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  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on April 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Humongous flare from sun’s nearest neighbor breaks records", , , , , , , , University of Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder: “Humongous flare from sun’s nearest neighbor breaks records” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    April 21, 2021
    Daniel Strain

    1
    Artist’s conception of a violent flare erupting from the star Proxima Centauri. (Credit: National Radio Astronomy Observatory (US)/S. Dagnello)

    Scientists have spotted the largest flare ever recorded from the sun’s nearest neighbor, the star Proxima Centauri.

    The research, which appears today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, was led by CU Boulder and could help to shape the hunt for life beyond Earth’s solar system.

    CU Boulder astrophysicist Meredith MacGregor explained that Proxima Centauri is a small but mighty star. It sits just four light-years or more than 20 trillion miles from our own sun and hosts at least two planets, one of which may look something like Earth. It’s also a “red dwarf,” the name for a class of stars that are unusually petite and dim.

    Centauris Alpha Beta Proxima, 27 February 2012. Skatebiker.

    Proxima Centauri has roughly one-eighth the mass of our own sun. But don’t let that fool you.

    In their new study, MacGregor and her colleagues observed Proxima Centauri for 40 hours using nine telescopes on the ground and in space. In the process, they got a surprise: Proxima Centauri ejected a flare, or a burst of radiation that begins near the surface of a star, that ranks as one of the most violent seen anywhere in the galaxy.

    “The star went from normal to 14,000 times brighter when seen in ultraviolet wavelengths over the span of a few seconds,” said MacGregor, an assistant professor at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA) and Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) at CU Boulder.

    The team’s findings hint at new physics that could change the way scientists think about stellar flares. They also don’t bode well for any squishy organism brave enough to live near the volatile star.

    “If there was life on the planet nearest to Proxima Centauri, it would have to look very different than anything on Earth,” MacGregor said. “A human being on this planet would have a bad time.”

    Active stars

    The star has long been a target for scientists hoping to find life beyond Earth’s solar system. Proxima Centauri is nearby, for a start. It also hosts one planet, designated Proxima Centauri b, that resides in what researchers call the “habitable zone”—a region around a star that has the right range of temperatures for harboring liquid water on the surface of a planet.

    But there’s a twist, MacGregor said: Red dwarves, which rank as the most common stars in the galaxy, are also unusually lively.

    “A lot of the exoplanets that we’ve found so far are around these types of stars,” she said. “But the catch is that they’re way more active than our sun. They flare much more frequently and intensely.”

    To see just how much Proxima Centauri flares, she and her colleagues pulled off what approaches a coup in the field of astrophysics: They pointed nine different instruments at the star for 40 hours over the course of several months in 2019. Those eyes included the Hubble Space Telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Five of them recorded the massive flare from Proxima Centauri, capturing the event as it produced a wide spectrum of radiation.

    “It’s the first time we’ve ever had this kind of multi-wavelength coverage of a stellar flare,” MacGregor. “Usually, you’re lucky if you can get two instruments.”

    Crispy planet

    The technique delivered one of the most in-depth anatomies of a flare from any star in the galaxy.

    The event in question was observed on May 1, 2019 and lasted just 7 seconds. While it didn’t produce a lot of visible light, it generated a huge surge in both ultraviolet and radio, or “millimeter,” radiation.

    “In the past, we didn’t know that stars could flare in the millimeter range, so this is the first time we have gone looking for millimeter flares,” MacGregor said.

    Those millimeter signals, MacGregor added, could help researchers gather more information about how stars generate flares. Currently, scientists suspect that these bursts of energy occur when magnetic fields near a star’s surface twist and snap with explosive consequences.

    In all, the observed flare was roughly 100 times more powerful than any similar flare seen from Earth’s sun. Over time, such energy can strip away a planet’s atmosphere and even expose life forms to deadly radiation.

    That type of flare may not be a rare occurrence on Proxima Centauri. In addition to the big boom in May 2019, the researchers recorded many other flares during the 40 hours they spent watching the star.

    “Proxima Centauri’s planets are getting hit by something like this not once in a century, but at least once a day if not several times a day,” MacGregor said.

    The findings suggest that there may be more surprises in store from the sun’s closest companion.

    “There will probably be even more weird types of flares that demonstrate different types of physics that we haven’t thought about before,” MacGregor said.

    Other coauthors on the new study include Steven Cranmer, associate professor in APS and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder; Adam Kowalski, assistant professor in APS and LASP at CU Boulder, also of the National Solar Observatory; Allison Youngblood, research scientist at LASP; and Anna Estes, undergraduate research assistant in APS.

    The Carnegie Institution for Science (US), Arizona State University (US), NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center (US), University of Maryland (US), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (US), University of Sydney (AU), CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (AU), NASA Space Telescope Science Institute (US), Johns Hopkins University (US), the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US) and the University of British Columbia (CA) also contributed to this research.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado University of Colorado Boulder(US), founded in 1876, five months before Colorado became a state. It is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country, and is classified as an R1 University, meaning that it engages in a very high level of research activity. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), a selective group of major research universities in North America, – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

    In 2015, the university comprised nine colleges and schools and offered over 150 academic programs and enrolled almost 17,000 students. Five Nobel Laureates, nine MacArthur Fellows, and 20 astronauts have been affiliated with CU Boulder as students; researchers; or faculty members in its history. In 2010, the university received nearly $454 million in sponsored research to fund programs like the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and JILA. CU Boulder has been called a Public Ivy, a group of publicly funded universities considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

    The Colorado Buffaloes compete in 17 varsity sports and are members of the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference. The Buffaloes have won 28 national championships: 20 in skiing, seven total in men’s and women’s cross country, and one in football. The university has produced a total of ten Olympic medalists. Approximately 900 students participate in 34 intercollegiate club sports annually as well.

    On March 14, 1876, the Colorado territorial legislature passed an amendment to the state constitution that provided money for the establishment of the University of Colorado in Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines(US) in Golden, and the Colorado State University (US) – College of Agricultural Sciences in Fort Collins.

    Two cities competed for the site of the University of Colorado: Boulder and Cañon City. The consolation prize for the losing city was to be home of the new Colorado State Prison. Cañon City was at a disadvantage as it was already the home of the Colorado Territorial Prison. (There are now six prisons in the Cañon City area.)

    The cornerstone of the building that became Old Main was laid on September 20, 1875. The doors of the university opened on September 5, 1877. At the time, there were few high schools in the state that could adequately prepare students for university work, so in addition to the University, a preparatory school was formed on campus. In the fall of 1877, the student body consisted of 15 students in the college proper and 50 students in the preparatory school. There were 38 men and 27 women, and their ages ranged from 12–23 years.

    During World War II, Colorado was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a navy commission.

    CU hired its first female professor, Mary Rippon, in 1878. It hired its first African-American professor, Charles H. Nilon, in 1956, and its first African-American librarian, Mildred Nilon, in 1962. Its first African American female graduate, Lucile Berkeley Buchanan, received her degree in 1918.

    Research institutes

    CU Boulder’s research mission is supported by eleven research institutes within the university. Each research institute supports faculty from multiple academic departments, allowing institutes to conduct truly multidisciplinary research.

    The Institute for Behavioral Genetics (IBG) is a research institute within the Graduate School dedicated to conducting and facilitating research on the genetic and environmental bases of individual differences in behavior. After its founding in 1967 IBG led the resurging interest in genetic influences on behavior. IBG was the first post-World War II research institute dedicated to research in behavioral genetics. IBG remains one of the top research facilities for research in behavioral genetics, including human behavioral genetics, psychiatric genetics, quantitative genetics, statistical genetics, and animal behavioral genetics.

    The Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS) at CU Boulder promotes interdisciplinary research and training in cognitive science. ICS is highly interdisciplinary; its research focuses on education, language processing, emotion, and higher level cognition using experimental methods. It is home to a state of the art fMRI system used to collect neuroimaging data.

    ATLAS Institute is a center for interdisciplinary research and academic study, where engineering, computer science and robotics are blended with design-oriented topics. Part of CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, the institute offers academic programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, and administers research labs, hacker and makerspaces, and a black box experimental performance studio. At the beginning of the 2018–2019 academic year, approximately 1,200 students were enrolled in ATLAS academic programs and the institute sponsored six research labs.[64]

    In addition to IBG, ICS and ATLAS, the university’s other institutes include Biofrontiers Institute, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS), JILA, Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics (LASP), Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:25 pm on March 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Molecules in Flat Lands- an Entanglement Paradise", Another benefit of using molecules in quantum experiments is that molecules also have long-range dipolar interactions-They can interact at a distance., , , Exciting new physics emerges due to dipolar interactions in such pancake shaped arrays., Molecules are very appealing for quantum simulation; quantum information; and precision measurements., , , , The reason is that molecules have a large number of internal degrees of freedom that can be a useful resource for quantum sensing and fundamental physics tests., The scientists have been compressing molecular gas into a stack of pancake shaped arrays., University of Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder: “Molecules in Flat Lands- an Entanglement Paradise” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    03/18/2021 [Just now in social media.]
    Kenna Castleberry, Science Communicator, JILA – Exploring the Frontiers of Physics a joint Institute of U Colorado Boulder and NIST

    1
    Credit: Steven Burrows/The Rey Lab

    Within the realm of quantum mechanics, the generation of quantum entanglement remains one of the most challenging goals. Entanglement, simply put, is when the quantum state of each particle or a group of particles is not independent of the quantum states of other particles or groups, even over long distances. Entangled particles have always fascinated physicists, as measuring one entangled particle can result in a change in another entangled particle, famously dismissed as “spooky action at a distance” by Einstein. By now, physicists understand this strange effect and how to make use of it, for example to increase the sensitivity of measurements. However, entangled states are very fragile, as they can be easily disrupted by decoherence. Researchers have already created entangled states in atoms, photons, electrons and ions, but only recently have studies begun to explore entanglement in gases of polar molecules.

    “Molecules are very appealing for quantum simulation; quantum information; and precision measurements,” explained Dr. Ana Maria Rey, a University of Colorado Boulder Adjoint Professor of Physics and JILA Fellow. The reason is that molecules have a large number of internal degrees of freedom that can be a useful resource for quantum sensing and fundamental physics tests. Another benefit of using molecules in quantum experiments is that molecules also have long-range dipolar interactions: in contrast to atoms which have to bump into each other to interact, molecules can interact at a distance. “Molecules offer really great advantages compared to atoms, but at the same time, they are really hard to cool down. In fact, cooling molecules to quantum degeneracy (condition reached when they are cold enough to make quantum effects dominate) has been one of the most sought-after outstanding goals for many years. The progress has been very slow, but it’s happening now.”

    In 2019 JILA Fellow and Adjoint professor for University of Colorado, Boulder, Jun Ye, finally achieved this important milestone. Ye’s lab managed to cool down molecules consisting of one rubidium and one potassium atom down to quantum degeneracy and observe their quantum nature. More recently, he has been compressing this molecular gas into a stack of pancake shaped arrays. The work by the Rey’s and Ye’s groups investigates the exciting new physics that emerges due to dipolar interactions in such pancake shaped arrays.

    The Importance of Pancake Geometry

    Chemical reactions are one of the most detrimental enemies to cooling molecules. A few years ago, the Ye lab was able to avoid chemical reactions while allowing molecules to interact with each other via dipolar interactions by loading the molecules in a 3D lattice. A 3D lattice can be imagined as a perfect crystal of light. In a 3D lattice molecules are pinned at individual lattice sites without moving. The molecules then interact via dipolar interactions in the same way that magnets interact: when they are placed side by side they repel and when they are placed head to tail they attract. In a 3D lattice, molecules experience both attractive and repulsive interactions and as a consequence on average the interactions between molecules cancel each other out. Moreover, in the 3D lattice experiment the molecular filling fraction was very low, which is to say that the molecules were mostly quite far apart and interacted only very weakly.

    In a recent experiment, however, the Ye group was able to increase the density by compressing a 3D quantum degenerate gas into a few pancakes, each one with a flat 2D shape. Within a pancake the Ye group found it is possible to suppress undesirable chemical reactions and in addition make dipole interactions stronger. This is because in a 2D configuration all molecules repel and the interactions do not average out. The exciting observation made by the investigators is that the strong dipolar interactions in the pancake can also make the gas robust to undesirable dephasing effects and chemical reactions. Bilitewski stated: In studying this shape, “conceptually, and this is at the heart of this work, the interactions between the molecules depend on the quantum states they are in, and thus on this confinement. So, you first have to figure out the interactions in this new geometry. It turns out these actually have very beneficial properties for generating the collective dynamics we are after.” But the even better news is that interactions not only protect the state by forcing the molecular dipoles to be all aligned, but also naturally create entanglement. In Bilitewski’ words: “the benefit to this collective synchronization is that the entanglement we generate becomes robust to certain effects that would usually destroy is.” Such entangled arrays of molecules could have applications for future measurements of various quantities, such as electric fields, with sensitivity enhanced by the entanglement.

    The work done by the Rey group illustrates the importance of geometrical effects in dipolar gases and the exciting many-body phenomena yet to be explored once molecules are brought to quantum degeneracy. In theorizing about the importance of this 2D shape, Rey said: “thanks to the amazing work done by Thomas Bilitewski, we have been able to model their quantum dynamics and show it should be possible to entangle them, he computed all the integrals needed to write an effective model, solved the equations of motion and showed everything can be made to work out to generate entanglement through flip-flop processes induced by dipolar interactions.”

    The production of ultracold molecular gases in controllable geometries hints at new discoveries and predictions within the field of quantum mechanics. “This observation was a demonstration that molecules can explore quantum magnetism,” Rey added, “In other words, the molecules can behave as quantum magnets and emulate the behavior of electrons in solids, for example. In our recent work, we have made a step forward toward this direction.” The proposal put forth by the Rey and Ye groups is only the beginning of all the great science yet to be studied with entanglement arrays of molecules. According to Bilitewski: “this is all really exciting in the sense that we are exploring a novel regime that has only now become available in the lab.”

    Science paper:
    Dynamical Generation of Spin Squeezing in Ultracold Dipolar Molecules
    Physical Review Letters

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado University of Colorado Boulder(US), founded in 1876, five months before Colorado became a state. It is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country, and is classified as an R1 University, meaning that it engages in a very high level of research activity. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), a selective group of major research universities in North America, – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

    In 2015, the university comprised nine colleges and schools and offered over 150 academic programs and enrolled almost 17,000 students. Five Nobel Laureates, nine MacArthur Fellows, and 20 astronauts have been affiliated with CU Boulder as students; researchers; or faculty members in its history. In 2010, the university received nearly $454 million in sponsored research to fund programs like the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and JILA. CU Boulder has been called a Public Ivy, a group of publicly funded universities considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

    The Colorado Buffaloes compete in 17 varsity sports and are members of the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference. The Buffaloes have won 28 national championships: 20 in skiing, seven total in men’s and women’s cross country, and one in football. The university has produced a total of ten Olympic medalists. Approximately 900 students participate in 34 intercollegiate club sports annually as well.

    On March 14, 1876, the Colorado territorial legislature passed an amendment to the state constitution that provided money for the establishment of the University of Colorado in Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines(US) in Golden, and the Colorado State University (US) – College of Agricultural Sciences in Fort Collins.

    Two cities competed for the site of the University of Colorado: Boulder and Cañon City. The consolation prize for the losing city was to be home of the new Colorado State Prison. Cañon City was at a disadvantage as it was already the home of the Colorado Territorial Prison. (There are now six prisons in the Cañon City area.)

    The cornerstone of the building that became Old Main was laid on September 20, 1875. The doors of the university opened on September 5, 1877. At the time, there were few high schools in the state that could adequately prepare students for university work, so in addition to the University, a preparatory school was formed on campus. In the fall of 1877, the student body consisted of 15 students in the college proper and 50 students in the preparatory school. There were 38 men and 27 women, and their ages ranged from 12–23 years.

    During World War II, Colorado was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a navy commission.

    CU hired its first female professor, Mary Rippon, in 1878. It hired its first African-American professor, Charles H. Nilon, in 1956, and its first African-American librarian, Mildred Nilon, in 1962. Its first African American female graduate, Lucile Berkeley Buchanan, received her degree in 1918.

    Research institutes

    CU Boulder’s research mission is supported by eleven research institutes within the university. Each research institute supports faculty from multiple academic departments, allowing institutes to conduct truly multidisciplinary research.

    The Institute for Behavioral Genetics (IBG) is a research institute within the Graduate School dedicated to conducting and facilitating research on the genetic and environmental bases of individual differences in behavior. After its founding in 1967 IBG led the resurging interest in genetic influences on behavior. IBG was the first post-World War II research institute dedicated to research in behavioral genetics. IBG remains one of the top research facilities for research in behavioral genetics, including human behavioral genetics, psychiatric genetics, quantitative genetics, statistical genetics, and animal behavioral genetics.

    The Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS) at CU Boulder promotes interdisciplinary research and training in cognitive science. ICS is highly interdisciplinary; its research focuses on education, language processing, emotion, and higher level cognition using experimental methods. It is home to a state of the art fMRI system used to collect neuroimaging data.

    ATLAS Institute is a center for interdisciplinary research and academic study, where engineering, computer science and robotics are blended with design-oriented topics. Part of CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, the institute offers academic programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, and administers research labs, hacker and makerspaces, and a black box experimental performance studio. At the beginning of the 2018–2019 academic year, approximately 1,200 students were enrolled in ATLAS academic programs and the institute sponsored six research labs.[64]

    In addition to IBG, ICS and ATLAS, the university’s other institutes include Biofrontiers Institute, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS), JILA, Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics (LASP), Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:55 pm on March 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A giant sizzling planet may be orbiting the star Vega", Astronomers have discovered new hints of a giant scorching-hot planet orbiting Vega., , , , , Despite the star's fame researchers have yet to find a single planet in orbit around Vega., , If the team's findings bear out the alien planet would orbit so close to Vega that its years would last less than two-and-a-half Earth days., Samuel Quinn-an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics(CfA)(US) and University of Colorado Boulder(US) student Spencer Hurt and their colleagues unearthed a curious signal that , Scientists can also see Vega with telescopes even when it's light out., University of Colorado Boulder, Vega is the fifth brightest star-excluding the sun-that can be seen from Earth.   

    From University of Colorado Boulder via phys.org: “A giant sizzling planet may be orbiting the star Vega” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    via


    phys.org

    March 8, 2021
    Aniel Strain, University of Colorado at Boulder

    1
    Vega is the fifth brightest star-excluding the sun-that can be seen from Earth. Credit: Stephen Rahn via Wikimedia Commons.

    Astronomers have discovered new hints of a giant scorching-hot planet orbiting Vega, one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

    The research, published this month in The Astrophysical Journal, was led by University of Colorado Boulder student Spencer Hurt, an undergraduate in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences.

    It focuses on an iconic and relatively young star, Vega, which is part of the constellation Lyra and has a mass twice that of our own sun. This celestial body sits just 25 light-years, or about 150 trillion miles, from Earth—pretty close, astronomically speaking.

    Scientists can also see Vega with telescopes even when it’s light out, which makes it a prime candidate for research, said study coauthor Samuel Quinn.

    “It’s bright enough that you can observe it at twilight when other stars are getting washed out by sunlight,” said Quinn, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics(CfA)(US).

    Despite the star’s fame researchers have yet to find a single planet in orbit around Vega. That might be about to change: Drawing on a decade of observations from the ground, Hurt, Quinn and their colleagues unearthed a curious signal that could be the star’s first-known world.

    If the team’s findings bear out the alien planet would orbit so close to Vega that its years would last less than two-and-a-half Earth days. (Mercury, in contrast, takes 88 days to circle the sun). This candidate planet could also rank as the second hottest world known to science—with surface temperatures averaging a searing 5,390 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Hurt said the group’s research also helps to narrow down where other, exotic worlds might be hiding in Vega’s neighborhood.

    “This is a massive system, much larger than our own solar system,” Hurt said. “There could be other planets throughout that system. It’s just a matter of whether we can detect them.”

    2
    Artist’s depiction of a planet named KELT-9b, currently the hottest known exoplanet, which may resemble a candidate world in orbit around Vega. Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Youthful energy

    Quinn would like to try. Scientists have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets, or planets beyond Earth’s solar system, to date. Few of those, however, circle stars that are as bright or as close to Earth as Vega. That means that, if there are planets around the star, scientists could get a really detailed look at them.

    There’s just one catch: Vega is what scientists call an A-type star, the name for objects that tend to be bigger, younger and much faster-spinning than our own sun. Vega, for example, rotates around its axis once every 16 hours—much faster than the sun with a rotational period that clocks in at 27 Earth days. Such a lightning-fast pace, Quinn said, can make it difficult for scientists to collect precise data on the star’s motion and, by extension, any planets in orbit around it.

    To take on that game of celestial hide-and-seek, he and colleagues pored through roughly 10 years of data on Vega collected by the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona.

    CfA Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory(US) , located near Amado, Arizona on the slopes of Mount Hopkins, Altitude 2,606 m (8,550 ft)


    In particular, the team was looking for a tell-tale signal of an alien planet—a slight jiggle in the star’s velocity.

    Radial Velocity Method-Las Cumbres Observatory, a network of astronomical observatories, located at both northern and southern hemisphere sites distributed in longitude around the Earth.


    Radial velocity Image via SuperWasp http http://www.superwasp.org-exoplanets.htm

    “If you have a planet around a star, it can tug on the star, causing it to wobble back and forth,” Quinn said.

    Hot and puffy

    The search may have paid off, said Hurt, who began the study as a summer research fellow working for Quinn at the CfA. The team discovered a signal that indicates that Vega might host what astronomers call a “hot Neptune” or maybe a “hot Jupiter.”

    “It would be at least the size of Neptune, potentially as big as Jupiter and would be closer to Vega than Mercury is to the sun,” Hurt said.

    That close to Vega, he added, the candidate world might puff up like a balloon, and even iron would melt into gas in its atmosphere.

    The researchers have a lot more work to do before they can definitively say that they’ve discovered this sizzling planet. Hurt noted that the easiest way to look for it might be to scan the stellar system directly to look for light emitted from the hot, bright planet.

    For now, the student is excited to see his hard work reflected in the constellations: “Whenever I get to go outside and look at the night sky and see Vega, I say ‘Hey, I know that star.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado University of Colorado Boulder(US), founded in 1876, five months before Colorado became a state. It is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country, and is classified as an R1 University, meaning that it engages in a very high level of research activity. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), a selective group of major research universities in North America, – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

    In 2015, the university comprised nine colleges and schools and offered over 150 academic programs and enrolled almost 17,000 students. Five Nobel Laureates, nine MacArthur Fellows, and 20 astronauts have been affiliated with CU Boulder as students; researchers; or faculty members in its history. In 2010, the university received nearly $454 million in sponsored research to fund programs like the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and JILA. CU Boulder has been called a Public Ivy, a group of publicly funded universities considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

    The Colorado Buffaloes compete in 17 varsity sports and are members of the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference. The Buffaloes have won 28 national championships: 20 in skiing, seven total in men’s and women’s cross country, and one in football. The university has produced a total of ten Olympic medalists. Approximately 900 students participate in 34 intercollegiate club sports annually as well.

    On March 14, 1876, the Colorado territorial legislature passed an amendment to the state constitution that provided money for the establishment of the University of Colorado in Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines(US) in Golden, and the Colorado State University (US) – College of Agricultural Sciences in Fort Collins.

    Two cities competed for the site of the University of Colorado: Boulder and Cañon City. The consolation prize for the losing city was to be home of the new Colorado State Prison. Cañon City was at a disadvantage as it was already the home of the Colorado Territorial Prison. (There are now six prisons in the Cañon City area.)

    The cornerstone of the building that became Old Main was laid on September 20, 1875. The doors of the university opened on September 5, 1877. At the time, there were few high schools in the state that could adequately prepare students for university work, so in addition to the University, a preparatory school was formed on campus. In the fall of 1877, the student body consisted of 15 students in the college proper and 50 students in the preparatory school. There were 38 men and 27 women, and their ages ranged from 12–23 years.

    During World War II, Colorado was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a navy commission.

    CU hired its first female professor, Mary Rippon, in 1878. It hired its first African-American professor, Charles H. Nilon, in 1956, and its first African-American librarian, Mildred Nilon, in 1962. Its first African American female graduate, Lucile Berkeley Buchanan, received her degree in 1918.

    Research institutes

    CU Boulder’s research mission is supported by eleven research institutes within the university. Each research institute supports faculty from multiple academic departments, allowing institutes to conduct truly multidisciplinary research.

    The Institute for Behavioral Genetics (IBG) is a research institute within the Graduate School dedicated to conducting and facilitating research on the genetic and environmental bases of individual differences in behavior. After its founding in 1967 IBG led the resurging interest in genetic influences on behavior. IBG was the first post-World War II research institute dedicated to research in behavioral genetics. IBG remains one of the top research facilities for research in behavioral genetics, including human behavioral genetics, psychiatric genetics, quantitative genetics, statistical genetics, and animal behavioral genetics.

    The Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS) at CU Boulder promotes interdisciplinary research and training in cognitive science. ICS is highly interdisciplinary; its research focuses on education, language processing, emotion, and higher level cognition using experimental methods. It is home to a state of the art fMRI system used to collect neuroimaging data.

    ATLAS Institute is a center for interdisciplinary research and academic study, where engineering, computer science and robotics are blended with design-oriented topics. Part of CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, the institute offers academic programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, and administers research labs, hacker and makerspaces, and a black box experimental performance studio. At the beginning of the 2018–2019 academic year, approximately 1,200 students were enrolled in ATLAS academic programs and the institute sponsored six research labs.[64]

    In addition to IBG, ICS and ATLAS, the university’s other institutes include Biofrontiers Institute, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS), JILA, Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics (LASP), Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:47 pm on January 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Modern microbes provide window into ancient ocean", , , , , , , , University of Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder: “Modern microbes provide window into ancient ocean” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    Jan. 6, 2021
    Daniel Strain

    1
    Two cyanobacteria cells divide under the microscope. The cell on the left carries carboxysomes, small compartments that concentrate carbon dioxide molecules and certain enzymes (in green), while the cell on the right is genetically-engineered to lack these structures. Credit: Nicholas C. Hill and Jeffrey C. Cameron.

    An image of Cyanobacteria, Tolypothrix.

    Step into your new, microscopic time machine. Scientists at CU Boulder have discovered that a type of single-celled organism living in modern-day oceans may have a lot in common with life forms that existed billions of years ago—and that fundamentally transformed Earth.

    The new research, which will appear Jan. 6 in the journal Science Advances, is the latest to probe the lives of what may be nature’s hardest working microbes: cyanobacteria.

    These single-celled, photosynthetic organisms, also known as “blue-green algae,” can be found in almost any large body of water today. But more than 2 billion years ago, they took on an extra important role in the history of life on Earth: During a period known as the “Great Oxygenation Event,” ancient cyanobacteria produced a sudden, and dramatic, surge in oxygen gas.

    “We see this total shift in the chemistry of the oceans and the atmosphere, which changed the evolution of life, as well,” said study lead author Sarah Hurley, a postdoctoral research associate in the departments of Geological Sciences and Biochemistry. “Today, all higher animals need oxygen to survive.”

    To date, scientists still don’t know what these foundational microbes might have looked like, where they lived or what triggered their transformation of the globe.

    But Hurley and her colleagues think they might have gotten closer to an answer by drawing on studies of naturally-occurring and genetically-engineered cyanobacteria. The team reports that these ancient microbes may have floated freely in an open ocean and resembled a modern form of life called beta-cyanobacteria.

    Studying them, the researchers said, offers a window into a time when single-celled organisms ruled the Earth.

    “This research gave us the unique opportunity to form and test hypotheses of what the ancient Earth might have looked like, and what these ancient organisms could have been,” said co-author Jeffrey Cameron, an assistant professor of biochemistry.

    Take a breath

    You can still make the case that cyanobacteria rule the planet. Hurley noted that these organisms currently produce about a quarter of the oxygen that comes from the world’s oceans.

    One secret to their success may lie in carboxysomes—or tiny, protein-lined compartments that float inside all living cyanobacteria. These pockets are critical to the lives of these organisms, allowing them to concentrate molecules of carbon dioxide within their cells.

    “Being able to concentrate carbon allows cyanobacteria to live at what are, in the context of Earth’s history, really low carbon dioxide concentrations,” Hurley said.

    Before the Great Oxidation Event, it was a different story. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere may have been as much as 100 times what they are today, and oxygen was almost nonexistent. For that reason, many scientists long assumed that ancient microorganisms didn’t need carboxysomes for concentrating carbon dioxide.

    “Cyanobacteria have persisted in some form over two billion years of Earth’s history,” she said. “They could have been really different than today’s cyanobacteria.”

    To find out how similar they were, the researchers cultured jars filled with bright-green cyanobacteria under conditions resembling those on Earth 2 billion years ago.

    Hurley explained that different types of cyanobacteria prefer to digest different forms, or “isotopes,” of carbon atoms. As a result, when they grow, die and decompose, the organisms leave behind varying chemical signatures in ancient sedimentary rocks.

    “We think that cyanobacteria were around billions of years ago,” she said. “Now, we can get at what they were doing and where they were living at that time because we have a record of their metabolism.”

    Resurrecting zombie microbes

    In particular, the team studied two different types of cyanobacteria. They included beta-cyanobacteria, which are common in the oceans today. But the researchers also added a new twist to the study. They attempted to bring an ancient cyanobacterium back from the dead. Hurley and her colleagues used genetic engineering to design a special type of microorganism that didn’t have any carboxysomes. Think of it like a zombie cyanobacterium.

    “We had the ability to do what was essentially a physiological resurrection in the lab,” said Boswell Wing, a study coauthor and associate professor of geological sciences.

    But when the researchers studied the metabolism of their cultures, they found something surprising: Their zombie cyanobacterium didn’t seem to produce a chemical signature that aligned with the carbon isotope signatures that scientists had previously seen in the rock record. In fact, the best fit for those ancient signals were likely beta-cyanobacteria—still very much alive today.

    The team, in other words, appears to have stumbled on a living fossil that was hiding in plain sight. And, they said, it’s clear that cyanobacteria living around the time of the Great Oxygenation Event did have a structure akin to a carboxysome. This structure may have helped cells to protect themselves from growing concentrations of oxygen in the air.

    “That modern organisms could resemble these ancient cyanobacteria—that was really counterintuitive,” Wing said.

    Scientists, they note, now have a much better idea of what ancient cyanobacteria looked like and where they lived. And that means that they can begin running experiments to dig deeper into what life was like in the 2 billion-year-old ocean.

    “Here is hard evidence from the geological record and a model organism that can shed new light on life on ancient Earth,” Cameron 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

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:17 am on December 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , "Researchers get a look at the sun's dusty environment", , , University of Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder via phys.org: “Researchers get a look at the sun’s dusty environment” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    via


    phys.org

    December 10, 2020

    1
    Photos taken by the Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) showing the solar wind streaming past the spacecraft. These flows of energy can carry small grains of dust away from the sun and even out of the solar system entirely. Credit: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    Researchers from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder are diving into the dusty environment that surrounds the sun—a search that could help to reveal how planets like Earth come into being.

    The pursuit comes by way of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe—a pioneering mission that has taken scientists closer to Earth’s home star than any spacecraft to date. Over two years, the probe has circled the sun six times, hitting maximum speeds of roughly 290,000 miles per hour.

    In the process, the Parker team has learned a lot about the microscopic grains of dust that lie just beyond the sun’s atmosphere, said David Malaspina, a space plasma physicist at LASP. In new research, for example, he and his colleagues discovered that the densities of these bits of rock and ice seem to vary wildly over the span of months—not something scientists were expecting.

    “Every time we go into a new orbit, and we think we understand what we’re seeing around the sun, nature goes and surprises us,” said Malaspina, also an assistant professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences.

    He will present the group’s results Tuesday, Dec. 8 at the 2020 virtual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

    Malaspina said that dust can give researchers an unexpected, and tiny, window into the processes that formed Earth and its neighboring planets more than 4.5 billion years ago.

    “By learning how our star processes dust, we can extrapolate that to other solar systems to learn more about planet formation and how a cloud of dust becomes a solar system,” he said.

    Solar Dyson

    The area just around the sun, a hot and radiation-rich environment, is often dustier than you might imagine, Malaspina said. It contains more grains of dust by volume than most other open expanses of space in the solar system. That’s because the star, through gravity and other forces, pulls dust toward it from millions to billions of miles away, a bit like a vacuum cleaner.

    But this vacuum cleaner is imperfect. As dust particles get closer to the sun, its radiation pushes on them more and more—some of those grains of dust will begin to blow in the other direction and can even fly out of the solar system entirely. The Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) instrument suite onboard the spacecraft found the first evidence for the existence of this dust-devoid region, known as the dust-free zone, more than 90 years after it was predicted.

    “What you get is this really interesting environment where all of these particles are moving inward, but once they reach the near-sun environment, they can be blown away,” Malaspina said.

    Since launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe—built and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which also leads the mission for NASA—has flown to within about 11.6 million miles of the Sun’s surface.

    On each of Parker’s orbits around the sun, the spacecraft collided with thousands of grains of dust. Many of these particles vaporize on the spot, creating a small burst of charged particles that the probe can detect using the five antennae that are part of its FIELDS Experiment. LASP plays an important role in this experiment, which is led by the University of California, Berkeley. Think of it like studying insect populations by counting the splatters on your car’s windshield.

    “You get a small puff of plasma,” Malaspina said. “By looking at these spikes, we can understand how many dust impacts we’re getting hit by.”

    New mysteries

    Malaspina and his colleagues were originally hoping to use those puffs to pinpoint where exactly the solar system’s inward-flying dust becomes outward-flying dust. But they stumbled on something puzzling in the process: The concentrations of dust that the team recorded seemed to vary by as much as 50% between Parker’s six orbits around the Sun.

    “That’s really interesting because the timescale that it takes for dust to move in toward the Sun is thousands to millions of years,” Malaspina said. “So how do we get variation in just three or four months?”

    This dusty environment, in other words, may be a lot more complicated and fast-shifting than scientists previously thought. Malaspina said that the team will need to wait for Parker to complete more orbits to know exactly what’s happening. He’s just excited to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to run a finger along the Sun’s dusty shelves.

    “This is the only in-situ measurement we are going to get for a long time in the inner solar system,” Malaspina said. “We’re trying to make the best of it and learn as much as we can.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:14 am on November 14, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Tree rings may hold clues to earthly impacts of distant supernovas", , , , , , University of Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder : “Tree rings may hold clues to earthly impacts of distant supernovas” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    Nov. 11, 2020
    Daniel Strain

    1
    The remnants of a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that sits close to the Milky Way. Credit: NASA/ESA/HEIC and The Hubble Heritage Team.

    Massive explosions of energy happening thousands of light-years from Earth may have left traces in our planet’s biology and geology, according to new research by CU Boulder geoscientist Robert Brakenridge.

    The study, published this month in the International Journal of Astrobiology, probes the impacts of supernovas, some of the most violent events in the known universe. In the span of just a few months, a single one of these eruptions can release as much energy as the sun will during its entire lifetime. They’re also bright—really bright.

    “We see supernovas in other galaxies all the time,” said Brakenridge, a senior research associate at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at CU Boulder. “Through a telescope, a galaxy is a little misty spot. Then, all of a sudden, a star appears and may be as bright as the rest of the galaxy.”

    A very nearby supernova could be capable of wiping human civilization off the face of the Earth. But even from farther away, these explosions may still take a toll, Brakenridge said, bathing our planet in dangerous radiation and damaging its protective ozone layer.

    To study those possible impacts, Brakenridge searched through the planet’s tree ring records for the fingerprints of these distant, cosmic explosions. His findings suggest that relatively close supernovas could theoretically have triggered at least four disruptions to Earth’s climate over the last 40,000 years.

    3
    A bubble of gas expanding at roughly 11 million miles per hour created by the shockwave from a supernova. Credit: NASA.

    The results are far from conclusive, but they offer tantalizing hints that, when it comes to the stability of life on Earth, what happens in space doesn’t always stay in space.

    “These are extreme events, and their potential effects seem to match tree ring records,” Brakenridge said.

    Radiocarbon spikes

    His research hinges on the case of a curious atom. Brakenridge explained that carbon-14, also known as radiocarbon, is a carbon isotope that occurs only in tiny amounts on Earth. It’s not from around here, either. Radiocarbon is formed when cosmic rays from space bombard our planet’s atmosphere on an almost constant basis.

    “There’s generally a steady amount year after year,” Brakenridge said. “Trees pick up carbon dioxide and some of that carbon will be radiocarbon.”

    Sometimes, however, the amount of radiocarbon that trees pick up isn’t steady. Scientists have discovered a handful of cases in which the concentration of this isotope inside tree rings spikes—suddenly and for no apparent earthly reason. Many scientists have hypothesized that these several-year-long spikes could be due to solar flares or huge ejections of energy from the surface of the sun.

    Brakenridge and a handful of other researchers have had their eye on events much farther from home.

    “We’re seeing terrestrial events that are begging for an explanation,” Brakenridge said. “There are really only two possibilities: A solar flare or a supernova. I think the supernova hypothesis has been dismissed too quickly.”

    Beware Betelgeuse

    Betelgeuse, in the infrared from the Herschel Space Observatory, is a superluminous red giant star 650 light-years away. Stars much more massive, like Betelgeuse, end their lives as supernova.Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al.

    He noted that scientists have recorded supernovas in other galaxies that have produced a stupendous amount of gamma radiation—the same kind of radiation that can trigger the formation of radiocarbon atoms on Earth. While these isotopes aren’t dangerous on their own, a spike in their levels could indicate that energy from a distant supernova has traveled hundreds to thousands of light-years to our planet.

    To test the hypothesis, Brakenridge turned to the past. He assembled a list of supernovas that occurred relatively close to Earth over the last 40,000 years. Scientists can study these events by observing the nebulas they left behind. He then compared the estimated ages of those galactic fireworks to the tree ring record on the ground.

    He found that of the eight closest supernovas studied, all seemed to be associated with unexplained spikes in the radiocarbon record on Earth. He considers four of these to be especially promising candidates. Take the case of a former star in the Vela constellation. This celestial body, which once sat about 815 light-years from Earth, went supernova roughly 13,000 years ago. Not long after that, radiocarbon levels jumped up by nearly 3% on Earth—a staggering increase.

    The findings aren’t anywhere close to a smoking gun, or star, in this case. Scientists still have trouble dating past supernovas, making the timing of the Vela explosion uncertain with a possible error of as much as 1,500 years. It’s also not clear what the impacts of such a disruption might have been for plants and animals on Earth at the time. But Brakenridge believes that the question is worth a lot more research.

    “What keeps me going is when I look at the terrestrial record and I say, ‘My God, the predicted and modeled effects do appear to be there.’”

    He hopes that humanity won’t have to see those effects for itself anytime soon. Some astronomers think they’ve picked up signs that Betelgeuse, a red giant star in the constellation Orion, might be on the verge of collapsing and going supernova. And it’s only 642.5 light-years from Earth, much closer than Vela.

    “We can hope that’s not what’s about to happen because Betelgeuse is really close,” he said 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

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:19 pm on September 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astrophysicist probes cosmic 'dark matter detector'", , , , , , Magnetar PSR J1745-2900, , University of Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder via phys.org: “Astrophysicist probes cosmic ‘dark matter detector'” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    via


    From phys.org

    September 29, 2020
    Daniel Strain, University of Colorado at Boulder

    1
    The middle of the Milky Way Galaxy showing the location of the supermassive black hole at its center, called Sagittarius A*, and the nearby magnetar PSR J1745-2900. Credits: NASA/CXC/FIT/E

    A University of Colorado Boulder astrophysicist is searching the light coming from a distant, and extremely powerful celestial object, for what may be the most elusive substance in the universe: Dark Matter.

    In two recent studies, Jeremy Darling, a professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, has taken a deep look at PSR J1745-2900. This body is a magnetar, or a type of collapsed star that generates an incredibly strong magnetic field.

    “It’s the best natural dark matter detector we know about,” said Darling, also of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA) at CU Boulder.

    He explained that dark matter is a sort of cosmic glue—an as-of-yet unidentified particle that makes up roughly 27% of the mass of the universe and helps to bind together galaxies like our own Milky Way. To date, scientists have mostly led the hunt for this invisible matter using laboratory equipment.

    Darling has taken a different approach in his latest research: Drawing on telescope data, he’s peering at PSR J1745-2900 to see if he can detect the faint signals of one candidate for dark matter—a particle called the axion—transforming into light. So far, the scientist’s search has come up empty. But his results could help physicists working in labs around the world to narrow down their own hunts for the axion.

    The new studies are also a reminder that researchers can still look to the skies to solve some of the toughest questions in science, Darling said. He published his first round of results this month in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and Physical Review Letters.

    “In astrophysics, we find all of these interesting problems like dark matter and dark energy, then we step back and let physicists solve them,” he said. “It’s a shame.”

    Natural experiment

    Darling wants to change that—in this case, with a little help from PSR J1745-2900.

    This magnetar orbits the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy from a distance of less than a light-year away. And it’s a force of nature: PSR J1745-2900 generates a magnetic field that is roughly a billion times more powerful than the most powerful magnet on Earth.

    “Magnetars have all of the magnetic field that a star has, but it’s been crunched down into an area about 20 kilometers across,” Darling said.

    And it’s where Darling has gone fishing for dark matter.

    He explained that scientists have yet to locate a single axion, a theoretical particle first proposed in the 1970s. Physicists, however, predict that these ephemeral bits of matter may have been created in monumental numbers during the early life of the universe—and in large enough quantities to explain the cosmos’ extra mass from dark matter. According to theory, axions are billions or even trillions of times lighter than electrons and would interact only rarely with their surroundings.

    That makes them almost impossible to observe, with one big exception: If an axion passes through a strong magnetic field, it can transform into light that researchers could, theoretically, detect.

    Scientists, including a team at JILA on the CU Boulder campus, have used lab-generated magnetic fields to try to capture that transition in action. Darling and other scientists had a different idea: Why not try the same search but on a much bigger scale?

    “Magnetars are the most magnetic objects we know of in the universe,” he said. “There’s no way we could get close to that strength in the lab.”

    Narrowing in

    To make use of that natural magnetic field, Darling drew on observations of PSR J1745-2900 taken by the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, an observatory in New Mexico.

    NRAO Karl G Jansky Very Large Array, located in central New Mexico on the Plains of San Agustin, between the towns of Magdalena and Datil, ~50 miles (80 km) west of Socorro. The VLA comprises twenty-eight 25-meter radio telescopes.

    If the magnetar was, indeed, transforming axions into light, that metamorphosis might show up in the radiation emerging from the collapsed star.

    The effort is a bit like looking for a single needle in a really, really big haystack. Darling said that while theorists have put limits on how heavy axions might be, these particles could still have a wide range of possible masses. Each of those masses, in turn, would produce light with a specific wavelength, almost like a fingerprint left behind by dark matter.

    Darling hasn’t yet spotted any of those distinct wavelengths in the light coming from the magnetar. But he has been able to use the observations to probe the possible existence of axions across the widest range of masses yet—not bad for his first attempt. He added that such surveys can complement the work happening in Earth-based experiments.

    Konrad Lehnert agreed. He’s part of an experiment led by Yale University—called, not surprisingly, HAYSTAC—that is seeking out axions using magnetic fields created in labs across the country.

    Lehnert explained that astrophysical studies like Darling’s could act as a sort of scout in the hunt for axions—identifying interesting signals in the light of magnetars, which laboratory researchers could then dig into with much greater precision.

    “These well-controlled experiments would be able to sort out which of the astrophysical signals might have a dark matter origin,” said Lehnert, a fellow at JILA, a joint research institute between CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

    Darling plans to continue his own search, which means looking even closer at the magnetar at the center of our galaxy: “We need to fill in those gaps and go even deeper.”

    Dark Matter Background
    Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter in the 1930s when observing the movement of the Coma Cluster., Vera Rubin a Woman in STEM denied the Nobel, did most of the work on Dark Matter.

    Fritz Zwicky from http:// palomarskies.blogspot.com.

    Coma cluster via NASA/ESA Hubble.

    In modern times, it was astronomer Fritz Zwicky, in the 1930s, who made the first observations of what we now call dark matter. His 1933 observations of the Coma Cluster of galaxies seemed to indicated it has a mass 500 times more than that previously calculated by Edwin Hubble. Furthermore, this extra mass seemed to be completely invisible. Although Zwicky’s observations were initially met with much skepticism, they were later confirmed by other groups of astronomers.

    Thirty years later, astronomer Vera Rubin provided a huge piece of evidence for the existence of dark matter. She discovered that the centers of galaxies rotate at the same speed as their extremities, whereas, of course, they should rotate faster. Think of a vinyl LP on a record deck: its center rotates faster than its edge. That’s what logic dictates we should see in galaxies too. But we do not. The only way to explain this is if the whole galaxy is only the center of some much larger structure, as if it is only the label on the LP so to speak, causing the galaxy to have a consistent rotation speed from center to edge.

    Vera Rubin, following Zwicky, postulated that the missing structure in galaxies is dark matter. Her ideas were met with much resistance from the astronomical community, but her observations have been confirmed and are seen today as pivotal proof of the existence of dark matter.

    Astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in 1965, worked on Dark Matter (The Carnegie Institution for Science).


    Vera Rubin measuring spectra, worked on Dark Matter (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL).


    Vera Rubin, with Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) image tube spectrograph attached to the Kitt Peak 84-inch telescope, 1970. https://home.dtm.ciw.edu.

    The Vera C. Rubin Observatory currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    LSST Data Journey, Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova.

    See the full article here.

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:41 pm on September 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Where no spacecraft has gone before: A close encounter with binary asteroids", , , , , Janus' twin spacecraft are designed to be small and nimble- each one about the size of a carry-on suitcase., Scientists have turned to pint-sized spacecraft called CubeSats and SmallSats to collect data., The mission will cost less than $55 million under NASA's SIMPLEx program., The team will use a suite of cameras., This partnership with Lockheed Martin embodies two of the university's greatest assets in aerospace., Twin Janus spacecraft-Lockheed Martin, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Boulder will undertake the scientific analysis of images and data for the mission.   

    From University of Colorado Boulder via phys.org: “Where no spacecraft has gone before: A close encounter with binary asteroids” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    via


    phys.org

    September 10, 2020
    Daniel Strain, University of Colorado at Boulder

    1
    An artist’s depiction of the twin Janus spacecraft. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

    CU Boulder and Lockheed Martin will lead a new space mission to capture the first-ever closeup look at a mysterious class of solar system objects: binary asteroids.

    These bodies are pairs of asteroids that orbit around each other in space, much like the Earth and moon. In a project review on Sept. 3, NASA gave the official go-ahead to the Janus mission, named after the two-faced Roman god. The mission will study these asteroid couplets in never-before-seen detail.

    It will be a moment for twos: In 2022, the Janus team will launch two identical spacecraft that will travel millions of miles to individually fly close to two pair of binary asteroids. Their observations could open up a new window into how these diverse bodies evolve and even burst apart over time, said Daniel Scheeres, the principle investigator for Janus.

    “Binary asteroids are one class of objects for which we don’t have high-resolution scientific data,” said Scheeres, distinguished professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder. “Everything we have on them is based on ground observations, which don’t give you as much detail as being up close.”

    The mission, which will cost less than $55 million under NASA’s SIMPLEx program, may also help to usher in a new era of space exploration, said Lockheed Martin’s Josh Wood. He explained that Janus’ twin spacecraft are designed to be small and nimble, each one about the size of a carry-on suitcase.

    “We see an advantage to be able to shrink our spacecraft,” said Wood, project manager for the mission. “With technology advancements, we can now explore our solar system and address important science questions with smaller spacecraft.”

    Janus is led by the University of Colorado Boulder, where Scheeres is based, which will also undertake the scientific analysis of images and data for the mission. Lockheed Martin will manage, build and operate the spacecraft.

    2
    Rendering of the orbital pattern of the binary asteroid 1999 KW4. Credit: NASA/JPL.

    Fly-bys

    For Lockheed Martin and Scheeres, the Janus mission is the latest step in a long history of getting up close to asteroids. They’ve both played major roles, for example, in NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, which is currently in orbit around the asteroid Bennu.

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft.

    Lockheed Martin built and supports operations of the spacecraft, while Scheeres leads the mission’s radio science team.

    “This partnership embodies two of the university’s greatest assets in aerospace,” said Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Terri Fiez. “Combining the top-notch research and student researchers in aerospace at CU Boulder with the capabilities of industry partners like Lockheed Martin enables us to accelerate transformational discoveries out into the market for real-world impact.”

    But binary asteroids, which represent about 15% of the solar system’s asteroids, add a new level of complexity to the story of rocky debris in space.

    “We think that binary asteroids form when you have a single asteroid that gets spun up so fast that the whole thing splits in two and goes through this crazy dance,” Scheeres said.

    The mission will rendezvous with two binary pairs—named 1996 FG3 and 1991 VH—each showcasing a different kind of crazy dance. The pair called 1991 VH, for example, is the wildcard of the two with a “moon” that whips around a much bigger primary asteroid following a hard-to-predict pattern.

    The team will use a suite of cameras to track these dynamics in unprecedented detail. Among other goals, Scheeres and his colleagues hope to learn more about how binary asteroids move—both around each other and through space.

    “Once we see them up close, there will be a lot of questions we can answer, but these will raise new questions as well,” he said. “We think Janus will motivate additional missions to binary asteroids.”

    Small and fast

    The entire mission, Wood added, is being designed to be as flexible and hardy as possible.

    Wood explained that over the last decade, spacecraft have become smaller as scientists have turned to pint-sized spacecraft called CubeSats and SmallSats to collect data. Such missions cut down on costs and preparation time by using more affordable off-the-shelf parts.

    Janus’ twin spacecraft, however, will venture farther than any of these miniature missions to date. After blasting off in 2022, they’ll first complete an orbit around the sun, before heading back toward Earth and sling-shotting their way far into space and beyond the orbit of Mars. It’s a long way to go for machines that weigh only about 80 pounds each.

    “I think it’s a great test for what is achievable from the aerospace community,” Wood said. “And the Colorado-centric development for this mission, combining the space talent of both CU Boulder and Lockheed Martin, is a testament to the skills available in the state.”

    And, Wood added, the team is ready to get started in earnest on the mission: There’s a lot to do before the spacecraft launch in just two years.

    “We see this evolution to smaller and more capable spacecraft being a key market in the future for scientific missions,” Wood said. “Now, we want to execute and show that we can do it.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:32 pm on July 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , "The collective power of the solar system's dark icy bodies", , , , , University of Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder via phys.org: “The collective power of the solar system’s dark, icy bodies” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    via


    From phys.org

    July 7, 2020
    Daniel Strain, University of Colorado at Boulder

    1
    Scientists have long struggled to explain the existence of the solar system’s “detached objects,” which have orbits that tilt like seesaws and often cluster in one part of the night sky. Credit: Steven Burrows/JILA

    The outermost reaches of our solar system are a strange place—filled with dark and icy bodies with nicknames like Sedna, Biden and The Goblin, each of which span several hundred miles across.

    Two new studies by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder may help to solve one of the biggest mysteries about these far away worlds: why so many of them don’t circle the sun the way they should.

    The orbits of these planetary oddities, which scientists call ‘detached objects,’ tilt and buckle out of the plane of the solar system, among other unusual behaviors.

    “This region of space, which is so much closer to us than stars in our galaxy and other things that we can observe just fine, is just so unknown to us,” said Ann-Marie Madigan, an assistant professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) at CU Boulder.

    Some researchers have suggested that something big could be to blame—like an undiscovered planet, dubbed “Planet 9,” that scatters objects in its wake.

    But Madigan and graduate student Alexander Zderic prefer to think smaller. Drawing on exhaustive computer simulations, the duo makes the case that these detached objects may have disrupted their own orbits—through tiny gravitational nudges that added up over millions of years.

    The findings, Madigan said, provide a tantalizing hint to what may be going on in this mysterious region of space.

    “We’re the first team to be able to reproduce everything, all the weird orbital anomalies that scientists have seen over the years,” said Madigan, also a fellow at JILA. “It’s crazy to think that there’s still so much we need to do.”

    The team published its results July 2 in The Astronomical Journal and last month in The Astronomical Journal Letters [no link provided].

    Power to the asteroids

    The problem with studying the outer solar system, Madigan added, is that it’s just so dark.

    “Ordinarily, the only way to observe these objects is to have the sun’s rays smack off their surface and come back to our telescopes on Earth,” she said. “Because it’s so difficult to learn anything about it, there was this assumption that it was empty.”

    She’s one of a growing number of scientists who argue that this region of space is far from empty—but that doesn’t make it any easier to understand.

    Just look at the detached objects. While most bodies in the solar system tend to circle the sun in a flat disk, the orbits of these icy worlds can tilt like a seesaw. Many also tend to cluster in just one slice of the night sky, a bit similar to a compass that only points north.

    Madigan and Zderic wanted to find out why. To do that, they turned to supercomputers to recreate, or model, the dynamics of the outer solar system in greater detail than ever before.

    “We modeled something that may have once existed in the outer solar system and also added in the gravitational influence of the giant planets like Jupiter,” said Zderic, also of APS.

    In the process, they discovered something unusual: the icy objects in their simulations started off orbiting the sun like normal. But then, over time, they began to pull and push on each other. As a result, their orbits grew wonkier until they eventually resembled the real thing. What was most remarkable was that they did it all on their own—the asteroids and minor planets didn’t need a big planet to throw them for a loop.

    “Individually, all of the gravitational interactions between these small bodies are weak,” Madigan said. “But if you have enough of them, that becomes important.”

    Earth times 20

    Madigan and Zderic had seen hints of similar patterns in earlier research, but their latest results provide the most exhaustive evidence yet.

    The findings also come with a big caveat. In order to make Madigan and Zderic’s theory of “collective gravity” work, the outer solar system once needed to contain a huge amount of stuff.

    “You needed objects that added up to something on the order of 20 Earth masses,” Madigan said. “That’s theoretically possible, but it’s definitely going to be bumping up against people’s beliefs.”

    One way or another, scientists should find out soon. A new telescope called the Vera C. Rubin Observatory is scheduled to come online in Chile in 2022 and will begin to shine a new light on this unknown stretch of space.

    Vera C. Rubin Observatory Telescope currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    “A lot of the recent fascination with the outer solar system is related to technological advances,” Zderic said. “You really need the newest generation of telescopes to observe these bodies.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:43 am on April 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New satellite to continue 40 years of solar measurements", , A planned space mission called theTotal and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor-2 (TSIS-2)., University of Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder via phys.org: “New satellite to continue 40 years of solar measurements” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    via


    phys.org

    April 22, 2020

    1
    The sun sets over Earth as seen from a window on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

    Researchers at CU Boulder are playing a major role in the next phase of a more than four decades-long campaign to take the temperature of the sun.

    This week, NASA announced that two instruments designed and built at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) will get a unique hitchhiking opportunity: the chance to ride aboard a planned space mission called the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor-2 (TSIS-2). This mission, the successor to TSIS-1, will collect the most detailed measurements to date of how much radiation the sun emits on an hour-by-hour basis.

    TSIS-2 joins a long line of NASA missions that have kept similar records since 1978. Their data have helped scientists to better understand everything from the potential threats that solar storms pose to human society to changing climate here on Earth.

    “That record has been, essentially, unbroken for the last four decades,” said Erik Richard, a research scientist at LASP who will lead the development of the instruments. “Moving forward, we want those measurements to be more accurate.”

    LASP will receive $18 million to build the new sensors, dubbed the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) and Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM). Richard and his colleagues will also operate those instruments from the CU Boulder campus when TSIS-2 launches in 2023.

    For now, the team is proud to be a part of that legacy of eyes on the sun. “LASP really is the center for accurate solar irradiance measurements,” Richard said.

    3
    Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM). Credit: University of Colorado at Boulder

    11-year cycles

    Humanity’s home star, he added, is more finicky than many people on the ground might think. Researchers going back to Galileo have noted that its activity tends to peak, then dip, then peak again about once every 11 years.

    “The solar maximum is defined by lots of sunspots, lots of flares,” Richard said. “In between those events, which is where we are right now, is called the solar minimum, the doldrums of the sun.”

    TSIS-2, like its predecessors, will record the sun’s energy output during both those violent phases and the doldrums that follow.

    It’s critical information. The sun’s ups and downs, Richard said, can have big impacts on life on the ground—solar flares ejected during active phases can, potentially, shut down electrical grids in cities around the world. Solar activity could also shift Earth’s climate in small but still measurable ways.

    “Scientists who study climate change need to have accurate measurements of the sun’s output so that they can use them to make the next generation of climate models,” Richard said.

    4
    Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM). Credit: University of Colorado at Boulder

    Flying free

    Which means that getting those measurements right is key for TSIS-2.

    LASP previously designed identical versions of the TIM and SIM instruments to fly on TSIS-1, which launched in 2017. That instrument suite, however, sits on the hull of the International Space Station—”it’s like putting your instruments on top of a hotel,” Richard said.

    TSIS-2, in contrast, will orbit Earth all on its own, said David Gathright, the mission’s payload project manager at LASP.

    “As a free-flying mission, we’re going to be able to collect a lot more data,” he said.

    NASA has not yet selected who will build the actual TSIS-2 spacecraft, which will wind up being about the size of a washing machine. But Brian Boyle, an engineer at LASP who worked on TSIS-1, said that the funding from NASA should create a lot of work for engineers in Colorado—and at a time when the state needs it the most.

    “This is important for not only us here at LASP and the university, but the community, as well,” Boyle 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

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
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