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  • richardmitnick 10:33 am on July 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , SABRE (Sodium-iodide with Active Background Rejection), , Swinburne University,   

    From Swinburne University and University of Melbourne: “Swinburne goes underground in search for dark matter” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    From Swinburne University

    and

    u-melbourne-bloc

    University of Melbourne

    29 July 2019

    Swinburne
    Media enquiries
    0455 502 999
    media@swinburne.edu.au

    Melbourne Media contact
    Emma Sun
    emma.sun@unimelb.edu.au
    +61 466 133 480

    1
    Swinburne Associate Professor Alan Duffy (left) at the site of the future Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, where Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes (centre) announced the funding.

    Swinburne University of Technology will be a key institution in the international project to explore and search for dark matter, following an announcement that Victoria’s state government will contribute $5 million to build the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory.

    The funding has been announced by Victoria’s state Minister for Regional Development, Jaclyn Symes, and matches the federal government’s funding commitment confirmed in April.

    The laboratory will be built one kilometre underground, within the Stawell Gold Mine, as a bespoke excavated cavity 30 metres long, 10 metres wide and 10 metres high. It will provide ultra-low background research facilities (free from the particles that form background radiation) needed in the ground-breaking search for dark matter.

    Swinburne is one of six international institutes involved in the project, led by the University of Melbourne.

    The search for dark matter

    Swinburne astrophysicist, Associate Professor Alan Duffy, says understanding dark matter is one of the greatest scientific challenges of this century.

    “Astronomers have seen the movement of stars pulled by the gravity of an unseen companion. We now think that this unseen companion, dark matter, makes up five times more of the Universe than everything we can see combined,” he says.

    “The attention of the world’s physicists will now be on regional Victoria as a leader in the search for dark matter.”

    Associate Professor Duffy says that the establishment of Stawell as a physics research hub will also provide local education benefits.

    “This Lab will undoubtedly inspire local students to study physics in school and at university, but it also means that if they want to be part of a global scientific experiment, they can do that right here in Stawell.”

    The project is expected to deliver economic value to the region of $180.2 million in its first ten years, and support ongoing jobs.

    Ms Symes says: “With nearly 80 ongoing jobs connected to the Lab, this project will diversify Stawell’s economy – attracting a new highly-skilled workforce to the region to live and work.”

    University of Melbourne project leader, Professor Elisabetta Barberio, says the laboratory will be home to important scientific experiments.

    “The investment by both the state and federal governments ensure the Lab is large enough to host dark matter experiments as well as everything from fundamental cancer research into how radiation affects cells growing, to creating new ultra-sensitive detectors and novel geological exploration techniques,” she says.

    The project is a collaboration between six international partners. It will be led by the University of Melbourne alongside Swinburne, the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics.

    The Southern Hemisphere’s first dark matter detector

    Swinburne is heavily involved in building the largest experiment to take place in the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory – SABRE (Sodium-iodide with Active Background Rejection), which is the Southern Hemisphere’s first dark matter detector.

    The vessel will be arriving at Swinburne’s Wantirna campus in August, where it will undergo a rigorous assembly and electronics fit-out process, including leak testing and internal reflective surface coating. Only once the international team is satisfied that it meets the exacting standards for this kind of precision experiment will it move to the underground laboratory where the search for dark matter can begin.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    University of Melbourne

    Swinburne U Campus

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  • richardmitnick 9:45 am on November 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Swinburne University,   

    From Swinburne University: “Research captures wonders of the universe, and imaginations” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    15 November 2017
    Lea Kivivali
    +61 3 9214 5428
    lkivivali@swin.edu.au

    1
    An illustration of two merging neutron stars from the US National Science Foundation | Image: AFP

    One of the great things about science is that the money we invest in research often brings a return through commercially useful discoveries or advances that improve the quality of life for us all.

    Even in my field of astrophysics, research discoveries have been made that led to huge practical benefits. For example, Wi-Fi, which all of us use every day, is the result of CSIRO mastery of fourier techniques that were being used for both astrophysics and applied research.

    But astrophysics also reveals inherent wonders about the universe, and in this past year we have hit some phenomenal goals.

    On October 17, for the first time, scientists measured the violent death spiral of two dense neutron stars — the dense cores of stars that have exploded and died — as they collided at nearly the speed of light, creating what many called the greatest fireworks show in the universe.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    14

    A UC Santa Cruz special report

    Tim Stephens

    Astronomer Ryan Foley says “observing the explosion of two colliding neutron stars” [see https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/from-ucsc-first-observations-of-merging-neutron-stars-mark-a-new-era-in-astronomy ]–the first visible event ever linked to gravitational waves–is probably the biggest discovery he’ll make in his lifetime. That’s saying a lot for a young assistant professor who presumably has a long career still ahead of him.

    2
    The first optical image of a gravitational wave source was taken by a team led by Ryan Foley of UC Santa Cruz using the Swope Telescope at the Carnegie Institution’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. This image of Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (SSS17a, indicated by arrow) shows the light emitted from the cataclysmic merger of two neutron stars. (Image credit: 1M2H Team/UC Santa Cruz & Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley)

    Carnegie Institution Swope telescope at Las Campanas, Chile, 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena. near the north end of a 7 km (4.3 mi) long mountain ridge. Cerro Las Campanas, near the southern end and over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high, at Las Campanas, Chile

    A neutron star forms when a massive star runs out of fuel and explodes as a supernova, throwing off its outer layers and leaving behind a collapsed core composed almost entirely of neutrons. Neutrons are the uncharged particles in the nucleus of an atom, where they are bound together with positively charged protons. In a neutron star, they are packed together just as densely as in the nucleus of an atom, resulting in an object with one to three times the mass of our sun but only about 12 miles wide.

    “Basically, a neutron star is a gigantic atom with the mass of the sun and the size of a city like San Francisco or Manhattan,” said Foley, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    These objects are so dense, a cup of neutron star material would weigh as much as Mount Everest, and a teaspoon would weigh a billion tons. It’s as dense as matter can get without collapsing into a black hole.

    THE MERGER

    Like other stars, neutron stars sometimes occur in pairs, orbiting each other and gradually spiraling inward. Eventually, they come together in a catastrophic merger that distorts space and time (creating gravitational waves) and emits a brilliant flare of electromagnetic radiation, including visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light, x-rays, gamma rays, and radio waves. Merging black holes also create gravitational waves, but there’s nothing to be seen because no light can escape from a black hole.

    Foley’s team was the first to observe the light from a neutron star merger that took place on August 17, 2017, and was detected by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).


    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation


    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    1
    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    Now, for the first time, scientists can study both the gravitational waves (ripples in the fabric of space-time), and the radiation emitted from the violent merger of the densest objects in the universe.

    3
    The UC Santa Cruz team found SSS17a by comparing a new image of the galaxy N4993 (right) with images taken four months earlier by the Hubble Space Telescope (left). The arrows indicate where SSS17a was absent from the Hubble image and visible in the new image from the Swope Telescope. (Image credits: Left, Hubble/STScI; Right, 1M2H Team/UC Santa Cruz & Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley)

    It’s that combination of data, and all that can be learned from it, that has astronomers and physicists so excited. The observations of this one event are keeping hundreds of scientists busy exploring its implications for everything from fundamental physics and cosmology to the origins of gold and other heavy elements.


    A small team of UC Santa Cruz astronomers were the first team to observe light from two neutron stars merging in August. The implications are huge.

    ALL THE GOLD IN THE UNIVERSE

    It turns out that the origins of the heaviest elements, such as gold, platinum, uranium—pretty much everything heavier than iron—has been an enduring conundrum. All the lighter elements have well-explained origins in the nuclear fusion reactions that make stars shine or in the explosions of stars (supernovae). Initially, astrophysicists thought supernovae could account for the heavy elements, too, but there have always been problems with that theory, says Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    4
    The violent merger of two neutron stars is thought to involve three main energy-transfer processes, shown in this diagram, that give rise to the different types of radiation seen by astronomers, including a gamma-ray burst and a kilonova explosion seen in visible light. (Image credit: Murguia-Berthier et al., Science)

    A theoretical astrophysicist, Ramirez-Ruiz has been a leading proponent of the idea that neutron star mergers are the source of the heavy elements. Building a heavy atomic nucleus means adding a lot of neutrons to it. This process is called rapid neutron capture, or the r-process, and it requires some of the most extreme conditions in the universe: extreme temperatures, extreme densities, and a massive flow of neutrons. A neutron star merger fits the bill.

    Ramirez-Ruiz and other theoretical astrophysicists use supercomputers to simulate the physics of extreme events like supernovae and neutron star mergers. This work always goes hand in hand with observational astronomy. Theoretical predictions tell observers what signatures to look for to identify these events, and observations tell theorists if they got the physics right or if they need to tweak their models. The observations by Foley and others of the neutron star merger now known as SSS17a are giving theorists, for the first time, a full set of observational data to compare with their theoretical models.

    According to Ramirez-Ruiz, the observations support the theory that neutron star mergers can account for all the gold in the universe, as well as about half of all the other elements heavier than iron.

    RIPPLES IN THE FABRIC OF SPACE-TIME

    Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity, but until recently they were impossible to observe. LIGO’s extraordinarily sensitive detectors achieved the first direct detection of gravitational waves, from the collision of two black holes, in 2015. Gravitational waves are created by any massive accelerating object, but the strongest waves (and the only ones we have any chance of detecting) are produced by the most extreme phenomena.

    Two massive compact objects—such as black holes, neutron stars, or white dwarfs—orbiting around each other faster and faster as they draw closer together are just the kind of system that should radiate strong gravitational waves. Like ripples spreading in a pond, the waves get smaller as they spread outward from the source. By the time they reached Earth, the ripples detected by LIGO caused distortions of space-time thousands of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom.

    The rarefied signals recorded by LIGO’s detectors not only prove the existence of gravitational waves, they also provide crucial information about the events that produced them. Combined with the telescope observations of the neutron star merger, it’s an incredibly rich set of data.

    LIGO can tell scientists the masses of the merging objects and the mass of the new object created in the merger, which reveals whether the merger produced another neutron star or a more massive object that collapsed into a black hole. To calculate how much mass was ejected in the explosion, and how much mass was converted to energy, scientists also need the optical observations from telescopes. That’s especially important for quantifying the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements during the merger.

    LIGO can also provide a measure of the distance to the merging neutron stars, which can now be compared with the distance measurement based on the light from the merger. That’s important to cosmologists studying the expansion of the universe, because the two measurements are based on different fundamental forces (gravity and electromagnetism), giving completely independent results.

    “This is a huge step forward in astronomy,” Foley said. “Having done it once, we now know we can do it again, and it opens up a whole new world of what we call ‘multi-messenger’ astronomy, viewing the universe through different fundamental forces.”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Not only did we see the collision, we could hear it as the two stars, each the size of a city, completed 4000 orbits in the last 100 seconds of their cosmic dance.

    It was a landmark discovery from an international team that included almost 100 Australian scientists and it resonated with the public in a way that only black holes, dying stars and fireballs in the universe can do. It was science at its most impressive, almost inconceivable yet intensely fascinating. It also reminded us that basic science — the science that isn’t immediately geared towards industrial applications — remains immensely important.

    A century ago, Albert Einstein realised that gravity could be mimicked by acceleration — that light bent when passing near massive objects, and that the fabric of space-time could be shaken by the acceleration of the stars and planets.

    A natural consequence of his theory was that stars beyond a certain density would collapse to become black holes, terrifying objects that possessed such strong gravity that not even light could escape them. He also predicted that the stars and planets emitted a strange and mysterious new form of radiation known as gravitational waves. But was Einstein right? Did black holes exist and did his equations correctly describe their behaviour? Does time really stand still in their vicinity and do gravitational waves permeate the universe? These are questions that are incredibly fundamental to how the universe ultimately works but that Einstein thought were impossible to verify experimentally.

    It appears completely ludicrous to even think about trying to do experiments on black holes when you realise that you’d have to shrink the Earth into a ball just 2cm in diameter for it to become one. For our sun the black hole diameter seems more achievable, more like 6km — except when you learn that the sun weighs about 300,000 Earths and about 18 billion tonnes has to fit in every cubic centimetre.

    This year’s Nobel prize winners in physics (Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish) realised that it was possible to build a machine that could hypothetically detect colliding black holes or their ultra-dense cousins, neutron stars, in the nearest million galaxies — should they exist and ever collide. Their detector, called Advanced LIGO, was the first to have a realistic chance of detecting the ripples in space-time induced by Einstein’s gravitational waves.

    The technology behind this facility is staggering. More than 1000 people from around the world have contributed to the instruments, which fire powerful lasers at pairs of mirrors (beautifully polished in Australia) hanging from complex suspensions 4km away in the world’s largest vacuum tubes. Australia is one of four countries in the project.

    When Advanced LIGO began its science operations in September 2015, it started listening for tremors in the fabric of space-time for the first time.

    Remarkably, it wasn’t long before LIGO saw a burst of gravitational waves from two black holes as they destroyed each other in the last few orbits of a death spiral that probably had been under way for billions of years.

    Black holes are deceptively simple objects, defined by their mass, spin and charge, and the pair involved in the September 2015 event were about 1300 million light years away.

    Their detection proved that gravitational waves existed and that black holes 30 times the mass of our sun did too. For the first time scientists got to experiment with gravity in the vicinity of a black hole.

    In August this year the first pair of merging neutron stars were seen by LIGO. Neutron stars are so dense that a teaspoon weighs a billion tonnes, but when they collide they produce an explosion that briefly creates a fireball in the sky. This event proved Einstein’s postulate that the speed of gravity and the speed of light were equivalent, to four parts in 10,000 trillion — one of the most precise confirmations of a physical law in the history of physics.

    Last Thursday the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Gravitational Wave Discovery was opened by federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham. The centre, which has been operating since April, has been born in a year that will likely go down in history as a monumental one for astrophysics.

    The existence of the centre, and the excitement surrounding gravitational wave science, is testament to those who believe that basic science, the science of discovery, is a goal unto itself. This year, the LIGO gravitational wave detectors acted like a stethoscope, allowing us to listen to the vibrations in the fabric of space-time.

    The appeal of the resultant science — which may not have any immediate monetary worth — is fascinating because it is truly universal, intangible and priceless.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:24 pm on November 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Graviational lensing, Near-infrared NIFS-Integral Field Spectrograph on Gemini North, Spiral galaxy A1689B11 The most ancient spiral galaxy, Swinburne University   

    From Swinburne University: “The most ancient spiral galaxy confirmed using cutting-edge technique” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    3 November 2017
    Lea Kivivali
    +61 3 9214 5428
    lkivivali@swin.edu.au

    1
    Spiral galaxy A1689B11 sits behind a massive cluster of galaxies that acts as a lens, producing two magnified images of the spiral galaxy in different positions in the sky. Credit: James Josephides

    The most ancient spiral galaxy discovered to date is revealing its secrets to a team of astronomers at Swinburne University of Technology and The Australian National University (ANU), part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO 3D).

    The galaxy, known as A1689B11, existed 11 billion years in the past, just 2.6 billion years after the Big Bang, when the Universe was only one fifth of its present age. It is thus the most ancient spiral galaxy discovered so far.

    The researchers used a powerful technique that combines gravitational lensing with the cutting-edge instrument the Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) on the Gemini North telescope in Hawai‘i to verify the vintage and spiral nature of this galaxy. NIFS is Australia’s first Gemini instrument that was designed and built by the late Peter McGregor at The ANU.

    Gravitational Lensing NASA/ESA

    2
    Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, USA


    Gemini/North telescope at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Gravitational lenses are Nature’s largest telescopes, created by massive clusters composed of thousands of galaxies and dark matter. The cluster bends and magnifies the light of galaxies behind it in a manner similar to an ordinary lens, but on a much larger scale.

    “This technique allows us to study ancient galaxies in high resolution with unprecedented detail,” says Swinburne astronomer Dr Tiantian Yuan, who led the research team.

    “We are able to look 11 billion years back in time and directly witness the formation of the first, primitive spiral arms of a galaxy.”

    Co-author, Princeton University’s Dr Renyue Cen, says: “Studying ancient spirals like A1689B11 is a key to unlocking the mystery of how and when the Hubble sequence emerges.

    “Spiral galaxies are exceptionally rare in the early Universe, and this discovery opens the door to investigating how galaxies transition from highly chaotic, turbulent discs to tranquil, thin discs like those of our own Milky Way galaxy.”

    Dr Yuan says the study shows some surprising features of A1689B11.

    “This galaxy is forming stars 20 times faster than galaxies today – as fast as other young galaxies of similar masses in the early Universe. However, unlike other galaxies of the same epoch, A1689B11 has a very cool and thin disc, rotating calmly with surprisingly little turbulence. This type of spiral galaxy has never been seen before at this early epoch of the Universe!”

    This research is an international collaboration including astrophysicists from the University of Lyon in France, Princeton University in the USA and Hebrew University in Israel. It has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:03 am on October 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From Swinburne: “Colliding stars reveal their gravitational wave secrets” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    1
    Artists impression of two merging neutron stars: National Science Foundation/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet

    17 October 2017
    Katherine Towers
    +61 3 9214 5789
    ktowers@swin.edu.au

    Australian scientists have announced an “unparalleled” astrophysical discovery revealing that they have detected gravitational waves from the death spiral of two neutron stars.

    Less than a month after three US professors were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the 2015 discovery of gravitational waves, a team of Australian astrophysicists, including Swinburne researchers, have announced a new international discovery.

    It is the first time a cosmic event has been observed and measured in both light and gravitational waves.

    Swinburne hosts the $31.3 million Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) which was established last year to capitalise on the original discovery of gravitational waves.

    Swinburne’s Professor Matthew Bailes, Director of OzGrav, says the new discovery has enabled scientists to pinpoint the origin of gravitational waves and to actually see “the colossal event” that accompanied the gravitational waves.

    “This was the first time that any cosmic event was observed through both the light it emitted and the gravitational ripples it caused in the fabric of space and time,” Professor Bailes says.

    “The subsequent avalanche of science was virtually unparalleled in modern astrophysics.”

    OzGrav is a collaboration between six universities in Australia – Swinburne University of Technology, Australian National University, the University of Western Australia, Monash University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Adelaide.

    Blinkers off

    Swinburne’s Associate Professor, Jeffrey Cooke, a Chief Investigator with OzGrav, says the event will go down in history as the dawn of a new era of gravitational wave multi-messenger astronomy.

    “Before this event, it was like we were sitting in an IMAX theatre with blindfolds on,” he says.

    “The gravitational wave detectors let us “hear” the movies of black hole collisions but we couldn’t see anything.

    “This event lifted the blindfolds and, wow, what an amazing show.”

    OzGrav Chief Investigator, Professor Ju Li from the University of Western Australia says: “It is extraordinary that with one faint sound, the faintest sound ever detected, we have created one giant leap in our understanding of the universe.”

    Gravitational waves were first predicted by Albert Einstein about 100 years ago in his Theory of General Relativity. Einstein’s theory described how gravity warps and distorts space-time.

    His mathematics showed that massive accelerating objects – such as neutron stars or black holes – that orbit each other distort both space and time and emit a type of radiation known as gravitational waves.

    The resultant gravitational waves are ripples in space and time.

    Einstein did not believe gravitational waves would ever be detected.

    In September 2015, the California-based observatory specifically established to search for gravitational waves first sensed gravitational waves. The observatory is called aLIGO, short for the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.


    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation


    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    1
    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    Shortly after being switched on in 2015, aLIGO sensed distortions in space-time. These distortions were caused by passing gravitational waves that were generated by colliding black holes around 1.3 billion years ago.

    Professors Rainer Weiss, Barry C Barish and Kip S Thorne were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery.

    This latest event has enabled researchers to further measure gravitational waves but also see from where they originated.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:23 am on July 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Measuring black holes, Spiral arms allow school children to weigh black holes, Swinburne University   

    From Swinburne University: “Spiral arms allow school children to weigh black holes” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    20 July 2017
    Contact
    Lea Kivivali
    +61 3 9214 5428
    lkivivali@swin.edu.au

    Expert for comment
    Professor Alister Graham
    9214 8784
    agraham@swin.edu.au

    1
    Artistic rendering of a black hole accumulating matter at the centre of a galaxy. Credit: James Josephides.

    Astronomers from Swinburne University of Technology, Australia, and the University of Minnesota Duluth, USA, have provided a way for armchair astronomers, and even primary school children, to merely look at a spiral galaxy and estimate the mass of its hidden, central black hole.

    Given that black holes emit no discernible light, they have traditionally been studied via highly technical observations of the stars and gas orbiting around them, which in turn provide a measurement of how massive they must be.

    Now, new research based on these pre-existing measurements has shown that a black hole’s mass can be accurately estimated by simply looking at the spiral arms of its host galaxy.

    Nearly a century ago, Sir James Jeans and Edwin Hubble noted how spiral galaxies with large central bulges possess tightly wound spiral arms, while spiral galaxies with small bulges display wide open spiral arms. Since then, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of spiral galaxies have been classified as type Sa, Sb, Sc, Sd, depending on their spiral arms.

    Professsor Marc Seigar, Associate Dean of the Swenson College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and co-author of the study, discovered a relationship between central black hole mass and the tightness of a galaxy’s spiral arms nearly a decade ago.

    Dr Benjamin Davis and Professor Alister Graham, from Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, led the new research revising this connection between black hole mass and spiral arm geometry.

    After carefully analysing a larger sample of galaxies, imaged by an array of space telescopes, the researchers observed an unexpectedly strong relationship, and one which predicts lower mass black holes in galaxies with open spiral arms (types Sc and Sd).

    2
    Spiral galaxy arms with varying degrees of tightness, and the corresponding galaxy type and central black hole mass in units of our Sun’s mass. This template can be used to estimate the black hole masses in spiral galaxies. Credit: Benjamin Davis.

    “The strength of the correlation is competitive with, if not better than, all our other methods used to predict black hole masses,” says Dr Davis. “Anyone can now look at an image of a spiral galaxy and immediately gauge how massive its black hole should be.”

    Given that it is the discs of galaxies that host the spiral pattern, the study highlights the poorly-known connection between galaxy discs and black holes. Moreover, the procedure allows for the prediction of black hole masses in pure disc galaxies with no stellar bulge. “This implies that black holes and the discs of their host galaxies must co-evolve,” says Dr Davis.

    “It’s now as easy as ‘a,b,c’ to unlock this mystery of our Universe and reveal the black hole masses in spiral galaxies.” says Professor Graham.

    “Importantly, the relation will also help searches for the suspected, but currently missing, population of intermediate-mass black holes with masses between 100 and 100,000 times the mass of our Sun. Difficult to pin down, they have masses greater than that of any single star, but are smaller than the supermassive black holes which grow to billions of times the mass of our Sun in giant galaxies,” Professor Graham says.

    3
    The ‘Sab’ type galaxy Messier 81, located in the northern constellation of Ursa Major, has a black hole mass of 68 million Suns. Credit: Spitzer Space Telescope and Benjamin Davis.

    Working within the Australian Research Council’s OzGrav Centre for Excellence, the astronomers intend to hunt down these elusive black holes, and investigate implications for the production of gravitational waves: those ripples in the fabric of Einstein’s space-time that were first announced by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations in 2016.

    This research was supported by the Australian Research Council and has been published by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The research can be downloaded here.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:16 pm on June 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , SAGE, , Swinburne University,   

    From Swinburne: Women in STEM-“Swinburne announces women in STEM research fellowship recipients” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    6 June 2017
    Lea Kivivali
    +61 3 9214 5428
    lkivivali@swin.edu.au

    1

    Swinburne has announced the recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellowships for women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines.

    The fellowships are designed to address the critical underrepresentation of women in STEM research and teaching. This program also supports Swinburne’s gender equity strategy.

    The successful applicants include:

    Dr Rosalie Hocking (Chemical Sciences)
    Dr Mahnaz Shafiei (Electrical Engineering)
    Dr Tatiana Kameneva (Biomedical Engineering) and
    Dr Louise Olsen-Kettle (Applied Mathematics).

    The recipients of the fellowship will be supported by a fellowship grant as well as through mentorship, research training and personal career development, with underlying on-going positions in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology.

    “This fellowship scheme is evidence of our commitment and contribution to advancing gender equality in academia through coordinated and aligned research and academic strategy,” says Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Development) Professor Aleksandar Subic.

    Swinburne is committed to advancing gender equality in academia and was one of the first Australian universities to join the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot to improve the promotion and retention of women and gender minorities in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) disciplines.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:30 am on April 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Swinburne University   

    From Swinburne: “The monster galaxy that grew up too fast” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    6 April 2017
    Lea Kivivali
    +61 3 9214 5428
    lkivivali@swin.edu.au

    1
    Artist’s impression of galaxy ZF-COSMOS-20115. The galaxy has likely blown off all the gas that caused its rapid star formation and mass growth and rapidly turned into a compact red galaxy. *
    No image credit.

    An international team of astronomers has, for the first time, spotted a massive, inactive galaxy from a time when the Universe was only 1.65 billion years old.

    Astronomers expect most galaxies from this epoch to be low-mass minnows, busily forming stars. However, this galaxy is ‘a monster’ and inactive, according to Professor Karl Glazebrook, Director of Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, who led the team.

    The researchers found that within a short time period this massive galaxy, known as ZF-COSMOS-20115, formed all its stars (three times more than our Milky Way today) through an extreme star-burst event. But it stopped forming stars only a billion years after the Big Bang to become a quiescent or ‘red and dead’ galaxy – common in our Universe today, but not expected to exist at this ancient epoch.

    The galaxy is also small and extremely dense, it has 300 billion stars crammed into a region of space about the same size as the distance from the Sun to the nearby Orion Nebula.

    Astrophysicists are still debating just how galaxies stop forming stars. Until recently, models suggested dead galaxies or ‘red nuggets’ such as this should only exist from around three billion years after the Big Bang.

    “This discovery sets a new record for the earliest massive red galaxy. It is an incredibly rare find that poses a new challenge to galaxy evolution models to accommodate the existence of such galaxies much earlier in the Universe.”

    This research builds on an earlier Swinburne study that suggested such dead galaxies could exist based on finding dim red objects in extremely deep near-infrared images.

    MOSFIRE spectrograph studies the faintest, most distant galaxies

    In this latest study, astronomers used the W M Keck telescopes in Hawai’i to confirm the signatures of these galaxies, through the new and unique MOSFIRE spectrograph. They took deep spectra at near-infrared wavelengths to seek out the definitive features signifying the presence of old stars and a lack of active star formation.

    Keck Observatory, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Keck/MOSFIRE on Keck 1, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    “We used the most powerful telescope in the world, but we still needed to stare at this galaxy for more than two nights to reveal its remarkable nature,” co-author Professor Vy Tran, from Texas A&M University, says.

    Even with large telescopes such as the Keck with a 10 metre mirror, a long viewing time is required to detect absorption lines which are very weak compared to the more prominent emission lines generated by star-forming active galaxies.

    “By collecting enough light to measure this galaxy’s spectrum, we decipher the cosmic narrative of what stars and elements are present in these galaxies and construct a timeline of when they formed their stars,” Professor Tran says.

    The observed star-formation rate of this galaxy produces less than one fifth the mass of the Sun a year in new stars, but at its peak 700 million years previously this galaxy formed 5000 times faster.

    “This huge galaxy formed like a firecracker in less than 100 million years, right at the start of cosmic history,” Professor Glazebrook says.

    “It quickly made a monstrous object, then just as suddenly it quenched and turned itself off. As to how it did this we can only speculate. This fast life and death so early in the Universe is not predicted by our modern galaxy formation theories.”

    Co-author Dr Corentin Schreiber of Leiden University, who first measured the spectrum, speculates that these early firecrackers are obscured behind a veil of dust and that future observations using sub-millimetre wave telescopes will spot these.

    ”Sub-millimetre waves are emitted by the hot dust which blocks other light and will tell us when these firecrackers exploded and how big a role they played in developing the primordial universe,” says Dr Schreiber.

    With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, astronomers will be able to build up large samples of these dead galaxies due to its high sensitivity, large mirror, and the advantage of no atmosphere in space.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    This research has been published in Nature.

    The team included researchers from:

    Swinburne University of Technology, Australia; Leiden University, Netherlands; University of Geneva, Switzerland; Texas A & M University, USA; Macquarie University, Australia; Australian Astronomical Observatory; Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Germany; The Australian National University.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:51 pm on April 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Swinburne University   

    From Swinburne: “Mysterious bursts of energy do come from outer space” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    1
    Artist’s impression shows three bright red flashes depicting fast radio bursts far beyond the Milky Way, appearing in the constellations Puppis and Hydra. Credit: James Josephides/Mike Dalley.

    3 April 2017
    Lea Kivivali
    +61 3 9214 5428
    lkivivali@swin.edu.au

    Fast Radio Bursts present one of modern astronomy’s greatest mysteries: what or who in the Universe is transmitting short bursts of radio energy across the cosmos?

    Manisha Caleb, a PhD candidate at Australian National University, Swinburne University of Technology and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), has confirmed that the mystery bursts of radio waves that astronomers have hunted for ten years really do come from outer space.

    Ms Caleb worked with Swinburne and University of Sydney colleagues to detect three of these Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) with the Molonglo radio telescope 40 km from Canberra.

    U Sidney Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), Hoskinstown, Australia

    Discovered almost 10 years ago at CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope, Fast Radio Bursts are millisecond-duration intense pulses of radio light that appear to be coming from vast distances.

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    They are about a billion times more luminous than anything we have ever seen in our own Milky Way galaxy.

    One potential explanation of the mystery is that they weren’t really coming from outer space, but were some form of local interference tricking astronomers into searching for new theories of their ‘impossible’ radio energy.

    “Perhaps the most bizarre explanation for the FRBs is that they were alien transmissions,” says ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Matthew Bailes from Swinburne.

    “Conventional single dish radio telescopes have difficulty establishing that transmissions originate beyond the Earth’s atmosphere,” says Swinburne’s Dr Chris Flynn.

    Molonglo opens new window on the Universe

    In 2013 CAASTRO scientists and engineers realised that the Molonglo telescope’s unique architecture could place a minimum distance to the FRBs due to its enormous focal length. A massive re-engineering effort began, which is now opening a new window on the Universe.

    The Molonglo telescope has a huge collecting area (18,000 square metres) and a large field of view (eight square degrees on the sky), which makes it excellent for hunting for fast radio bursts.

    Ms Caleb’s project was to develop software to sift through the 1000 TB of data produced each day. Her work paid off with the three new FRB discoveries.

    “It is very exciting to see the University of Sydney’s Molonglo telescope making such important scientific discoveries by partnering with Swinburne’s expertise in supercomputing”, says Professor Anne Green of the University of Sydney.

    Thanks to further funding from the Australian Research Council the telescope will be improved even more to gain the ability to localise bursts to an individual galaxy.

    “Figuring out where the bursts come from is the key to understanding what makes them. Only one burst has been linked to a specific galaxy,” Ms Caleb says. “We expect Molonglo will do this for many more bursts.”

    A paper on the discovery ‘The first interferometric detections of Fast Radio Bursts’ has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. It is available online at https://arxiv.org/abs/1703.10173

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:32 pm on January 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Broken Hill Observatory, Swinburne University, Trevor Barry   

    From Swinburne: “Trevor Barry’s journey from backyard astronomer to working with NASA” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    1
    The image above is from my observing trip to the W.M. Keck Observatory at 14,000ft atop the summit of Mauna Kea on The Big Island of Hawaii, For all of the details read my blog “From Broken Hill to the Keck’s”, also see my Keck trip Album for more photo’s [no links provided here, a link to Trevor’s website is below]. Trevor Barry

    After a 34 year mining career and limited academic background, Trevor Barry pursued his obsession with astronomy and has become an important contributor to astronomy activities across the world.

    “I am a very ordinary bloke. I left school after year 10 to take up an apprenticeship on one of the local mines in Broken Hill, New South Wales. I always wondered why stuff in the night sky looked the way it did. My obsession with astronomy reached its peak when I designed and built my own observatory and several telescopes. I spent the next 15 years observing as an amateur astronomer.

    Desperate to learn more, I applied for a Graduate Certificate of Science (Astronomy) at Swinburne. Everyone else already had tertiary qualifications. I asked all these silly questions, but I was like a sponge, sucking up information. My lecturers were so patient and understanding – which made the transition to higher education that much easier.

    It was an amazing experience to conduct research using my own equipment, rather than risk the possibility of plagiarising something that had already been done. Two years later, I finished with straight High Distinctions and was presented the Award for Excellence as the top graduating student in my degree.

    _________________________________________________________________________
    “For anyone thinking about a career in astronomy, you don’t need a qualification, but people in industry take you more seriously if you do. Even though I built the observatory prior to beginning my degree, now people actually want my data.”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    In 2008, I serendipitously imaged a white spot on Saturn, which turned out to be an electrical storm under observation by researchers at NASA with the Cassini RPWS (Radio & Plasma Wave Science) team at the University of IOWA.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini Spacecraft
    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini Spacecraft

    They were working with the CASSINI space craft orbiting Saturn. The cameras on the space craft couldn’t image the storm on a day to day basis, due to its orbit and other priorities. So I was invited to supply image data of the optical counterpart to the CASSINI RPWS radio source.

    The storm swirled for seven months, making it the longest lived storm ever recorded on Saturn. As an amateur astronomer and former mine worker from Broken Hill, the opportunity to be involved in the project was an honour, a privilege and a truly humbling experience.

    Following recognition by NASA for my role in the CASSINI mission, I’ve continued to supply data to a number of organisations. I send Saturn storm data to the Austrian Academy of Sciences, with Saturn, Jupiter and Mars data also going to The British Astronomical Association, ALPO and the PVOL database, and continue to collaborate with NASA and other research teams, primarily regarding the gas giants with my speciality being the long-term tracking of atmospheric detail and structure of Saturn.

    I have also co-authored a journal in the prestigious Nature Communications. The lead author gave me this honour due to “my significant participation in the observations” tracking the atmospheric detail and structure long term. It was a thrill to see my Broken Hill Observatory listed alongside some of the leading professional institutions in the world, including the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre.

    It’s heartening to see professionals recognising the contribution that amateurs can make to planetary science.

    With 99% of our population yet to discover the joy and stimulation that astronomy can offer, my goal now is to raise the profile of astronomy while to continuing to make a contribution to science.”

    Visit Trevor Barry’s astronomy website

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:19 am on September 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Swinburne University   

    From Swinburne: “New ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery announced” 

    Swinburne U bloc

    Swinburne University

    8 September 2016
    Julia Scott
    jlscott@swin.edu.au
    +61 3 9214 5968

    In summary

    $31.3 million ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery
    Led by Swinburne University of Technology
    The Centre will be called OzGRav
    Professor Matthew Bailes announced as Director
    Centre opens early 2017

    The Australian Research Council (ARC) today announced a new $31.3 million ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery to be led by Swinburne University of Technology.

    The Centre, to be called OzGRav, will capitalise on the first detections of gravitational waves to understand the extreme physics of black holes and warped space-time.

    The discovery of gravitational waves

    Gravitational waves were first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1915 in his theory of General Relativity, which described how gravity warps and distorts space-time.

    Einstein’s mathematics showed that massive accelerating objects (such as neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other) distort both space and time and emit a new type of radiation, known as gravitational waves.

    These predicted gravitational waves are incredibly feeble. They went undetected for one hundred years until recent advances in detector sensitivity at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (aLIGO) enabled their detection for the first time, opening a new window on the Universe.

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    In September 2015, aLIGO physically sensed distortions in space-time itself caused by passing gravitational waves generated by two colliding black holes nearly 1.3 billion light years away!

    The arms of the detector changed their length by the equivalent of just the width of a human hair at the distance of the nearest star!

    Expanding Australia’s role in gravitational wave astronomy

    Many of OZGRav’s chief investigators helped aLIGO achieve this amazing feat and are thrilled to be able to expand Australia’s role in this nascent field of science as a result of the ARC announcement.

    “Through this centre, Australian scientists and students will have the opportunity to fully participate in the birth of gravitational wave astronomy,” says Centre Director and Professor Matthew Bailes.

    “It will enable us to develop some amazing technologies like quantum squeezing to further enhance the detectors, supercomputers and advanced algorithms to find the waves, and these will lead to a revolution in our understanding of the Universe.”

    This new window on the Universe will help answer key scientific questions such as:

    Is Einstein’s General Relativity correct when applied to the most extreme gravitational forces?
    What and where are the sources of gravitational waves?
    Do supermassive black holes merge often enough for us to see their death-cries with the Square Kilometre Array telescope?
    Can General Relativity be used to determine neutron star masses to help define the equation of state of nuclear matter?

    It will also contribute to improving the sensitivity of aLIGO, thus increasing the volume of the Universe that can be probed by an order of magnitude and lay the ground work for future gravitational wave detectors that will probe the entire Universe.

    Swinburne to host OzGRav headquarters

    “The world stands at the dawn of a new field of astrophysics. A field that demands the most exquisite instrumentation, intense signal processing and rapid follow-up with modern telescopes, Swinburne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Development) Professor Subic says.

    “As an internationally-renowned university of technology, with an exceptional physics base, there is no better place to host the headquarters of this exciting world-wide collaboration than at Swinburne.

    “I am particularly pleased that the new centre will be led by our Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Matthew Bailes.”

    As part of its support for OzGRav, Swinburne will fund a new $3.5 million supercomputer in 2017. Up to 35 per cent of its time will be dedicated for gravitational wave searches.

    “It would be fantastic to think that we might discover new sources of gravitational waves right here on campus”, says Professor Jarrod Hurley, who will design OzGRav’s supercomputer.

    Part of the Centre’s mission is to capitalise on the public’s fascination with black holes to help spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics using school activities, social media and prominent science advocates such as Dr Alan Duffy and Olympic swimmer and physics student, Cameron McEvoy.

    Australian partners in this Centre of Excellence are Monash University, Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia, The University of Adelaide, CSIRO, and the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

    International partners include the LIGO Observatory, Caltech, the University of Florida, the University of Glasgow, the Max Planck Institutes of Gravitational Physics and Radio Astronomy, MIT, NASA, the University of Warwick and the Universita degli Studi di Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’.

    The Centre will open in early 2017.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Swinburne U Campus

    Swinburne is a large and culturally diverse organisation. A desire to innovate and bring about positive change motivates our students and staff. The result is in an institution that grows and evolves each year.

     
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