Tagged: Space based Astronomy Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 3:01 pm on November 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A NICER View of a Bursting X-ray Binary", , , , Binary systems containing a neutron star and a main-sequence or supergiant star., , Güver and collaborators found that all of the bursts for which they acquired spectra had an excess of soft (i.e.low-energy) X-ray emission., Güver and collaborators identified 51 X-ray bursts during 138 observations and collected spectra for 40 of them., One of our best tools for studying these bursts is the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER)., , Space based Astronomy   

    From AAS NOVA: “A NICER View of a Bursting X-ray Binary” 


    From AAS NOVA

    Kerry Hensley

    An artist’s impression of an X-ray burst. [NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center]

    When a neutron star snares material from a stellar companion, we see a flash of X-rays called an X-ray burst. What can an analysis of 51 bursts from a single source tell us about the physics behind these events?

    Bursting Binary Systems

    Binary systems containing a neutron star — the extremely dense core of an expired massive star — and a main-sequence, supergiant, or white dwarf star are called X-ray binaries for the short bursts of X-rays they emit. These outbursts are thought to arise when the neutron star accretes gas from its stellar companion, forming an accretion disk from which the neutron star siphons a stream of material that ignites in a brief flash of nuclear fusion. Studying X-ray bursts allows researchers to pin down the properties of neutron stars and understand the physics that governs accreted gas.

    One of our best tools for studying these bursts is the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), which has monitored X-rays from its vantage point on the International Space Station since 2017. Among NICER’s many targets is the highly active binary 4U 1636–536, which was discovered just over 50 years ago. Researchers have cataloged hundreds of X-ray bursts from 4U 1636–536, finding that it averages one burst every four hours!

    An example of an X-ray burst from 4U 1636–536 as seen by NICER. [Adapted from Güver et al. 2022]

    Accretion Increases and Disk Reflections

    In a recent publication, a team led by Tolga Güver (Istanbul University) searched for evidence of additional X-ray bursts from 4U 1636–536 during a monitoring campaign with NICER. Güver and collaborators identified 51 X-ray bursts during 138 observations and collected spectra for 40 of them, allowing the team to characterize 4U 1636–536’s bursting behavior and understand how X-ray bursts affect their surroundings.

    Güver and collaborators found that all of the bursts for which they acquired spectra had an excess of soft (i.e.low-energy) X-ray emission. Modeling of this spectral feature indicated that it likely arises from either an increase in the rate at which matter is accreted onto the neutron star or from the burst scattering off the disk and/or being absorbed and re-emitted at a different wavelength, a process referred to as reflection. However, many of the bursts were fit well by models of both scenarios, and the authors pointed out that both processes likely occur simultaneously.

    Further X-ray Investigations

    To learn even more about 4U 1636–536’s frequent outbursts, Güver and collaborators analyzed data from India’s multi-wavelength space telescope AstroSat and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR).

    Using NuSTAR data, the team searched for evidence of Compton cooling, in which high-energy photons lose some of their energy through collisions with nearby electrons. The team discovered decreases in the hard (i.e., high-energy) X-ray emission shortly after the onset of several bursts, but the low count rate prevented a firm detection.

    Comparison of reduced χ2 values for best fits to the NICER spectra using the disk reflection model (blue) and the increased accretion model (red). [Güver et al. 2022]

    Further X-ray Investigations

    To learn even more about 4U 1636–536’s frequent outbursts, Güver and collaborators analyzed data from India’s multi-wavelength space telescope AstroSat and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). Using NuSTAR data, the team searched for evidence of Compton cooling, in which high-energy photons lose some of their energy through collisions with nearby electrons. The team discovered decreases in the hard (i.e., high-energy) X-ray emission shortly after the onset of several bursts, but the low count rate prevented a firm detection.

    The authors also used observations of several bursts made by AstroSat and NuSTAR to probe the causes of the excess soft X-ray emission further. Similar to their investigations of the NICER spectra, the team found that they could fit the spectra with either a disk reflection model or an increased accretion model — but simultaneously modeling both of these effects will require brighter X-ray bursts or a larger telescope.


    “Burst–Disk Interaction in 4U 1636–536 as Observed by NICER,” Tolga Güver et al 2022 ApJ 935 154.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition


    The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.

    The Society, through its publications, disseminates and archives the results of astronomical research. The Society also communicates and explains our understanding of the universe to the public.
    The Society facilitates and strengthens the interactions among members through professional meetings and other means. The Society supports member divisions representing specialized research and astronomical interests.
    The Society represents the goals of its community of members to the nation and the world. The Society also works with other scientific and educational societies to promote the advancement of science.
    The Society, through its members, trains, mentors and supports the next generation of astronomers. The Society supports and promotes increased participation of historically underrepresented groups in astronomy.
    The Society assists its members to develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach at all levels. The Society promotes broad interest in astronomy, which enhances science literacy and leads many to careers in science and engineering.

    Adopted June 7, 2009

    The society was founded in 1899 through the efforts of George Ellery Hale. The constitution of the group was written by Hale, George Comstock, Edward Morley, Simon Newcomb and Edward Charles Pickering. These men, plus four others, were the first Executive Council of the society; Newcomb was the first president. The initial membership was 114. The AAS name of the society was not finally decided until 1915, previously it was the “Astronomical and Astrophysical Society of America”. One proposed name that preceded this interim name was “American Astrophysical Society”.

    The AAS today has over 7,000 members and six divisions – the Division for Planetary Sciences (1968); the Division on Dynamical Astronomy (1969); the High Energy Astrophysics Division (1969); the Solar Physics Division (1969); the Historical Astronomy Division (1980); and the Laboratory Astrophysics Division (2012). The membership includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy.

    In 2019 three AAS members were selected into the tenth anniversary class of TED Fellows.

    The AAS established the AAS Fellows program in 2019 to “confer recognition upon AAS members for achievement and extraordinary service to the field of astronomy and the American Astronomical Society.” The inaugural class was designated by the AAS Board of Trustees and includes an initial group of 232 Legacy Fellows.

  • richardmitnick 9:42 am on November 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How NASA’s Roman Telescope Will Scan for Showstopping Explosions", , , , , Space based Astronomy,   

    From Hubblesite: “How NASA’s Roman Telescope Will Scan for Showstopping Explosions” 

    From Hubblesite


    Claire Blome
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Christine Pulliam
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

    Illustration of a Kilonova
    Following its launch no later than May 2027, NASA’s Roman Space Telescope will survey the same areas of the sky every few days. Researchers will mine these data to identify kilonovae – explosions that happen when two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole collide and merge. When these collisions happen, a fraction of the resulting debris is ejected as jets, which move near the speed of light. The remaining debris produces hot, glowing, neutron-rich clouds that forge heavy elements, like gold and platinum. Roman’s extensive data will help astronomers better identify how often these events occur, how much energy they give off, and how near or far they are. Credit: Joseph Olmsted (STScI)/NASA.

    Roman is set to help researchers detect more kilonovae, helping us learn significantly more about these “all-star” smashups.

    How do you pinpoint titanic collisions that occur millions or billions of light-years away? First, by surveying large areas of the sky. Second, by teaming up with observatories around the world! Scientists have been searching for kilonovae, when two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole collide and set off brief, but fantastic light shows as they merge. Such a collision can cause an enormous eruption that sends out bright cascades of light and ripples in space-time.

    How many brilliant eruptions like this occur across the universe? We don’t yet know. Only a handful of kilonovae candidates have been detected to date. NASA’s upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is set to survey the same areas of the sky every few days, which will help researchers follow up on – or even pinpoint – kilonova detections and ideally set off a “gold rush” of new information.

    The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is due to launch in May 2027.
    What happens when the densest, most massive stars – that are also super small – collide? They send out brilliant explosions known as kilonovae. Think of these events as the universe’s natural fireworks. Theorists suspect they periodically occur all across the cosmos – both near and far. Scientists will soon have an additional observatory to help follow up on and even scout these remarkable events: NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope [above], which is set to launch by May 2027.

    The key actors in kilonovae are neutron stars, the central cores of stars that collapsed under gravity during supernova explosions.

    They each have a mass similar to the Sun, but are only about 6 miles (10 kilometers) in diameter. And when they collide, they send out debris moving near the speed of light. These explosions are also thought to forge heavy elements, like gold, platinum, and strontium (which gives actual fireworks their stunning reds).

    Kilonovae shoot those elements across space, potentially allowing them to end up in rocks forming the crust of terrestrial planets like Earth.

    The astronomical community captured one of these remarkable kilonova events in 2017. Scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected the collision of two neutron stars first with gravitational waves – ripples in space-time.

    Almost simultaneously, NASA’s Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected high-energy light.

    NASA quickly pivoted to observe the event with a broader fleet of telescopes, and captured the fading glow of the blast’s expanding debris in a series of images.

    But the players in this example collided practically in our “backyard,” at least in astronomical terms. They lie only 130 million light-years away. There must be more kilonovae – and many that are farther flung – dotting our ever-active universe.

    “We don’t yet know the rate of these events,” said Daniel M. Scolnic, an assistant professor of physics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Scolnic led a study that estimates the number of kilonovae that could be discovered by past, present, and future observatories including Roman. “Is the single kilonova we identified typical? How bright are these explosions? What types of galaxies do they occur in?” Existing telescopes can’t cover wide enough areas or observe deeply enough to find more distant examples, but that will change with Roman.

    Spotting More, and More Distant, Kilonovae

    At this stage, LIGO leads the pack in identifying neutron star mergers. It can detect gravitational waves in all areas of the sky, but some of the most distant collisions may be too weak to be identified. Roman is set to join LIGO’s search, offering complementary qualities that help “fill out” the team. Roman is a survey telescope that will repeatedly scan the same areas of the sky. Plus, Roman’s field of view is 200 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope’s infrared view – not as vast as LIGO’s, but huge for a telescope that takes images. Its cadence will allow researchers to spot when objects on the sky brighten or dim, whether nearby or very far away.

    Roman will provide researchers a powerful tool for observing extremely distant kilonovae. This is due to the expansion of space. Light that left stars billions of years ago is stretched into longer, redder wavelengths, known as infrared light, over time. Since Roman specializes in capturing near-infrared light, it will detect light from very distant objects. How distant? “Roman will be able to see some kilonovae whose light has traveled about 7 billion years to reach Earth,” explained Eve Chase, a postdoctoral researcher at The DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Chase led a more recent study that simulated how differences in kilonovae ejecta can vary what we expect to observe from observatories including Roman.

    There’s a second benefit to near-infrared light: It provides more time to observe these short-lived bursts. Shorter wavelengths of light, like ultraviolet and visible, disappear from view in a day or two. Near-infrared light can be gathered for a week or more. Researchers have been simulating the data to see how this will work. “For a subset of simulated kilonovae, Roman would be able to observe some more than two weeks after the neutron star merger occurred,” Chase added. “It will be an excellent tool for looking at kilonovae that are very far away.”

    Soon, researchers will know far more about where kilonovae occur, and how often these explosions occur in the history of the universe. Were those that occurred earlier different in some way? “Roman will allow the astronomy community to begin conducting population studies along with a slew of new analyses on the physics of these explosions,” Scolnic said.

    A survey telescope offers enormous possibility – and also a ton of data that will require precise machine learning. Astronomers are meeting this challenge by writing code to automate these searches. Ultimately, Roman’s massive data sets will help researchers unravel perhaps the greatest mysteries about kilonovae to date: What happens after two neutron stars collide? Does it produce a single neutron star, a black hole, or something else entirely? With Roman, we will gather the statistics researchers need to make substantial breakthroughs.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the Roman mission, with participation by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, and will provide Roman’s Mission Operations Center. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will host Roman’s Science Operations Center and lead the data processing of Roman imaging. Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California, will house Roman’s Science Support Center and lead the data processing of Roman spectroscopy.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and mission operations for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

    The Hubble telescope was built by the United States space agency National Aeronautics Space Agency with contributions from the The European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganization](EU). The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) selects Hubble’s targets and processes the resulting data, while the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center controls the spacecraft.

    STScI is located on The Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus in Baltimore, Maryland and was established in 1981 as a community-based science center that is operated for National Aeronautics Space Agency by The Assocation of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). In addition to performing continuing science operations of HST and preparing for scientific exploration with JWST, STScI manages and operates the NASA Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, the Kepler Mission Data Resources in the Exoplanet Archive – NASA and a number of other activities benefiting from its expertise in and infrastructure for supporting the operations of space-based astronomical observatories. Most of the funding for STScI activities comes from contracts with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center but there are smaller activities funded by NASA’s Ames Research Center, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and The European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganization](EU). The staff at STScI consists of scientists (mostly astronomers and astrophysicists), spacecraft engineers, software engineers, data management personnel, education and public outreach experts, and administrative and business support personnel. There are approximately 100 Ph.D. scientists working at STScI, 15 of which are ESA staff who are on assignment to the HST project. The total STScI staff consists of about 850 people as of 2021.

    STScI operates its missions on behalf of NASA, the worldwide astronomy community, and to the benefit of the public. The science operations activities directly serve the astronomy community, primarily in the form of HST, and eventually JWST observations and grants, but also include distributing data from other NASA missions, such as the FUSE: Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer – NASA, Galaxy Evolution Explorer – Universe Missions – NASA JPL-Caltech and ground-based sky surveys.

    The ground system development activities create and maintain the software systems that are needed to provide these services to the astronomy community. STScI’s public outreach activities provide a wide range of information, on-line media, and programs for formal educators, planetariums and science museums, and the general public. STScI also serves as a source of guidance to NASA on a range of optical and UV space astrophysics issues.

    The STScI staff interacts and communicates with the professional astronomy community through a number of channels, including participation at the bi-annual meetings of the American Astronomical Society, publication of quarterly STScI newsletters and the STScI website, hosting user committees and science working groups, and holding several scientific and technical symposia and workshops each year. These activities enable STScI to disseminate information to the telescope user community as well as enabling the STScI staff to maximize the scientific productivity of the facilities they operate by responding to the needs of the community and of NASA.

  • richardmitnick 8:31 pm on October 28, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Lightest-ever neutron star or strange quark matter?", , , , , , Space based Astronomy, the supernova remnant HESS J1731-347, University of Tübingen astrophysicists combine measurements from different telescopes to uncover mysterious object hidden in a supernova cloud.   

    From Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen [Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen[(DE): “Lightest-ever neutron star or strange quark matter?” 

    U Tubingen bloc

    From Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen [Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen[(DE)


    University of Tübingen astrophysicists combine measurements from different telescopes to uncover mysterious object hidden in a supernova cloud.

    Left: False-color image of the supernova remnant HESS J1731-347. In the center is the neutron star, which emits X-rays and could therefore be observed by the XMM-Newton X-ray telescope. In the middle of the dust envelope is the companion star observed by the Gaia telescope. All kinds of invisible light were measured, from infrared (orange; Spitzer telescope) to X-rays (green, XMM-Newton telescope) and the ultrahigh-energy TeV band (blue; H.E.S.S. telescopes). Right: High-resolution X-ray spectra of the neutron star from measurements by the XMM-Newton and Suzaku telescopes, which were used to determine the stellar mass.

    The lightest neutron star so far found is located at the center of the supernova remnant HESS J1731-347. Dr. Victor Doroshenko, Dr. Valery Suleimanov, Dr. Gerd Pühlhofer and Professor Andrea Santangelo from the High Energy Astrophysics section of the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics discovered the unusual object with the help of X-ray telescopes in space. According to calculations by the research team, it has only about half the mass of a typical neutron star. As a basis for their calculations, they used new measurements of the distance to a companion star that the same team had discovered earlier. This allowed the astrophysicists to specify the mass and radius of the neutron star with unprecedented accuracy. Their study has been published in the latest Nature Astronomy [below].

    Neutron stars are born when normal stars with large masses ‘die’ in a supernova explosion, says lead author Victor Doroshenko.

    He calls them extreme objects that can be regarded as celestial laboratories for studying basic physics. “Neutron stars have yet unknown properties of matter; they have much higher density than atomic nuclei,” the researcher says. Conditions like that could not be replicated in terrestrial laboratories. “Space-based observations of neutron stars with extreme properties such as the one we’ve just found, using X-ray or other telescopes will allow us to solve the mysteries of super-dense matter – at least if we can solve challenges such as the inaccuracy of measurements over such distances that arises during observations. We have now succeeded in doing just that – pushing the knowledge about these mysterious objects a bit further.”

    Precise calculations

    The neutron star at the center of the supernova remnant HESS J1731-347 was one of a handful of objects discovered during gamma-ray measurements with the H.E.S.S. telescopes in Namibia and subsequently studied by X-ray telescopes from space, Doroshenko reports.

    “Only then did the cooling neutron star become visible,” adds Gerd Pühlhofer. The peculiarity of this object, as the same research team had noted earlier, is that it is physically connected to another star. That star illuminates the dust cloud around the neutron star, heats it and makes it shine in the infrared light. The companion star was recently observed by the European Space Agency’s Gaia space telescope, which provided the research team with accurate distance measurements to both objects.

    The Gaia mission involves a high-precision three-dimensional optical survey of the sky. “This allowed us to resolve previous inaccuracies and improve our models,” Pühlhofer said. The mass and radius of the neutron star could be determined much more precisely than was previously possible,” explains theoretical astrophysicist Valery Suleimanov.

    It is not yet clear how the unusual object formed, he says. There are also doubts as to whether it is actually a neutron star or whether the object is a candidate for an even more exotic object made of strange quark matter, says Andrea Santangelo, adding, “This is currently the most promising quark or strange-matter star candidate we know of so far, even if its properties are consistent with those of a ‘normal’ neutron star.” But even if the object at the center of HESS J1731-347 is a neutron star, it remains an interesting and puzzling object. “It allows us to probe the yet unexplored part of the parameter space in the mass-radius plane of neutron stars. This will enable us to put valuable constraints on the equation of state of dense matter, which is used to describe its properties” Santangelo says.

    Science paper:
    Nature Astronomy

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Tubingen campus

    Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen [Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen[(DE) is one of Europe’s oldest universities. Several hundred years of history in the sciences and humanities have been written here.

    The University’s history began in 1477, when Count Eberhard “the Bearded” of Württemberg founded the University. In Tübingen’s historical center there is hardly a building or a square that is not linked to a renowned scholar. Tübingen notables include Hegel, Hölderlin and Schelling, Mörike and Uhland, Johannes Kepler and Wilhelm Schickard.

    Tübingen today remains a place of research and teaching. In addition to the nearly 84,000 inhabitants, there are some 28,500 German and international students. Some 450 professors and more than 4000 other academic staff teach at the University’s seven faculties.

  • richardmitnick 1:10 pm on October 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Researchers discover new monster black hole 'practically in our back yard'", A national team of scientists analyzed data of nearly 200000 binary stars released over the summer from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite mission., , , , , In some cases like for supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies they can drive galaxy formation and evolution., It is not yet clear how noninteracting black holes affect galactic dynamics in the Milky Way., , Simple estimates suggest that there are about a million visible stars that have massive black hole companions in our galaxy., Space based Astronomy, The black hole has to be inferred from analyzing the motions of the visible star because it is not interacting with the luminous star., The pull of the black hole on the visible sun-like star can be determined from spectroscopic measurements which give us a line-of-sight velocity due to a Doppler shift., The scientists searched for objects that were reported to have large companion masses but whose brightness could be attributed to a single visible star., The University of Alabama-Huntsville, This black hole is closer to the sun than any other known black hole at a distance of 1550 light years.   

    From The University of Alabama-Huntsville : “Researchers discover new monster black hole ‘practically in our back yard'” 

    From The University of Alabama-Huntsville

    Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti

    Jim Steele

    The discovery of a so-called monster black hole that has about 12 times the mass of the sun is detailed in a new Astrophysical Journal science paper [below], the lead author of which is Dr. Sukanya Chakrabarti, a physics professor at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

    “It is closer to the sun than any other known black hole, at a distance of 1,550 light years,” says Dr. Chakrabarti, the Pei-Ling Chan Endowed Chair in the Department of Physics at UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System. “So, it’s practically in our backyard.”

    Black holes are seen as exotic because, although their gravitational force is clearly felt by stars and other objects in their vicinity, no light can escape a black hole so they can’t be seen in the same way as visible stars.

    “In some cases, like for supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, they can drive galaxy formation and evolution,” Dr. Chakrabarti says.

    “It is not yet clear how these noninteracting black holes affect galactic dynamics in the Milky Way. If they are numerous, they may well affect the formation of our galaxy and its internal dynamics.”

    To find the black hole, Dr. Chakrabarti and a national team of scientists analyzed data of nearly 200,000 binary stars released over the summer from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite mission.

    “We searched for objects that were reported to have large companion masses but whose brightness could be attributed to a single visible star,” she says. “Thus, you have a good reason to think that the companion is dark.”

    Interesting sources were followed up with spectrographic measurements from various telescopes, including the Automated Planet Finder in California, Chile’s Giant Magellan Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

    “The pull of the black hole on the visible sun-like star can be determined from these spectroscopic measurements, which give us a line-of-sight velocity due to a Doppler shift,” says Dr. Chakrabarti. A Doppler shift is the change in frequency of a wave in relation to an observer, like how the pitch of a siren’s sound changes as an emergency vehicle passes.

    “By analyzing the line-of-sight velocities of the visible star – and this visible star is akin to our own sun – we can infer how massive the black hole companion is, as well as the period of rotation, and how eccentric the orbit is,” she says. “These spectroscopic measurements independently confirmed the Gaia solution that also indicated that this binary system is composed of a visible star that is orbiting a very massive object.”

    The cross-hairs mark the location of the newly discovered monster black hole. Credit: S. Chakrabart et al. /Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

    The black hole has to be inferred from analyzing the motions of the visible star because it is not interacting with the luminous star. Noninteracting black holes don’t typically have a doughnut-shaped ring of accretion dust and material that accompanies black holes that are interacting with another object. Accretion makes the interacting type relatively easier to observe optically, which is why far more of that type have been found.

    “The majority of black holes in binary systems are in X-ray binaries – in other words, they are bright in X-rays due to some interaction with the black hole, often due to the black hole devouring the other star,” says Dr. Chakrabarti. “As the stuff from the other star falls down this deep gravitational potential well, we can see X-rays.”

    These interacting systems tend to be on short-period orbits, she says.

    “In this case we’re looking at a monster black hole but it’s on a long-period orbit of 185 days, or about half a year,” Dr. Chakrabarti says. “It’s pretty far from the visible star and not making any advances toward it.”

    The techniques the scientists employed should apply to finding other noninteracting systems, as well.

    “This is a new population that we’re just starting to learn about and will tell us about the formation channel of black holes, so it’s been very exciting to work on this,” says Peter Craig, a doctoral candidate at the Rochester Institute of Technology who is advised on his thesis by Dr. Chakrabarti.

    “Simple estimates suggest that there are about a million visible stars that have massive black hole companions in our galaxy,” says Dr. Chakrabarti. “But there are a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, so it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The Gaia mission, with its incredibly precise measurements, made it easier by narrowing down our search.”

    Scientists are trying to understand the formation pathways of noninteracting black holes.

    “There are currently several different routes that have been proposed by theorists, but noninteracting black holes around luminous stars are a very new type of population,” Dr. Chakrabarti says. “So, it will likely take us some time to understand their demographics, and how they form, and how these channels are different – or if they’re similar – to the more well-known population of interacting, merging black holes.”

    Science paper:
    The Astrophysical Journal

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Alabama in Huntsville is one of the nation’s premier research universities, offering a challenging hands-on curriculum that ensures our graduates are prepared to become tomorrow’s leaders.

    UAH is a public national university located in Huntsville, AL, which has been named one of the best places to live by U.S. News & World Report. Its students hail from 49 U.S. states and 48 countries. Included among this year’s enrollment of 9,237 was an incoming freshman class with an average ACT score of 26 and an average GPA of 3.91. Once they graduate, these students typically go on to earn a higher average starting ($62,200) and mid-career ($112,900) salary than most of their peers across Alabama.

    UAH offers 89 degree programs of study at the undergraduate and graduate level, with colleges in Engineering; Education; Honors; Nursing; Science; Business; Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences; Graduate School; and Professional Studies. All programs at UAH are accredited by SACS COC. Its robust academic presence is complemented by a vibrant campus life featuring more than 155 student-run organizations, 11 fraternities and sororities, and 15 NCAA sports.

    The university’s nearly 500-acre campus, which includes 17 high-tech research centers and labs responsible for nearly $149.8 million in annual research expenditures, serves as the anchor tenant for the second-largest research park in the nation. It also maintains strong partnerships with federal agencies and commercial organizations that include the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the Missile Defense Agency, the DIA Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

    UAH is regularly ranked the best return on investment among all schools in Alabama, and has been named by the Brookings Institution as the best public university in the state based on the economic outcomes of its graduates. Famous UAH alumni include astronaut Dr. Jan Davis, Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks, HudsonAlpha co-founder Jim Hudson, and Smarter Every Day host Destin Sandlin.

  • richardmitnick 4:34 pm on October 18, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA Telescope Takes 12-Year Time-Lapse Movie of Entire Sky", , , Caltech IPAC, , , , NASA/WISE and NeoWISE, Space based Astronomy   

    From NASA/WISE and NeoWISE : “NASA Telescope Takes 12-Year Time-Lapse Movie of Entire Sky” 

    NASA Wise Banner

    From NASA/WISE and NeoWISE

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    This mosaic is composed of images covering the entire sky, taken by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) as part of WISE’s 2012 All-Sky Data Release. By observing the entire sky, WISE can search for faint objects, like distant galaxies, or survey groups of cosmic objects. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA.

    Pictures of the sky can show us cosmic wonders; movies can bring them to life. Movies from NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope are revealing motion and change across the sky.

    Every six months, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or NEOWISE, spacecraft completes one trip halfway around the Sun, taking images in all directions. Stitched together, those images form an “all-sky” map showing the location and brightness of hundreds of millions of objects. Using 18 all-sky maps produced by the spacecraft (with the 19th and 20th to be released in March 2023), scientists have created what is essentially a time-lapse movie of the sky, revealing changes that span a decade.

    Each map is a tremendous resource for astronomers, but when viewed in sequence as a time-lapse, they serve as an even stronger resource for trying to better understand the universe. Comparing the maps can reveal distant objects that have changed position or brightness over time, what’s known as time-domain astronomy.

    NEOWISE: Revealing Changes in the Universe.
    New time-lapse movies from NASA’s NEOWISE mission give astronomers the opportunity to see objects, like stars and black holes, as they move and change over time. The videos include previously hidden brown dwarfs, a feeding black hole, a dying star, a star-forming region, and a brightening star. They combine more than 10 years of NEOWISE observations and 18 all-sky images, enabling a long-term analysis and a deeper understanding of the universe.

    “If you go outside and look at the night sky, it might seem like nothing ever changes, but that’s not the case,” said Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Stars are flaring and exploding. Asteroids are whizzing by. Black holes are tearing stars apart. The universe is a really busy, active place.”

    NEOWISE was originally a data processing project to retrieve asteroid detections and characteristics from WISE – an observatory launched in 2009 and tasked with scanning the entire sky to find and study objects outside our solar system. The spacecraft used cryogenically cooled detectors that made them sensitive to infrared light.

    Not visible to the human eye, infrared light is radiated by a plethora of cosmic objects, including cool, nearby stars and some of the most luminous galaxies in the universe. The WISE mission ended in 2011 after the onboard coolant – needed for some infrared observations – ran out, but the spacecraft and some of its infrared detectors were still functional. So in 2013, NASA repurposed it to track asteroids and other near-Earth objects, or NEOs. Both the mission and the spacecraft received a new name: NEOWISE.

    Growing Wiser

    Despite the shift, the infrared telescope has continued to scan the sky every six months, and astronomers have continued to use the data to study objects outside our solar system.

    For example, in 2020, scientists released the second iteration of a project called CatWISE: a catalog of objects from 12 NEOWISE all-sky maps. Researchers use the catalog to study brown dwarfs, a population of objects found throughout the galaxy and lurking in the darkness close to our Sun. Although they form like stars, brown dwarfs don’t accumulate enough mass to kick-start fusion, the process that causes stars to shine.

    Because of their proximity to Earth, nearby brown dwarfs appear to move faster across the sky compared to more distant stars moving at the same speed. So one way to identify brown dwarfs amid the billions of objects in the catalog is to look for objects that move. A complementary project to CatWISE called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 invites citizen scientists to sift through NEOWISE data for moving objects that computer searches might have missed.

    With the original two WISE all-sky maps, scientists found about 200 brown dwarfs within just 65 light-years of our Sun. The additional maps revealed another 60 and doubled the number of known Y-dwarfs, the coldest brown dwarfs. Compared to warmer brown dwarfs, Y-dwarfs may have a stranger story to tell in terms of how they formed and when. These discoveries help illuminate the menagerie of objects in our solar neighborhood. And a more complete count of brown dwarfs close to the Sun tells scientists how efficient star formation is in our galaxy and how early it began.

    Watching the sky change over more than a decade has also contributed to studies of how stars form. NEOWISE can peer into the dusty blankets swaddling protostars, or balls of hot gas that are well on their way to becoming stars. Over the course of years, protostars flicker and flare as they accumulate more mass from the dust clouds that surround them. Scientists are conducting long-term monitoring of almost 1,000 protostars with NEOWISE to gain insights into the early stages of star formation.

    NEOWISE’s data has also improved understanding of black holes. The original WISE survey discovered millions of supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies. In a recent study, scientists used NEOWISE data and a technique called echo mapping to measure the size of disks of hot, glowing gas surrounding distant black holes, which are too small and too distant for any telescope to resolve.

    “We never anticipated that the spacecraft would be operating this long, and I don’t think we could have anticipated the science we’d be able to do with this much data,” said Peter Eisenhardt, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and WISE project scientist.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The mission’s principal investigator, Amy Mainzer, is at the University of Arizona. The mission was competitively selected in 2002 under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp, Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing will take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    JPL managed and operated WISE for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Edward Wright at UCLA was the principal investigator. The mission was selected competitively under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    For more information about NEOWISE, visit:


    For more information about WISE, visit:


    The mission’s education and public outreach office is based at the University of California-Berkeley.

    NASA JPL Icon

  • richardmitnick 7:51 pm on October 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Clusters of galaxies better in view with radio X-ray combination", , , , , Space based Astronomy, The Netherlands Research School for Astronomy-astronomie.nl   

    From The Netherlands Research School for Astronomy-astronomie.nl: “Clusters of galaxies better in view with radio X-ray combination” 

    From The Netherlands Research School for Astronomy-astronomie.nl


    Through the clever use of two types of telescopes, a team of researchers has produced stunning images of clusters of galaxies. This not only produces beautiful images, but also provides more information about the enormous amounts of energy released around supermassive black holes in clusters. The astronomers, led by PhD student Roland Timmerman (Leiden University), will soon publish their method in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics [below].

    Composite image of the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster. Red is the radio emission received by LOFAR. Blue is X-rays by the Chandra telescope. White is hydrogen from the H-alpha map of the WIYN telescope. And the background is the night sky in optical light from the Hubble telescope. Credit:Frits Sweijen/LOFAR/Chandra/WIYN/Hubble/

    Astronomers have long known that supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies produce huge jets. These jets shoot away from the black hole and heat the gas in the wider surroundings. When the jets collide with gas, they form huge lobes tens of thousands of light-years in diameter. It can take hundreds of millions of years for these lobes to fade out. Thus, in theory, at least, the lobes give astronomers a lot of information regarding what occurred in a cluster.

    The problem, however, is that the information is difficult to extract from the lobes. An international team of astronomers has now put an end to that. They combined measurements from the radio telescope LOFAR, whose core is in the Netherlands, with those from the X-ray satellite Chandra.

    Whole greater than sum

    “That combination provides a much better idea of what is going on,” explains researcher Roland Timmerman (Leiden University). “It’s cliché, but the whole is really greater than the sum of the parts here. Chandra and LOFAR can individually make a pretty reasonable guess about the amount of energy injected by the black hole into the cluster environment, but together they are even stronger. Previously, this combination was not possible because no radio images were available with sufficient quality to match Chandra’s X-ray images. Because LOFAR antenna stations are now located throughout Europe, the resolution is high enough.”

    The astronomers now have radio images that are comparable in sharpness to visible-light images from the Hubble telescope. To demonstrate their technique, they imaged the Perseus cluster. That is a group of more than a thousand galaxies located about 240 million light-years in the direction of the northern constellation Perseus.

    Meanwhile, astronomers are creating composite images of other clusters of galaxies. With the underlying data, they hope to understand more about the interactions between galaxies and their surroundings in the early universe.

    Science paper:
    Astronomy & Astrophysics

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NOVA: collaboration
    The astronomical institutes at The University of Amsterdam [Universiteit van Amsterdam](NL), The University of Groningen [Rijksuniversiteit Groningen] (NL), Leiden University [Universiteit Leiden](NL) and Radboud University Nijmegen [Radboud Universiteit](NL) together form NOVA. NOVA closely collaborates with the two other research institutes that are active in the field of astronomy in the Netherlands: SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and ASTRON-Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy [Nederlands Instituut voor Radioastronomie] (NL).

    Collaboration and coordination of all partners in Dutch astronomy takes place within the Astronomy Council (RvdA) and the creation of decadal strategic plans and midterm updates by the RvdA.

    NOVA astronomers rely heavily on the world-class facilities of European Southern Observatory [La Observatorio Europeo Austral][Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte](EU)(CL), most notably the VLT telescopes and the ALMA array.

    A large fraction of the instrument projects that NOVA participates in are targeted at these facilities, as well as the future Extremely Large Telescope.

  • richardmitnick 9:57 pm on October 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: " WHIM": “warm-hot intergalactic medium”, "NASA's Chandra Finds Galaxy Cluster Collision on a 'WHIM'", Colliding galaxy clusters in Abell 98, , Space based Astronomy,   

    From The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Chandra X-ray telescope: “NASA’s Chandra Finds Galaxy Cluster Collision on a ‘WHIM'” 

    NASA Chandra Banner

    From The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Chandra X-ray telescope


    Megan Watzke
    Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts



    Astronomers have found evidence for “missing” mass in the form of gigantic strands, or filaments, of superheated gas.

    This proposed difficult-to-detect matter is known as the “warm-hot intergalactic medium” or WHIM.

    Scientists have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to look for the WHIM for years, but few searches have been successful.

    A new Chandra study of colliding galaxy clusters in Abell 98 provides new signs for the existence of the WHIM.


    Abell 98, Labeled (Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/A. Sarkar; Optical: NSF/NOIRLab/WIYN)

    This image features Abell 98, a system of galaxy clusters that includes a pair in the early stages of a collision. Astronomers have used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (shown as blue and purple with optical data from the WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona appearing white and red) to identify key structures and look for “missing” matter in the Universe.

    Noirlab NOAO WIYN 3.5 meter telescope interior.

    Astronomers taking inventory of the material in the local universe keep coming up short. A new result from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory about a system of colliding galaxy clusters may help explain this shortfall.

    Although scientists know a great deal about the composition of the universe, there has been a vexing problem they have struggled to explain — there is a significant amount of matter that has not yet been accounted for.

    This missing mass is not the invisible dark matter, which makes up a majority of the matter in the universe. This is a separate puzzle where about a third of the “normal” matter that was created in the first billion years or so after the big bang has yet to be detected by observations of the local universe, that is, in regions less than a few billion light-years from Earth. This matter is made up of hydrogen, helium, and other elements and makes up objects like stars, planets, and humans.

    Scientists have proposed that at least some of this missing mass could be hidden in gigantic strands, or filaments, of warm to hot (temperatures of 10,000 to 10,000,000 kelvins) gas in the space in between galaxies and clusters of galaxies. They have dubbed this the “warm-hot intergalactic medium,” or WHIM.

    A team of astronomers using Chandra to observe a system of colliding galaxy clusters has likely found evidence of this WHIM residing in the space between them. The team found evidence of this WHIM residing in the space between the two galaxy clusters. The Chandra data reveal a bridge of X-ray emission (shown in a labeled version above) between two of the colliding clusters containing gas at a temperature of about 20 million Kelvin and relatively cooler gas with a temperature of about 10 million Kelvin. The hotter gas in the bridge is likely from gas in the two clusters overlapping with each other. The temperature and density of the cooler gas agree with predictions for the hottest and densest gas in the WHIM.

    “Finding these filaments of missing matter has proven to be exceptionally difficult, and only a few examples are known,” said Arnab Sarkar of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led this study. “We are excited that we have likely pinpointed another.”

    The researchers used Chandra to study Abell 98, which contains colliding galaxy clusters about 1.4 billion light-years from Earth. The Chandra data reveals a bridge of X-ray emission between two of the colliding clusters containing gas at a temperature of about 20 million kelvins and cooler gas with a temperature of about 10 million kelvins. The hotter gas in the bridge is likely from gas in the two clusters overlapping with each other. The temperature and density of the cooler gas agree with predictions for the hottest and densest gas in the WHIM.

    In addition, the Chandra data shows the presence of a shock wave, which is similar to a sonic boom from a supersonic plane. This shock wave is driven by and located ahead of one of the galaxy clusters as it is starting to collide with another cluster. This is the first time astronomers have found such a shock wave in the early stages of a galaxy cluster collision, before the centers of the cluster pass by one another.

    “We think this shock wave is an important discovery because our models have predicted such features should be there, but we haven’t seen one until now,” said co author Scott Randall, also of CfA. “They’re a key part of the early collision process that will eventually lead to a merger of the clusters.”

    This shock wave may be directly connected to the discovery of the WHIM in Abell 98 because it has heated the gas in between the clusters as they collide. This may have raised the temperature of the gas in the WHIM filament — estimated to contain some 400 billion times the mass of the Sun — high enough to be detected with Chandra data.

    Galaxy clusters — which contain thousands of galaxies, huge amounts of hot gas, and enormous reservoirs of dark matter — are the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity. Scientists think they are able to reach their colossal size by merging with one another over millions or billions of years.

    “When galaxy clusters collide, we get a chance to see extreme physics that we rarely see in any other cosmic setting,” said Yuanyuan Su, a co-author from the University of Kentucky.

    A paper describing this result by Sarkar et al was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters [below]. Other authors on the paper are Gabriella E. Alvarez (CfA), Craig Sarazin (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia), Paul Nulsen (CfA), Elizabeth Blanton (Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts), William Forman (CfA), Christine Jones (CfA), Esra Bulbul (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany), John Zuhone (CfA), Felipe Andrade-Santos (CfA), Ryan Johnson (Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), and Priyanka Chakraborty (CfA).

    Additional evidence for the WHIM filament between these two clusters was found with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Suzaku, in a new paper led by Gabriella Alvarez, also of CfA.

    Their paper also gives evidence for the WHIM on the opposite side of the cluster that is leading the collision. These two detections of the WHIM indicate that the clusters are located along a colossal structure that is 13 million light-years long. The paper by Alvarez was recently accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal [below].

    Science paper:
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters
    The Astrophysical Journal

    See articles here and here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.
    In 1976 the Chandra X-ray Observatory (called AXAF at the time) was proposed to National Aeronautics and Space Administration by Riccardo Giacconi and Harvey Tananbaum. Preliminary work began the following year at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In the meantime, in 1978, NASA launched the first imaging X-ray telescope, Einstein (HEAO-2), into orbit. Work continued on the AXAF project throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, to reduce costs, the spacecraft was redesigned. Four of the twelve planned mirrors were eliminated, as were two of the six scientific instruments. AXAF’s planned orbit was changed to an elliptical one, reaching one third of the way to the Moon’s at its farthest point. This eliminated the possibility of improvement or repair by the space shuttle but put the observatory above the Earth’s radiation belts for most of its orbit. AXAF was assembled and tested by TRW (now Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) in Redondo Beach, California.

    AXAF was renamed Chandra as part of a contest held by NASA in 1998, which drew more than 6,000 submissions worldwide. The contest winners, Jatila van der Veen and Tyrel Johnson (then a high school teacher and high school student, respectively), suggested the name in honor of Nobel Prize–winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. He is known for his work in determining the maximum mass of white dwarf stars, leading to greater understanding of high energy astronomical phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes. Fittingly, the name Chandra means “moon” in Sanskrit.

    Originally scheduled to be launched in December 1998, the spacecraft was delayed several months, eventually being launched on July 23, 1999, at 04:31 UTC by Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-93. Chandra was deployed from Columbia at 11:47 UTC. The Inertial Upper Stage’s first stage motor ignited at 12:48 UTC, and after burning for 125 seconds and separating, the second stage ignited at 12:51 UTC and burned for 117 seconds. At 22,753 kilograms (50,162 lb), it was the heaviest payload ever launched by the shuttle, a consequence of the two-stage Inertial Upper Stage booster rocket system needed to transport the spacecraft to its high orbit.

    Chandra has been returning data since the month after it launched. It is operated by the SAO at the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with assistance from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northrop Grumman Space Technology. The ACIS CCDs suffered particle damage during early radiation belt passages. To prevent further damage, the instrument is now removed from the telescope’s focal plane during passages.

    Although Chandra was initially given an expected lifetime of 5 years, on September 4, 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years “based on the observatory’s outstanding results.” Physically Chandra could last much longer. A 2004 study performed at the Chandra X-ray Center indicated that the observatory could last at least 15 years.

    In July 2008, the International X-ray Observatory, a joint project between European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) (国立研究開発法人宇宙航空研究開発機構], was proposed as the next major X-ray observatory but was later cancelled. ESA later resurrected a downsized version of the project as the Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics (ATHENA), with a proposed launch in 2028.

    European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) Athena spacecraft depiction

    On October 10, 2018, Chandra entered safe mode operations, due to a gyroscope glitch. NASA reported that all science instruments were safe. Within days, the 3-second error in data from one gyro was understood, and plans were made to return Chandra to full service. The gyroscope that experienced the glitch was placed in reserve and is otherwise healthy.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [NASA/ESA Hubble, NASA Chandra, NASA Spitzer, and associated programs.] NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

  • richardmitnick 7:49 am on October 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "‘We’ve Never Seen Anything Like This Before’ - Black Hole Spews Out Material Years After Shredding Star", , , , , , Space based Astronomy,   

    The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: “‘We’ve Never Seen Anything Like This Before’ – Black Hole Spews Out Material Years After Shredding Star” 

    The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


    Credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab.

    In October 2018, a small star was ripped to shreds when it wandered too close to a black hole in a galaxy located 665 million light years away from Earth. Though it may sound thrilling, the event did not come as a surprise to astronomers who occasionally witness these violent incidents while scanning the night sky.

    But nearly three years after the massacre, the same black hole is lighting up the skies again — and it hasn’t swallowed anything new, scientists say.

    “This caught us completely by surprise — no one has ever seen anything like this before,” says Yvette Cendes, a research associate at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) and lead author of a new study [The Astrophysical Journal (below)] analyzing the phenomenon.

    The team concludes that the black hole is now ejecting material traveling at half of the speed of light, but are unsure why the outflow was delayed by several years. The results, described this week in The Astrophysical Journal, may help scientists better understand black holes’ feeding behavior, which Cendes likens to “burping” after a meal.

    The team spotted the unusual outburst while revisiting tidal disruption events (TDEs) — when encroaching stars are spaghettified by black holes — that occurred over the last several years.

    Radio data from the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico showed that the black hole had mysteriously reanimated in June 2021. Cendes and the team rushed to examine the event more closely.

    “We applied for Director’s Discretionary Time on multiple telescopes, which is when you find something so unexpected, you can’t wait for the normal cycle of telescope proposals to observe it,” Cendes explains. “All the applications were immediately accepted.”

    The team collected observations of the TDE, dubbed AT2018hyz, in multiple wavelengths of light using the VLA, the ALMA Observatory in Chile, MeerKAT in South Africa, the Australian Telescope Compact Array in Australia, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory [below] and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory in space.

    Radio observations of the TDE proved the most striking.

    “We have been studying TDEs with radio telescopes for more than a decade, and we sometimes find they shine in radio waves as they spew out material while the star is first being consumed by the black hole,” says Edo Berger, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and the CfA, and co-author on the new study. “But in AT2018hyz there was radio silence for the first three years, and now it’s dramatically lit up to become one of the most radio luminous TDEs ever observed.”

    Sebastian Gomez, a postdoctoral fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute and co-author on the new paper, says that AT2018hyz was “unremarkable” in 2018 when he first studied it [MNRAS (below)] using visible light telescopes, including the 1.2-m telescope at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona [below].

    Gomez, who was working on his doctoral dissertation with Berger at the time, used theoretical models to calculate that the star torn apart by the black hole was only one tenth the mass of our Sun.

    “We monitored AT2018hyz in visible light for several months until it faded away, and then set it out of our minds,” Gomez says.

    TDEs are well-known for emitting light when they occur. As a star nears a black hole, gravitational forces begin to stretch, or spaghettify, the star. Eventually, the elongated material spirals around the black hole and heats up, creating a flash that astronomers can spot from millions of light years away.

    Some spaghettified material occasionally gets flung out back into space. Astronomers liken it to black holes being messy eaters — not everything they try to consume makes it into their mouths.

    But the emission, known as an outflow, normally develops quickly after a TDE occurs — not years later. “It’s as if this black hole has started abruptly burping out a bunch of material from the star it ate years ago,” Cendes explains.

    In this case, the burps are resounding.

    The outflow of material is traveling as fast as 50 percent the speed of light. For comparison, most TDEs have an outflow that travels at 10 percent the speed of light, Cendes says.

    “This is the first time that we have witnessed such a long delay between the feeding and the outflow,” Berger says. “The next step is to explore whether this actually happens more regularly and we have simply not been looking at TDEs late enough in their evolution.”

    Additional co-authors on the study include Kate Alexander and Aprajita Hajela of Northwestern University; Ryan Chornock, Raffaella Margutti and Daniel Brethauer of the University of California, Berkley; Tanmoy Laskar of Radboud University; Brian Metzger of Columbia University; Michael Bietenholz of York University and Mark Wieringa of the Australia Telescope National Facility.

    Science papers:
    The Astrophysical Journal
    MNRAS 2018
    See the science papers for detailed material with images.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory 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 is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory, founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, 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, one of NASA’s Great Observatories.

    GMT Giant Magellan Telescope(CL) 21 meters, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s NSF NOIRLab NOAO Las Campanas Observatory(CL) some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration Chandra X-ray telescope.

    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, 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 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 University of California- Berkeley, 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.

    Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory located near Amado, Arizona on the slopes of Mount Hopkins, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)

    European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganization] (EU)/National Aeronautics and Space Administration SOHO satellite. Launched in 1995.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency NASA Kepler Space Telescope

    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 Mauna Kea, Hawai’i, 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 ; The University of California-Berkeley ; Case Western Reserve University; Harvard/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory; 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.

    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. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration Solar Dynamics Observatory.

    Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) (国立研究開発法人宇宙航空研究開発機構] (JP)/National Aeronautics and Space Administration HINODE spacecraft.

    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.

    Messier 87*, The first image of the event horizon of a black hole. This is the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy Messier 87. Image via The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration released on 10 April 2019 via National Science Foundation.

    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 1:10 pm on October 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Earth-based images of Europa and Ganymede reveal their icy landscape", Europa's crust is mainly composed of frozen water ice with non-ice materials contaminating the surface., Ganymede and Europa are two of the four largest moons orbiting Jupiter. Ganymede is the largest moon in the whole Solar System., , , Space based Astronomy, The cocktail of chemicals that make up the frozen surfaces on two of Jupiter's largest moons are revealed in the most detailed images ever taken of them by a telescope on Earth., The icy areas (blue in the images) include Ganymede's polar caps and craters – where an impact event has exposed the fresh clean ice of Ganymede's crust., The new observations recorded the amount sunlight reflected from Europa and Ganymede's surfaces at different infrared wavelengths producing a reflectance spectrum., The observations of Ganymede show how the surface is made up to two main types of terrain: young areas with large amounts of water ice and ancient areas mainly consisting unknown material.,   

    From The University of Leicester (UK): “Sharpest “Earth-based images of Europa and Ganymede reveal their icy landscape” 

    U leicester Bloc

    From The University of Leicester (UK)


    Europa and Ganymede

    The cocktail of chemicals that make up the frozen surfaces on two of Jupiter’s largest moons are revealed in the most detailed images ever taken of them by a telescope on Earth.

    Planetary scientists from the University of Leicester’s School of Physics and Astronomy have unveiled new images of Europa and Ganymede, two future destinations for exciting new missions to the Jovian system.

    Some of the sharpest images of Jupiter’s moons ever acquired from a ground-based observatory, they reveal new insights into the processes shaping the chemical composition of these massive moons – including geological features such as the long rift-like linae cutting across Europa’s surface.

    Ganymede and Europa are two of the four largest moons orbiting Jupiter, known as the Galilean moons. Whilst Europa is quite similar in size to our own Moon, Ganymede is the largest moon in the whole Solar System.

    The Leicester team, led by PhD student Oliver King, used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to observe and map the surfaces of these two worlds.

    The new observations recorded the amount sunlight reflected from Europa and Ganymede’s surfaces at different infrared wavelengths, producing a reflectance spectrum. These reflectance spectra are analyzed by developing a computer model that compares each observed spectrum to spectra of different substances that have been measured in laboratories.

    The images and spectra of Europa, published in the Planetary Science Journal [below], reveal that Europa’s crust is mainly composed of frozen water ice with non-ice materials contaminating the surface.

    Oliver King from the University of Leicester School of Physics and Astronomy said: “We mapped the distributions of the different materials on the surface, including sulphuric acid frost which is mainly found on the side of Europa that is most heavily bombarded by the gases surrounding Jupiter.”

    “The modelling found that there could be a variety of different salts present on the surface, but suggested that infrared spectroscopy alone is generally unable to identify which specific types of salt are present.”

    The observations of Ganymede, published in the journal JGR: Planets [below], show how the surface is made up to two main types of terrain: young areas with large amounts of water ice, and ancient areas mainly consisting of a dark grey material, the composition of which is unknown.

    The icy areas (blue in the images) include Ganymede’s polar caps and craters – where an impact event has exposed the fresh clean ice of Ganymede’s crust. The team mapped how the size of the grains of ice on Ganymede varies across the surface and the possible distributions of a variety of different salts, some of which may originate from within Ganymede itself.

    Located at high altitude in northern Chile, and with mirrors over 8 metres across, the Very Large Telescope is one of the most powerful telescope facilities in the world.

    Oliver King adds: “This has allowed us to carry out detailed mapping of Europa and Ganymede, observing features on their surfaces smaller than 150 km across – all at distances over 600 million kilometres from the Earth. Mapping at this fine scale was previously only possible by sending spacecraft all the way to Jupiter to observe the moons up-close.”

    Professor Leigh Fletcher, who supervised the VLT study, is a member of the science teams for ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) and NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, which will explore Ganymede and Europa up close in the early 2030s.

    JUICE is scheduled to launch in 2023, and University of Leicester scientists play key roles in its proposed study of Jupiter’s atmosphere, magnetosphere, and moons.

    Professor Fletcher said: “These ground-based observations whet the appetite for our future exploration of Jupiter’s moons.”

    “Planetary missions operate under tough operating constraints and we simply can’t cover all the terrain that we’d like to, so difficult decisions must be taken about which areas of the moons’ surfaces deserve the closest scrutiny. Observations at 150-km scale such as those provided by the VLT, and ultimately its enormous successor the ELT (Extremely Large Telescope), help to provide a global context for the spacecraft observations.”

    Science papers:
    Planetary Science Journal
    JGR: Planets
    See the science papers for detailed material with images.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Leicester Campus

    The University of Leicester (UK) is a public research university based in Leicester, England. The main campus is south of the city centre, adjacent to Victoria Park.

    The university has established itself as a leading research-led university and has been named University of the Year of 2008 by the Times Higher Education. The University of Leicester is also the only university ever to have won a Times Higher Education award in seven consecutive years. In 2016, the university ranked 24th in The Complete University Guide and 32nd in The Guardian. Recent REF 2014, the University of Leicester ranked 49th among 126 universities. The 2012 QS World University Rankings also placed Leicester eighth in the UK for research citations.

    The university is most famous for the invention of genetic fingerprinting and for the discovery of the remains of King Richard III.

    The first serious suggestions for a university in Leicester began with the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society (founded at a time when “philosophical” broadly meant what “scientific” means today). With the success of Owen’s College in Manchester, and the establishment of The University of Birmingham (UK) in 1900, and then of The University of Nottingham (UK), it was thought that Leicester ought to have a university college too. From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century university colleges could not award degrees and had to be associated with universities that had degree-giving powers. Most students at university colleges took examinations set by The University of London (UK).

    In the late 19th century the co-presidents of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, the Revered James Went, headmaster of the Wyggeston Boys’ School, and J. D. Paul, regularly called for the establishment of a university college. However, no private donations were forthcoming, and the Corporation of Leicester was busy funding the School of Art and the Technical School. The matter was brought up again by Dr Astley V. Clarke (1870–1945) in 1912. Born in Leicester in 1870, he had been educated at Wyggeston Grammar School and The University of Cambridge (UK) before receiving medical training at Guy’s Hospital. He was the new President of the Literary and Philosophy society. Reaction was mixed, with some saying that Leicester’s relatively small population would mean a lack of demand. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, talk of a university college subsided. In 1917 The Leicester Daily Post urged in an editorial that something of more practical utility than memorials ought to be created to commemorate the war dead. With the ending of the war both The Post and its rival The Leicester Mail encouraged donations to form the university college. Some suggested that Leicester should join forces with Nottingham, Sutton Bonington and Loughborough to create a federal university college of the East Midlands, but nothing came of this proposal.

    The old asylum building had often been suggested as a site for the new university, and after it was due to be finished being used as a hospital for the wounded, Astley Clarke was keen to urge the citizens and local authorities to buy it. Fortunately, Clarke quickly learned the building had already been bought by Thomas Fielding Johnson, a wealthy philanthropist who owned a worsted manufacturing business. He had bought 37 acres of land for £40,000 and intended not only to house the college, but also the boys’ and girls’ grammar schools. Further donations soon topped £100,000: many were given in memory of loved ones lost during the war, while others were for those who had taken part and survived. King George V gave his blessing to the scheme after a visit to the town in 1919.

    Talk turned to the curriculum with many arguing that it should focus on Leicester’s chief industries hosiery, boots and shoes. Others had higher hopes than just technical training. The education acts of 1902 and 1918, which brought education to the masses was also thought to have increased the need for a college, not least to train the new teachers that were needed. Talk of a federal university soured and the decision was for Leicester to become a stand-alone college. In 1920, the college appointed its first official. W. G. Gibbs, a long-standing supporter of the college while editor of The Leicester Daily Post, was nominated as Secretary. On 9 May 1921, Dr R. F. Rattray (1886–1967) was appointed principal, aged 35. Rattray was an impressive academic. Having gained a first class English degree at The University of Glasgow (SCT), he studied at Manchester College, The University of Oxford (UK). He then studied in Germany, and secured his PhD at Harvard University. After that, he worked as a Unitarian minister. Rattray was to teach Latin and English. He recruited others including Miss Measham to teach Botany, Miss Sarson to teach geography, and Miss Chapuzet to teach French. In all, 14 people started at the university when it opened its doors in October 1921: the principal, the secretary, 3 lecturers and nine students (eight women and one man). Two types of students were expected, around 100–150 teachers in training, and undergraduates hoping to sit the external degrees of London University. A students union was formed in 1923–24 with a Miss Bonsor as its first president.

    In 1927, after it became University College, Leicester, students sat for the examinations for external degrees of the University of London. Two years later, it merged with the Vaughan Working Men’s College, which had been providing adult education in Leicester since 1862. In 1931, Dr Rattray resigned as principal. He was replaced in 1932 by Frederick Attenborough, who was the father of David and Richard Attenborough. He was succeeded by Charles Wilson in 1952.

    In 1957, the University College was granted its Royal Charter, and has since then had the status of a university with the right to award its own degrees. The Percy Gee Student Union building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 9 May 1958.

    Leicester University won the first ever series of University Challenge, in 1963. The university’s motto Ut Vitam Habeant –”so that they may have life”, is a reflection of the war memorial origins of its formation. It is believed to have been Rattray’s suggestion.

    The university medical school, Leicester Medical School, opened in 1971.

    In 1994, the University of Leicester celebrated winning the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its work in Physics & Astronomy. The prize citation reads: “World-class teaching, research and consultancy programme in astronomy and space and planetary science fields. Practical results from advanced thinking”.

    In 2011, the university was selected as one of four sites for national high performance computing (HPC) facilities for theoretical astrophysics and particle physics. An investment of £12.32 million, from the Government’s Large Facilities Capital Fund, together with investment from The Science and Technology Facilities Council (UK) and from universities contribute to a national supercomputer.

    In September 2012, a ULAS team exhumed the body of King Richard III, discovering it in the former Greyfriars Friary Church in the city of Leicester. As a result of that success Prof King was asked to investigate whether a skeleton found in Jamestown was that of George Yeardley, the 1st colonial governor of Virginia and founder of the Virginia General Assembly.

    In January 2017, Physics students from the University of Leicester made national news when they revealed their predictions on how long it would take a zombie apocalypse to wipe out humanity. They calculated that it would take just 100 days for zombies to completely take over earth. At the end of the 100 days, the students predicted that just 300 humans would remain alive and without infection.

    In January 2021, around 200 UCU members at the university passed a no-confidence motion in Vice Chancellor Nishan Canagarajah because of proposed cuts putting 145 staff members at risk of redundancy. There was anger at his claim that redundancies are needed to “continue to deliver excellence”. In April, the UCU urged academics to boycott the university due to the planned redundancies, including encouraging people to not apply for jobs at Leicester or collaborate on new research projects.

    In recent years, the university has disposed of some of its poorer quality property in order to invest in new facilities, and is currently undergoing a £300+ million redevelopment. The new John Foster Hall of Residence opened in October 2006. The David Wilson Library, twice the size of the previous University Library, opened on 1 April 2008 and a new biomedical research building (the Henry Wellcome Building) has already been constructed. A complete revamp of the Percy Gee Student Union building was completed in September 2010, and another is underway, due for completion in spring 2020. Nixon Court was extended and refurbished in 2011.


    The university’s academic schools and departments are organised into colleges. In August 2015, the colleges were further restructured with the merging of Social Sciences and Arts, Humanities and Law to give the following structure:

    College of Life Sciences
    The college has the following academic schools:

    Leicester Medical School
    School of Biological Sciences
    School of Psychology
    School of Allied Health Professions

    The research departments and institutes:

    Cardiovascular Sciences
    Genetics and Genome Biology (including the Leicester Cancer Research Centre)
    Health Sciences (including the Leicester Diabetes Centre)
    Infection, Immunity and Inflammation
    Molecular and Cell Biology
    Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour (including the Centre for Systems Neuroscience)
    Leicester Precision Medicine Institute (including Leicester Drug Discovery and Diagnostics)
    Leicester Institute of Structural and Chemical Biology

    Leicester Medical School

    The university is home to a large medical school, Leicester Medical School, which opened in 1971. The school was formerly in partnership with The University of Warwick (UK), and the Leicester-Warwick medical school proved to be a success in helping Leicester expand, and Warwick establish. The partnership ran the end of its course towards the end of 2006 and the medical schools became autonomous institutions within their respective universities.

    College of Science and Engineering
    The college comprises the following departments:

    School of Geography Geology & the Environment
    Physics and Astronomy

    There are also interdisciplinary research centres for Space Research, Climate Change Research, Mathematical/Computational Modelling and Advanced Microscopy.

    The department offers MEng and BEng degrees in Aerospace Engineering, Embedded Systems Engineering, Communications and Electronic Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and General Engineering. Each course is accredited by the relevant professional institutions. The department also offers MSc courses.
    Physics and Astronomy
    The department has around 350 undergraduate students, following either BSc (three-year) or MPhys (four-year) degree courses, and over 70 postgraduate students registered for a higher degree.

    The main Physics building accommodates several research groups—Radio and Space Plasma Physics (RSPP), X-ray and Observational Astronomy (XROA), and Theoretical Astrophysics (TA)—as well as centres for supercomputing, microscopy, Gamma and X-ray astronomy, and radar sounding, and the Swift UK Data Centre. A purpose-built Space Research Centre houses the Space Science and Instrumentation (SSI) group and provides laboratories, clean rooms and other facilities for instrumentation research, Earth Observation Science (EOS) and the Bio-imaging Unit. The department also runs the University of Leicester Observatory in Manor Road, Oadby, with a 20-inch telescope it is one of the UK’s largest and most advanced astronomical teaching facilities. The department has close involvement with the National Space Centre also located in Leicester.

    The department is home to the university’s ALICE 3400+ core supercomputer and is a member of the UK’s DiRAC (DiStributed Research utilising Advanced Computing) consortium. DiRAC is the integrated supercomputing facility for theoretical modelling and HPC-based research in particle physics, astronomy and cosmology.

    College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

    The college has 10 schools including:

    American Studies
    Archaeology and Ancient History
    School of Arts
    School of Business
    History, Politics and International Relations
    Leicester Law School
    School of Media, Communication and Sociology
    Museum Studies

    Archaeology and Ancient History

    The School of Archaeology and Ancient History was formed in 1990 from the then Departments of Archaeology and Classics, under the headship of Graeme Barker. The academic staff currently (as of January 2017) include 21 archaeologists and 8 ancient historians, though several staff teach and research in both disciplines.

    The School has particular strengths in Mediterranean archaeology, ancient Greek and Roman history, and the archaeology of recent periods; and is also home to the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS).


    The Ken Edwards Building, formerly where the School of Management was based, is now part of the School of Business.

    The School of Business was founded in 2016, bringing together the expertise of the School of Management and the Department of Economics. The new school now has approximately 150 academic staff, 50 from Economics and 100 from Management. In 2010 the former School of Management was ranked 2nd after Oxford University by The Guardian.

    The School of Business provides postgraduate and undergraduate programmes in Management, Accounting and Economics. The School of Business, is one of the approximately 270 Schools/Universities in the world accredited by AMBA.


    The School of English teaches English at degree level. The school offers English studies from contemporary writing to Old English and language studies. It contains the Victorian Studies Centre, the first of its kind in the UK. Malcolm Bradbury is one of the department’s most famous alumni: he graduated with a First in English in 1953.

    Historical Studies

    The School of Historical Studies is one of the largest of any university in the country. It has made considerable scholarly achievements in many areas of history, notably urban history, English local history, American studies and Holocaust studies. The school houses both the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) and the Media Archive for Central England.


    The School of Law is one of the biggest departments in the university. According to The Times Online Good University Guide 2009, the Faculty of Law was ranked 8th, out of 87 institutions, making it one of the top law schools in the country.


    The university has research groups in the areas of astrophysics, biochemistry and genetics. The techniques used in genetic fingerprinting were invented and developed at Leicester in 1984 by Sir Alec Jeffreys. It also houses Europe’s biggest academic centre for space research, in which space probes have been built, most notably the Mars Lander Beagle 2, which was built in collaboration with The Open University (UK).

    Leicester Physicists (led by Ken Pounds) were critical in demonstrating a fundamental prediction of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity – that black holes exist and are common in the universe. It is a founding partner of the £52 million National Space Centre.

    Leicester is one of a small number of universities to have won the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education on more than one occasion: in 1994 for physics & astronomy and again in 2002 for genetics.

    The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise for the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, 74% of research activity, including 100% of its Research Environment, was classed as “world-leading” or “internationally excellent”, ranking it 6th among UK university departments teaching archaeology and 1st for the public impact of its research.

    The Institute of Learning Innovation within the University of Leicester is a research and postgraduate teaching group. The institute has and continues to research on UK- and European-funded projects (over 30 as of August 2013), focusing on topics such as educational use of podcasting, e-readers in distance education, virtual worlds, open educational resources and open education, and learning design.

    In 2019, the university of Leicester ranked 76th in Reuters top 100 of Europe’s most innovative universities. University of Leicester excelled in molecular and cell biology.

    Leicester has been ranked as one of the top performing universities in the UK for COVID-19 research, after being awarded more than £10.8 million of government funding since the pandemic began. The University now sits alongside The University of Oxford and University College London (UK) and has been recognized globally for its work, including being the first in the world to discover the link between people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds being more susceptible to severe cases of coronavirus.

    The university was named University of the Year of 2008 by The Times Higher Education. It is also the only university ever to have won a Times Higher Education award in seven consecutive years.The university was previously consistently ranked among the top 20 universities in the United Kingdom by the Times Good University Guide and The Guardian.

    In 2017, the university ranked 25th in The Sunday Times Good University Guide.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
%d bloggers like this: