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  • richardmitnick 2:55 pm on February 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , UCSC   

    From UCSC: ” Novel search strategy advances the hunt for primordial black holes” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    February 21, 2018
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    Some theories of the early universe predict density fluctuations that would have created small “primordial black holes,” some of which could be drifting through our galactic neighborhood today and might even be bright sources of gamma rays.

    Researchers analyzing data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope for evidence of nearby primordial black holes have come up empty, but their negative findings still allow them to put an upper limit on the number of these tiny black holes that might be lurking in the vicinity of Earth.

    NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope


    NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is a powerful space observatory that opens a wide window on the universe. Primordial black holes are a potential source of gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light. (Illustration credit: NASA)

    “Understanding how many primordial black holes are around today can help us understand the early universe better,” said Christian Johnson, a graduate student in physics at UC Santa Cruz who developed an algorithm to search data from Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) for the signatures of primordial black holes. Johnson is a corresponding author of a paper on the findings that has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

    Low-mass black holes are expected to emit gamma rays due to Hawking radiation, a theoretical prediction from the work of physicist Stephen Hawking and others. Hawking showed that quantum effects can give rise to particle-antiparticle pairs near the event horizon of a black hole, allowing one of the particles to fall into the black hole and the other to escape. The result is that the black hole emits radiation and loses mass.

    A small black hole that isn’t absorbing enough from its environment to offset the losses from Hawking radiation will steadily lose mass and eventually evaporate entirely. The smaller it gets, the brighter it “burns,” emitting more and more Hawking radiation before exploding in a final cataclysm. Previous searches for primordial black holes using ground-based gamma-ray observatories have looked for these brief explosions, but Fermi should be able to detect the “burn phase” occurring over a period of several years.

    A limitation of the Fermi search was that it could only extend a relatively short distance from Earth (a small fraction of the distance to the nearest star). The advantage of looking nearby, however, is that primordial black holes could be distinguished from other sources of gamma rays by their movement on the sky.

    “It’s like looking at the sky at night and trying to decide if something is an airplane or a star,” Johnson explained. “If it’s an airplane, it will move, and if it’s a star it will stay put.”

    Any primordial black holes still around today would have started out much larger and have been gradually losing mass for billions of years. To detect one with Fermi, it would have to have reached the final burn phase during the roughly four-year observation period of the study. Over a period of a few years, it would go from undetectably dim to extremely bright, and would burn brightly for several years before exploding, Johnson said.

    “Even though we didn’t detect any, the non-detection sets a limit on the rate of explosions and gives us better constraints than previous research,” he said.

    In addition to Johnson, the other corresponding authors of the paper include Steven Ritz, professor of physics and director of the Santa Cruz Institute of Particle Physics at UCSC; and Stefan Funk and Dmitry Malyshev at the Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics in Germany. Other members of the Fermi-LAT Collaboration also contributed to this work and are coauthors of the paper.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

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  • richardmitnick 8:12 pm on January 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Earliest galaxies in the universe spin like the Milky Way, , UCSC   

    From UCSC: “Earliest galaxies in the universe spin like the Milky Way” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    January 10, 2018
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    3
    Artist’s impression of spinning galaxies. Credit: Amanda Smith, University of Cambridge


    A visualization of a simulated young galaxy taken from a recent simulation that shows an early galaxy, thought to be like those studied with ALMA, in the throes of its formation and growth. Video credit: R. Crain (Liverpool John Moores University) and J. Geach (University of Hertfordshire)

    Astronomers looking back to a time soon after the big bang have discovered swirling gas in some of the earliest galaxies to have formed in the universe. These newborn galaxies, observed as they appeared nearly 13 billion years ago, spin like a whirlpool, similar to our own Milky Way galaxy.

    Garth Illingworth, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and a member of the international team that made the discovery, explained that light from distant objects takes time to reach Earth, so observing objects that are billions of light years away enables astronomers to look back in time and directly observe the formation of the earliest galaxies.

    Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the team led by Renske Smit at the Kavli Institute of Cosmology, University of Cambridge, identified star-forming galaxies at a very early stage in cosmic history that spin in a way thought not to occur until much later times.


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

    3
    This image from a recent simulation of galaxy formation shows swirling gas in an early galaxy thought to be like the two observed with ALMA in the new study. (Image credit: A. Pallottini, University of Pisa)

    4
    Researchers studied two galaxies shown here in a Hubble image and as detected by ALMA (inset panels). The color gradients in the ALMA images show the motion of the gas, indicative of rotation. Because of their distance, the galaxies are seen as they were nearly 13 billion years ago, 800 million years after the big bang. Image credit: Hubble (NASA/ESA), ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), P. Oesch (University of Geneva) and R. Smit (University of Cambridge)

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    The results are reported in the journal Nature and will be presented January 10 at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C.

    “ALMA opens up a new window in the spectrum that allows us to measure motions in these early galaxies in a way that has been impossible to date, even with telescopes as powerful as Hubble. This provides new insights into the dramatic activity in these young galaxies as the gas is being transformed into stars,” Illingworth said.

    Smit and her colleagues used ALMA to observe two small newborn galaxies as they existed just 800 million years after the big bang, which was 13.7 billion years ago. By analyzing the spectral ‘fingerprint’ of the far-infrared light collected by ALMA, the researchers were able to establish the distance to the galaxies and, for the first time, see the internal motion of the gas that fuelled their growth.

    “This is a remarkable discovery given that the team used ALMA to look back through 94 percent of all time to capture the faint signals from these two galaxies,” Illingworth said.

    “Until ALMA, we’ve never been able to see the formation of galaxies in such detail, and we’ve never been able to measure the movement of gas in galaxies so early in the universe’s history,” said coauthor Stefano Carniani at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and Kavli Institute of Cosmology.

    The researchers found that the gas in these newborn galaxies swirled and rotated in a whirlpool motion, similar to our own spiral galaxy and other mature galaxies much later in the universe’s history. Despite their relatively small size—about five times smaller than the Milky Way—these galaxies were forming stars at a higher rate than other young galaxies. But the researchers were surprised to discover that the galaxies were not as chaotic as expected.

    “In the early Universe, gravity caused gas to flow rapidly into the galaxies, stirring them up and forming lots of new stars. Violent supernova explosions from these stars also makes the gas even more turbulent,” said Smit, who is a Rubicon Fellow at Cambridge sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. “We expected that young galaxies would be dynamically ‘messy’ due to the havoc caused by exploding young stars, but these mini-galaxies show the ability to retain order and appear well regulated. They are already rapidly growing to become one of the ‘adult’ galaxies like we live in today,” she said.

    The results from this project pave the way for larger studies of newly-forming galaxies during the first billion years of cosmic time with ALMA’s uniquely powerful capabilities and with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. The research was funded in part by the European Research Council and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 12:35 pm on November 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Global SPHERE Network, SPHERE-STEM Programs for High-Schoolers Engaging in Research Early", , UCSC   

    From UCSC: “Global SPHERE Network promotes research opportunities for high school students” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    November 29, 2017
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    Coalition of top U.S. educational institutions launches mentor network and online database to increase access to STEM research opportunities for high school students.

    2

    A coalition of U.S. educational institutions has launched an online database of opportunities around the world for high school students to get involved in research in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The database is part of a global network of STEM programs and mentors for high school students.

    By promoting “STEM Programs for High-Schoolers Engaging in Research Early” (SPHERE), the Global SPHERE Network aims to increase both the number of mentors (researchers who engage high school students in their research) and the number and diversity of high school students who participate in authentic STEM research.

    Founding partners in the coalition include the University of California, Santa Cruz; the New York Academy of Sciences; the Bay Area Teen Science Program at UC Berkeley; American Museum of Natural History; RockEDU Science Outreach at the Rockefeller University; and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Since 2015, the Global SPHERE Network has connected with 120 organizations in 20 countries, said cofounder Puragra (Raja) GuhaThakurta.

    “As a STEM researcher, I feel it is very important to mentor today’s youth and get them deeply immersed in authentic research so they can get a taste of how exciting it is to tackle some of the open-ended problems facing the world today,” said GuhaThakurta, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and founder of the UCSC Science Internship Program (SIP). He and SIP partner liaison Emily Entress Clark cofounded the Global SPHERE Network.

    The network’s new online database lists available opportunities across the world for high school students to engage in research. It also serves as a networking space for programs and mentors who are already offering research opportunities or are looking to do so. Member programs are encouraged to use the database on an ongoing basis to network with other programs, share resources, and engage with high school students.

    The database will initially offer a few hundred research projects across a dozen established programs in a wide range of STEM disciplines. The goal is to grow the database to five to 10 times its current size over the next few years, GuhaThakurta said. High school science teachers and students interested in these projects can access the database through the student portal on the Global SPHERE Network web site.

    “Many students on a STEM track at school are keen to do research projects, not only for their school work, but to also enter some of the science competitions that offer college scholarships, but they often don’t know how to get started,” said Celina Morgan-Standard, senior vice president of global business development at the New York Academy of Sciences. “The Global SPHERE Network initiative will help to address this opportunity gap while providing a great resource to teachers who’d like to give their students STEM related research projects.”

    GuhaThakurta noted that most established programs find that they have to turn away many qualified students and generally have no systematic way to redirect them to alternate programs. Meanwhile, parents and students tend to be aware of only a small fraction of the available programs. The Global SPHERE Network provides valuable resources for programs and mentors as well as for students, parents, and teachers.

    The network will host the first in a series of webinars on Wednesday, November 29 (1:30 to 2:30 p.m. PST), to give an overview of the network and answer questions for organizations that are interested in joining. Free registration for this and subsequent webinars is available through the prospective partner questionnaire on the network’s web site. Institutions, professionals, and educational groups are encouraged to register to receive invitations to webinars and find out ways they can benefit from the network.

    Additional information about the Global SPHERE Network is available online at http://www.globalspherenetwork.org.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 12:36 pm on November 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Pluto's hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet colder than expected, UCSC   

    From UCSC: “Pluto’s hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet colder than expected” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    November 15, 2017
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    New analysis of Pluto’s atmosphere explains why New Horizons spacecraft measured temperatures much colder than predicted.

    1
    Pluto’s haze layer is blue in this image taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera and computer generated to replicate true color. Haze is produced by sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to small particles that grow and settle toward the surface. (Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    The gas composition of a planet’s atmosphere generally determines how much heat gets trapped in the atmosphere. For the dwarf planet Pluto, however, the predicted temperature based on the composition of its atmosphere was much higher than actual measurements taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in 2015.

    A new study published November 16 in Nature proposes a novel cooling mechanism controlled by haze particles to account for Pluto’s frigid atmosphere.

    “It’s been a mystery since we first got the temperature data from New Horizons,” said first author Xi Zhang, assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz. “Pluto is the first planetary body we know of where the atmospheric energy budget is dominated by solid-phase haze particles instead of by gases.”

    The cooling mechanism involves the absorption of heat by the haze particles, which then emit infrared radiation, cooling the atmosphere by radiating energy into space. The result is an atmospheric temperature of about 70 Kelvin (minus 203 degrees Celsius, or minus 333 degrees Fahrenheit), instead of the predicted 100 Kelvin (minus 173 Celsius, or minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit).

    According to Zhang, the excess infrared radiation from haze particles in Pluto’s atmosphere should be detectable by the James Webb Space Telescope, allowing confirmation of his team’s hypothesis after the telescope’s planned launch in 2019.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Extensive layers of atmospheric haze can be seen in images of Pluto taken by New Horizons. The haze results from chemical reactions in the upper atmosphere, where ultraviolet radiation from the sun ionizes nitrogen and methane, which react to form tiny hydrocarbon particles tens of nanometers in diameter. As these tiny particles sink down through the atmosphere, they stick together to form aggregates that grow larger as they descend, eventually settling onto the surface.

    “We believe these hydrocarbon particles are related to the reddish and brownish stuff seen in images of Pluto’s surface,” Zhang said.

    The researchers are interested in studying the effects of haze particles on the atmospheric energy balance of other planetary bodies, such as Neptune’s moon Triton and Saturn’s moon Titan. Their findings may also be relevant to investigations of exoplanets with hazy atmospheres.

    Zhang’s coauthors are Darrell Strobel, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University and co-investigator on the New Horizons mission, and Hiroshi Imanaka, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, who studies the chemistry of haze particles in planetary atmospheres. This research was funded by NASA.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

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  • richardmitnick 12:23 pm on November 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Study reveals structure and origins of glacial polish on Yosemite's rocks, UCSC   

    From UCSC: “Study reveals structure and origins of glacial polish on Yosemite’s rocks” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    November 15, 2017
    Anna Katrina Hunter
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    Geologists at UC Santa Cruz investigated glacial polish from Yosemite National Park to understand how it formed and what it can tell them about how glaciers move.

    1
    Glacial polish reflects sunlight at Pothole Dome in Yosemite National Park, California. The granitic bedrock here was polished by glacier sliding during the last ice age. UCSC researchers found that glacial polish forms by the accretion of a thin coating layer on top of glacially abraded surfaces. (Photo by Shalev Siman-Tov)

    The glaciers that carved Yosemite Valley left highly polished surfaces on many of the region’s rock formations. These smooth, shiny surfaces, known as glacial polish, are common in the Sierra Nevada and other glaciated landscapes.

    Geologists at UC Santa Cruz have now taken a close look at the structure and chemistry of glacial polish and found that it consists of a thin coating smeared onto the rock as the glacier moved over it. The new findings, published in the November issue of Geology, show that the polish is not simply the result of abrasion and smoothing by the glacier, as was previously thought. Instead, it is a distinct layer deposited onto the surface of the rock at the base of the glacier.

    This smooth layer coating the rock at the base of glaciers may influence how fast the glaciers slide. It also helps explain why glacial polish is so resistant to weathering long after the glaciers that created it are gone.

    According to coauthor Emily Brodsky, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, this ultrathin coating can help glaciologists better understand the mechanics of how glaciers move, and it provides a potential archive for dating when the material was pasted onto the rock.

    “This is incredibly important now, as we think about the stability of ice sheets,” Brodsky said. “It is pretty hard to get to the base of a glacier to see what’s going on there, but the glacial polish can tell us about the composition of the gunk on the bottoms of glaciers and when the polish was formed.”

    Lead author Shalev Siman-Tov, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz, had previously studied the highly polished surfaces found on some earthquake faults. To investigate glacial polish, he teamed up with Greg Stock, who earned his Ph.D. at UC Santa Cruz and is now the park geologist at Yosemite National Park.

    “I wanted to apply what we know from fault zones and earthquakes to glaciology,” Siman-Tov said. “I was not familiar with glaciated landscapes, and I was very interested to conduct a significant field study outside of my home country of Israel.”

    He and Stock hiked into Yosemite National Park to collect small samples of glacial polish from dozens of sites. They chose samples from three sites for detailed analyses. One site (Daff Dome near Tuolomne Meadows) emerged from beneath the glaciers at the end of the last ice age around 15,000 years ago. The other two sites are in Lyell Canyon near small modern glaciers that formed during the Little Ice Age around 300 years ago. Lyell Glacier is no longer active, but McClure Glacier is still moving and has an ice cave at its toe that enabled the researchers to collect fresh polish from an area of active sliding and abrasion.

    The researchers used an ion beam to slice off thin sections from the samples, and they used electron microscopy techniques to image the samples and perform elemental analyses. The results showed that the tiny fragments in the coating were a mixture of all the minerals found in granodiorite bedrock. This suggests a process in which the glacier scrapes material from the rocks and grinds it into a fine paste, then spreads it across the rock surface to form a very thin layer only a few microns thick.

    “Abrasive wear removes material and makes the surface smoother, while simultaneously producing the wear products that become the construction material for the coating layer,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

    Siman-Tov now wants to date the layer and confirm the time when the glacier eroded the rock surface. He is also conducting laboratory experiments to try to recreate the same structures observed in the coating layer. The researchers will continue to work with Stock in Yosemite to study the chemical weathering of glacial polish surfaces compared to regular, exposed granodiorite.

    In addition to Siman-Tov, Stock, and Brodsky, the coauthors of the paper include geologist Joseph White at the University of New Brunswick. This work was funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

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  • richardmitnick 9:45 am on November 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , All the Gold in the World, , , , , , , , UCSC   

    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 .

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    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 2:02 pm on November 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Jennifer Marshall, Texas A&M Astronomer Jennifer Marshall Witnesses Cosmic History in Chile, UCSC,   

    From Texas A&M: Women in STEM – “Texas A&M Astronomer Jennifer Marshall Witnesses Cosmic History in Chile” 

    Texas A&M logo

    Texas A&M

    1

    Marshall (above and below), operating the Dark Energy Camera on the Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in August 2017. The image displayed on the monitor is the gravitational wave event GW170817, the source just to the top left of the larger galaxy NGC 4993 in the center of the screen. (Credit: Erika Cook, Texas A&M University.)

    2

    “It was truly amazing. I felt so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to help make perhaps one of the most significant observations of my career.”
    Dr. Jennifer Marshall, Texas A&M astronomer

    Dark Energy Survey


    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL


    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam at an altitude of 7200 feet

    August 17 dawned as the first day in an otherwise ordinary observing run for Texas A&M University astronomer Jennifer Marshall. She had arrived in Chile a few days earlier as part of another routine visit to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s (CTIO), distinguished solely by the fact that it happened to kick off the fifth and final year of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), a five-year international project led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory to map one-eighth of the sky in unprecedented detail.

    CTIO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, CTIO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory,approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters

    However, just as swiftly as day turned to night and darkness descended over the Andes Mountains, Marshall found herself at the fateful crossroads of proximity and cosmic history, courtesy of one universally significant target of opportunity observation.

    By virtue of being in the right place at the right time, Marshall got to witness firsthand the fiery aftermath of a recently detected burst of gravitational waves, personally recording some of the initial images of the first confirmed explosion from two colliding neutron stars ever seen by astronomers.

    The discovery, historic because it marks the first cosmic event observed in both gravitational waves and light, was made using the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); the Europe-based Virgo detector in Italy; and more than 60 ground- and space-based telescopes.


    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)

    During the course of seven days in Chile, Marshall watched the extraordinary event play out in real time through two telescopes — the 4-meter Victor M. Blanco Telescope at CTIO, then moving on to the 6.5-meter Magellan Telescope at nearby Las Campanas Observatory. She was the only astronomer present and observing for DES at Blanco during the unprecedented occurrence.

    3
    The Twin Magellan telescope domes on Cerro Manqui at 8370 feet (2450 m) above sea level. Each dome houses a 6.5-meter class telescope, with the Landon Clay telescope in the left dome and
    Walter Baade telescope in the right dome. The building connecting the two domes serves as a storage area for various instruments and a maintenance facility for realuminizing the mirrors.
    Note the tall, slender silo next to the domes. This is a differential image motion monitor (DIMM) telescope used to measure atmospheric seeing.

    “It is my observation that every telescope in Chile, including the two I was using, was pointed at this thing for the entire week,” Marshall said. “It was definitely the most important science I have ever had the opportunity to be involved in.”

    Images taken by Marshall using the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam) captured the flaring up and fading over time of a kilonova — an explosion similar to a supernova but on a smaller scale — that occurs when collapsed stars, called neutron stars, crash into each other, theoretically creating heavy radioactive elements.

    This particular violent merger, which occurred 130 million years ago in a galaxy (NGC 4993) relatively near our own Milky Way galaxy, is the source of the gravitational waves detected by the LIGO and the Virgo collaborations on Aug. 17. Although this is the fifth source of gravitational waves to be detected, it is unique because it is the first one with a visible electromagnetic counterpart observable by optical telescopes — the glowing aftermath of the collision of two neutron stars — as opposed to binary black holes, which are not expected to produce a remnant that can be seen through telescopes.

    Capitalizing on a Target of Opportunity

    When DES officials at Fermilab learned along with dozens of LIGO-affiliated collaborations and observatories around the world that a strong gravitational signal, named GW170817, had been detected at 7:41 a.m. CDT by two of LIGO’s three detectors — a find further corroborated by a gamma-ray burst detected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope at roughly the same time — they sent out a target of opportunity observation notice that Marshall quickly seized upon.

    As she was observing at Blanco, Marshall was simultaneously collaborating via Skype with fellow DES scientists Marcelle Soares-Santos (Fermilab/Brandeis University), the DES principal investigator in charge of gravitational wave observations, and Daniel Holtz (University of Chicago), who is a member of both LIGO and DES. Coincidentally, Marshall also was sharing some of those nights via remote with Ting Li ’16, who earned her doctorate in astronomy at Texas A&M in 2016 working with Marshall and currently is a Lederman Fellow in Experimental Physics at Fermilab.

    “LIGO tells you the equivalent of, ‘If you look in this area of the sky, there might be something,'” Marshall explained. “Virgo helped narrow that area down to the extent that, instead of 100 square degrees, it was only 30. DECam has a large field of view of three square degrees, so we only had to look at 30 telescope pointings. I was there with Erika Cook, our Munnerlyn Astronomical Laboratory control systems engineer, and Marcus Sauseda, an undergraduate aerospace engineering major here at Texas A&M, and we took some quick, short exposures — a total of roughly one hour. I sent the data off, then went to bed. I woke up to an ecstatic email from Edo Berger at Harvard, who happens to be a longtime colleague from our postdoc days at The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.”

    Armed with the crystal-clear images from DECam, for which Texas A&M astronomer Darren DePoy served as project scientist, Berger’s team went to work analyzing the phenomenon using several different resources, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. For her part, Marshall continued imaging the galaxy for five more nights at CTIO, watching the event fade rapidly and change in color from blue to red as the explosion quickly cooled down. She then spent a seventh night at Las Campanas, doing follow-up observation with the Magellan telescope, using a different spectrometer to enable more detailed study of the event in collaboration with Carnegie Observatories scientists Maria Drout and Ben Shappee.

    Jennifer Marshall may have been one of many astronomers observing GW170817 from both ground- and space-based telescopes on Aug. 17, but she likely was the only one who happened to have a film crew in tow. Check out this video produced by NOVA PBS, present at CTIO at the time, shooting footage for an upcoming segment on the Dark Energy Survey. Catch Marshall at the 0:45, 1:10 and 1:42 marks!

    Byproducts of a Binary Star Merger

    Understandable excitement aside, Marshall says this event is particularly interesting to her because it is directly related her research on r-process elements — the heavy elements that exist on Earth and are produced in theory as the byproducts of neutron star collisions and mergers. These observations show that the theory is accurate, providing the final piece of the puzzle regarding the origin of r-process elements.

    “This was the first time anyone has ever watched such an event play out from beginning to end, all thanks to LIGO,” Marshall said. “It was truly amazing. Watching science happen in real time is not something most astronomers get to experience. With the exception of supernovae and exoplanet studies, most things we work on take billions of years to play out. I felt so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to help make perhaps one of the most significant observations of my career.”

    Marshall said one indication of just how well LIGO/Virgo is working is the amount of event follow-up requests, which are so numerous as a result of its second and most recent observing run since being upgraded via a program called Advanced LIGO that astronomers have been forced to prioritize.

    “There were actually several binary black hole mergers that same week that we didn’t bother to look at because the neutron star source was so much more important,” Marshall said. “We had absolutely no idea this was going to happen. Everyone was shocked, and understandably so, because it was truly unbelievable.”

    In addition to Marshall and DePoy, fellow Texas A&M astronomers and Mitchell Institute members Lucas Macri, Casey Papovich, Nicholas Suntzeff and Louis Strigari are full members of the 400-plus-member international DES collaboration that spans 26 institutions and seven countries as well as the gamut of science and engineering in the search for answers regarding the universe’s accelerated expansion. Texas A&M statistician James Long and Mitchell Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Peter Brown also are external collaborators.

    Publications Aplenty

    The LIGO-Virgo results are published today in the journal Physical Review Letters, while additional papers from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations and the astronomical community either have been submitted or accepted for publication in various journals.

    Six papers relating to the DECam discovery of the optical counterpart are planned for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. Preprints of all papers are available online.

    Marshall’s observations made during that fateful August week in Chile appear in a total of nine publications making their debut today, including the mega paper from LIGO that includes citations for 75 associated papers, in addition to two DES-related papers appearing in The Astrophysical Journal as well as two papers in the journal Science featuring the Las Campanas spectra and images. Beyond those, she is an author on three additional DES papers, including one that uses the binary neutron star merger event to derive the Hubble constant. DePoy and Li join her as co-authors on several of those papers by virtue of their status as fellow DES Builders. Finally, she is an author on the Transient Optical Robotic Observatory of the South (TOROS) Collaboration paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    “The August 17 binary neutron star merger event occurred in nearby galaxy NGC 4993, located at a distance of 39.5 megaparsecs from the Milky Way,” Marshall said. “This event will surely usher in a new field of science, the direct observational study of the formation of r-process elements starting now and being fueled by future discovery of similar events by LIGO and follow-up study by astronomers.”

    Read more on today’s announcement and its broader significance in the official press releases from LIGO/Virgo , DES/Fermilab, which include additional images along with animations and videos and from From UCSC: “Neutron stars, gravitational waves, and all the gold in the universe”, which tells the optical astronomy part of the story. This last, written by Tim Stephens is quite a production, complete with a 2.5 hour video of the press conference is not to be missed.

    Learn more about the Texas A&M Astronomy Group’s broader role in the imaging and analyses.

    For more information about Texas A&M astronomy, visit http://astronomy.tamu.edu.

    See the full article here .

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    Located in College Station, Texas, about 90 miles northwest of Houston and within a two to three-hour drive from Austin and Dallas.
    Home to more than 50,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with more than 370,000 former students worldwide.
    Holds membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, one of only 62 institutions with this distinction.
    More than $820 million in research expenditures generated by faculty-researchers
    Has an endowment valued at more than $5 billion, which ranks fourth among U.S. public universities and 10th overall.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:02 am on October 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A seaweed protein that seems to be active against the H1N1 flu, , , Charting the movement of king crabs up the Antarctic Slope as ocean temperatures rise, Hearing scientists talk about how climate change is threatening the breathtaking landscape and wildlife can bring people to tears, , National Science Foundation, Ocean acidification, Palmer Station, Science at Antarctica, The discovery of chemicals contained in seaweed and sponges that may hold promise for treatment of melanoma and the deadly MRSA bacterium that is resistant to many antibiotics, The discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the 1980s when scientists released a paper detailing how the protective layer between earth and the sun was thinning, UCSC, You don’t come back from Antarctica the same way you left   

    From UCSC: “Into the heart of a frozen continent” James McClintock 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    October 17, 2017
    Peggy Townsend

    1
    James McClintock has made 15 journeys to Antarctica.

    Looking through a three-foot-wide dive hole into the frigid blue waters of Antarctica, James McClintock saw something he’d never witnessed before. A passing shrimp-like amphipod appeared to be carrying a tiny orange pack on its back.

    Intrigued, McClintock, then a young assistant professor of polar and marine biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, scooped up the creature and took it back to the lab at McMurdo Station where he and a fish biologist teased the pack from the creature’s back.

    To their stunned surprise, the orange pack opened up and flew away.

    The tiny sea butterfly, which had been captured and held by the amphipod, turned out to contain an unpalatable chemical that kept the crustacean from becoming lunch for some hungry fish. Its discovery not only landed McClintock in the pages of the prestigious journal Nature but also launched a career that has made him a something of scientific rock star.

    McClintock (biology, ’78, Cowell) has published 265 scientific papers, written two books, spoken about his work in front of 1,000 people at a Moth storytelling event at Lincoln Center in New York City, and had a point in McMurdo Sound in Antarctica named after him by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names in honor of his work. More importantly, his research in Antarctica has included studies on ocean acidification, the effects of climate change on marine life, and the discovery of chemicals contained in seaweed and sponges that may hold promise for treatment of melanoma and the deadly MRSA bacterium that is resistant to many antibiotics.

    If not for two professors at UC Santa Cruz, his story might have been very different.

    Arriving at the wooded campus from Santa Barbara with the idea of studying English, McClintock remembers becoming intrigued when a Cowell College core course in biology turned to talk of marine invertebrates. He soon signed up for an invertebrate zoology course taught by John Pearse and Todd Newberry, now both emeritus professors in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, which focused on these amazing and adaptable creatures.

    As McClintock tells it, “John is this amazing teacher who has a way of grabbing you by the soul.”

    Pearse, for his part, recommended that McClintock spend a semester at a UC marine research lab in Bodega Bay studying sea stars and sea urchins.

    “Jim was a self-starter,” remembers Pearse, who later invited McClintock to accompany him to Antarctic as a post-doctoral researcher. “He was very curious and outgoing.”

    But if Pearse grabbed McClintock’s soul, Antarctica took his heart. He’s been there 15 times as a researcher and 10 times as lead lecturer for an annual philanthropic cruise focused on climate change organized by the ship line, Abercrombie and Kent. Listen to him talk by phone from his campus office in Birmingham and his description of Antarctica is close to poetic.

    “The scale of the landscape is absolutely stunning,” he says. Mountain ranges that appear close enough to touch are actually hundreds of miles away. The sea surface, glassy and calm one minute, can be lifted into the air by hurricane-force winds a few moments later, while the ice is alive with unimaginable shades of blue and green.

    “You don’t come back from Antarctica the same way you left,” he says.

    His research trips, the last 25 years of which have been funded with grants from the National Science Foundation, have included a collaboration with Bill Baker, a marine natural products chemist from the University of South Florida, and Charles Amsler, a seaweed biologist also from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    Working out of remote Palmer Station, the trio has focused on defense mechanisms developed by invertebrates and seaweed involving chemicals that are unpalatable and sometimes toxic to their predators. The research also has had implications for drug development including the discovery of a substance in sea squirts that appears to fight melanoma and a seaweed protein that seems to be active against the H1N1 flu, which sparked a 2009 pandemic. Most recently, the group found a compound in an Antarctic sponge that could help in the treatment of a specific type of the deadly MRSA bacteria.

    Meanwhile, McClintock, along with his colleague Richard Aronson at the Florida Institute of Technology, is also charting the movement of king crabs up the Antarctic Slope as ocean temperatures rise. The arrival of these claw-equipped predators on the Antarctic Shelf could cause incredible damage to a pristine sea floor where rare invertebrates like sponges and anemones thrive, he says.

    But if the excitement of discovery is what brings McClintock back to Antarctica, it is the rapid changes he’s witnessed there makes him worry for our future.

    He’s studied the impacts of ocean acidification and watched a glacier that used to calve once a week now release chunks of ice four to five times a day, he says.

    “You can look across from Palmer (Station) and see the ghost rookeries where, 45 years ago, there were 15,000 breeding pairs” of Adélie penguins, says McClintock by telephone from Birmingham where he is now an endowed university professor of polar and marine biology. “Now there are 1,500 breeding pairs, which means 90 percent are gone, and we know very confidently it is because of climate change.”

    The seabirds, he explains, lay their eggs the same week each year but because of climate change, unseasonable snowstorms sometimes bury the colony and when the snow melts, the penguin eggs and chicks drown.

    That’s one of the reasons, he says, he has shepherded 200 well-heeled cruise-ship passengers to the Antarctic each year for the past decade.

    Experiencing a beach filled with a mass of penguins that have no fear of humans and will often wander up to inspect their two-legged visitors, seeing humpbacks surface, and hearing scientists talk about how climate change is threatening the breathtaking landscape and wildlife can bring people to tears, he says.

    “These people go home as ambassadors for Antarctica. They talk to senators and politicians about climate change,” McClintock says.

    That outreach has made him understand the importance of scientists letting their voices be heard. He helped start a website, UAB in Antarctica, which allows lay people an up-close look at scientific research; has traveled across the country speaking to students from third grade to college, and has lectured in front of groups including the famed Explorers Club. In fact, he says, since the United States pulled out of the Paris Accord, which laid out a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, his requests for climate-change talks have increased.

    Yet, his message, he says, is also hopeful.

    He likes to tell the story of the discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the 1980s, when scientists released a paper detailing how the protective layer between earth and the sun was thinning.

    “What I like to tell people is that within several years of one of the most important papers of the 20th century,” McClintock says, “we had 20 countries sitting around a table in Montreal and they OK’d the Montreal Protocol” which phased out products that were harmful to the ozone layer. The treaty has now been ratified by 197 parties.

    Last year, McClintock says, a new paper showed that rather than expanding, the ozone hole is shrinking.

    “That’s what I leave audiences with,” McClintock says. “That maybe we can get together and figure this out after all.”

    See the full article here .

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    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

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  • richardmitnick 5:36 pm on October 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , and all the gold in the universe, , , , , , , UCSC,   

    From UCSC: “A UC Santa Cruz special report: Neutron stars, gravitational waves, and all the gold in the universe” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz

    10.16.17
    Tim Stephens

    2

    Astronomer Ryan Foley says observing the explosion of two colliding neutron stars–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.

    1

    So what makes this strange cataclysm in another galaxy so exciting to astronomers? And what the heck is a neutron star, anyway?

    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)


    Carnegie Institution Swope telescope at Las Campanas, Chile

    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.

    5
    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.”

    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.

    Published research

    Credits

    Writing: Tim Stephens
    Header image: Illustration by Robin Dienel courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science
    Design and development: Rob Knight
    Project managers: Sherry Main, Scott Hernandez-Jason, Tim Stephens

    See the full article here .

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    UCO Lick Shane Telescope
    UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
    Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
    Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

    Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
    New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
    March 23, 2015
    By Hilary Lebow
    1
    The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

    Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

    “Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

    Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

    5
    UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

    “The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

    The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

    Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

    “We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

    Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

    “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

    NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

    “Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

    NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

    The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

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  • richardmitnick 3:15 pm on September 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , UCSC   

    From COSMOS: “Tougher, shinier mirrors boost telescope power” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    21 September 2017
    Andrew Masterson

    1
    The 10-metre mirror array at Hawaii’s Keck Telescope. Laurie Hatch, UCSC

    The world’s big astronomical telescopes could soon all get a performance upgrade without the need for installing bigger mirrors, thanks to a collaboration between materials scientists and astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the US.

    One key property of the mirrors used in astronomical telescopes is, of course, reflectiveness. Another, however, is durability – and the intersection of the two represents a trade-off.

    Most big telescopes use mirrors coated in aluminium, which is a comparatively tough material that can survive the sometimes harsh environments in which observatories are situated, as well as being able to withstand the potentially damaging effects of being manhandled.

    Silver makes for a much more efficient mirror because it is much more reflective. However, it is also fragile, and prone to damage and corrosion.

    Tackling this problem after a conversation with a despairing astronomer, a team led by materials scientist Nobuhiko Kobayashi has formulated a tough but ultra-thin coating that can keep silver protected without reducing or distorting its reflective properties.

    The team formulated several new alloys, using various combinations of fluoride, magnesium and aluminium oxides. These were then deposited on a silver surface, using an electron beam, in a molecule-by-molecule process called atomic layer deposition.

    The best-performing formulation – which rejoices in the name MgAl2O4, Al2O3 – enabled high reflectance at wavelengths between 340 nanometres and the mid-infrared spectrum. It remained stable even when exposed to 80% humidity and 80 degree Celsius temperatures for 10 days in a row.

    Both the specific formulation and the application method have been patented by their inventors. The mechanical limit of the process at present means the largest mirror that can be coated has a diameter of 0.9 metres.

    Kobayashi and his colleagues are working on doubling this – an upper limit, they say, that will allow the mirrors in even the world’s largest telescopes to be converted to silver. The main mirrors of the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, for instance, comprise a 10-metre span, but are made up of 1.8 metre-wide components.

    “It is by far the cheapest way to make our telescopes effectively bigger,” says co-author Michael Bolte. “The reason we want bigger telescopes is to collect more light, so if your mirrors reflect more light it’s like making them bigger.”

    The research is published in the SPIE Digital Library.

    See the full article here .

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