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  • richardmitnick 2:08 pm on December 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Radio Astronomy,   

    From Symmetry: “Viewing our turbulent universe” 

    Symmetry Mag
    Symmetry

    12/02/16
    Liz Kruesi

    Construction has begun for the Cherenkov Telescope Array [CTA], a discovery machine that will study the highest energy objects and events across the entire sky.

    1
    Daniel Mazinkn, CTA Observatory

    Billions of light-years away, a supermassive black hole is spewing high-energy radiation, launching it far outside of the confines of its galaxy. Some of the gamma rays released by that turbulent neighborhood travel unimpeded across the universe, untouched by the magnetic fields threading the cosmos, toward our small, rocky, blue planet.

    We have space-based devices, such as the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, that can detect those messengers, allowing us to see into the black hole’s extreme environment or search for evidence of dark matter.

    NASA/Fermi Telescope
    NASA/Fermi Telescope

    But Earth’s atmosphere blocks gamma rays. When they meet the atmosphere, sequences of interactions with gas molecules break them into a shower of fast-moving secondary particles. Some of those generated particles—which could be, for example, fast-moving electrons and their antiparticles, positrons—speed through the atmosphere so quickly that they generate a faint flash of blue light, called Cherenkov radiation.

    A special type of telescope—large mirrors fitted with small reflective cones to funnel the faint light—can detect this blue flash in the atmosphere. Three observatories equipped with Cherenkov telescopes look at the sky during moonless hours of the night: VERITAS in Arizona has an array of four; MAGIC in La Palma, Spain, has two; and HESS in Namibia, Africa, has an array of five.

    CfA/VERITAS, AZ, USA
    CfA/VERITAS, AZ, USA

    MAGIC Cherenkov gamma ray telescope  on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain
    MAGIC Cherenkov gamma ray telescope on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain

    HESS Cherenko Array, located on the Cranz family farm, Göllschau, in Namibia, near the Gamsberg
    HESS Cherenko Array, located on the Cranz family farm, Göllschau, in Namibia, near the Gamsberg

    All three observatories have operated for at least 10 years, revealing a gamma-ray sky to astrophysicists.

    “Those telescopes really have helped to open the window, if you like, on this particular region of the electromagnetic spectrum,” says Paula Chadwick, a gamma-ray astronomer at Durham University in the United Kingdom. But that new window has also hinted at how much more there is to learn.

    “It became pretty clear that what we needed was a much bigger instrument to give us much better sensitivity,” she says. And so gamma-ray scientists have been working since 2005 to develop the next-generation Cherenkov observatory: “a discovery machine,” as Stefan Funk of Germany’s Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics calls it, that will reveal the highest energy objects and events across the entire sky. This is the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), and construction has begun.

    Ironing out the details

    As of now, nearly 1400 researchers and engineers from 32 countries are members of the CTA collaboration, and membership continues to grow. “If we look at the number of CTA members as a function of time, it’s essentially a linear increase,” says CTA spokesperson Werner Hofmann.

    Technology is being developed in laboratories spread across the globe: in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States (supported by the NSF—given the primarily astrophysics science mission of the CTA, it is not a part of the Department of Energy High Energy Physics program), and others. Those nearly 1400 researchers are collaborating and working together to gain a better understanding of how our universe works. “It’s the science that’s got everybody together, got everybody excited, and devoting so much of their time and energy to this,” Chadwick says.

    3
    G. Pérez, IAC, SMM

    The CTA will be split between two locations, with one array in the Northern Hemisphere and a larger one in the Southern Hemisphere. The dual location enables a view of the entire sky.

    CTA’s northern site will host four large telescopes (23 meters wide) and 15 medium telescopes (12 meters wide). The southern site will also host four large telescopes, plus 25 medium and 70 small telescopes (4 meters) that will use three different designs. The small telescopes are equipped to capture the highest energy gamma rays, which emanate, for example, from the center of our galaxy. That high-energy source is visible only from the Southern Hemisphere.

    In July 2015, the CTA Observatory (CTAO) council—the official governing body that acts on behalf of the observatory—chose their top locations in each hemisphere. And in 2016, the council has worked to make those preferences official. On September 19 the council and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias signed an agreement stating that the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the Canary Island of La Palma would host the northern array and its 19 constituent telescopes. This same site hosts the current-generation Cherenkov array MAGIC.

    IAC

    Construction of the foundation is progressing at the La Palma site to prepare for a prototype of the large telescope. The telescope itself is expected to be complete in late 2017.

    “It’s an incredibly aggressive schedule,” Hofmann says. “With a bit of luck we’ll have the first of these big telescopes operational at La Palma a year from now.”

    While the large telescope prototype is being built on the La Palma site, the medium and small prototype telescopes are being built in laboratories across the globe and installed at observatories similarly scattered. The prototypes’ optical designs and camera technologies need to be tested in a variety of environments. For example, the team working on one of the small telescope designs has a prototype on the slope of Mount Etna in Sicily. There, volcanic ash sometimes batters the mirrors and attached camera, providing a test to ensure CTA telescopes and instruments can withstand the environment. Unlike optical telescopes, which sit in protective domes, Cherenkov telescopes are exposed to the open air.

    The CTAO council expects to complete negotiations with the European Southern Observatory before the end of 2016 to finalize plans for the southern array. The current plan is to build 99 telescopes in Chile.

    ESO Bloc Icon

    This year, the council also chose the location of the CTA Science Management Center, which will be the central point of data processing, software updates and science coordination. This building, which will be located at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (also known as DESY) outside of Berlin, has not yet been built, but Hofmann says that should happen in 2018.

    DESY

    The observatory is on track for the first trial observations (essentially, testing) in 2021 and the first regular observations beginning in 2022. How close the project’s construction stays to this outlined schedule depends on funding from nations across the globe. But if the finances remain on track, then in 2024, the full observatory should be complete, and its 118 telescopes will then look for bright flashes of Cherenkov light signaling a violent event or object in the universe.

    See the full article here .

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.


     
  • richardmitnick 5:54 pm on December 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope, Radio Astronomy   

    From BBC: “Jodrell Bank: New homes would ‘impair’ telescope, rules government” 

    BBC
    BBC

    28 November 2016
    No writer credit found

    Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope
    Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope

    Plans to build 120 new homes in Cheshire have been blocked on the grounds they would interfere with the Jodrell Bank radio telescope.

    Gladman Developments had denied the use of household appliances in Goostrey would affect the observatory’s ability to receive radio signals from space.

    But Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid ruled against the proposed development.

    It would “impair the efficiency” of this “world-class facility”, he said.
    ‘Reasonable protection’

    The proposed site, off Main Road in Goostrey, is 1.95 miles (3.14km) from the observatory, home to the world famous Lovell Telescope.

    Cheshire East councillors rejected the plans last year.

    But the developer appealed the decision claiming there was “no evidence” their plan for 119 extra homes would cause a significant increase in radio interference.

    A public inquiry disagreed, saying the observatory, “as an established world class facility, should be afforded reasonable protection”.

    “This proposal could damage the world-class work being carried out by the observatory,” the government ruling said.

    “The harm to the efficiency of the Radio Telescope carries substantial weight against the proposal.”

    It also concluded the proposal would “be at odds” with the council’s strategy for development in the countryside.

    Cheshire East Councillor Ainsley Arnold said he was “delighted” and glad “the long-term protection of vital scientific work has prevailed over the short-term high demand in housing supply.”

    “Jodrell Bank observatory is a vital asset to this borough, the nation and the international scientific community”.

    The council is “doing everything possible to meet the housing needs of our area” but “this was simply the wrong development in the wrong place,” he said.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 5:41 pm on December 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cool Theory on Galaxy Formation, , Radio Astronomy   

    From CSIRO: “Cool Theory on Galaxy Formation” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    2 December 2016
    Mr Andrew Warren
    Communications Advisor · Communications
    Phone: +61 7 3833 5666
    (Mobile) +61 416 277 695
    Email: Andrew.Warren@csiro.au

    Giant galaxies may grow from cold gas that condenses as stars rather than forming in hot, violent mergers.

    1
    © ESO/M. Kornmesser.

    The surprise finding was made with CSIRO and US radio telescopes by an international team including four CSIRO researchers and published in the journal Science today.

    The biggest galaxies are found at the hearts of clusters, huge swarms of galaxies.

    “Until now we thought these giants formed by small galaxies falling together and merging,” team member Professor Ray Norris of CSIRO and Western Sydney University said.

    But the researchers, led by Dr Bjorn Emonts from the Centro de Astrobiología in Spain, saw something very different when they looked at a protocluster, an embryonic cluster, 10 billion light-years away.

    This protocluster was known to have a giant galaxy called the Spiderweb forming at its centre.

    2
    Spiderweb galaxy.http://www.quantumday.com/2014/10/probing-spiderweb-galaxy-cluster-mrc.html

    Dr Emonts’ team found that the Spiderweb is wallowing in a huge cloud of very cold gas that could be up to 100 billion times the mass of our Sun.

    Most of this gas must be hydrogen, the basic material from which stars and galaxies form.

    Earlier work by another team had revealed young stars all across the protocluster. The new finding suggests that “rather than forming from infalling galaxies, the Spiderweb may be condensing directly out of the gas,” according to Professor Norris.

    The astronomers didn’t see the hydrogen gas directly but located it by detecting a tracer gas, carbon monoxide (CO), which is easier to find.

    The Very Large Array [VLA] telescope in the USA showed that most of the CO could not be in the small galaxies in the protocluster, while CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array [ATCA] saw the large cloud surrounding the galaxies.

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

    CSIRO ATCA at the Paul Wild Observatory, about 25 km west of the town of Narrabri in rural NSW about 500 km north-west of Sydney, AU
    CSIRO ATCA at the Paul Wild Observatory, about 25 km west of the town of Narrabri in rural NSW about 500 km north-west of Sydney, AU

    “This is the sort of science the Compact Array excels at,” Professor Norris said.

    Co-author Professor Matthew Lehnert from the Institut Astrophysique de Paris described the gas as “shockingly cold” – about minus 200 degrees Celsius.

    “We expected a fiery process – lots of galaxies falling in and heating gas up,” he said.

    Where the carbon monoxide came from is a puzzle.

    “It’s a by-product of previous stars but we cannot say for sure where it came from or how it accumulated in the cluster core,” Dr Emonts said.

    “To find out we’d have to look even deeper into the Universe’s history.”

    CSIRO researchers Ron Ekers, James Allison and Balthasar Indermuehle also contributed to this study of the Spiderweb.

    The Australia Telescope Compact Array is part of the Australia Telescope National Facility, which is funded by the Australian Government for operation as a National Facility managed by CSIRO.

    See the full article here .

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    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:28 pm on December 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , II Zw 40, , Radio Astronomy,   

    From UCLA: “UCLA astronomers watch star clusters spewing out dust” 

    UCLA bloc

    UCLA

    December 01, 2016
    Katherine Kornei

    1
    In the galaxy II Zw 40, dust (shown in yellow) is strongly associated with clusters of stars (shown in orange). UCLA researchers have used new observations of this galaxy to confirm that these stars are creating enormous amounts of dust. S. M. Consiglio et al., Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2016

    Galaxies are often thought of as sparkling with stars, but they also contain gas and dust. Now, a team led by UCLA astronomers has used new data to show that stars are responsible for producing dust on galactic scales, a finding consistent with long-standing theory. Dust is important because it is a key component of rocky planets such as Earth.

    This research is published online today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Jean Turner, a UCLA professor in the department of astronomy and physics, her graduate student S. Michelle Consiglio, and two other collaborators observed a galaxy roughly 33 million light-years away. The researchers focused on this galaxy, called “II Zw 40,” because it is vigorously forming stars and therefore useful for testing theories of star formation. “This galaxy has one of the largest star-forming regions in the local universe,” Turner said.

    The researchers, led by Consiglio, obtained images of II Zw 40 using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope. This telescope, located in Chile’s Atacama desert, is composed of an array of 66 individual telescopes that function as a single large observatory.

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at  Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    In 2011, Turner took a three-month sabbatical from UCLA to help prepare the Atacama Array to be used by the astronomical community. “I helped with reducing data and served as astronomer on duty,” she said.

    The telescope is sensitive to light in the millimeter and submillimeter part of the electromagnetic spectrum, just slightly shorter than microwaves. Capturing this kind of light requires a telescope at high altitudes — this one is built on a plateau at 16,400 feet — because “the Earth’s atmosphere is beginning to absorb very strongly at those wavelengths,” Turner said. “All ALMA scientists work at a lower elevation because you can’t think well at that altitude,” she added.

    Consiglio and her team observed the central region of II Zw 40, a part of the galaxy with two young clusters of stars, each containing roughly a million stars. By imaging II Zw 40’s star clusters at different wavelengths, they constructed a map that traced the dust in the galaxy. Astronomical dust — made mostly of carbon, silicon and oxygen — is prevalent in the universe. “If you look at the Milky Way in the sky, it looks kind of patchy and splotchy. That’s due to dust blocking the light,” Turner said.

    The researchers tested whether the location of the galaxy’s dust was consistent with the location of the galaxy’s star clusters. They found that it was: Consiglio and her team showed that II Zw 40’s dust was concentrated within roughly 320 light-years of the star clusters. “The dust is all focused near the double cluster,” Turner said. This observation supported their hypothesis that stars are responsible for producing dust. “The double cluster is a ‘soot factory’ polluting its local environment,” Consiglio said.

    Scientists have long theorized that stars produce dust by expelling the elements fused deep within their interiors, enriching their host galaxies in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. However, astronomical data have thus far not backed up that claim. “People have looked for this large-scale enrichment of galaxies, but they haven’t seen it before,” Turner said. “We’re seeing galaxy-scale enrichment and we see clearly where it is coming from.”

    The researchers propose that the dust enrichment is so obvious in II Zw 40’s star clusters because they contain large numbers of very young, massive stars, which are the producers of dust. “The evolutionary time scales of these stars are short enough that you see the dust before it has a chance to get dispersed very far from its source,” Turner said. “We’re looking at the best place to see dust enrichment, in large star clusters,” Consiglio added.

    These new results motivate the team to observe more star clusters. “This is a snapshot of a double cluster at one age in one galaxy,” Turner said. “Our goal now is to find other sources and look at them in different stages of evolution to better understand the evolution of these giant star clusters and how they enrich their environment in dust.”

    See the full article here .

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    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:37 am on November 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , How an Earth-sized telescope will 'see' a supermassive black hole', Radio Astronomy   

    From COSMOS: “How an Earth-sized telescope will ‘see’ a supermassive black hole’ “ 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS

    30 November 2016
    Jake Port

    1
    The centre of the Milky Way galaxy, with the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) in the middle, is the first target for the Event Horizon Telescope.
    X-ray: NASA/UMass/D.Wang et al., IR: NASA/STScI

    Around the world, observatories gaze at the sky. But what if you could combine these to make a single high-resolution image – and examine the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy while you’re at it?

    This is the idea behind the Event Horizon Telescope, a virtual telescope so big it spans continents and hemispheres thanks to an imaging technique called interferometry.

    It works as different telescopes scattered across the globe record data on the same subject, which is then combined and processed by a supercomputer. This fills in the gaps to produce a final image.

    For instance, astronomers can use this technique to take information from two telescopes 100 kilometres apart, which creates an image similar to that taken by a single telescope 100 kilometres wide.

    The accuracy gets better with more telescopes and the greater their vertical and horizontal separation.

    Interferometry is used at sites such as the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile, which comprises 66 moveable antenna dishes.


    Access mp4 video here .

    Now astronomers are thinking bigger. Much, much bigger.

    By combining radio telescope observatories in Antarctica, Greenland, Chile, Hawaii and a number of other locations scattered across the globe, astronomers plan to image the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy.

    Black holes are the great consumers of the universe. Their event horizon is the point of no return – not even light can escape once over the boundary.

    Astronomers suspect that in the centre of each big galaxy lies a supermassive black hole. The one hosted by the Milky Way is thought to be around 4.5 million times the mass of the sun.

    Despite its size, it and other black holes (supermassive or not) are currently impossible to see directly. Astronomers must instead observe the effects they have on their surrounds, such as the motion of stars.

    So why radio telescopes over other types? Unlike optical light, radio waves can penetrate clouds of dust and other material between Earth and the target.

    Supermassive black holes, being in the centre of a galaxy, are surrounded by plenty of dust and gas.

    And specific wavelengths of light work better in different situations. Speaking to the BBC, University of Arizona astrophysicist Feryal Özel explained: “We’ve run upwards of a million simulations, for many different configurations of what that gas might look like. And in all cases, we think that the 1.3-millimetre wavelength is the right choice to see down to the event horizon.”

    The Event Horizon Telescope won’t just reveal what the event horizon of a black hole looks like, but may also test Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes gravitation.

    This theory has been tested by measuring the distortion of light by large astronomical bodies such as the sun. But black holes are gravity powerhouses. Will the theory stand up in this extreme setting?

    Event Horizon Telescope Array

    Event Horizon Telescope map

    The locations of the radio dishes that will be part of the Event Horizon Telescope array. Image credit: Event Horizon Telescope sites, via University of Arizona at https://www.as.arizona.edu/event-horizon-telescope.

    Arizona Radio Observatory
    Arizona Radio Observatory/Submillimeter-wave Astronomy (ARO/SMT)

    ESO/APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX)

    CARMA Array no longer in service
    Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA)

    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)
    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)

    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO)

    IRAM NOEMA interferometer
    Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique (IRAM) 30m

    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano
    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano

    CfA Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO
    Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO

    Future Array/Telescopes

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array, Chile

    Plateau de Bure interferometer
    Plateau de Bure interferometer

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL
    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:45 pm on November 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Radio Astronomy   

    From BBC: “Disturbing the peace: Can America’s quietest town be saved?” 

    BBC
    BBC

    26 November 2016
    Dave Lee

    gbo-logo

    GBO radio telescope, West Virginia, USA

    There’s a town in West Virginia where there are tight restrictions on mobile signal, wifi and other parts of what most of us know as simply: modern life. It means Green Bank is a place unlike anywhere else in the world. But that could be set to change.

    “Do you ever sit awake at night and wonder, what if?” I asked.

    Mike Holstine’s eyes twinkled like the stars he had spent his life’s work observing.

    “The universe is so huge,” he began.

    “On the off chance we do get that hugely lucky signal, when we look in the right place, at the right frequency. When we get that… can you imagine what that’s going to do to humankind?”

    Holstine is business manager at the Green Bank Observatory, the centrepiece of which is the colossal Green Bank Telescope. On a foggy Tuesday morning, I’m standing in the middle of it, looking up, feeling small.

    Though the GBT has many research tasks, the one everyone talks about is the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. The GBT listens out for signs of communication or activity by species that are not from Earth.

    1

    Unique people

    I am not the first BBC reporter to pop in here. In fact, Green Bank is a source of constant fascination for journalists all over the world. Recently, several people in the town told me, a Japanese crew baffled everyone when it appeared to set up a game show-style challenge in the area.

    Outsiders come here for two reasons. One, to marvel at the science. Two, to ogle at the unique people who have chosen to live here.

    Green Bank sits at the heart of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 square mile (33,669 sq km) area where certain types of transmissions are restricted so as not to create interference to the variety of instruments set up in the hills – as well as the Green Bank Observatory, there is also Sugar Grove, a US intelligence agency outpost.

    2
    Joel Bradshaw, 28 October 2009

    For those in the immediate vicinity of the GBT, the rules are more strict. Your mobile phone is useless here, you will not get a TV signal and you can’t have strong wi-fi  - though they admit this is a losing battle. Modern life is winning, gradually. And newer wi-fi standards do not interfere with the same frequencies as before.

    But this relative digital isolation has meant that Green Bank has become a haven for those who feel they are quite literally allergic to electronic interference.

    The condition is referred to as electromagnetic hypersensitivity disorder. Opinion is split on whether it is real, with the majority of medical opinion erring on the side that it is more psychological than physical.

    But when I met with Diane Schou, one sufferer, I realised it did not matter whether the condition was “real” or not  –  for a growing number of people, modern technology has them feeling trapped.

    The knock-on effects from the global recession have led to the Green Bank Telescope being on the chopping block.

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) is consulting right now on whether they can justify the expense of the telescope. To make things more precarious for Green Bank, other telescopes with similar abilities have been built in other parts of the world, including Chile.

    The NSF is not going to just pull the rug from underneath the GBT. As it stands, funding is going to be gradually removed. Not a slow death, but rather a chance for Mr Holstine to court private investment money to keep the telescope operational.

    It is working so far  –  the Breakthrough Listen project, backed with Silicon Valley money, is focused solely on finding other intelligent life. Over 10 years, its investors are planning to spend $100m (£80.3m) on the quest. They are using the GBT as part of an effort to survey the one million stars closest to Earth.

    For the locals in Green Bank, the survival of the telescope is not just about seeking ET. It is also the largest employer in the entire county.

    The big questions

    When I asked Chuck and Heather Niday, who host a weekly show on the charming Allegheny Mountain Radio, whether the town would change if restrictions were lifted, they were reserved.

    Sure, the kids would love access to Snapchat. But the fabric of the town would not be affected. It is a rural community and no amount of mobile phone signal will change the nature of this tight-knit town.

    If like me you find it unfathomable that we are alone in the universe, then Green Bank is an utterly essential utility. When I asked Mr Holstine to justify the money the US government spends on the facility, he dug deep.

    “How many of us have walked out into the night and looked up at the stars and stood there in wonder?

    “We don’t produce widgets. We don’t produce something that you go to the store and buy. But we do produce education. We do produce research. We do produce answers to questions we haven’t even asked ourselves yet.

    “Those questions are the basis of what it means for us to be human. That constant search is done right here every day.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:11 pm on November 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Radio Astronomy,   

    From GBO via Popular Science: “World’s Biggest Alien-Hunting Project Takes Aim At Mysterious Star” 

    gbo-logo

    Green Bank Radio Telescope, West Virginia, USA
    Green Bank Radio Telescope, West Virginia, USA

    gbo-sign

    Green Bank Observatory

    2

    Popular Science

    Starting tonight, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia will point its large dish toward Tabby’s Star to listen for radio communications of any aliens potentially living there.

    3
    Tabby’s star. No image credit

    Even as they acknowledge that it’s not likely, legitimate scientists are speculating about the possibility of alien life around a star named KIC 8462852 (a.k.a. “Tabby’s Star”). Today they’re going to start searching for those hypothetical aliens using the most powerful alien-hunting equipment available.

    Every now and then, Tabby’s Star dims by as much as 22 percent. There’s no good explanation for what might cause such a dramatic eclipse. Even a Jupiter-sized planet would only block a tiny fraction of that. A family of extra-large comets is currently the best explanation, but even that doesn’t quite fit–scientists would expect to see more infrared (heat) coming from Tabby’s Star if comets were the case. Penn State astronomer Jason Wright proposed that a huge structure built by aliens to harvest light from the star could cause a similarly large blockage, but the lack of extra infrared radiation pours cold water on this hypothesis as well.

    Regardless, Tabby’s Star is one of the most mysterious stars in the universe, so amateur and professional astronomers have been pointing their scopes toward it. They’ve searched for light and radio communications coming from any potential mega-civilizations living in the area, but to no avail so far.

    Now they’re giving it everything they’ve got. The star’s discoverer, Tabetha Boyajian, is teaming up with the Breakthrough Listen project to search the radio waves around KIC 8462852 in the most thorough search for an alien presence yet.

    Breakthrough Listen is the $100 million baby of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Yuri Milner. The project is working with several radio telescopes around the globe, including the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, the Parkes Observatory in Australia, and FAST, China’s giant alien-hunting scope. Milner’s team has developed technology that hooks up to the telescopes and can simultaneously scan billions of different radio channels to search for patterns that might indicate intelligent life.

    Starting tonight, Boyajian, Wright, and astronomer Andrew Siemion (the latter two are part of the Breakthrough Listen initiative) will use the Green Bank telescope to listen for alien life around KIC 8462852. They’ll observe the star for eight hours per night on three separate nights over the next two months. Analyzing all those billions of channels will take some time–a month at least.

    In tonight’s observations, the team will be scanning the 1-12 gigahertz range, which covers the frequencies that cell phones and satellite television operates, among other technologies. The scans will be “sensitive enough to a detect signal with about the same energy as a powerful aircraft surveillance radar that we have here on this planet,” said Siemion in a webcast this afternoon. “We would be sensitive to technology no more advanced than our own if indeed it exists on Tabby’s Star.”

    If aliens are noisily living around Tabby’s Star, this is our best shot at finding them. However, even the scientists on this team agree that’s very, very, incredibly unlikely. Past events suspected to be alien occurrences–like the startlingly regular radio pulses that come from pulsars–have always turned out to have natural explanations. Aliens should always be the last guess, but the team thinks it’s worth giving Tabby’s Star a scan just in case.

    Unfortunately, the search for alien life doesn’t have a way to prove that aliens don’t exist–there’s always the possibility that we’re not looking in the right place, at the right time, on the right wavelengths, or for the correct patterns.

    “As long as Tabby’s star remains a mystery, and a possible explanation–although perhaps a remote one–is that there is an advanced civilization inhabiting the area around the star, we’re going to conduct SETI observations,” said Siemion. “This is absolutely not the end of the story with SETI and Tabby’s Star.”

    Until scientists can find out what previously undiscovered phenomenon is causing the star’s mysterious blinking, aliens are pretty much as good an explanation as we’ve got.

    See the full article here .

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    Mission Statement

    Green Bank Observatory enables leading edge research at radio wavelengths by offering telescope, facility and advanced instrumentation access to the astronomy community as well as to other basic and applied research communities. With radio astronomy as its foundation, the Green Bank Observatory is a world leader in advancing research, innovation, and education.

    History

    60 years ago, the trailblazers of American radio astronomy declared this facility their home, establishing the first ever National Radio Astronomy Observatory within the United States and the first ever national laboratory dedicated to open access science. Today their legacy is alive and well.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:19 am on November 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Radio Astronomy,   

    From Science Alert: “Astronomers have traced the source of the most powerful radio signal ever received from space” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    18 NOV 2016
    PETER DOCKRILL

    It’s not coming from inside the Milky Way.

    1
    The intensity of FRB 150807 at different radio frequencies. Credit: Dr Vikram Ravi/Caltech and Dr Ryan Shannon/ICRAR-Curtin/CSIRO

    Scientists have observed the most powerful fast radio burst (FRB) ever – an intensely brilliant burst of radiation emanating from outside our own Milky Way galaxy.

    The signal, which researchers say travelled at least a billion light-years to reach Earth, only lasted for a fraction of a second, but the observation could help us understand more about the epic gaps that exist between galaxies, called the cosmic web.

    “FRBs are extremely short but intense pulses of radio waves, each only lasting about a millisecond,” says astrophysicist Ryan Shannon from Curtin University in Australia. “Some are discovered by accident and no two bursts look the same.”

    There’s a lot we still don’t understand about FRBs and where they come from, partly because we’ve so far witnessed very few of them.

    This new burst – called FRB 150807 – is just the 18th FRB detected to date since they were first discovered in 2001.

    But despite this apparent rarity, scientists actually think these intensely powerful but short phenomena are happening all the time – we just don’t notice them.

    “We estimate that there are between 2,000 and 10,000 FRBs occurring in the sky every day,” says one of the team, astronomer Vikram Ravi from Caltech.

    One of the difficulties with detecting FRBs is how quickly they flash, which makes it difficult for telescopes observing large portions of the sky to pinpoint where the bursts originate.

    But FRB 150807’s intense luminosity not only made it easier to help trace the burst’s likely origins – it also gave scientists new clues about the intergalactic matter the burst travelled through to get here.

    “This particular FRB is the first detected to date to contain detailed information about the cosmic web – regarded as the fabric of the Universe,” says Shannon.

    “[B]ut it is also unique because its travel path can be reconstructed to a precise line of sight and back to an area of space about a billion light years away that contains only a small number of possible home galaxies.”

    When FRBs travel through space, they pass through a range of matter – including gases, ionised particles, and magnetic fields – which can distort the radio wave on its path.

    But FRB 150807 – which was detected using the CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory in Australia – appeared to only be weakly distorted, which suggests that the space dust and magnetic fields throughout the cosmic web are less turbulent than the gas and other material in the Milky Way.

    2
    Australia’s Parkes radio telescope detected a fast radio burst while monitoring a nearby pulsar.
    Roger Ressmeyer / Corbis / VCG / Getty Images

    Thanks to the signal’s brightness, the team triangulated its origin to a small handful of galaxies, with the most likely candidate being a star system called VHS7.

    This galaxy is thought to be located between 3.2 and 6.5 billion light-years away, although the researchers acknowledge that they can’t be 100 percent certain that this is where the FRB hails from.

    And it’s also possible that the FRB could have come from a dim galaxy that we haven’t previously detected in sky surveys – but the team is convinced that wherever this distant galaxy is, it’s at least 1.5 billion light-years from Earth.

    While there’s still a lot we don’t know about these intense radio waves, FRB 150807’s stronger-than-usual signal at least should have cleared up any longstanding doubts as to whether FRBs actually emanate from outside the Milky Way – some scientists thought the signals could be explained by phenomena occurring inside our own galaxy.

    “I think this is laid to rest for the class of objects,” astronomer James M. Cordes from Cornell University, who wasn’t involved with the research, told Nadia Drake at National Geographic. “There may be one or two in the 18 published bursts that could still be in our galaxy, but the others could not.”

    And while we’ve still got our fair share of questions about what these FRBs are and what’s actually generating them, at least this new data gives us our clearest picture yet of these insanely powerful micro-events.

    “[FRB 150807] shows the promise of probing the large-scale structure of the Universe,” astrophysicist Duncan Lorimer from West Virginia University, who was not involved with this research, told Loren Grush at The Verge.

    “This particular source doesn’t solve the mystery of what [FRBs] are. But it gives us a great amount of hope for what [scientists] can do in the future.”

    The findings are reported in Science.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:11 am on November 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Radio Astronomy   

    From ESO’s Oana Sandu: The eyes of ALMA! 

    ALMA Array

    ALMA

    1

    The eyes of #ALMA! The first link in the chain of reception, conversion, processing, and recording of ALMA’s signals is called the ‘Front End’. It is designed to capture signals from 10 different bands of frequency. © S. Otarola – ALMA(ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

    NRAO Small

    ESO 50

    NAOJ

     
  • richardmitnick 3:04 pm on October 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Radio Astronomy   

    Help save the Greenbank Observatory 

    The NSF is considering closing down the Greenbank radio telescope in West Virginia.

    1

    We must not let that happen. A Grass roots campaign helped save the Lick Observatory on Mt Hamilton, CA. WE did it then, we can do it now. Send email to envcomp-AST-greenbank@nsf.gov and insist that Green Bank continue to operate with some NSF funding and outside support. WE already have a $2,000,000 for 5 years commitment from Breakthrough Listen. We can do more.

    We need all the help we can get. Please do your part.

     
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