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The tortoise: Blue Origins sees small steps as key to space business – Christian Science Monitor

March 8, 2017 A week after SpaceX founder Elon Musk stole headlines with his proposal to send two paying customers on a flight around the moon next year, another private space company came out with more modest news.

Blue Origin, founded by Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos, has contracted with French telecom firm Eutelsat to send a communications satellite into orbit on its New Glenn rocket, scheduled for completion in 2020.

Since its founding in 2009, SpaceX has already carved out a niche in the satellite-launch market and resupplied the International Space Station. Meanwhile, Mr. Bezoss 16-year-old firm has only flown its New Shepard capsule and booster rocket to the edge of space.

But Blue Origin sports a tortoise on its coat of arms, and Mr. Bezos appears content to play that role to Mr. Musks hare. He says he’s confident that small, incremental progress will help Blue Origin prosper in the long run.

I like to do things incrementally, Bezos remarked during Tuesdays Satellite 2017 Conference in Washington, The New York Times reports. His companys motto, gradatim ferociter, means Step by step, ferociously.

Eutelsat rewarded this approach in its decision to grant Blue Origin the contract. While the company has launched satellites with SpaceX in the past, Eutelsat’s chief executive, Rodolphe Belmer, suggested that Blue Origin’s slow and steady approach better aligns with that of his company.

Blue Origin has been forthcoming with Eutelsat on its strategy and convinced us they have the right mindset to compete in the launch service industry,” Mr. Belmer said in a press release. “Their solid engineering approach … corresponds to what we expect from our industrial partners.

While some have praised SpaceX’s ambition, concerns are growing that, under Musks accelerated timelines, people working for the company might be run ragged by the demands, leading to human errors, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last week.

SpaceXhas repeatedly pushed back its target date for flying a crewed mission, raising eyebrows about its ability to make good on its promise to carry customers around the moon by next year.

“SpaceX has a great record of doing exactly what they say they’re going to do but always several years later than they said they were going to do it, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told the Monitor last week.

Dr. McDowell, who teaches at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, made clear that he had full confidence that SpaceX would succeed in sending space tourists around the moon, but suggested 2020 might be a more likely deadline.

That would give Blue Origin more time to hone its technology and broaden its activities. In addition to satellite launches, the company plans to send deep-pocketed tourists into space aboard New Shepard, an activity that Bezos says will help the company further refine its technology and create a profitable business model for more ambitious space ventures.

“The tourism mission is very important, he said on Tuesday, CNBC reports. There are many historical cases where entertainment drives technologies that then become very practical for other things.”

And while low-Earth orbit may not seem as exciting as the moon, Bezoss goals are no less ambitious than Musks.

The long-term vision is millions of people living and working in space, he said Tuesday, according to The New York Times.

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The tortoise: Blue Origins sees small steps as key to space business – Christian Science Monitor

TCD astrophysics expert aims for the stars with Space Agency role … – Irish Independent

Peter Gallagher has been appointed as an adviser to the Director of Science at the ESA.

In his role with the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC), Professor Gallagher will be charged with interpreting the views and needs of the European science community’s access to space experimentation.

ESA will invest over 5bn in space exploration in the coming decade.

Along with the 11 other members of the SSAC, Professor Gallagher will also implement a number of space missions under the ESA Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 strategy. Cosmic Vision will address several questions including what are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life, and how does the Solar System work?

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TCD astrophysics expert aims for the stars with Space Agency role … – Irish Independent

The tortoise: Blue Origin sees small steps as key to space business – Christian Science Monitor

March 8, 2017 A week after SpaceX founder Elon Musk stole headlines with his proposal to send two paying customers on a flight around the moon next year, another private space company came out with more modest news.

Blue Origin, founded by Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos, has contracted with French telecom firm Eutelsat to send a communications satellite into orbit on its New Glenn rocket, scheduled for completion in 2020.

Since its founding in 2009, SpaceX has already carved out a niche in the satellite-launch market and resupplied the International Space Station. Meanwhile, Mr. Bezoss 16-year-old firm has only flown its New Shepard capsule and booster rocket to the edge of space.

But Blue Origin sports a tortoise on its coat of arms, and Mr. Bezos appears content to play that role to Mr. Musks hare. He says he’s confident that small, incremental progress will help Blue Origin prosper in the long run.

I like to do things incrementally, Bezos remarked during Tuesdays Satellite 2017 Conference in Washington, The New York Times reports. His companys motto, gradatim ferociter, means Step by step, ferociously.

Eutelsat rewarded this approach in its decision to grant Blue Origin the contract. While the company has launched satellites with SpaceX in the past, Eutelsat’s chief executive, Rodolphe Belmer, suggested that Blue Origin’s slow and steady approach better aligns with that of his company.

Blue Origin has been forthcoming with Eutelsat on its strategy and convinced us they have the right mindset to compete in the launch service industry,” Mr. Belmer said in a press release. “Their solid engineering approach … corresponds to what we expect from our industrial partners.

While some have praised SpaceX’s ambition, concerns are growing that, under Musks accelerated timelines, people working for the company might be run ragged by the demands, leading to human errors, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last week.

SpaceXhas repeatedly pushed back its target date for flying a crewed mission, raising eyebrows about its ability to make good on its promise to carry customers around the moon by next year.

“SpaceX has a great record of doing exactly what they say they’re going to do but always several years later than they said they were going to do it, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told the Monitor last week.

Dr. McDowell, who teaches at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, made clear that he had full confidence that SpaceX would succeed in sending space tourists around the moon, but suggested 2020 might be a more likely deadline.

That would give Blue Origin more time to hone its technology and broaden its activities. In addition to satellite launches, the company plans to send deep-pocketed tourists into space aboard New Shepard, an activity that Bezos says will help the company further refine its technology and create a profitable business model for more ambitious space ventures.

“The tourism mission is very important, he said on Tuesday, CNBC reports. There are many historical cases where entertainment drives technologies that then become very practical for other things.”

And while low-Earth orbit may not seem as exciting as the moon, Bezoss goals are no less ambitious than Musks.

The long-term vision is millions of people living and working in space, he said Tuesday, according to The New York Times.

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The tortoise: Blue Origin sees small steps as key to space business – Christian Science Monitor

"Fast Radio Bursts Could Be Powering Alien Probes" –Harvard … – The Daily Galaxy (blog)

“Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence,” said theorist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.”

As the name implies, fast radio bursts are millisecond-long flashes of radio emission. First discovered in 2007, fewer than two dozen have been detected by gigantic radio telescopes like the Parkes Observatory in Australia or the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. They are inferred to originate from distant galaxies, billions of light-years away.

Loeb and his co-author Manasvi Lingam (Harvard University) examined the feasibility of creating a radio transmitter strong enough for it to be detectable across such immense distances. They found that, if the transmitter were solar powered, the sunlight falling on an area of a planet twice the size of the Earth would be enough to generate the needed energy. Such a vast construction project is well beyond our technology, but within the realm of possibility according to the laws of physics.

Lingam and Loeb also considered whether such a transmitter would be viable from an engineering perspective, or whether the tremendous energies involved would melt any underlying structure. Again, they found that a water-cooled device twice the size of Earth could withstand the heat.

They then asked, why build such an instrument in the first place? They argue that the most plausible use of such power is driving interstellar light sails. The amount of power involved would be sufficient to push a payload of a million tons, or about 20 times the largest cruise ships on Earth.

“That’s big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even intergalactic distances,” added Lingam.

An artist’s illustration of a light-sail powered by a radio beam (red) generated on the surface of a planet. The leakage from such beams as they sweep across the sky would appear as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), similar to the new population of sources that was discovered recently at cosmological distances.(M. Weiss/CfA)

To power a light sail, the transmitter would need to focus a beam on it continuously. Observers on Earth would see a brief flashbecause the sail and its host planet, star and galaxy are all moving relative to us. As a result, the beam sweeps across the sky and only points in our direction for a moment. Repeated appearances of the beam, which were observed but cannot be explained by cataclysmic astrophysical events, might provide important clues about its artificial origin.

Loeb admits that this work is speculative. When asked whether he really believes that any fast radio bursts are due to aliens, he replied, “Science isn’t a matter of belief, it’s a matter of evidence. Deciding what’s likely ahead of time limits the possibilities. It’s worth putting ideas out there and letting the data be the judge.”

The paper reporting this work has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available online.

The Dily Galaxy via CfA

Image credit top of page, with thanks to Shutterstock/Jurik Peter

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"Fast Radio Bursts Could Be Powering Alien Probes" –Harvard … – The Daily Galaxy (blog)

New survey finds ‘Peter Pan’ radio galaxies that may never grow up … – Science Daily


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New survey finds 'Peter Pan' radio galaxies that may never grow up …
Science Daily
A team of astronomers has doubled the number of known young, compact radio galaxies — galaxies powered by newly energized black holes. The improved …
Scientists Find 'Peter Pan' Radio Galaxies That Never Grow Up …Science Times

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New survey finds ‘Peter Pan’ radio galaxies that may never grow up … – Science Daily

Women in science: celebrating the leading females in physics, chemistry and beyond – Wired.co.uk

DrAfter123/iStock

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the outstanding women in the WIRED world. In the first of our round-ups, we highlighted the females blazing a trail in business and culture. Now, we celebrate the women of science. Each of these inspirational females is speaking at this year’s Starmus IV festival in Trondheim, Norway in June. On International Women’s Day, WIRED highlights the females changing the world

Read more about the discoveries and contributions to neuroscience, physics, astrophysics, astronomy and biology made by female scientists across the world.

As Norwegian professor of neuroscience and founding director of the Center for Neural Computation, May is interested in how spatial location and spatial memory are computed in the brain. Her work includes the discovery of grid cells in the entorhinal cortex, which provides clues to a neural mechanism for the metric of spatial mapping. Moser was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014, together with long-term collaborator Edvard Moser and John OKeefe for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain. Moser is also co-director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

Bailey is a British psychiatrist and academic who specialises in children’s mental health. Since 2004 she has been professor of child mental health at the University of Central Lancashire. In 1993, Bailey appeared as an expert witness in the James Bulger murder trial. She established that one of Bulger’s killers, Jon Venables, knew the difference between right and wrong: information that led to them being convicted of murder. In the 2002 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Bailey was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to Youth Justice” and in the 2014 she was promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) “for services to psychiatry and for voluntary service to people with mental health conditions”.

Professor Sara Seager is a planetary scientist and astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a pioneer in the world of exoplanets and her groundbreaking research ranges from the detection of exoplanet atmospheres to innovative theories about life on other worlds and the development of novel space mission concepts. She is known for inventing the method used to study exoplanet atmospheres today. Dubbed an “astronomical Indiana Jones”, Seager is on a quest for the discovery of a true Earth twin.

Hayhoe’s work has resulted in more than 120 peer-reviewed publications that evaluate global climate model performance, develop and compare downscaling approaches, and quantify the impacts of climate change on cities, states, ecosystems, and sectors over the coming century. She has been named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People and the Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers, as well as one of Politico’s 50 thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics.

Born and raised in India, Natarajan received undergraduate degrees in Physics and Mathematics at MIT. Now a theoretical astrophysicist at Yale, Natarajan is recognised for her seminal contributions to the study of dark matter and the formation and growth of black holes.

Best known for her role in deciphering the molecular mechanisms of CRISPR-Cas9, Charpentier’s lab discovered that Cas9 could be used to make cuts in any DNA sequence desired. Charpentier has been awarded several international prizes, awards, and acknowledgments including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Gruber Foundation International Prize in Genetics and the Leibniz Prize.

The director of the SETI Institute Carl Sagan Centre since August 2015, Cabrol is currently developing a new, multidisciplinary, roadmap to bridge astrobiology and the SETI search. She counts more than 470 peer-reviewed publications and proceedings of professional conferences.

Selected to the Nasa astronaut corps in 1996, Dr Magnus flew in space on the STS-112 shuttle mission in 2002, and on the final shuttle flight, STS-135, in 2011. In addition, she flew to the International Space Station on STS-126 in November 2008, served as flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 18, andreturned home on STS-119 after four and a half months on board. Following her assignment on Station, she served at NASA Headquarters in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Her last duty at NASA, after STS-135, was as the deputy chief of the Astronaut Office.

Dr Magnus has received numerous awards, including the Nasa Space Flight Medal, the Nasa Distinguished Service Medal, the Nasa Exceptional Service Medal, and the 40 at 40 Award (given to former collegiate women athletes to recognize the impact of Title IX).

Starmus IV, hosted by NTNU, runs from June 18 to June 23 in Trondheim, Norway, tickets available from http://www.starmus.com.

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Women in science: celebrating the leading females in physics, chemistry and beyond – Wired.co.uk

Indian women astronomers may be few, but they make us proud – DailyO

Birla planetariums are an attraction for children in many Indian cities. They literally open up the universe to young minds. This is what happened to a ten-year old girl from Daund in Maharashtra a few years ago on a visit to the Birla Planetarium in Kolkata. Today she is a budding astrophysicist engaged in cutting edge of astronomy hunting for exoplanets.

I was in Kolkata for marriage of a relative and thats when I saw a sky show for the first time. It was that moment I decided I wanted to be an astronomer, says Priyanka Chaturvedi, who just finished her PhD from theAhmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) run by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). She studied radial velocities of stars orbiting around exoplanets. Priyanka is now set to join the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

Most people who have travelled by train in Maharashtra know Daund as an important railway junction. Priyankas father is a railway employee. Since the town had few facilities for quality education, she moved to Pune to pursue BSc and then MSc at Fergusson College. We used to have long power cuts during summer in Daund, so we children used to watch stars. That interest has turned my profession now, she recalls. A visit to the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics while she was in 12th standard also greatly influenced her to pursue astronomy.

Priyanka is among the small number of women engaged in astronomy and astrophysics research in India. A survey of women in astronomy in India done a couple of years ago showed that only a miniscule number of women are in faculty positions in research institutes engaged in astrophysics research. This is also a global trend with the exception of Italy which has a good number of women astronomers.

Still, women scientists have reached high positions in astrophysics institutes and contributed to astounding discoveries in recent times. GC Anupama is dean of Faculty of Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. This institute runs Indias largest telescope Himalayan Chandra Telescope at Hanle in Ladakh. Data from this telescope was used in the recent discovery of “another world” or the new planetary system by NASA. She is also involved in other international mega science projects including the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Annapurni Subramaniam, also from IIA, is a senior scientist engaged in astronomical data collection from Ultra Violet Imaging Telescope currently working onboard Indias first astronomical satellite, Astrosat, launched in September 2015. Her research group recently reported how 6 billion old “vampire” stars prey on celestial bodies. Another leading astronomer is S Seetha, who heads the Space Science Programme Office at ISRO.

Yet astronomy is considered a tough option for women because observational astronomy involves working in nights at observatories which are usually located at far off locations. People are also not used to seeing women working in observatories. Visitors at Hanle used to be surprised finding a woman leading the observation team, recalled Anupama about her early experience.

Priyanka had to spend ten nights every month for observations at the Infrared Observatory of ISRO located at Mount Abu. I did not have much difficulty convincing my parents about this though they were little hesitant in the beginning, says Priyanka.

While the small number of women in astronomy is an issue, the Astronomical Society of India (ASI) is worried about overall shortage of professional astronomers in India which just 500 to of 700 of them. We need at least ten time this number given the fact that we are in the midst so many exciting mega science projects in which India is participating, says Sheo Kumar Pandey, president of ASI, which is holding its annual meeting in Jaipur currently. Hopefully more women will take up this stream of science and make many more exciting discoveries in future.

Meanwhile, Priyanaka says she plans to visit the Birla Planetarium in Jaipur taking time off from scientific deliberations at the ASI conference.

Also read -Why the world has always been a hard place for women scientists

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Indian women astronomers may be few, but they make us proud – DailyO

Iowa Newspaper Calls for Resignation of ‘Sizzler U’ Lawmaker – NBCNews.com

Iowa State Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa on Feb. 8, 2017. Charlie Neibergall / AP, file

The Republican lawmaker, who supporters have dubbed “the Donald Trump of Iowa,” got into hot water last week after

Ottumwa Courier publisher Wanda Moeller told NBC News this was the last straw for many in the rural town of 25,000 that Chelgren has represented since 2010.

“A lot of the public officials we spoke to over the weekend are just really upset by him,” she said. “He’s given the town a black eye. The first time he got elected it was just by 10 votes. The second time he won by 400. It’s going to be an uphill battle for him if he tries to run again.”

Chelgren, who did not immediately return a call for comment Monday, has denied inflating his resume and told NBC News he was not aware of the error on the GOP web site until a reporter asked him about it.

NBC began looking into Chelgren’s education background after he proposed controversial

Chelgren claimed his own experiences with “liberal professors” prompted him to put forward a plan to impose a hiring freeze until the number of registered Republicans and Democrats on university faculties were within 10 percent of each other.

Confronted with the discrepancy, the GOP removed the Forbco reference from Chelgren’s biography on the

At a rally on Saturday attended by about 60 people where he was introduced as “our own version of Donald Trump,” Chelgren

Chelgren makes no mention of any associates degree on the amended GOP web site, which now just states he attended the University of California at Riverside “majoring in astro-physics, geo-physics and mathematics.”

But Chelgren, who runs a wheelchair parts manufacturing firm called

A UCR spokesman has confirmed that Chelgren did attend the university, but just for one year and that he majored in physics and did not earned a degree.

“He did not complete his studies here,” spokesman John Warren told NBC News last week, adding that he was enrolled for just one year from 1992 to 1993.

On the Frog Legs site, Chelgren also claimed to have worked as manager and auditor for Forbco Management in Anaheim, an apparent reference to the Sizzler operation.

Sanchez, Rebecca (206453029)

Sizzler spokeswoman Janet Ritter told NBC she can confirm Chelgren was employed by Sizzler back in the early 90s.

“Sizzler does do internal training and development,” she said. “The certificate the Iowa senator claims to have would have qualified him to manage a Sizzler.”

Chelgren also declares on his company website that he worked as a “Geo-Physist for GeoSoils in Temecula,” which is a city in Riverside County, California.

The Iowa pol did not state on his company site when he worked for GeoSoils and the word “geophysicist” is misspelled.

Responding to a request from NBC News, Debbie Beach of GEO Soils Inc. said she would try to confirm that Chelgren had indeed employed by them. She also said they don’t have an office in Temecula.

“It’s in Murrieta, which is the town next door,” said Beach.

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Iowa Newspaper Calls for Resignation of ‘Sizzler U’ Lawmaker – NBCNews.com

Astronomer Ruth Murray-Clay appointed to chair in theoretical astrophysics – UC Santa Cruz (press release)

Astrophysicist Ruth Murray-Clay gave a brief overview of her research on planetary systems at the investiture ceremony. (Photos by Steve Kurtz)

James Gunderson described how he and his wife Valerie Boom were inspired to establish the E. K. Gunderson Family Chair in Theoretical Astrophysics.

Ruth Murray-Clay, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, was honored as the inaugural holder of the E. K. Gunderson Family Chair in Theoretical Astrophysics at an investiture ceremony on Wednesday, March 1, at the University Center.

The chair was established in 2016 with a $160,000 gift from James L. Gunderson and Valerie J. Boom to support recruitment of a faculty member in astronomy and astrophysics. The chair honors the work of Gunderson’s father, a psychologist whose work on human adaptation to confined and extreme conditions was used by NASA in understanding the implications of space travel.

Murray-Clay studies the formation and evolution of the solar system and of planetary systems around other stars. She explores a broad range of physical processes that contribute to the ultimate structure of planetary systems, including the evolution of the protoplanetary disk, planet formation, gravitational dynamics, and the evolution of atmospheres. She also studies objects in the outer reaches of our solar system for clues to its dynamical evolution.

“I am excited and honored to be here and to be the recipient of this chair,” said Murray-Clay, who joined the UCSC astronomy faculty in 2016. She received her bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy at Harvard University and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in astrophysics at UC Berkeley. In 2015, Murray-Clay won the Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy, which recognizes the exceptional contributions of astronomers under the age of 36.

Increasing support for faculty chairs is a priority of the Campaign for UC Santa Cruz, which has raised $311 million for the campus.The Gunderson Family Chair in Theoretical Astrophysics is a four-year term chair (not an endowed chair) specially designed to augment the startup funding the campus provides for new faculty. Paul Koch, dean of physical and biological sciences, said such chairs provide important support for a new faculty member’s research and graduate students. “The support from these chairs allows us to be competitive and attract the best faculty,” he said.

The Campaign for UC Santa Cruz supports excellence across the university through increased private investment in the people and ideas shaping the future. It is bringing critical new resources to the student experience, excellence in research, and the campus commitment to environmental and social justice.

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Astronomer Ruth Murray-Clay appointed to chair in theoretical astrophysics – UC Santa Cruz (press release)

Supernova clues from neutrinos – Nature.com

Neutrinos detected by Earth-based observatories could one day help to reveal the sequence of events that occur in supernovae.

When a white-dwarf star becomes too massive to support itself, the internal pressure is thought to trigger a runaway thermonuclear reaction followed by an explosion known as a Type Ia supernova but the events involved in the explosion are unknown. Warren Wright at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and his colleagues simulated a supernova and calculated the number of neutrinos it would generate, and the timing of their release, if the star’s gravity initially limited the explosion, and the nuclear reaction spread across the star’s entire surface before the star exploded.

This would create two distinct neutrino bursts that would be much fainter than the single burst that would be made by a faster explosion, which the team calculated in a previous study published last year. Over time, neutrino observatories searching for supernovae in our Galaxy should be able to use these predictions to tell whether either scenario is accurate, the authors say.

Phys. Rev. D 95, 043006 (2017)

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Supernova clues from neutrinos – Nature.com

What Has Astrophysics Done For You Lately? – Big Think

Alex Filippenko: One can wonder why does astronomy, or any sort of abstract pure research for that matter, make any difference to us to the typical person in the world? Well first of all thinking about the universe and figuring out how things work is something that of all animals only humans can do, only we have the intellect, the curiosity, the opposable thumb with which to build machines to explore nature. So some of us should do it. Second of all these kinds of discoveries, discoveries about the cosmos excite kids. I like to say that astronomy is the gateway science. It gets kids interested in science and technology because they hear about all these amazing discoveries. I myself as a kid was thrilled by the lunar landings of the Apollo mission. Now most kids won’t go on into astrophysics, but what they’ll do is they’ll study science and technology and they’ll go into fields that are more immediately useful to society, such as applied physics and engineering and computer science and medical physics. But the bug that bites them is often astronomy.

And finally you never know what practical spinoffs there might be and let me give you a few examples. A century ago when quantum physicists such as Einstein and Bohr and Heisenberg and Schrodinger were developing quantum physics they had not the slightest practical application in mind. They didn’t want to make a better toaster or a better bicycle or whatever. They wanted to understand the nature of light and why atoms exist, why atoms are stable, and other such questions of that sort that seem incredibly far removed from our everyday lives. Well fast forward a century, you could not imagine today’s high-tech world without an understanding of the microphysics, the quantum world. Look at the silicon revolution for example. Look at lasers. Look at nearly everything it all stems from quantum physics. Who would’ve thought that a century ago?

Another even perhaps more abstract idea is Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the theory that the presence of mass or energy curves or warps the shape of space and of time around it. So, for example, our sun forms a dimple in space and earth moves along its natural path through that dimple. So too earth forms a dimple and the moon moves along its natural path through that warped space. That’s what gravity is. Newton had a formula for gravitational attraction but he didn’t know what it was and Einstein came up with a theory. Well you might say who cares as long as gravity works what do we care what the exact mechanism is? Well, it turns out that Einstein’s theory makes predictions that are in subtle ways different from Newton’s predictions. And for things like the global positioning system, GPS, you have to take the effects of general relativity into account. The clocks in the satellites up in space, these satellites communicate with your device in your car, they run at a slightly faster speed than the clocks here on earth. And if that difference in the rate of passage of time had not been taken into account by the physicist and engineers who designed and built the GPS system, GPS wouldn’t work. So here’s something of incredible military and commercial value that simply would not work if we didn’t understand gravity in a fundamental way according to Einstein, this idea of curved space time.

So again, who would’ve thought that a century ago when Einstein was developing the general theory of relativity that it would have this incredible practical application? Sure we might never get close to a black hole, which is an extreme prediction of general relativity, but it doesn’t matter. The theory was developed, it’s beautiful, it excites kids and it even has practical applications. So with much of astronomy we don’t know what the spinoffs will be, but we do know that as humans we can accomplish these goals and we can also excite kids into pursuing areas of science and technology. And that in my opinion is really good.

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What Has Astrophysics Done For You Lately? – Big Think

Alaska Air Cargo Orders Astrophysics, Inc. Cargo X-ray Scanners – AviationPros.com

Alaska Air Cargo ordered Astrophysics Inc.XIS-1517DV 200kV X-ray scanners for its Pacific Northwest airline hubs. These X-ray systems will replace and upgrade aging cargo scanning equipment being phased out of service and standardize Astrophysics’ technology across the airline’s United States facilities.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires all cargo transported on passenger aircraft be 100 percent screened prior to being loaded onto planes. X-ray scanners used for cargo screening must be TSA-qualified and included in the agency’s list of approved screening technologies. Astrophysics is proud to have eight units qualified by TSA for cargo screening, including the XIS-1517DV 200kV ordered by Alaska Air Cargo.

Regarding the award, Astrophysics Inc. CEO Francois Zayek stated, “Our XIS-1517DV 200kV X-ray scanners are the perfect solution for Alaska’s critical mission. We are proud to add this machine to their inventory of Astrophysics products.”

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Alaska Air Cargo Orders Astrophysics, Inc. Cargo X-ray Scanners – AviationPros.com

Astronomy Enthusiasts Over The Moon After Exoplanet Discovery – Harvard Crimson

The discovery of seven Earth-sized planetsat least three of which may be able to support lifeorbiting a nearby star has thrilled Harvard astronomy scholars and enthusiasts.

A team of astronomers published findings in the journal Nature Feb. 22 that the seven planets40 light-years from Earthmay be prime candidates for extraterrestrial life forms. According to researchers, last weeks discovery is the first in which multiple Earth-sized planets were found orbiting the same star.

For Andrew W. Mayo 17, vice president of the Student Astronomers at Harvard-Radcliffe and a joint Physics and Astrophysics concentrator, the discovery brought pure excitement.

Mayo said last weeks findings mark the largest discovery in the exoplanet field since NASAs 2009 Kepler Space Mission, which found other Earth-sized planets much further away from Earth than Trappist-1, which the seven planets orbit. Because researchers found three planets in the habitable zone, he said, it was a much more interesting discovery than those made in the past.

David Charbonneau, an astronomy professor, said that the Kepler Mission revealed that small, rocky planets often orbit small stars. After the Kepler Mission concluded, Charbonneau and an astronomy graduate student conducted a follow-up study that found that about one in four stars have planets roughly the size and temperature of Earth. Charbonneau said, however, that the stars studied in the Kepler Mission were very far away.

Trappist-1s solar system, by contrast, is only 40 light-years away, which is relatively close for astronomical research and accessible via telescope. Charbonneau said that the relative closeness of the newly discovered planets means that astronomers may be able to study their properties and look for life.

Andrew M. Vanderburg, a graduate student studying planetary systems at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said he thinks the biggest thing these planets show is that were on the right track.

Mayo said he is excited to see further research on the Trappist-1 discovery.

Everyone who is involved in astronomy on campus is very intrigued by the discovery, and beyond that, I think were all excited to see what people find in the coming years, Mayo said. Theres a lot of follow-up to be done.

Vanderburg added that similar and follow-up projects are already happening at Harvard. Professor Charbonneaus MEarth project, for example, which also looks for exoplanets orbiting small stars, is similar to the project that found the Trappist-1 planets. The MEarth project specifically examines stars close to Earth and looks for rocky planets with the potential to sustain life.

According to Vanderburg, the Giant Magellan Telescope will be able to detect biosignatures, or certain molecules like methane, carbon, and oxygen which signal the presence of life. This and the other telescope projects will allow scientists to analyze the seven recently discovered planets and determine whether or not they contain life relatively soon, Vanderburg said.

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Astronomy Enthusiasts Over The Moon After Exoplanet Discovery – Harvard Crimson

Neural networks promise sharpest ever images – Science Daily

Neural networks promise sharpest ever images
Science Daily
But, when techniques such as machine learning emerge, astrophysics also provides a great test bed for tackling a fundamental computational question – how do we integrate and take advantage of the knowledge that humans have accumulated over …

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Neural networks promise sharpest ever images – Science Daily

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


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