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Q&A with astrophysics professor Gerald Cecil about SpaceX’s rocket launch – The Daily Tar Heel

Luke Bollinger | Published 02/20/17 9:13pm

UNC astrophysics professor Gerald Cecil

SpaceX launched and landed a Falcon rocket Sunday from a historic NASA launch pad at Kennedy Space Centerin Florida. This mission was a step forward for Elon Musk’s company they plan to send a rotation ofpeople to the International Space Station and eventually to Mars. Daily Tar Heel Staff Writer Luke Bollinger spoke with Gerald Cecil, a UNC astrophysics professor, to discuss the privatization of the space industry and the future of space exploration.

The Daily Tar Heel:With this new element of a competitive space industry within the U.S., do you think this is good for research and further development?

Gerald Cecil: Yeah, it is good. What it does is lower the entry point for payloads into space. If you can get the costs of flying one of these things down to a few million bucks, then any university level (principal investigator) whos interested and wants to do something in zero G can fly on a Falcon up to a Bigelow-inflated space station and sit up there for years. At the moment, the entry point is more involved because you go through NASA. There are multiple runs before you fly your payload on the space station. With a privately available space station and private launching, cost price should be much lower.

DTH: What is NASAs role right now? Obviously they are still involved, but in what capacity?

GC: They run the space station. They run all of the science operations on the space station. Theyre responsible for contracting the rocket boosters. They dont provide their own booster; they contract them from SpaceX and Orbital ATK and a couple of other companies. Eventually, the idea would be that NASA would give up all of the low earth orbit stuff, including the space station, and focus on more distant destinations. I think we have to get to the point where Bigelow demonstrates that they can inflate one of their big space station modules and stick a couple together. All they have to do is stick two together and they get almost the same volume as the International Space Station.

DTH: How does a companys motivation to make a profit and make money for its shareholders affect the type of research or product design that they do?

GC: The most successful space products that have come out so far have been in pharmaceuticals. There was a flurry of all that in the ’80s and ’90s, when the shuttle started flying. I dont really think theres been any substantial advances since the space station got operational. Most of the programs you hear about are the NASA programs testing limited technologies potentially available for long-duration space flight to Mars and so on.

DTH: One of the big conversations you hear when discussing privatizing space exploration is space tourism. Could this possibly be a big funding factor? How would space tourism factor in the process of research and development?

GC: Bigelows modules are designed to be outfitted in some sort of configurations such as luxury, zero-G accommodation. If SpaceX demonstrates that all people have to do is endure a few gravities for eight minutes and half an hour down, then money is really the only issue. If you can crash the cost of access to space to 20 or 30,000 bucks, youre looking at people who would normally take a cruise somewhere in a luxury yacht or whatever now considering going up to space.What they do up there is another matter. After youve had your sky-high club experience, you can look out the window. Theres got to be some level of interaction up there that cant be done on the ground. Pretty much, its just the view at this point. If Bigelow is able to inflate something big enough, then you can imagine people floating around in giant volumes, in football stadium volumes. That could be kind of amusing, flying around and everything. But, theres not much discussion of that at the moment.

DTH: Juxtaposing the leadership of space exploration such as someone like Elon Musk and a government organization what are some of the differences that youve seen?

GC: Musk has a strategy because he has an end goal, which is to get to Mars, to die on Mars. Hopefully, later rather than sooner. The U.S. has no strategy in space beyond the one its executing now, which is a jobs program in a few congressional districts. The booster theyre building now is going to be so expensive. It will fly a few times at most before it will have to be mothballed because it will be vastly overpriced compared to the alternatives. Musks focus is to get the price as low as possible because he knows how many missions he will have to launch into Earth orbit to prepare to go to Mars.

@BollingerLuke

state@dailytarheel.com

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Q&A with astrophysics professor Gerald Cecil about SpaceX’s rocket launch – The Daily Tar Heel

Astronomy & Astrophysics Adv Cmte telecon, Feb 2017, virtual – SpacePolicyOnline.com

24-Feb-2017 through 24-Feb-2017

The interagency Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) will meet via telecon on February 24, 2017 from 12:00-4:00 pm ET.

The Federal Register notice states that information on how to participate will be posted on the committee’s website. As of February 21, however, the notice on the committee’s website does not provide that information, but it does list three people to contact to get details.

Go back

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Astronomy & Astrophysics Adv Cmte telecon, Feb 2017, virtual – SpacePolicyOnline.com

How a celestial emu inspired Kirsten Banks – Cosmos

Kirsten Banks plans to complete a PhD in astrophysics.

Justin Banks (Grigori Films)

Kirsten Banks grew up in Sydneys Northern Beaches with a fascination for weather and meteorology.

With encouragement from her engineer grandfather, she became interested in aerospace engineering. But when the time came to choose a degree course at the University of New South Wales, she opted for physics, using the discipline to expand her interests beyond Earths atmosphere and into the deeper reaches of space.

Theres just so much out there that we dont know its fascinating, the 19-year-old says. We dont know what we dont know and I find that amazing.

Now in her third year of study, Banks interests are focused on star formation and planetary geology. Her motivation is to explore places humans might one day live.

But a fascination with astrophysics isnt the only thing fuelling her interest in the night sky. Another factor, just as important, became evident after she completed high school.

I always knew I had Aboriginal heritage on my fathers side, but I didnt know much about it, she explains.

When I examined my family history more closely, I discovered my ancestors are Wiradjuri. I was given the contact number of an elder to learn more, who turns out is my great aunty.

Wiradjuri is one of the largest language groups in Australia, spread across communities throughout central New South Wales. Research reveals a wealth of traditional star knowledge stretching back thousands of years.

The Wiradjuri share similar traditions with the nearby Kamilaroi of northern New South Wales. In Kamilaroi traditions, the rising of the celestial emu, known as Gawarrgay, at dusk signals the time the female birds begin laying eggs.

Later, when Gawarrgay is high in the sky, it means male emus are sitting on the nests incubating them. When the celestial emu is perpendicular to the horizon, the chicks begin hatching.

As a child, Banks had learnt a few Dreaming stories, but not in any real depth. When she learnt about the Emu in the Sky, she became fascinated. This inspired a new quest for Banks to share the astronomical knowledge of her ancestors.

For tens of thousands of years, Aboriginal people have been using the stars for so many cool things, she says. It blows my mind. I love sharing that knowledge with other people.

Her passion for astronomy and pride in her heritage enabled her to take a position at Sydney Observatory as a guide, where she leads public tours for mainstream and Aboriginal astronomy programs.

Banks plans to complete a PhD and says learning more about the universe is the driving force behind her desire to pursue a career in science communication. She especially enjoys cultivating interests in astronomy among young girls.

I love to see their eyes light up and say Wow! she laughs. Theres no feeling quite like it.

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How a celestial emu inspired Kirsten Banks – Cosmos

A UT astrophysics professor talks gravitational waves, black holes and the search for dark energy – Houston Chronicle

By Kim McGuire, Houston Chronicle

Karl Gebhardt

Karl Gebhardt, a professor of astrophysics at UT, discusses the…

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves, actual ripples in the fabric of the space/time continuum. At the time, the announcement rocked the scientific world. Not only did it prove Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, it gave scientists a new tool to study things like black holes, neutron stars and supernovas.

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A UT astrophysics professor talks gravitational waves, black holes and the search for dark energy – Houston Chronicle

One giant leap for womankind – from astrophysics to IT security – SC Magazine UK

After nearly a decade as an astronomer, Dr Leila Powell wanted a change: I enjoyed the type of work I was doing but I started to feel that I wanted to do something where it would impact people’s daily lives a bit more. Powell enjoyed the technical aspects of astronomy but wanted to put her skills to work outside of academia.

Much like astrophysics there are few traditional routes into cybersecurity, perhaps because the industry hasn’t been around long enough to develop traditions’.

Powell’s route into cyber-security was data science – dealing with large data sets, analysing them and pulling out insights. In her previous line of work, questions of how you communicate those insights, make them accessible and ensure they can’t be misinterpreted are critical. It was a lesson she kept in mind when she made the jump to IT security.

Powell decided that she wanted to work in a startup because there would be more opportunity to learn different things, it would be a bit more fast-paced, and maybe I could keep some of the aspects that I liked about academia working in small teams, working on future problems.

It was a twist of fate that Powell landed where she did: I just started looking at startups that I thought were interesting, and Panaseer was one of those that I found out about. At that point I thought, cyber-security, that sounds interesting, could be good.’

Powell was impressed by the refreshing maturity and expertise of her interviewers: The team had a lot of experience working inside cyber-security which can be unlike the typical start-up of young people starting a new App.

These were people who knew what they were doing already. I believed in them and the idea, and thought it would meet that need in me to help people because it’s becoming such a pressing issue now, for everybody. And I ended up here 18 months ago.

Both astrophysics and cyber-security are very male dominated areas, so SC asked Powell how the two compared, and what particular issues had she faced as a woman?

Powell explain that astronomy in general had a slightly higher percentage of women than cyber-security – 25 percent on her University course – but it was a very low number when she worked in a niche area as a theorist analysing supercomputer simulations to study galaxy formation and evolution. There might be just me or one other woman in a room of 50 people and that’s my experience in security as well.

As for issues faced, Powell says, I think I have been reasonably lucky in that I’ve got used to being in a male-dominated environment very young studying physics, and then astrophysics. Certainly you get lazy comments. If I go to a tech event, people just assume that you are in HR or marketing, and it’s not meant in a bad way, it’s just that assumption. Or in talks they will always refer to a generic CISO as He’. And things like that can create an impression that you are an anomaly.”

I have also noticed that an all male group will communicate differently to a mixed group or female group. I know that, particularly early in my career, I made efforts to insist in getting my point in, rather than waiting for someone to allow me to speak. Now that may be a personality thing rather than a specific gender thing, but typically women are socialised to be a bit more polite, and a bit more reticent to come forward and stand by their views. It’s something I’ve learnt to do being in the environment I’ve been in.

But Powell also recognises that her relatively mild encounters are not necessarily the experiences of others: If I see anything more significant I am quite shocked by it. I know this stuff happens, but I’ve been lucky.

Powell notes how at events it’s not uncommon to hear comments about a woman speaker’s appearance in the middle of a technical talk. You think to yourself, what on earth are you doing? Other people share your outrage but it still happens. They might say She was really great’, and then add some other comments, and you’d think, just stop there.’

But Powell’s not completely sold on the approaches taken to actually get more into security because, she says, even then women are pushed into non-technical roles, like communications: I am sure there are many men that have excellent communication skills, but aren’t technical that might consider a career in security if they knew there were roles like HR, marketing, more organisational roles.

If it’s a fact that cyber-security has a Techie’ image, that puts off people that don’t have those skills, then let’s open that out to men as well. Let’s make it a gender neutral call to the general public.

It’s interesting that you see a deficit of men in’ women’s roles’, caring and communicating professions and you see a dearth of women in technical roles. Cyber- security can’t undo all that, but I think [you can promote] role models of women who are in technical roles.

Powell adds, You also need to make the environment welcoming to women, so it’s not just getting them there, it’s retaining them there.

Security data scientist?

Panaseer’s aim is to provide insight for security stakeholders and companies into their security situation and to give them the information they need to make informed decisions about what should be done next.

Powell adds that it’s important that different people get information which suits their role: From the CISO, to the Sec Ops Team, each position within an organisation will need to know about the same situation but different levels of detail. We need to provide the information they need to do their job efficiently and be well informed.

In short, deliver the right insight to the right person at the right time.

The biggest issue companies face, according to Powell, is lack of visibility: We have all these tools gathering data, but there’s not really a coherent picture of what’s going on and being able to even know what’s on their estate.

A company may have up to 15 controls on their estate. There’s a lot of information to take in, often in lots of different places. Powell’s role, as a data scientist is essentially to look at that data and find ways to view, analyse it, and present it so there is a communication piece which is really important to present it such that people can really understand what’s going on on their estate and know what to do next.

At the very beginning is Security Information and Event Management data, otherwise known as SIEM data, which has to be brought onto platforms; part of the role as a data scientist is to understand that data as well as model and clean it.

The quality of the data is crucial, so part of my role will be to be involved in that; to model, to make it the best it can be. The next stage is what analysis do we want to have?’, what data sets can we put together to get more value than you would get if you had things separately.

The next question is how to analyse that data. That could be about enriching it with more information or you might want to know which region one of your assets is in, and bring that together with an asset database.

Data is then searched, analysed and new ideas are tried out. When you have something you can work with, production code is written to feed into the Panaseer platform. That platform then runs on the client’s estate and generates information on a regular basis so that that the client can check it.

Powell told SC that the most challenging bit of that process can be simply getting the data depending on who owns the data and where it is actually stored, it can take time to attain.

Powell points out that, This first stage is where a lot of the challenges lie and it can be a real blocker to getting useful insight. And it can sometimes be better to get a data set that is more easily accessible and demonstrate some value quickly, and make one aspect of someone’s job easier.

Providing technical information is all well and good for people to do their job, but ultimately they’ll have to report up, justify budget and show how the security team is working.

But it’s hard to report on something that hasn’t happened, explains Powell, We have this idea of different levels of insight dependent on the stakeholder and it’s not just the stakeholder, it’s also the audience who they are reporting to, so for example, the CISO might be meeting with the vulnerability manager and discuss perhaps a lower level of detail, but if they then have to go and report to the CEO, they don’t want to be showing them lists of vulnerabilities across the estate then things would relate more to policies, SLAs, and risk.

The information provides an indicator ahead of time, so the report may say, It’s looking like you might not hit your KPIs next month, let’s try to act now.’ Whereas at the moment people don’t have the visibility to even do that a lot of the time. It’s about tailoring that information, personalising it, then they’ll use that to decide its providing evidence for a decision.

Often, says Powell, it reinforces how people need to focus on getting the basics right so that they are protected from the threats we all know about that have been around for ages; do they know that what they have installed is actually working? If you start getting less data coming through do you know why are you getting fewer alerts? Because there are fewer threats or because something has gone wrong, been switched off, or half your estate isn’t even scanning any more?

Regarding the role of AI, Powell comments, Machine learning is great, great set of algorithms, great at finding complex correlations in data that it would be challenging for a human to spot with pen and paper, but it really is just a set of techniques. It’s not magic despite what a lot of marketing might have you believe.

There’s always caveats, adds Powell. Machines tend to throw up a lot of results and within them will be a lot of false positives

As with anything like that there’s always caveats. One of the issues is that machines will throw up a lot of results for you. You’ll always have false positives in that. Things that will be flagged up as worthy of looking at but aren’t actually anything. People in security are already bombarded with information from a plethora of different sources, but in order to make that noise intelligible, an analyst, needs to go and work out what is really valid.

So how has Powell found the career change? She told SC, The skills I am using are the same including visualisation and communication; people often say it’s a strange transition and it is in some ways, but [less so] with the maths skills, analytic skills and communication skills, and you pick up a lot of domain knowledge as well.

Getting to be in a start-up is also interesting. When I came in I was number five and we’re 19 now. It was really exciting being part of a new company, so I learnt a lot about how businesses work as well, how the progression of a start-up works. We’re all kept in the loop about how things are doing, get involved in recruitment, attend start-up community events around Silicon Roundabout and are involved in all aspects.

It’s not just big companies now that need security, its small businesses too. Powell concludes, The average person can now get Ransomware attacks and has almost no knowledge about what they might do in order to be secure and that does worry me. How would the average non-technically minded person protect themselves when they’re not even aware they need to defend themselves?

I wanted to have this impact on people’s daily lives, and while Panaseer is not directly helping the general public, it’s helping companies be more secure it’s all part of the same thing.

Now I feel like I am making that impact. It affects people personally which is what I was hoping for.

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One giant leap for womankind – from astrophysics to IT security – SC Magazine UK

Is an astrophysics-ecology drone the best new tool for saving endangered species? – Treehugger

It’s a mouthful, but an astrophysics-ecology drone has been developed by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and they say that it could be the key to boosting global conservation efforts.

Drones have been used to study and protect endangered species for years now, from patrolling for poachers to counting chimpanzees in forest canopies. A recent study even concluded that drones are far better at wildlife monitoring than humans because they can cover a greater area in the same amount of time and they can get a bird’s eye view that captures more of the landscape and allows for more accurate head counts.

So, what is this new version? It’s a fixed-wing drone like those that we’ve seen used in previous conservation efforts, but instead of just having a normal camera, it’s outfitted with thermal cameras and coupled with analysis techniques used to study objects in space. Created through a partnership between the ecology and astrophysics departments at the university, it will use technology that is used to find and identify objects in the distant Universe to monitor endangered species, look out for poachers and track habitat destruction.

“The World Bank estimates that ecosystems provide $33 trillion every year to the global economy and biodiversity loss and consequent ecosystem collapse is one of the ten foremost dangers facing humanity. We hope this research will help tackle these problems by allowing anyone in the world to upload their aerial data and in real time get back geo-locations of anything, whether that be survivors of natural disasters, or poachers approaching endangered species, or even the size, weight and health of livestock,” said Professor Serge Wich from LJMU’s School of Natural Sciences and Psychology and founder of conservationdrones.org.

The images taken by the drones will be analyzed to create libraries of thermal heat profiles for each species, including humans, so that they can be automatically detected and identified when the drones are in the field. This could enable conservationists to act quickly when poachers are spotted or habitat destruction is occurring.

The next phase is to expand the techniques to natural disaster relief. The technology could make search and rescue operation much more efficient.

You can see what a crash of rhinos looks like with the cameras below.

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Is an astrophysics-ecology drone the best new tool for saving endangered species? – Treehugger

Scientists propose first astrophysics mission to the Moon – SpaceFlight Insider

Tomasz Nowakowski

February 7th, 2017

An artists rendering of the LOX satellite orbiting the moon. Image Credit: UAH

A team of researchers led by Richard Miller of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has recently proposed a next-generation mission to the Moon called the Lunar Occultation Explorer (LOX), which is now under review by NASA. If accepted by the agency, it will be the first dedicated astrophysics lunar mission.

We hope that this mission will be transformational for all institutions that are involved, from a science and education perspective, Miller told Astrowatch.net.

Ten universities are involved in the project. Besides UAH, the missions primary implementing partner is Johns Hopkins University. Collaborating institutions are the University of Arizona, Clemson University, Florida State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of New Hampshire, Ohio State University, Princeton University, and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

The LOX team includes nuclear astrophysicists, supernovae experts, simulation and modeling experts, planetary scientists, and mission operations experts. In December 2016, they proposed NASA a $237-million mission as part of the agencys Medium-class Explorer (MIDEX) program. Within the next five months, NASA will decide if the LOX project should be developed further as it will select three concepts to go into a nine-month study, with a subsequent selection of one mission for flight.

An artists rendering of the LOX satellite orbiting the Moon. Image Credit: UAH

We have written the large proposal and submitted it to NASA for consideration. The proposal includes details regarding our science, instrumentation, spacecraft, operations concept, and, of course, cost. NASAs MIDEX program is a competitive one with multiple concept submissions under consideration, Miller said.

LOX is planned to be launched and placed in lunar orbit around 2023. It would carry the BGO Array for Gamma-ray Energy Logging (BAGEL) instrument a large array of 45 to 100 gamma-ray sensors to study thermonuclear, or Type IA, supernovae. Each spectrometer is made of a bismuth germanate scintillator crystal used to detect gamma-rays.

This crystal lights up when a gamma-ray interacts within it, and the resulting signal is detected with associated optoelectronics, Miller told Astrowatch.net.

He added that each spectrometer also has a plastic shield that rejects charged particles.

Together they work in a configuration called a phoswich. The individual detectors are similar to ones flown previously, have high spaceflight heritage, and are low-risk, Miller noted.

In order to study supernovae, the LOX spacecraft would rely on the Lunar Occultation Technique (LOT), which is currently under development by Miller and his team. In this technique, the Moon acts like a large occulting disk. Therefore, as thesatellite orbits the Moon, distant sources such as supernovae are seen to rise and set over the edge of the Moon.

These occultations would allow the scientists to reconstruct the location of individual sources, measure their spectra, and monitor changes over timescales ranging from days to months or more. The LOT method would use the temporal modulation generated by the Moon blocking the sources, to do what other approaches do in more complex and expensive ways.

Millers team has already used LOT to find the first high-energy astrophysical source ever detected from the Moon, a galactic X-ray source known as Cygnus X-1 that is thought to include a black hole. That discovery gave the researchers the confidence that they could move forward with this technique and propose a full-scale mission utilizing LOT.

LOXs primary science goal is to resolve the enigma of Type-IA (thermonuclear) supernovae in three ways:

We will do this by detecting nuclear gamma-rays, the fundamental radiation produced by these objects, Miller said.

He concluded that LOX is expected to provide new insights into the nature of supernovae while continuously monitoring the sky.

In this business, the most exciting discovery is often the one you never expected. From a supernovae perspective we will certainly gain new insights into these objects, and perhaps for the first time definitively identify the progenitor systems and their diversity. We will also continuously monitor the sky and perform an all-sky survey in the nuclear gamma-ray regime, which has not been done for almost 20 years, Miller said.

Tagged: astrophysics Lunar Occultation Explorer Moon NASA The Range

Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski’s generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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Scientists propose first astrophysics mission to the Moon – SpaceFlight Insider

Neil deGrasse is Dropping Football Astrophysics on Us | Inverse – Inverse

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a brilliant scientist who seems like he would be a miserable companion if you like, had an extra ticket to a Jets game. The 58-year-old director of the Hayden Planetarium spent Super Bowl Sunday sharing some football astrophysics facts on Twitter.

Momentum & energy transfer. Elastic & Inelastic Collisions. Spin-stabilized projectiles. Nothing like a good game of Football, Tyson wrote before the kickoff, clearly leaning into his well actually nerd persona. The Cosmos host then proceeded to share some scientific Super Bowl trivia. Some of it was, to be honest, pretty loosely related to football.

As space enthusiasts know, the first word of the first comment uttered by Neil Armstrong from the Moons surface is Houston, Tyson wrote, since Super Bowl LIs host city is also the NASA HQ mentioned in Neil Armstrongs iconic the Eagle has landed quote.

In North-South oriented stadiums, like NRG in Houston, Earths rotation deflects a 50-yd field goal to the right by 1/2 inch, Tyson wrote.

Check out more of Tysons tweets below.

Whatever Super Bowl party Tysons attending tonight is probably thrilled.

Photos via Getty Images / Cindy Ord

James Grebey is a writer, reporter, and fairly decent cartoonist living in Brooklyn. He’s written for SPIN Magazine, BuzzFeed, MAD Magazine, and more. He thinks Double Stuf Oreos are bad and he’s ready to die on this hill. James is the weeknights editor at Inverse because content doesn’t sleep.

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Neil deGrasse is Dropping Football Astrophysics on Us | Inverse – Inverse

Heisenberg’s Astrophysics Prediction Finally Confirmed After 80 Years – Forbes


Forbes
Heisenberg's Astrophysics Prediction Finally Confirmed After 80 Years
Forbes
Light coming from the surface of a neutron star can be polarized by the strong magnetic field it passes through, thanks to the phenomenon of vacuum birefringence. Detectors here on Earth can measure the effective rotation of the polarized light. Image

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Heisenberg’s Astrophysics Prediction Finally Confirmed After 80 Years – Forbes

#AskTheMayor; Berkeley Protests; Music and Astrophysics; NY’s Immigrants Join the Resistance – WNYC


WNYC
#AskTheMayor; Berkeley Protests; Music and Astrophysics; NY's Immigrants Join the Resistance
WNYC
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, takes calls from listeners and discusses this week in NYC. Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University and the author of The Incredible '60s: The Stormy Years That Changed America

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#AskTheMayor; Berkeley Protests; Music and Astrophysics; NY’s Immigrants Join the Resistance – WNYC

Waves Passing in the Night: a talk about astrophysics, harmony, and boundaries – UC Santa Cruz (press release)

UC Santa Cruz alumnus Lawrence Weschler graduated from Cowell College in 1972, where he studied Philosophy and Western Civilization. His new book (above) was just published in January.

The occasion is a conversation on astrophysics, acoustics, and disciplinary boundaries celebrating Weschlers brand new book, Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists, just published by Bloomsbury, USA.

The book profiles Murch, a film legend and amateur astrophysicist who is well-known for his work on such classic films as Apocalypse Now, The Godfather trilogy, and The English Patient.

It focuses on Murchs passion for astrophysics, in particular the rehabilitation of Titius-Bode, a long abandoned 18th century theory regarding the patterns by which planets and moons array themselves in gravitational systems across the universe.

An amateur scientist investigates oddly musical mysteries in the motion of the planets in this scintillating true-astronomy saga, noted a review by Publishers Weekly. Weschler remains sympathetic to both sides in this debate between an inspired novice and skeptical pros, expanding it into a fascinating lesson on the nature of scientific understanding and the ways people seek it.

Or as film director Errol Morris described it: An inviting portrait of an admirable and accomplished man. We come to see science as a closed club, science as abstruse and narrow, science as caste. But Weschler allows that it could be the other way around, too–science as protector of truth and progress, science as guardian against kooks.

What began as an exploration of a ‘far out’ but relatable idea from a ‘far out’ but relatable guy has become instead a study of the praxis of science, adds Morris. Weschler leaves us pondering how firmly we know what we think we know.

Weschler graduated from Cowell College in 1972, where he studied Philosophy and Western Civilization. A critic, journalist, and author, he was a staff writer at the New Yorker for more than 20 years.

Weschlers books include Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, for which he was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Boggs: A Comedy of Values; and Everything That Rises, which received the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism.

This event is part of the UC Santa Cruz Original Thinkers series and is sponsored by Cowell College, the Institute for Humanities Research, the Film & Digital Media Department and the Astronomy & Astrophysics Department at UC Santa Cruz.

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Waves Passing in the Night: a talk about astrophysics, harmony, and boundaries – UC Santa Cruz (press release)

Professor publishes astrophysics article – The Winonan

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Kilat Fitzgerald / Winonan

Discovering the forces at play beyond Earth, is, quite literally, an astronomical challenge. Winona State Universitys assistant physics professor, Carl Ferkinhoff, has recently been recognized for a contribution to that challenge.

His work has been published by the Astrophysical Journal, in an article he co-wrote with Cody Lamarche, a graduate student at Cornell University, titled CO-Dark Star Formation and Black Hole Activity in 3C 368 at z=1.311: Coeval Growth of Stellar and Supermassive Black Hole Masses.

The galaxy being featured in the study is named 3C 368.

Were looking at galaxies in the early universe, Ferkinhoff said. The universe is about 14 billion years old, and this galaxy, 3C 368, was around about 7 billion years ago.

The purpose of the research was to grasp the interaction between the active galactic nuclei of a galaxy and the stars that form within it.

The Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) is the bright center region of a galaxy that consists of massive black holes that act as gravity wells for everything around them. Much of what gets sucked into the black hole is lost to the intense pressure within, but some particles find themselves riding outward. On the wave of energy emitted from the center of the black hole, particles are shot into space with jets emitting energy in the form of light and whatever other elements are caught in the reaction. Measuring such activity as it takes place light years away, takes creative forms of investigation.

The method of measuring the age of the galaxy used by this astronomer includes the use of an Infrared Spectrograph, or IRS for short. The process is similar to a prism breaking light into a rainbow. Incoming infrared light is broken into a spectrum, and each unique element is analyzed according to its chemical footprint.

This device, which is on board the Spitzer Space Telescope, a telescope that was launched into space in 2003, provides data that makes it possible to estimate the approximate age of the starburst within the galaxy. It was found that the age of the starburst coincided with the latest episode of AGN activity.

What were seeing is a powerful black hole in the center of vigorous star formation, Lamarche said. There may be a correlation between black hole activity and star formation. Its certainly been an interesting study, and we look forward to a follow up article.

The unexpected discovery made about galaxy 3C 368 was the lack of carbon monoxide, which comes with a new set of theories on its own.

We detect absolutely no carbon monoxide, which is kind of shocking, Ferkinhoff said.

One possibility is that all the carbon monoxide has been destroyed, which could happen if the AGN emitted a lot of radiation. Another possibility is the jets shooting out of the AGN into the gas outside the galaxy could also stir the cosmos, creating small, dispersed clouds of hydrogen and other elements scattered throughout the galaxy.

Only future research will answer the questions posed by this data, as levels will continue to be monitored by collaborative efforts.

By Kilat Fitzgerald

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Professor publishes astrophysics article – The Winonan

Astrophysics | School of Physics | University of Bristol

University home > School of Physics > Research > Astrophysics

The Astrophysics Group in the School of Physics at Bristol is active in several research areas. It specializes in cosmology, the formation of clusters and galaxies, active galaxies, high-energy astrophysical processes, and the formation of extrasolar planets. Observational work in the Group uses large ground-based and satellite telescopes from the radio to the X-ray bands. Theoretical work is tied closely to the interpretation of these data.

The Group is also heavily involved in the graduate and undergraduate teaching of the School of Physics. The Group runs a number of undergraduate courses associated with degree programmes in Physics with Astrophysics, and holds a continuing series of research seminars for graduate students and staff. Shared research seminars with other universities are held using the Access Grid Node located within the School of Physics.

The research interests of the group run from X-ray to radio wavebands, and cover planetary, galactic, extra galactic, and cosmological subjects.

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Astrophysics | School of Physics | University of Bristol

NASA Astrophysics | Science Mission Directorate

In the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), the Astrophysics division studies the universe.The science goals of the SMD Astrophysics Division are breathtaking: we seek to understand the universe and our place in it. We are starting to investigate the very moment of creation of the universe and are close to learning the full history of stars and galaxies. We are discovering how planetary systems form and how environments hospitable for life develop. And we will search for the signature of life on other worlds, perhaps to learn that we are not alone.

NASA’s goal in Astrophysics is to “Discover how the universe works, explore how it began and evolved, and search for life on planets around other stars.” Three broad scientific questions emanate from these goals.

Current Programs Astrophysics comprises of three focused and two cross-cutting programs. These focused programs provide an intellectual framework for advancing science and conducting strategic planning. They include:

Current Missions The Astrophysics current missions include three of the Great Observatories originally planned in the 1980s and launched over the past 25 years. The current suite of operational Great Observatories include the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Additionally, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope explores the high-energy end of the spectrum. Innovative Explorer missions, such as the Swift Gamma-ray Explorer and NuSTAR, complement the Astrophysics strategic missions. SOFIA, an airborne observatory for infrared astronomy, is in its operational phase and the Kepler mission is now actively engaged in K2 extended mission operations. All of the missions together account for much of humanity’s accumulated knowledge of the heavens. Many of these missions have achieved their prime science goals, but continue to produce spectacular results in their extended operations.

NASA-funded investigators also participate in observations, data analysis and developed instruments for the astrophysics missions of our international partners, including ESA’s LISA Pathfinder, XMM-Newton, Herschel, and Planck missions, and JAXA’s Suzaku.

Near Future The near future will be dominated by several missions. Currently in development, with especially broad scientific utility, is the James Webb Space Telescope. Explorer mission TESS is also in development. TESS will provide an all-sky transit survey, identifying planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. Explorer Mission of Opportunity NICER has completed development and is awaiting launch in 2017. The NICER mission will study the gravitational, electromagnetic, and nuclear-physics environments of neutron stars. Also in work are detectors for ESA’s Euclid mission.

Completing the missions in development, supporting the operational missions, and funding the research and analysis programs will consume most of the Astrophysics Division resources.

In February 2016, NASA formally started the top Astro2010 decadal recommendation, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). WFIRST will aid researchers in their efforts to unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos. It will also discover new worlds outside our solar system and advance the search for worlds that could be suitable for life.

The Future Since the 2001 decadal survey, the way the universe is viewed has changed dramatically. More than 2000 planets have been discovered orbiting distant stars. Black holes are now known to be present at the center of most galaxies, including the Milky Way galaxy. The age, size and shape of the universe have been mapped based on the primordial radiation left by the big bang. And it has been learned that most of the matter in the universe is dark and invisible, and the universe is not only expanding, but accelerating in an unexpected way.

For the long term future, the Astrophysics goals will be guided based on the results of the 2010 Decadal survey New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The priority science objectives chosen by the survey committee include: searching for the first stars, galaxies, and black holes; seeking nearby habitable planets; and advancing understanding of the fundamental physics of the universe.In 2016 the New Worlds, New Horizons: A Midterm Assessment was released.

In 2012the Astrophysics Implementation Plan was released (updated in 2014) which describes the activities currently being undertaken in response to the decadal survey recommendations within the current budgetary constraints.

The Astrophysics roadmap Enduring Quests, Daring Visions was developed by a task force of the Astrophysics Subcommittee (APS) in 2013. The Roadmap presents a 30-year vision for astrophysics using the most recent decadal survey as the starting point.

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NASA Astrophysics | Science Mission Directorate

Astrophysics – Wikipedia

This article is about the use of physics and chemistry to determine the nature of astronomical objects. For the use of physics to determine their positions and motions, see Celestial mechanics. For the physical study of the largest-scale structures of the universe, see Physical cosmology.

Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that employs the principles of physics and chemistry “to ascertain the nature of the heavenly bodies, rather than their positions or motions in space.”[1][2] Among the objects studied are the Sun, other stars, galaxies, extrasolar planets, the interstellar medium and the cosmic microwave background.[3][4] Their emissions are examined across all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the properties examined include luminosity, density, temperature, and chemical composition. Because astrophysics is a very broad subject, astrophysicists typically apply many disciplines of physics, including mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear and particle physics, and atomic and molecular physics.

In practice, modern astronomical research often involves a substantial amount of work in the realms of theoretical and observational physics. Some areas of study for astrophysicists include their attempts to determine: the properties of dark matter, dark energy, and black holes; whether or not time travel is possible, wormholes can form, or the multiverse exists; and the origin and ultimate fate of the universe.[3] Topics also studied by theoretical astrophysicists include: Solar System formation and evolution; stellar dynamics and evolution; galaxy formation and evolution; magnetohydrodynamics; large-scale structure of matter in the universe; origin of cosmic rays; general relativity and physical cosmology, including string cosmology and astroparticle physics.

Although astronomy is as ancient as recorded history itself, it was long separated from the study of terrestrial physics. In the Aristotelian worldview, bodies in the sky appeared to be unchanging spheres whose only motion was uniform motion in a circle, while the earthly world was the realm which underwent growth and decay and in which natural motion was in a straight line and ended when the moving object reached its goal. Consequently, it was held that the celestial region was made of a fundamentally different kind of matter from that found in the terrestrial sphere; either Fire as maintained by Plato, or Aether as maintained by Aristotle.[5][6] During the 17th century, natural philosophers such as Galileo,[7]Descartes,[8] and Newton[9] began to maintain that the celestial and terrestrial regions were made of similar kinds of material and were subject to the same natural laws.[10] Their challenge was that the tools had not yet been invented with which to prove these assertions.[11]

For much of the nineteenth century, astronomical research was focused on the routine work of measuring the positions and computing the motions of astronomical objects.[12][13] A new astronomy, soon to be called astrophysics, began to emerge when William Hyde Wollaston and Joseph von Fraunhofer independently discovered that, when decomposing the light from the Sun, a multitude of dark lines (regions where there was less or no light) were observed in the spectrum.[14] By 1860 the physicist, Gustav Kirchhoff, and the chemist, Robert Bunsen, had demonstrated that the dark lines in the solar spectrum corresponded to bright lines in the spectra of known gases, specific lines corresponding to unique chemical elements.[15] Kirchhoff deduced that the dark lines in the solar spectrum are caused by absorption by chemical elements in the Solar atmosphere.[16] In this way it was proved that the chemical elements found in the Sun and stars were also found on Earth.

Among those who extended the study of solar and stellar spectra was Norman Lockyer, who in 1868 detected bright, as well as dark, lines in solar spectra. Working with the chemist, Edward Frankland, to investigate the spectra of elements at various temperatures and pressures, he could not associate a yellow line in the solar spectrum with any known elements. He thus claimed the line represented a new element, which was called helium, after the Greek Helios, the Sun personified.[17][18]

In 1885, Edward C. Pickering undertook an ambitious program of stellar spectral classification at Harvard College Observatory, in which a team of woman computers, notably Williamina Fleming, Antonia Maury, and Annie Jump Cannon, classified the spectra recorded on photographic plates. By 1890, a catalog of over 10,000 stars had been prepared that grouped them into thirteen spectral types. Following Pickering’s vision, by 1924 Cannon expanded the catalog to nine volumes and over a quarter of a million stars, developing the Harvard Classification Scheme which was accepted for worldwide use in 1922.[19]

In 1895, George Ellery Hale and James E. Keeler, along with a group of ten associate editors from Europe and the United States,[20] established The Astrophysical Journal: An International Review of Spectroscopy and Astronomical Physics.[21] It was intended that the journal would fill the gap between journals in astronomy and physics, providing a venue for publication of articles on astronomical applications of the spectroscope; on laboratory research closely allied to astronomical physics, including wavelength determinations of metallic and gaseous spectra and experiments on radiation and absorption; on theories of the Sun, Moon, planets, comets, meteors, and nebulae; and on instrumentation for telescopes and laboratories.[20]

In 1925 Cecilia Helena Payne (later Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin) wrote an influential doctoral dissertation at Radcliffe College, in which she applied ionization theory to stellar atmospheres to relate the spectral classes to the temperature of stars.[22] Most significantly, she discovered that hydrogen and helium were the principal components of stars. This discovery was so unexpected that her dissertation readers convinced her to modify the conclusion before publication. However, later research confirmed her discovery.[23]

By the end of the 20th century, further study of stellar and experimental spectra advanced, particularly as a result of the advent of quantum physics.[24]

Observational astronomy is a division of the astronomical science that is concerned with recording data, in contrast with theoretical astrophysics, which is mainly concerned with finding out the measurable implications of physical models. It is the practice of observing celestial objects by using telescopes and other astronomical apparatus.

The majority of astrophysical observations are made using the electromagnetic spectrum.

Other than electromagnetic radiation, few things may be observed from the Earth that originate from great distances. A few gravitational wave observatories have been constructed, but gravitational waves are extremely difficult to detect. Neutrino observatories have also been built, primarily to study our Sun. Cosmic rays consisting of very high energy particles can be observed hitting the Earth’s atmosphere.

Observations can also vary in their time scale. Most optical observations take minutes to hours, so phenomena that change faster than this cannot readily be observed. However, historical data on some objects is available, spanning centuries or millennia. On the other hand, radio observations may look at events on a millisecond timescale (millisecond pulsars) or combine years of data (pulsar deceleration studies). The information obtained from these different timescales is very different.

The study of our very own Sun has a special place in observational astrophysics. Due to the tremendous distance of all other stars, the Sun can be observed in a kind of detail unparalleled by any other star. Our understanding of our own Sun serves as a guide to our understanding of other stars.

The topic of how stars change, or stellar evolution, is often modeled by placing the varieties of star types in their respective positions on the HertzsprungRussell diagram, which can be viewed as representing the state of a stellar object, from birth to destruction.

Theoretical astrophysicists use a wide variety of tools which include analytical models (for example, polytropes to approximate the behaviors of a star) and computational numerical simulations. Each has some advantages. Analytical models of a process are generally better for giving insight into the heart of what is going on. Numerical models can reveal the existence of phenomena and effects that would otherwise not be seen.[25][26]

Theorists in astrophysics endeavor to create theoretical models and figure out the observational consequences of those models. This helps allow observers to look for data that can refute a model or help in choosing between several alternate or conflicting models.

Theorists also try to generate or modify models to take into account new data. In the case of an inconsistency, the general tendency is to try to make minimal modifications to the model to fit the data. In some cases, a large amount of inconsistent data over time may lead to total abandonment of a model.

Topics studied by theoretical astrophysicists include: stellar dynamics and evolution; galaxy formation and evolution; magnetohydrodynamics; large-scale structure of matter in the universe; origin of cosmic rays; general relativity and physical cosmology, including string cosmology and astroparticle physics. Astrophysical relativity serves as a tool to gauge the properties of large scale structures for which gravitation plays a significant role in physical phenomena investigated and as the basis for black hole (astro)physics and the study of gravitational waves.

Some widely accepted and studied theories and models in astrophysics, now included in the Lambda-CDM model, are the Big Bang, cosmic inflation, dark matter, dark energy and fundamental theories of physics. Wormholes are examples of hypotheses which are yet to be proven (or disproven).

The roots of astrophysics can be found in the seventeenth century emergence of a unified physics, in which the same laws applied to the celestial and terrestrial realms.[10] There were scientists who were qualified in both physics and astronomy who laid the firm foundation for the current science of astrophysics. In modern times, students continue to be drawn to astrophysics due to its popularization by the Royal Astronomical Society and notable educators such as prominent professors Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Stephen Hawking, Hubert Reeves, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. The efforts of the early, late, and present scientists continue to attract young people to study the history and science of astrophysics.[27][28][29]

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Astrophysics – Wikipedia

Home | UCLA Division of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Exploring the Frontiers of the Universe

Groundbreaking research, cutting-edge technology, award-winning faculty UCLAs Division of Astronomy & Astrophysics offers a rewarding environment to pursue higher education and topical research. All members of the Division carry out active research programs that garner widespread international recognition. Doctoral students can participate in a variety of research projects, which frequently incorporate observations with the worlds largest ground-based telescopes, orbiting observatories, and other astronomical facilities.

Our PhD recipients go on to highly productive careers in academia, government, industry and business. Many have obtained prestigious postdoctoral fellowships from entities such as the National Research Council, Hubble, NSF, Caltech Millikan, and Princeton Russell. UCLA faculty have access to numerous observational facilities, including the 10-m telescopes of the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and the Division has strong bonds with Physics, and with Earth, Planetary and Space Science.

Learn About Our Faculty

Capitalizing on our dynamic location, intellectual capital and the inextinguishable desire to effect real change, UCLA is a catalyst for innovation and economic growth. The impact UCLA has in just a single year is enormous.

The Astronomy Division needs your support. While UCLA is a public University, state funding has steadily decreased. Private giving can help us educate promising young scientists who will make the discoveries of tomorrow.

Giving to the Astronomy Division

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Home | UCLA Division of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics – Home

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U of MN – Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics

Riess to Deliver Kaufmanis Lecture

Nobel Laureate Adam Riess will deliver the Kaufmanis Public Lecture on April 21, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in the McNamara Alumni Center. Riess will speak on the topic of “Supernovae Reveal an Accelerating Universe.”

Riess, who is a Professor at John Hopkins University and a member of the Space Telescope Science Institute won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 for discovering that expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating, implying in the simplest interpretation, that the energy density is non-vanishing, even in the absence of any matter and radiation.

The Kaufmanis Lecture is presented in memory of beloved Professor of Astronomy Karlis Kaufmanis, bringing distinguished scientists to the campus to provide public lectures on the latest hot topics in research.

More information at http://www.astro.umn.edu/seminars/kaufmanis/

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U of MN – Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics

Astro-Physics / Telescopes, Cameras & Astronomy Products …

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Astro-Physics mounts, such as the Mach1, 1600, and 3600GTO models, are designed for solid stability under a variety of observing conditions. At the same time, these mounts are truly portable so that they can be transported and set up quickly and accurately. AP mounts break down into manageable sizes, but when set up, they are extremely rugged and steady platforms. A very accurate worm gear set was designed to insure smooth, effortless tracking of celestial objects for all visual and photographic purposes.

AP accessories, including piers, saddle and dovetail plates, counterweights, and a wide range of adapters are designed for functionality and tested in the field under actual observing conditions. The OPT telescope staff is expert in matching the proper accessories to a telescope system for optimal performance. You can choose from any of the categories below to find quality Astro-Physics equipment, and if you need help or advice, just give us a call, start a chat, or send an email.

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Astro-Physics / Telescopes, Cameras & Astronomy Products …


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