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  • richardmitnick 3:25 pm on October 31, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Simulations explain giant exoplanets with eccentric close-in orbits", , , , , UCSC   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Simulations explain giant exoplanets with eccentric, close-in orbits” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    October 30, 2019
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    As planetary systems evolve, gravitational interactions between planets can fling some of them into eccentric elliptical orbits around the host star, or even out of the system altogether. Smaller planets should be more susceptible to this gravitational scattering, yet many gas giant exoplanets have been observed with eccentric orbits very different from the roughly circular orbits of the planets in our own solar system.

    1
    This artist’s concept illustrates the collision of two rocky planets. A new study proposes a scenario in which collisions between gas giant planets can lead to mergers and the formation of high-mass gas giants with close-in orbits. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    Surprisingly, the planets with the highest masses tend to be those with the highest eccentricities, even though the inertia of a larger mass should make it harder to budge from its initial orbit. This counter-intuitive observation prompted astronomers at UC Santa Cruz to explore the evolution of planetary systems using computer simulations. Their results, reported in a paper published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, suggest a crucial role for a giant-impacts phase in the evolution of high-mass planetary systems, leading to collisional growth of multiple giant planets with close-in orbits.

    A giant planet is not as easily scattered into an eccentric orbit as a smaller planet, but if there are multiple giant planets close to the host star, their gravitational interactions are more likely scatter them into eccentric orbits,” explained first author Renata Frelikh, a graduate student in astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    Frelikh performed hundreds of simulations of planetary systems, starting each one with 10 planets in circular orbits and varying the initial total mass of the system and the masses of individual planets. As the systems evolved for 20 million simulated years, dynamical instabilities led to collisions and mergers to form larger planets as well as gravitational interactions that ejected some planets and scattered others into eccentric orbits.

    Analyzing the results of these simulations collectively, the researchers found that the planetary systems with the most initial total mass produced the biggest planets and the planets with the highest eccentricities.

    “Our model naturally explains the counter-intuitive correlation of mass and eccentricity,” Frelikh said.

    Coauthor Ruth Murray-Clay, the Gunderson professor of theoretical astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, said the only non-standard assumption in their model is that there can be several gas giant planets in the inner part of a planetary system. “If you make that assumption, all the other behavior follows,” she said.

    According to the classic model of planet formation, based on our own solar system, there is not enough material in the inner part of the protoplanetary disk around a star to make gas giant planets, so only small rocky planets form in the inner part of the system and giant planets form farther out. Yet astronomers have detected many gas giants orbiting close to their host stars. Because they are relatively easy to detect, these “hot Jupiters” accounted for the majority of early exoplanet discoveries, but they may be an uncommon outcome of planet formation.

    “This may be an unusual process,” Murray-Clay said. “We’re suggesting that it is more likely to happen when the initial mass in the disk is high, and that high-mass giant planets are produced during a phase of giant impacts.”

    This giant-impacts phase is analogous to the final stage in the assembly of our own solar system, when the moon was formed in the aftermath of a collision between Earth and another planet. “Because of our solar system bias, we tend to think of impacts as happening to rocky planets and ejection as happening to giant planets, but there is a whole spectrum of possible outcomes in the evolution of planetary systems,” Murray-Clay said.

    According to Frelikh, collisional growth of high-mass giant planets should be most efficient in the inner regions, because encounters between planets in the outer parts of the system are more likely to lead to ejections than mergers. Mergers producing high-mass planets should peak at a distance from the host star of around 3 astronomical units (AU, the distance from Earth to the sun), she said.

    “We predict that the highest-mass giant planets will be produced by mergers of smaller gas giants between 1 to 8 AU from their host stars,” Frelikh said. “Exoplanet surveys have detected some extremely large exoplanets, approaching 20 times the mass of Jupiter. It may take a lot of collisions to produce those, so it’s interesting that we see this giant-impacts phase in our simulations.”

    In addition to Frelikh and Murray-Clay, the coauthors of the paper include Hyerin Jang at UC Santa Cruz and Cristobal Petrovich at the University of Toronto. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    UC Observatories Lick Autmated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA

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

    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

     
  • richardmitnick 3:05 pm on October 31, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Lux supercomputer, , UCSC   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Powerful new supercomputer supports campus research in physical sciences” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    October 30, 2019
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    UCSC faculty are using the new system for research in astrophysics, climate science, materials science, chemistry, and other fields.

    A new supercomputer at UC Santa Cruz is providing a state-of-the-art high-performance computing system for researchers in a wide range of fields. The new system, called lux, is substantially more powerful than previous campus supercomputers and was designed with the latest technologies to enable advanced computational studies in areas such as climate modeling, astrophysical simulations, and machine learning.

    2
    Astrophysicist Brant Robertson (left) and team members Nicholas Brummell (Applied Mathematics) and Brad Smith (Computer Science and Engineering) with the new lux supercomputer recently installed in the UCSC Data Center. (Photos by C. Lagattuta)

    1
    UCSC Lux supercomputer

    “I’m excited about leveraging these new technologies to do computational studies we weren’t able to do before at UC Santa Cruz,” said Brant Robertson, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics.

    Robertson led a team of 20 UCSC faculty members from six departments to put together a proposal for the project, which won a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation program. The team includes faculty in the Departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Physics, Applied Mathematics, and Computer Science & Engineering.

    High-performance computing has become an increasingly important tool for researchers throughout the physical sciences. Sophisticated computer simulations can be used to model extremely complex phenomena, from the behavior of Earth’s climate system to the evolution of galaxies. In addition, scientists in a growing number of fields are applying the computationally intensive techniques of machine learning to problems involving large datasets.

    “In astronomy, we are just starting to deploy deep learning at large scale. When we are able to automate the analysis of astronomical images from large surveys, it will revolutionize how we do astronomy,” Robertson said.

    Although researchers may have access to much bigger supercomputers than lux at national computing facilities operated by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, Robertson said it is crucial for UC Santa Cruz to have its own local system.

    “If you want to develop code to run on the largest supercomputer in the world, you need to have a local system that has the same high-end components. We designed lux so that it can serve as a springboard for our researchers to get time on the national systems,” he said.

    Lux is also important for training students in the latest computational techniques. It will be available to students in advanced computational courses and programs such as the Lamat program in computational astrophysics, as well as visiting scientists and participants in summer programs.

    Robertson said there are already about 100 different accounts on the lux system. “People are up and running on it,” he said.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    UC Observatories Lick Autmated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA

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

    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

     
  • richardmitnick 2:47 pm on October 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "When exoplanets collide", , , , , UCSC   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “When exoplanets collide” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    October 22, 2019
    Kassandra Bell, NASA
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    Scientists thought they found clues pointing to a collision between two exoplanets ten years ago, and now they’ve found more evidence of a catastrophic collision.

    1
    An artist’s concept illustrating a catastrophic collision between two rocky exoplanets in the planetary system BD +20 307, turning both into dusty debris. Ten years ago, scientists speculated that the warm dust in this system was a result of a planet-to-planet collision. Now, SOFIA found even more warm dust, further supporting that two rocky exoplanets collided. (Credit: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

    NASA/DLR SOFIA

    A dramatic glimpse of the aftermath of a collision between two exoplanets is giving scientists a view of what can happen when planets crash into each other. A similar event in our own solar system may have formed the moon.

    In a study led by Maggie Thompson, a graduate student in astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, astronomers followed up earlier observations of the double-star system known as BD +20 307. More than 300 light years from Earth, with stars that are at least one billion years old, this mature system has shown signs of swirling dusty debris that is not cold, as would be expected around stars of this age. Rather, the debris is warm, reinforcing that it was made relatively recently by the impact of two planet-sized bodies.

    A decade ago, observations of this system by ground observatories and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope gave the first hints of this collision when the warm debris was first found. New observations with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) revealed the infrared brightness from the debris has increased by more than 10 percent, a sign that there is now even more warm dust.

    Published in The Astrophysical Journal, the results further support that an extreme collision between rocky exoplanets may have occurred relatively recently. Collisions like these can change planetary systems. It is believed that a collision between a Mars-sized body and the Earth 4.5 billion years ago created debris that eventually formed the moon.

    “The warm dust around BD +20 307 gives us a glimpse into what catastrophic impacts between rocky exoplanets might be like,” said Thompson, the lead author of the paper. “We want to know how this system subsequently evolves after the extreme impact.”

    Planets form when dust particles around a young star stick together and grow larger over time. The leftover debris remains after a planetary system forms, often in distant, cold regions like the Kuiper Belt, located beyond Neptune in our own solar system.

    Astronomers expect to find warm dust around young solar systems. As they evolve, the dust particles continue to collide and eventually become small enough that they are either blown out of a system or pulled into the star. Warm dust around older stars, like our sun and the two stars in BD +20 307, should have long since disappeared. Studying the dusty debris around stars not only helps astronomers learn how exoplanet systems evolve, but also builds a more complete picture of our own solar system’s history.

    “This is a rare opportunity to study catastrophic collisions occurring late in a planetary system’s history,” said Alycia Weinberger, staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington and lead investigator on the project. “The SOFIA observations show changes in the dusty disk on a timescale of only a few years.”

    Infrared observations, such as those from SOFIA’s infrared camera (the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope), are critical for uncovering clues hidden in cosmic dust. When observed with infrared light, this system is much brighter than expected from the stars alone. The extra energy comes from the glow of the dusty debris, which can’t be seen at other wavelengths.

    While there are several mechanisms that could cause the dust to glow more brightly—it could be absorbing more heat from the stars or moving closer to the stars—these are unlikely to happen in just 10 years, which is lightning fast for cosmic changes. A planetary collision, however, would easily inject a large amount of dust very quickly. This provides more evidence that two exoplanets crashed into each other. The team is analyzing data from follow-up observations to see if there are further changes in the system.

    SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    UC Observatories Lick Autmated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA

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

    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

     
  • richardmitnick 2:15 pm on July 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Apollo 11 experiment 50th anniversary, At the time our Shane Telescope was the second largest in the world, August 1 part of the IEEE Milestones Program- honors significant technical achievements and innovations in electronics and computing. (The event is by invitation only.), Bronze plaque in the lobby of the Shane Telescope Dome at Lick Observatory dedicated on Thursday, UCO Lick C. Donald Shane 3.0-meter reflecting telescope, UCSC   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Lick Observatory commemorates Apollo 11 experiment on 50th anniversary” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    July 22, 2019
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    1
    The retro-reflector array can be seen in this NASA photo in front of the lunar module, between the flag and the astronaut, who is placing a seismograph on the lunar surface.

    The first precise measurement of the distance from Earth to the moon was achieved on August 1, 1969, in a landmark experiment involving Lick Observatory astronomers and the Apollo 11 astronauts.

    To commemorate this achievement on its 50th anniversary, a bronze plaque in the lobby of the Shane Telescope Dome at Lick Observatory will be dedicated on Thursday, August 1, as part of the IEEE Milestones Program, which honors significant technical achievements and innovations in electronics and computing. (The event is by invitation only due to space limitations.)

    Researchers used Lick’s 120-inch Shane Telescope [below] to fire a powerful laser at the moon and detect the light that bounced back from a retro-reflector array placed on the lunar surface by the Apollo 11 astronauts. By precisely timing the delay between short pulses of light from the laser and the return signals from the moon, the researchers were able calculate the distance with unprecedented accuracy.

    2
    The Shane Telescope at Lick Observatory was used to fire a powerful laser at the moon and detect the signal returned from the retro-reflector array placed on the lunar surface by the Apollo 11 astronauts. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

    By the time a laser pulse reached the moon, its light was spread out over an area about 2 miles in diameter, so the amount of light that came back to the telescope from the small (18 by 18 inches) reflector array was just a few photons.

    “It was a big technological feat to detect such a small signal,” said Elinor Gates, staff astronomer at Lick Observatory. “At the time, our Shane Telescope was the second largest in the world, and that gave Lick an advantage for detecting the signal.”

    Joseph Wampler, now a professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, coordinated the experiment for Lick Observatory. The team at Lick overcame numerous technological challenges to get the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment (LURE) to work. Wampler recalled that the agreement with NASA to use the Lick facilities happened in February 1969, leaving little time to prepare before the Apollo 11 mission in July.

    “The optical system coupling the telescope to the lasers had to be designed and built, a system for guiding the telescope using a TV camera was also needed, optical benches for the lasers had to be cleared through the Defense Department before they could be purchased, and finally, the dome housing the Shane Telescope required substantial modification,” he said.

    To accommodate the lasers, their optical benches, and the telescope guiding system, a pit was dug below the Shane Telescope and lined with tile. The tiled pit is still there, known to Lick astronomers as “the swimming pool.” Parts of the mirror system for directing the laser beams are also still installed on the telescope.

    Multiple teams

    According to Wampler, NASA was worried that when the Apollo astronauts left the moon, their rocket exhaust would leave the retro-reflector array covered with dust. Therefore, several teams were funded to try to detect it during the few hours that the astronauts remained on the moon after deploying the array. Two teams using different laser systems were working at Lick Observatory, and other teams were working at the McDonald Observatory in Texas and the Mount Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii. It soon became apparent that Soviet scientists were also trying to hit the LURE target with their own laser.

    The initial attempts were frustrated by a number of problems, including the moon’s position low on the horizon. Also, the high-powered ruby-crystal laser systems were prone to catastrophic equipment failures, complete with explosions and fried electronics. The first successful signal detection was achieved on August 1 using a KORAD laser system. Just a few days earlier, an equipment failure had sent Hal Walker, KORAD’s field operations manager for the project, driving 350 miles from Mt. Hamilton to KORAD’s labs in Santa Monica to get replacement parts.

    Gates, who will lead a tour of the Shane Telescope after the dedication of the plaque, said the LURE experiment was one of the first pieces of history she learned about when she started working at Lick Observatory 20 years ago. “Lick’s successful part in the Apollo 11 mission is a point of pride, even for those of us who are too young to remember the moon landing,” she said.

    At Lick, the laser ranging activities ended in August 1969, but observations have continued at other observatories, and subsequent Apollo missions (14 and 15) deployed additional retro-reflector arrays on the moon. LURE is the only Apollo experiment that is still returning data from the moon.

    In addition to the first precise measurements of the distance to the moon, these experiments have provided important information about the moon’s orbit and variations in its rotation, as well as improving our knowledge of continental drift, changes in the Earth’s rotation rate, and the precession of its spin axis.

    After the plaque dedication, a reception and talks will be held in Santa Clara, where Michael Bolte, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and former director of UC Observatories, will discuss Lick Observatory’s role. Hal Walker will talk about his role in the experiment in a conversation with Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute.

    The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) History Center administers the IEEE Milestones Program. In addition to the plaque at Lick Observatory, the program will install a pedestal-mounted plaque in Santa Monica at the site where KORAD Lasers developed the ruby-crystal laser that was successfully used at Lick.

    For additional information about the August 1 events, contact Brian Berg, the IEEE Region 6 History Chair and Milestone Coordinator, at b.berg@ieee.org.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    UC Observatories Lick Autmated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA

    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.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:59 pm on April 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics, UCSC   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “UC Santa Cruz hosts summer program on machine learning in astronomy” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    April 19, 2019
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    The Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics brings together an international group of scientists and students for a six-week program of learning and research

    1

    2
    An international group of students participated in the 2016 Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    The 2019 Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz will focus on “Machine Learning in the Era of Large Astronomical Surveys,” bringing together scientists and students from a broad range of backgrounds to learn about machine learning techniques and their applications in astronomy.

    The Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics combines the concept of a long-term workshop with graduate student training through research projects. Up to 15 established faculty, 15 post-doctoral researchers, and 15 graduate students come from around the world to join local scientists at the host institution for the six-week program, which alternates between UC Santa Cruz and various institutions world-wide.

    The program begins with a one-week workshop on the topic of the year, after which the students are teamed with the senior participants and are expected to make significant progress on their selected project. Each year, the program tackles a different topic in astrophysics.

    This year’s topic addresses the challenges of big data in astronomy. Large astronomical surveys now collect unprecedented amounts of data, while large-scale computer simulations of astrophysical phenomena can also generate enormous datasets. To cope with this torrent of data, astronomers are adopting tools developed in the data science industry, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

    “This field is very rapidly emerging in astronomy,” said J. Xavier Prochaska, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Indeed, some of the students attending have more experience than the organizers.”

    Prochaska is a co-director of the 2019 program, along with UCSC astronomers Alexie Leauthaud and Brant Robertson. Prochaska is also a co-founder of the Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute at UC Santa Cruz, one of the sponsors of the summer program. Pascale Garaud, professor of applied mathematics at UC Santa Cruz, started the program in 2010 as the International Summer Institute for Modeling in Astrophysics (ISIMA). The Kavli Foundation has been supporting the program since 2016.

    “The Kavli Foundation is pleased to support innovative projects, and this year’s focus on big data addresses an issue of growing importance to astronomy,” said Christopher Martin, senior science program officer for the Kavli Foundation.

    In Santa Cruz, the Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics is associated with TASC (Theoretical Astrophysics at Santa Cruz), a multi-departmental research group of UCSC scientists from Applied Mathematics, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Physics. Additional support for the 2019 program is provided by the National Science Foundation, UC Santa Cruz, and the UCSC Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    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.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:36 pm on March 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Federal funds invested in research infrastructure", A new biolayer interferometer that will serve as a critical tool for biochemistry and drug discovery, A new cryo-electron microscope that will enable biologist to better characterize protein and virus structures as well as image tissue and cell samples, A new multifocus structured illumination microscope, A new state-of-the-art spectrometer that will support research in oceanography earth science paleontology anthropology and ecology, A powerful new supercomputer for researchers in fields ranging from astrophysics to climate science, , , UC Santa Cruz will invest nearly $6 million in its research tools this academic year thanks to awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes for Health., UCSC   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Federal funds From NSF and NIH invested in research infrastructure” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    March 05, 2019
    Scott Brandt
    vcr@ucsc.edu

    UC Santa Cruz will invest nearly $6 million in its research tools this academic year, thanks to awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes for Health.

    Each year, we can submit three proposals to the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation program, which typically funds about 20 percent of proposals. This year, we had the unprecedented success of seeing all three proposals funded, totaling $2.8 million. The program requires a 30 percent campus match, so our campus collaborators contributed an additional $1.2 million.

    With the NSF funding, the campus will now have:

    a powerful new supercomputer for researchers in fields ranging from astrophysics to climate science;
    a new state-of-the-art spectrometer that will support research in oceanography, earth science, paleontology, anthropology, and ecology; and
    a new multifocus structured illumination microscope

    The faculty members who submitted the MRI grants span three divisions and eight departments. Some recently joined campus, while others are senior researchers.

    We also secured about $2 million from the National Institutes of Health to support our biologists and biochemists with:

    A new cryo-electron microscope that will enable biologist to better characterize protein and virus structures, as well as image tissue and cell samples.
    A new biolayer interferometer that will serve as a critical tool for biochemistry and drug discovery.

    The funding underscores our excellence in many areas and is critical in ensuring we can continue our track record of groundbreaking research that creates new knowledge for our society.

    I want to thank the faculty members for coming to our office with well-crafted ideas and our Research Development staff, who help in developing proposals.

    Our staff members can help translate creative and innovative ideas into research and scholarly activities, programs, and projects, and are ready to assist our faculty with their ideas and proposals.

    We have selected and submitted three proposals for this year’s round of MRI funding and continue look for other opportunities to support the campus mission.

    With our excellent faculty, talented staff, and commitment to excellence, I’m optimistic we’ll be able to celebrate continued investment in our research infrastructure.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    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.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:33 pm on January 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT), UCSC,   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Scientists to inaugurate a new type of gamma ray telescope at Whipple Observatory” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    January 16, 2019
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    1
    The prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT) is a novel type of gamma-ray telescope designed for the Čerenkov Telescope Array (CTA). (Photo by Amy Oliver, Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian)

    A new type of gamma-ray telescope will be unveiled January 17 in an inauguration event at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Amado, Arizona. Expected to see first light in early 2019, the telescope is a prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT) designed for the Čerenkov Telescope Array (CTA), the next generation ground-based observatory for gamma-ray astronomy at very high energies.

    David Williams, adjunct professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz, chairs the CTA-US Consortium.

    “The inauguration of the pSCT is an exciting moment for the institutions involved in its development and construction,” Williams said. “The first of its kind in the history of gamma-ray telescopes, the SCT design is expected to boost CTA performance towards the theoretical limit of the technology.”

    The CTA Observatory, for which construction will begin in 2019, will be the world’s largest and most sensitive high-energy gamma-ray observatory, with more than 100 telescopes located in the northern and southern hemispheres.

    The 9.7-meter aperture pSCT is a pathfinder telescope for use in the CTA and exploits a novel optical design. Its complex dual-mirror optical system improves on the single-mirror designs traditionally used in gamma-ray telescopes by dramatically enhancing the optical quality of their focused light over a large region of the sky, and by enabling the use of compact, highly-efficient photo-sensors in the telescope camera.

    “Ultimately, the SCT is designed to improve CTA’s ability to detect very-high-energy gamma-ray sources, which may also be sources of neutrinos and gravitational waves,” said Vladimir Vassiliev, principal investigator of the pSCT. “Once the SCT technology is demonstrated at FLWO, it is hoped that SCTs will become a part of at least one of the two CTA arrays, located in each of the northern and southern hemispheres.”

    The CTA Observatory (CTAO) will consist of 118 telescopes of three different sizes and is expected to detect sources of gamma rays in the energy range 20 GeV to 300 TeV, with about ten times increased sensitivity compared to any current observatory. Notable for providing improved gamma-ray angular resolution and its very-high-resolution camera (more than 11,000 pixels), the SCT is proposed for the medium-sized CTA telescopes and will primarily contribute to the middle of CTA’s energy range (80 GeV to 50 TeV).

    “The SCT and other telescopes at CTA will greatly improve upon current gamma-ray research being conducted at HAWC, HESS, MAGIC, and VERITAS, the last of which is located at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,” said VERITAS Director Wystan Benbow.

    HAWC High Altitude Čerenkov Experiment, located on the flanks of the Sierra Negra volcano in the Mexican state of Puebla at an altitude of 4100 meters(13,500ft), at WikiMiniAtlas 18°59′41″N 97°18′30.6″W. searches for cosmic rays

    HESS Čerenkov Telescope Array, located on the Cranz family farm, Göllschau, in Namibia, near the Gamsberg searches for cosmic rays, altitude, 1,800 m (5,900 ft)

    MAGIC Cherenkov telescopes at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (Garfia, La Palma, Spain))

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four 12m optical reflectors for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)

    “Gamma-ray observatories like VERITAS have been operating for 12 to 16 years, and their many successes have brought very-high-energy gamma-ray astronomy into the mainstream, and have made many exciting discoveries. We hope CTA will supersede VERITAS around 2023, and it will be used to continue to build upon the 50 years of gamma-ray research at the Whipple Observatory and elsewhere.”

    The Whipple Observatory is operated by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    The SCT optical design was first conceptualized by U.S. members of CTA in 2006, and the construction of the pSCT was funded in 2012. Preparation of the pSCT site at the base of Mt. Hopkins in Amado, AZ, began in late 2014, and the steel structure was assembled on site in 2016. The installation of pSCT’s 9.7-meter primary mirror surface, consisting of 48 aspheric mirror panels, occurred in early 2018, and was followed by the camera installation in June 2018 and the 5.4-meter secondary mirror surface installation, consisting of 24 aspheric mirror panels, in August 2018.

    Leading up to the inauguration and in preparation for first light, scientists opened the telescope’s optical surfaces in January 2019. The SCT is based on a 114-year-old dual-mirror optical system first proposed by Karl Schwarzschild in 1905. It became possible to construct only recently as a result of critical research and development progress made at both the Brera Astronomical Observatory and Media Lario Technologies Incorporated in Italy.

    The pSCT was made possible by funding through the U.S. National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation program and by the contributions of thirty institutions and five critical industrial partners across the United States, Italy, Germany, Japan, and Mexico.

    More information about the pSCT is available online at http://www.cta-observatory.org/project/technology/sct.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    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.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:55 am on January 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NSF funds innovative stable isotope equipment at UC Santa Cruz, , Stable Isotope Laboratory, UCSC   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “NSF funds innovative stable isotope equipment at UC Santa Cruz” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    January 02, 2019
    Tom Garlinghouse
    publicaffairs@ucsc.edu

    1
    Ocean Sciences Professor Matthew McCarthy (left) with lab manager Dyke Andreason in the UC Santa Cruz Stable Isotope Laboratory. (Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta)

    2
    With the new grant, the Stable Isotope Lab will acquire a cutting-edge instrument called an isotope-ratio-monitoring mass spectrometer (IRMS).

    A major grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help fund the acquisition of a new state-of-the-art spectrometer for the Stable Isotope Laboratory at UC Santa Cruz.

    The $805,000 project for the new instrument was primarily supported by a $564,184 NSF grant, one of three awards the campus received this year from NSF’s highly competitive Major Research Instrumentation program. In addition, the Office of Research, the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, the Division of Social Sciences, three departments and a research institute all contributed a total of $241,000 to fully fund the instrument expansion.

    Principal investigator Matthew McCarthy, a professor of ocean sciences, said the new equipment will support research across a wide range of disciplines, ranging from oceanography and earth science, paleontology, anthropology, ecology and fundamental biochemical cycle research.

    “We want our facility to be a place that diverse scientists from UC Santa Cruz and across our region can use,” McCarthy said. “My vision for this is to be a national and international center for novel and leading-edge stable isotope approaches.”

    Powerful tool

    Stable isotope analysis is a powerful tool for tracing carbon and nutrients as they cycle through food webs and the environment. UCSC’s Stable Isotope Laboratory, established in 1994, has been one of the world’s top facilities for research on climatic and oceanographic conditions in Earth’s past (paleoclimatology and paleoceanography). Scientists using the lab are at the forefront of research on, for example, ancient greenhouse climates, El Niño Southern Oscillation events, controls on rainfall in California, the vulnerability of species to global change, and other topics. According to McCarthy, research associated with the laboratory has generated over 165 scientific papers since 2004.

    Isotopes are different forms of the same element. The most common naturally occurring isotope of carbon, for example, is carbon–12 (the 12 refers to the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom). Other carbon isotopes include carbon–14, which is unstable and emits radiation as it decays over time, and carbon–13, which is a stable isotope. While carbon–14 is useful for carbon dating, stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, and other elements are useful in a wide range of scientific analyses.

    Stable isotopes have proven especially valuable in the analysis of diet, where they can be used to distinguish between different sources of food. Isotopes in the food animals or humans eat are stored in their bones, teeth, and other tissues. By measuring the ratios of certain isotopes in tissue samples, researchers can determine, for example, where an animal fed and whether it ate primarily a marine, terrestrial, or freshwater diet. This ability has made stable isotopes an increasingly invaluable tool for not only ecology, but also paleontology, anthropology, and even forensics.

    With the new grant, the Stable Isotope Lab will acquire a cutting-edge instrument called an isotope-ratio-monitoring mass spectrometer (IRMS). McCarthy explained that the IRMS is a powerful tool for performing compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA).

    CSIA is a way of measuring isotopes in individual molecules rather than bulk samples, which is the traditional method of stable isotope analysis. This application has proven especially useful for measuring isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen in amino acids. This type of analysis is a relatively new but very promising field of study that “has exploded in the last 15 years,” McCarthy said.

    Innovative research

    The new spectrometer will also substantially modernize the existing isotope lab, which was last updated in 2004 and contains still usable but rapidly aging instruments that are now limited in their capabilities. With this new equipment, UC Santa Cruz will continue to be in the forefront of innovative research in the years to come, McCarthy said.

    “My vision for this project was really to not just expand things, but to make us a premier, cutting-edge place in the world to do compound-specific isotope analysis across different disciplines,” he said.

    CSIA can be used in a broad range of scientific disciplines, including oceanography, biology, ecology, astrobiology, paleontology, Earth science, and environmental studies. One expanding area at UCSC in which CSIA has proven of particular value is in anthropology and archaeology. Traditionally, bulk sample measurement of ratios between carbon–13 and nitrogen–15 in human bone collagen have helped to distinguish diets composed of, for example, animal protein versus plant protein or terrestrial versus marine diets.

    Recently, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that this technique is failing to provide adequate data in regions with complex ecosystems where diverse dietary resources are available. Compound-specific isotope analysis of individual amino acids, by contrast, can distinguish these more complex dietary regimes.

    Vicky Oelze, assistant professor in biological anthropology, sees great potential for CSIA in her research on the diets and ecology of apes and prehistoric humans. “I want to use the compound-specific approach to answer questions on meat consumption in wild chimpanzees, because the patterns we’re seeing with bulk isotopes are often super confusing,” Oelze said. “If this method works out, we have a much more precise tool we can use for future work on meat consumption frequencies in wild fauna.”

    CSIA will also be useful in a number of other areas, such as McCarthy’s research using deep-sea corals to look at millennial-scale oceanographic change. It can be used to investigate biogeochemical cycles, such as how land use changes have impacted nutrient dynamics in coastal and marine habitats, and for other applications such as studying the changes in food web dynamics in modern populations of marine mammals.

    If all goes well, the new isotope equipment will be installed and ready for use in standard applications in spring 2019, McCarthy said.

    The Stable Isotope Lab in the Earth and Marine Sciences building will be expanded to accommodate the new isotope-ratio-monitoring mass spectrometer. The lab will bring together scientists from different departments, divisions, and regional institutions, and will serve as a training ground for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as visiting researchers.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    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.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:30 pm on December 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Kepler Space Telescope’s K2 Supernova Cosmology Experiment, Kepler telescope captures extraordinary observations of a star's death throes, SN 2018oh, , UCSC   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Kepler telescope captures extraordinary observations of a star’s death throes” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    November 30, 2018
    Tim Stephens
    publicaffairs@ucsc.edu

    Unprecedented images of a Type Ia supernova, from the moment of explosion through the rise and fall of the light curve, show an unexpected early rise in brightness.

    1
    The supernova—known as SN 2018oh—is located in a spiral galaxy called UGC 4780 in the constellation Cancer at a distance of more than 170 million light years.

    An exploding star in another galaxy has been documented with unprecedented precision thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope’s K2 Supernova Cosmology Experiment, one of the telescope’s final missions before running out of fuel late last month.

    Kepler’s observations of the supernova known as SN 2018oh showed an unexpected fast rise in brightness that may be an important clue to understanding the progenitors of Type Ia supernovae, which cosmologists use to study the expansion of the universe and dark energy.

    An international team led by astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, conducted an analysis of SN 2018oh focusing on the first week after the explosion. Their paper, accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters, is one of a series of papers analyzing SN 2018oh.

    2
    Kepler’s observations of the supernova known as SN 2018oh showed an unexpected fast rise in brightness that may be an important clue to understanding the progenitors of Type Ia supernovae, which cosmologists use to study the expansion of the universe and dark energy.

    “This is an incredibly exciting discovery,” said Georgios Dimitriadis, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz who led the analysis. “When I downloaded the data and started looking at it in detail, my jaw dropped.”

    “The observations are exquisite, because we have images from Kepler every 30 minutes, starting from before the explosion all the way past its peak brightness. And it’s scientifically interesting because the increase in brightness deviates from the expected behavior,” said Ryan Foley, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    The supernova was also extensively monitored by ground-based facilities which provided important complementary observations, including the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS1) at Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii, and the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

    Pannstars telescope, U Hawaii, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    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

    The light curve of the supernova shows how its brightness changed over time. A typical supernova gets steadily brighter for almost three weeks, then gradually fades away. SN 2018oh, however, brightened very quickly right after explosion before settling into the normal progression. Because of the fast brightening, SN 2018oh was about 3 times brighter than a typical supernova a few days after explosion.

    “This early bump in the light curve requires an extra source of light, and the question is where does that come from,” Foley said.

    Dimitriadis said the team investigated three possible explanations.

    “We know a Type Ia supernova results from the explosion of a white dwarf that acquires extra mass given to it from a companion star,” he explained. “But we don’t know what kind of star donates this extra mass.”

    One possibility is that the white dwarf accretes matter from a star like our sun. This scenario could give rise to extra light (the bump in the light curve) when the shock wave from the exploding white dwarf runs into the companion star. As the supernova flows around the companion star, it creates an area of extremely hot material on the star which emits light in addition to the light from the supernova.

    “In that scenario, we would expect the observation of excess light to be very dependent on the viewing angle, which may explain why it has not been seen in all supernova observations,” Foley said.

    Another prediction of this scenario is that the excess light would be blue, because of the high shock temperatures. The researchers obtained critical color information for SN 2018oh from ground-based observations. “We observed blue colors at the time of the flux excess, a key clue in understanding what was causing the extra light,” Dimitriadis said.

    The scenario where the supernova runs into its nearby companion star should produce blue light similar to what was seen from the ground. However, the researchers did not rule out other possible explanations. The light from a supernova comes from the radioactive decay of heavy elements such as nickel–56, which tend to be in the center of the star. If nickel accumulates on the surface during the explosion, however, its radioactive decay could also generate excess light at an early stage of the supernova. It could even produce a “double detonation” in which a small explosion on the surface triggers a second explosions that consumes the entire star.

    Another possibility is excess light being emitted when the shock wave from the supernova heats a large shell of material just above the surface of the star. According to Foley, the color information from early ground-based images is critical to distinguishing between these different scenarios.

    “The blue color, in particular, agrees with the scenario in which the supernova interacts with a companion star, and is harder to explain with either nickel on the surface or the heating of circumstellar material,” he said.

    This is significant because it favors one of the two general models for Type Ia supernovae that astrophysicists have been debating for decades. In the “single-degenerate” model, the white dwarf accretes matter from a normal companion star until it reaches a certain limit and explodes. In the “double-degenerate” model, the excess mass results from the merger of two white dwarfs.

    “The interaction with a companion star is a prediction of the single-degenerate model, whereas the other two scenarios for the excess light could fit with either model,” Foley said. “This supernova is consistent with the single-degenerate model, but there are other supernovae where there is strong evidence against a normal companion star, so it remains an open question.”

    Dimitriadis adds that his team continues to observe the supernova, searching for additional clues about how it exploded. He says, “This is an important problem, and we will keep chipping away at it.”

    SN 2018oh is located in a spiral galaxy called UGC 4780 in the constellation Cancer at a distance of more than 170 million light years. This galaxy was included as a target for monitoring by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope as part of the K2 Supernova Cosmology Experiment. The supernova was discovered in February 2018 by the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN). Early images were obtained by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope and the CTIO Mayall telescope with DECam.

    “This study was a large collaborative effort involving 150 scientists from a wide range of specialties,” Dimitriadis said. “A lot of credit goes to the people who worked on the Kepler telescope and gave it extra life with the K2 mission. Kepler was not designed to observe supernovae, and we had important contributions from exoplanet scientists because they know the instrument best.”

    The coauthors of the paper include scientists from more than 50 institutions, including UC Santa Cruz, Space Science Telescope Institute, and UC Berkeley. This work was supported in part by NASA, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    .

    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.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:44 pm on August 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An endowed chair named in honor of Faber's mentor distinguished astronomer Vera Rubin, Sandra Faber professor emerita of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and her husband Andrew Faber launched the campaign for the Rubin Chair with an initial gift of $250000, Sandy Faber, UCSC,   

    From UC Santa Cruz: “Gifts to UC Santa Cruz fund new presidential chair for diversity in astronomy” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    August 29, 2018
    Tim Stephens
    stephens@ucsc.edu

    UCSC astronomer Sandra Faber and her husband made the lead gift to establish an endowed chair named in honor of Faber’s mentor, distinguished astronomer Vera Rubin.

    1
    Sandra Faber and Vera Rubin (Photo by Lars Hagberg for the National Post)

    UC Santa Cruz has received gifts and matching funds to establish a $1.5 million endowment for the Vera Rubin Presidential Chair for Diversity in Astronomy.

    The endowed chair was created to advance the cause of diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence in astronomy. The holder of the chair will embody the spirit of diversity in one of a variety of ways, such as their proven ability to attract and train new astronomers from all walks of life.

    Sandra Faber, professor emerita of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, and her husband Andrew Faber launched the campaign for the Rubin Chair with an initial gift of $250,000. The chair is named for the distinguished astronomer Vera Rubin (1928-2016), who was a champion of inclusivity in science.

    For Sandra Faber, who worked with Rubin at the Carnegie Institution of Washington early in her career, the more experienced astronomer served as a model of a successful woman in a field dominated by men. “At a time when few women succeeded in science, especially astrophysics, Rubin began to pave the way for all members of underrepresented groups,” Faber said.

    Vera Rubin measuring spectra (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL)


    Astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in 1965. (The Carnegie Institution for Science)

    Rubin helped transform modern astrophysics through her research on the rotation rates of galaxies, making crucial contributions to the evidence that galaxies and stars are immersed in the gravitational grip of vast clouds of dark matter. Faber said she learned a lot about how to be an astronomer while working alongside Rubin, from how to give a scientific talk to the importance of careful measurements and respect for the data.

    “She was playing in the big leagues, and she was also raising a family. It told me that I could do this too,” Faber said.

    Dozens of astronomers from varied backgrounds remember with gratitude Rubin’s deep interest and encouragement of their budding careers. Her passion to open doors to all qualified persons makes her the perfect namesake for UC Santa Cruz’s newest endowed chair, according to Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    A novel feature of the Rubin Chair is its emphasis on using the proceeds from the endowment to enhance the department’s ability to attract and support aspiring astronomers from underrepresented groups, he said. Endowed chairs are typically used to pay the salary or support the research of the chair holder, whereas the holder of the Rubin Chair might use the funds for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships or undergraduate research internships.

    “The Rubin Chair will be a bridge of support across cultural, ethnic, and economic hurdles to engage the brightest minds in astronomy,” said Ramirez-Ruiz, adding that diversity is a source of strength and excellence for the astronomy department.

    Women have composed half of UC Santa Cruz astronomy Ph.D. students for more than a decade, and 30 percent of current graduate students come from underrepresented backgrounds. The department’s six active women professors are the largest tenured cohort of female astronomers in the nation, led by eminent scientists such as Faber and Claire Max, director of UC Observatories.

    Faber, like Rubin before her, has been honored with the National Medal of Science, the Gruber Prize for Cosmology, and many other awards and honors. Her research interests include cosmology, galaxy formation, and astronomical instrumentation. Faber has also been a driving force in the development and evolution of the Osterbrock Leadership Program, which offers leadership lectures, workshops, field trips, and other opportunities to all interested graduate students in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. This program is unique to UC Santa Cruz and sets the department apart from all other top astronomy programs. It is also testament to Faber’s commitment to advancing the careers of young women and students from diverse backgrounds.

    In addition to the gift from the Fabers, which came from a significant portion of the Gruber Prize, the Rubin Chair endowment fund has received major contributions from the Heising-Simons Foundation, John and Barbara Crary, and an anonymous donor. Other donors include the Rubin family, Mark Headley, Claudia Webster, Joanna Miller, and Loren Kinczel. The UC Office of the President provided matching funds of $500,000.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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.

    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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