undergraduate programs.

    Despite being a mid-sized university, Northwestern maintains a relatively low student to faculty ratio of 6:1.

    Research

    Northwestern was elected to the Association of American Universities (US)in 1917 and is classified as an R1 university, denoting “very high” research activity. Northwestern’s schools of management, engineering, and communication are among the most academically productive in the nation. The university received $887.3 million in research funding in 2019 and houses over 90 school-based and 40 university-wide research institutes and centers. Northwestern also supports nearly 1,500 research laboratories across two campuses, predominately in the medical and biological sciences.

    Northwestern is home to the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics, Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, Materials Research Center, Center for Quantum Devices, Institute for Policy Research, International Institute for Nanotechnology, Center for Catalysis and Surface Science, Buffet Center for International and Comparative Studies, the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, and the Argonne/Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center among other centers for interdisciplinary research.

    Student body

    Northwestern enrolled 8,186 full-time undergraduate, 9,904 full-time graduate, and 3,856 part-time students in the 2019–2020 academic year. The freshman retention rate for that year was 98%. 86% of students graduated after four years and 92% graduated after five years. These numbers can largely be attributed to the university’s various specialized degree programs, such as those that allow students to earn master’s degrees with a one or two year extension of their undergraduate program.

    The undergraduate population is drawn from all 50 states and over 75 foreign countries. 20% of students in the Class of 2024 were Pell Grant recipients and 12.56% were first-generation college students. Northwestern also enrolls the 9th-most National Merit Scholars of any university in the nation.

    In Fall 2014, 40.6% of undergraduate students were enrolled in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, 21.3% in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, 14.3% in the School of Communication, 11.7% in the Medill School of Journalism, 5.7% in the Bienen School of Music, and 6.4% in the School of Education and Social Policy. The five most commonly awarded undergraduate degrees are economics, journalism, communication studies, psychology, and political science. The Kellogg School of Management’s MBA, the School of Law’s JD, and the Feinberg School of Medicine’s MD are the three largest professional degree programs by enrollment. With 2,446 students enrolled in science, engineering, and health fields, the largest graduate programs by enrollment include chemistry, integrated biology, material sciences, electrical and computer engineering, neuroscience, and economics.

    Athletics

    Northwestern is a charter member of the Big Ten Conference. It is the conference’s only private university and possesses the smallest undergraduate enrollment (the next-smallest member, the University of Iowa, is roughly three times as large, with almost 22,000 undergraduates).

    Northwestern fields 19 intercollegiate athletic teams (8 men’s and 11 women’s) in addition to numerous club sports. 12 of Northwestern’s varsity programs have had NCAA or bowl postseason appearances. Northwestern is one of five private AAU members to compete in NCAA Power Five conferences (the other four being Duke, Stanford, USC, and Vanderbilt) and maintains a 98% NCAA Graduation Success Rate, the highest among Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

    In 2018, the school opened the Walter Athletics Center, a $270 million state of the art lakefront facility for its athletics teams.

    Nickname and mascot

    Before 1924, Northwestern teams were known as “The Purple” and unofficially as “The Fighting Methodists.” The name Wildcats was bestowed upon the university in 1924 by Wallace Abbey, a writer for the Chicago Daily Tribune, who wrote that even in a loss to the University of Chicago, “Football players had not come down from Evanston; wildcats would be a name better suited to “[Coach Glenn] Thistletwaite’s boys.” The name was so popular that university board members made “Wildcats” the official nickname just months later. In 1972, the student body voted to change the official nickname to “Purple Haze,” but the new name never stuck.

    The mascot of Northwestern Athletics is “Willie the Wildcat”. Prior to Willie, the team mascot had been a live, caged bear cub from the Lincoln Park Zoo named Furpaw, who was brought to the playing field on game days to greet the fans. After a losing season however, the team decided that Furpaw was to blame for its misfortune and decided to select a new mascot. “Willie the Wildcat” made his debut in 1933, first as a logo and then in three dimensions in 1947, when members of the Alpha Delta fraternity dressed as wildcats during a Homecoming Parade.

    Traditions

    Northwestern’s official motto, “Quaecumque sunt vera,” was adopted by the university in 1890. The Latin phrase translates to “Whatsoever things are true” and comes from the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (Philippians 4:8), in which St. Paul admonishes the Christians in the Greek city of Philippi. In addition to this motto, the university crest features a Greek phrase taken from the Gospel of John inscribed on the pages of an open book, ήρης χάριτος και αληθείας or “the word full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
    Alma Mater is the Northwestern Hymn. The original Latin version of the hymn was written in 1907 by Peter Christian Lutkin, the first dean of the School of Music from 1883 to 1931. In 1953, then Director-of-Bands John Paynter recruited an undergraduate music student, Thomas Tyra (’54), to write an English version of the song, which today is performed by the Marching Band during halftime at Wildcat football games and by the orchestra during ceremonies and other special occasions.
    Purple became Northwestern’s official color in 1892, replacing black and gold after a university committee concluded that too many other universities had used these colors. Today, Northwestern’s official color is purple, although white is something of an official color as well, being mentioned in both the university’s earliest song, Alma Mater (1907) (“Hail to purple, hail to white”) and in many university guidelines.
    The Rock, a 6-foot high quartzite boulder donated by the Class of 1902, originally served as a water fountain. It was painted over by students in the 1940s as a prank and has since become a popular vehicle of self-expression on campus.
    Armadillo Day, commonly known as Dillo Day, is the largest student-run music festival in the country. The festival is hosted every Spring on Northwestern’s Lakefront.
    Primal Scream is held every quarter at 9 p.m. on the Sunday before finals week. Students lean out of windows or gather in courtyards and scream to help relieve stress.
    In the past, students would throw marshmallows during football games, but this tradition has since been discontinued.

    Philanthropy

    One of Northwestern’s most notable student charity events is Dance Marathon, the most established and largest student-run philanthropy in the nation. The annual 30-hour event is among the most widely-attended events on campus. It has raised over $1 million for charity ever year since 2011 and has donated a total of $13 million to children’s charities since its conception.

    The Northwestern Community Development Corps (NCDC) is a student-run organization that connects hundreds of student volunteers to community development projects in Evanston and Chicago throughout the year. The group also holds a number of annual community events, including Project Pumpkin, a Halloween celebration that provides over 800 local children with carnival events and a safe venue to trick-or-treat each year.

    Many Northwestern students participate in the Freshman Urban Program, an initiative for students interested in community service to work on addressing social issues facing the city of Chicago, and the university’s Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) programs, including group service-learning expeditions in Asia, Africa, or Latin America in conjunction with the Foundation for Sustainable Development.

    Several internationally recognized non-profit organizations were established at Northwestern, including the World Health Imaging, Informatics and Telemedicine Alliance, a spin-off from an engineering student’s honors thesis.
    Media

    Print

    Established in 1881, The Daily Northwestern is the university’s main student newspaper and is published on weekdays during the academic year. It is directed entirely by undergraduate students and owned by the Students Publishing Company. Although it serves the Northwestern community, the Daily has no business ties to the university and is supported wholly by advertisers.
    North by Northwestern is an online undergraduate magazine established in September 2006 by students at the Medill School of Journalism. Published on weekdays, it consists of updates on news stories and special events throughout the year. It also publishes a quarterly print magazine.
    Syllabus is the university’s undergraduate yearbook. It is distributed in late May and features a culmination of the year’s events at Northwestern. First published in 1885, the yearbook is published by Students Publishing Company and edited by Northwestern students.
    Northwestern Flipside is an undergraduate satirical magazine. Founded in 2009, it publishes a weekly issue both in print and online.
    Helicon is the university’s undergraduate literary magazine. Established in 1979, it is published twice a year: a web issue is released in the winter and a print issue with a web complement is released in the spring.
    The Protest is Northwestern’s quarterly social justice magazine.
    The Northwestern division of Student Multicultural Affairs supports a number of publications for particular cultural groups including Ahora, a magazine about Hispanic and Latino/a culture and campus life; Al Bayan, published by the Northwestern Muslim-cultural Student Association; BlackBoard Magazine, a magazine centered around African-American student life; and NUAsian, a magazine and blog on Asian and Asian-American culture and issues.
    The Northwestern University Law Review is a scholarly legal publication and student organization at Northwestern University School of Law. Its primary purpose is to publish a journal of broad legal scholarship. The Law Review publishes six issues each year. Student editors make the editorial and organizational decisions and select articles submitted by professors, judges, and practitioners, as well as student pieces. The Law Review also publishes scholarly pieces weekly on the Colloquy.
    The Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property is a law review published by an independent student organization at Northwestern University School of Law.
    The Northwestern Interdisciplinary Law Review is a scholarly legal publication published annually by an editorial board of Northwestern undergraduates. Its mission is to publish interdisciplinary legal research, drawing from fields such as history, literature, economics, philosophy, and art. Founded in 2008, the journal features articles by professors, law students, practitioners, and undergraduates. It is funded by the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies and the Office of the Provost.

    Web-based

    Established in January 2011, Sherman Ave is a humor website that often publishes content on Northwestern student life. Most of its staff writers are current Northwestern undergraduates writing under various pseudonyms. The website is popular among students for its interviews of prominent campus figures, Freshman Guide, and live-tweeting coverage of football games. In Fall 2012, the website promoted a satiric campaign to end the Vanderbilt University football team’s custom of clubbing baby seals.
    Politics & Policy is dedicated to the analysis of current events and public policy. Established in 2010 by students at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, and Medill School of Journalism, the publication reaches students on more than 250 college campuses around the world. Run entirely by undergraduates, it is published several times a week and features material ranging from short summaries of events to extended research pieces. The publication is financed in part by the Buffett Center.
    Northwestern Business Review is a campus source for business news. Founded in 2005, it has an online presence as well as a quarterly print schedule.
    TriQuarterly Online (formerly TriQuarterly) is a literary magazine published twice a year featuring poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, literary essays, reviews, blog posts, and art.
    The Queer Reader is Northwestern’s first radical feminist and LGBTQ+ publication.

    Radio, film, and television

    WNUR (89.3 FM) is a 7,200-watt radio station that broadcasts to the city of Chicago and its northern suburbs. WNUR’s programming consists of music (jazz, classical, and rock), literature, politics, current events, varsity sports (football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, and women’s lacrosse), and breaking news on weekdays.
    Studio 22 is a student-run production company that produces roughly ten films each year. The organization financed the first film Zach Braff directed, and many of its films have featured students who would later go into professional acting, including Zach Gilford of Friday Night Lights.
    Applause for a Cause is currently the only student-run production company in the nation to create feature-length films for charity. It was founded in 2010 and has raised over $5,000 to date for various local and national organizations across the United States.
    Northwestern News Network is a student television news and sports network, serving the Northwestern and Evanston communities. Its studios and newsroom are located on the fourth floor of the McCormick Tribune Center on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. NNN is funded by the Medill School of Journalism.

     
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