Embedded in the community: Outstanding physics student is a third-generation ASU student – ASU Now

May 18, 2020

Editor's note:This story is part of a series of profiles ofnotable spring 2020 graduates.

Weighing the pros and cons, considering multiple variables, and a little bit of faith all roll into deciding where to pursue higher education. Fortunately for Department of Physics graduate Tanner Wolfram, the choice was simple. Wolfram enjoyed many travel opportunities during his undergraduate years. Photo courtesy of Tanner Wolfram. Download Full Image

An award-winning and published student, Wolfram is part of the third generation in his family to graduate from Arizona State University.

My family came to ASU forever, Wolfram said. My grandmother came here when I think it was still called Arizona State College. My mom went here, all of her sisters, my dad, and I think one of his siblings.

With such a rich history in his own family, Wolfram has had a front-row seat on ASU's evolution through decades of family stories.

My grandmother talks about how the original Palm Walk used to be different; she called it a small school, he said.

Patricia Reagan, Wolframs maternal grandmother, attended Arizona State College in 1953, before the 1958 vote to change the school name to the one we are used to today. And, in the past 60 years, that small school has sky-rocketed to a sprawling, innovative New American University with nearly 120,000 students spread across four campuses and several locations.

Thats one of the coolest things for me to see, maybe, being here just a little longer than a lot of students, said Wolfram. I got to see so many new buildings and so many new research areas develop here at ASU. To hear about them through emails, and things from the campus, and just to hear about all the progressions ASU is making, thats pretty cool."

Through family involvement in campus activities over the years, Wolfram saw the Tempe campus shift and evolve through his parents' eyes, listening to their stories and commentary on changes and new elements. Both his parents graduated from ASU in 1984.

When asked which changes seemed most remarkable, Wolframs father, Scott Wolfram, said, The addition of the whole science complex with Biodesign, theSchool of Earth and Space Explorationand then the addition of Barrett.

I think the new architectural designs are really beautiful. I also love the plant life that accents the campus, said Wolframs mother, Deborah Estrada. Im also really pleased that there are many places for the students to eat and hang out.

Wolframs earliest memory of ASU is of walking around the Tempe campus with his mother, who brought him to see the sights and also to participate in various campus activities for children, from bowling to violin lessons.

My mom says that the first thing I did at ASU was be part of the psychology child study lab. Obviously, I dont remember this, since I was something like 3 or 4, he said.

Wolfram remembers spending plenty of time in the Bateman Physical Sciences Center during events like ASUs Open Door, and Earth and Space Exploration Day. Fitting, then, that this is the building where he would spend so much time as a physics student.

Wolfram enjoys a broad range of interests and passions and loves to learn. In addition to school and community activities, both at ASU and otherwise, he grew up watching the Science Channel. As time went on and people started asking him what he wanted to do after graduation, he noticed a definite pattern in his favorite shows programs like Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Star Talk" and "How the Universe Works" heavily featured expert guests to explore varying topics.

I kept seeing their titles: astrophysicist, astrophysicist, Wolfram said.

He started as an astrophysics major, but soon switched to physics, not wanting to specialize too early.

I think that is the key, I really wanted a big foundation in physics, he said.

This foundation would help keep his options open and give him the freedom to explore his varied interests without the pressure of locking into a lifelong career path.

Wolfram likes options and has many interests besides his love of physics. In addition to his physics coursework, he enjoyed a wide range of extracurricular activities and completed two foreign language minors, Spanish and Chinese, and participated in a study abroad program in China.

He is very interested in politics, language, learning about new cultures and international relations. His many travel opportunities during his undergraduate years gave him insight, perspective and new experiences that he cant wait to take with him into whatever life holds in store next.

Building his solid foundation in physics, Wolfram also found new interests in his major. One of his favorite subjects, and perhaps his proudest accomplishment, was completing the full undergraduate quantum coursework including acing the notoriously difficult Quantum Physics III.

That one I worked really hard for, he said. It was a hard class. It was areallyhard class. The tests are very challenging; its very demanding. Im glad in the end that I had done enough to get the A.

Despite the level of difficulty, or perhaps because of it, Wolfram found he quite enjoyed abstract and theoretical topics.

Ive always liked things that are a little abstract, a little not-so-here, not so physical, he said. Problems and questions often stayed on his mind for weeks afterward.

I think I like the thinking side of it, he said. Just kind of sit with myself and ponder. You know, probably those were my favorite classes.

He also appreciated the close friendships formed with his classmates, as they all took on such challenging courses together.

I have to say, I really like the department here, thats a really big thing, said Wolfram.

It was a lot of fun because we would all be in the same classes. You know, we worked together, we generally studied together, so that was always fun, and kept things very interesting learning things with them and from them. That was one of the things I really liked about ASU.

Wolfram is currently considering graduate programs. Is there a chance he will end up moving into astrophysics, the topic that launched his undergraduate journey? Perhaps. He certainly hasnt lost his curiosity about the universe.

When asked what project he would tackle if suddenly gifted $40 million, he said he would devote it to furthering space exploration.

My personal viewpoint is that we have a lot of time (hopefully) here on Earth, but I think we should also spend part of that time trying to explore farther out, try to make new worlds, and new things, he said.

Thats probably way far in the distant future, he said. But if thats something I could have helped work on, getting people to different worlds even if I only contributed a little, minor thing that would be interesting.


Embedded in the community: Outstanding physics student is a third-generation ASU student - ASU Now

Peter Brancazio, Who Explored the Physics of Sports, Dies at 81 – The New York Times

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Peter J. Brancazio, a physics professor who debunked concepts like the rising fastball (physically impossible) and Michael Jordans apparently endless hang time (much shorter than fans believed), died on April 25 in Manhasset, N.Y. He was 81.

The cause was complications of the novel coronavirus, his son Larry said.

Professor Brancazio, who taught at Brooklyn College for more than 30 years, was one of a small number of sports-minded physicists whose research anticipated the use of the advanced statistics that are now accessible through computerized tracking technology. His work, which he began in the 1980s, was filled with terms like launching angle (how high a ball is hit, in degrees) and spin rate (the measurement of a pitch in revolutions per minute) that are now part of baseballs lingua franca. (Launch angle, not launching angle, is the term now widely used.)

Although he was obsessed with basketball, Professor Brancazio was best known for what he had to say about baseball, notably his explanation that a so-called rising fastball could not rise even if pitches thrown by fireballers like Nolan Ryan had seemingly been doing that for decades.

The rising fastball is an illusion, Professor Brancazio told The Kansas City Star in 1987.

Gravity, he said, makes everything fall, even baseballs, and no one can throw one fast enough and with enough spin to overcome gravitys natural force. The rising fastball just looks as if its rising, he said. Its really just not dropping as far as a typical fastball.

A fastball thrown at 90 miles per hour and 1,800 revolutions per minute would drop three feet when it reached home plate, he said. But a fastball that is thrown with still more backspin will fall only two and a half feet, a six-inch difference that creates the illusion of rising.

Professor Brancazio, whose tools included a calculator and a TRS-80 computer, wrote about his research in professional journals; in magazines like Popular Mechanics; and in the 1984 book Sport Science: Physical Laws and Optimum Performance.

Several fans were asked during the segment to guess how long Jordan seemed to hang in the air. Their guesses ranged from six to 10 seconds.

No, Professor Brancazio, said. Even Jordan was subject to gravity. His hang time was only 0.9 seconds.

Later that year, Professor Brancazio elaborated on the physics of hang time for Popular Mechanics. In an article about the science of slam dunks, he devised a formula that determined that a 36-inch vertical leap would equal hang time of 0.87 seconds and that a four-foot vertical leap would equal one second.

No small part of Jordans greatness is the fact that he seems to cover enormous horizontal distances in the air, Professor Brancazio wrote. He accentuates this illusion by releasing his shots on the way down, rather than at the peak of his trajectory.

Peter John Brancazio was born on March 22, 1939, in the Astoria section of Queens. His mother, Ann (Salomone) Brancazio, was an actuarial worker for The Hartford, an insurance company. His father, also named Peter, sorted mail for the Post Office.

When Professor Brancazio and his future wife, Ronnie Kramer, were dating as teenagers, she gave him a gift that would help guide him in his professional life: a telescope. It made him want to study astronomy, she said.

After graduating with a bachelors degree in engineering science from New York University in 1959, he Brancazio earned a masters in nuclear engineering from Columbia University a year later. He began teaching physics at Brooklyn College in 1963 while working toward a Ph.D. in astrophysics from N.Y.U.

During his 34 years at Brooklyn College, he was also a director of the colleges observatory.

Professor Brancazio wrote his first sports article, about basketball, for The American Journal of Physics in 1981. In it, he calculated the optimum launching angles for shots from various distances on the floor.

Having distilled the lessons of shooting on the schoolyards of Astoria, he found that a ball was best launched at an angle of 45 degrees, plus half the angle of the incline from the shooters hand to the front of the rim of the basket, or about 50 to 55 degrees.

He had, he admitted, a personal reason for writing the paper.

In truth, he wrote, the major purpose of this research was to find some means to compensate for the authors stature (5 10 in sneakers), inability to leap more than eight inches off the floor, and advancing age.

His intellectual detour into baseball, basketball and other sports enlivened his classes and made him part of a small group of physicists who brought science to sports, among them the Yale professor Robert Adair, who wrote the 1990 book The Physics of Baseball.

Michael Lisa, a professor of physics at the Ohio State University, said that when he did the research for his 2016 book The Physics of Sports, Professor Brancazios book had been an inspiration. His book is a favorite among physicists for its clear, accurate treatment, Professor Lisa said. d.

Professor Brancazio had no doubt that the people he most wanted to impress athletes would disdain his research. And he knew why, or at least why they did in the era before advanced training techniques transformed athletic achievement.

Larry Bird does not need to be told to release his shots at the optimum launching angle, he wrote in The American Journal of Physics in 1988, nor does Dwight Gooden have to understand the Magnus effect in order to throw a devastating curveball.

Professor Brancazio retired from Brooklyn College in 1997 and then briefly taught adult education courses there and at Queens College. He lectured on science, religion and astronomy at Hutton House, part of Long Island University, from 1999 until last year.

In addition to his wife and his son Larry, Professor Brancazio is survived by another son, David, and five grandchildren.

Professor Brancazio became a sought-after physicist in the news media when sports met science. During Game 1 of the 1991 World Series, for instance, CBS introduced SuperVision, a computerized animation of the path and speed of pitches. One pitch, by Jack Morris of the Minnesota Twins, clocked in at 94 miles per hour when it left his right hand and was the same speed when it landed in the catchers mitt.

CBSs analysts were impressed. But when asked a day later, Professor Brancazio said that a ball could not maintain the same speed on its path of 60 feet 6 inches.

The ball has to slow down by air resistance, he told The New York Times in 1991. No way it can maintain speed or pick up speed. It should lose 9 percent of its speed along the way.

The inventor of SuperVision acknowledged the error, saying that the speeds had probably been rounded off the ball might have left Morriss hand at 94.4 m.p.h. but had landed at 93.6.

A pitch that maintained its speed, it turned out, was as magical as a rising fastball.

Here is the original post:

Peter Brancazio, Who Explored the Physics of Sports, Dies at 81 - The New York Times

Scientists have discovered a star that is almost as old as the Universe, is in its last stages of life – Firstpost

FP TrendingMay 19, 2020 16:07:42 IST

A team of scientists has discovered a star that is nearly as old as the universe.

The study, which was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters, says that the star has already reached the last stages of its life.

According to a report in Science Alert, the red giant star named SMSS J160540.18144323.1 was found to have the lowest iron levels of any star yet analysed in the galaxy.

The report mentioned astronomer Thomas Nordlander of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions and the Australian National University as saying that the anaemic star likely formed just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. He added that the star has iron levels 1.5 million times lower than that of the Sun.

The formation of a star during the early Universe. Image Credit: Wise, Abel, Kaehler (KIPAC/SLAC)

Nordlander said the low iron levels indicate that the star is extremely old, as the very early Universe had no metals at all. The first stars were primarily made up of hydrogen and helium.

As per a report in Science News, the spectroscopic analysis showed the star had an iron content of just one part per 50 billion, which according to Nordlander is like one drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool.

The report added that the exploding star was just 10 times more massive than the Sun. It had exploded so feebly that the heavy elements had fallen back on the remnant neutron star itself.

Only a very small amount of newly-formed iron escaped the fallen star's gravity and went on to form a new star one of the first-second generation stars that has now been discovered.

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

Go here to read the rest:

Scientists have discovered a star that is almost as old as the Universe, is in its last stages of life - Firstpost

Russian Astrophysicists Trace Neutrinos Mysterious Ghost Particles From Where No One Had Expected – SciTechDaily

The Russian RATAN-600 telescope helps to understand the origin of cosmic neutrinos. Credit: Daria Sokol/MIPT Press Office

Russian researchers trace high-energy neutrino origins to black holes in far-off quasars.

Russian astrophysicists have come close to solving the mystery of where high-energy neutrinos come from in space. The team compared the data on the elusive particles gathered by the Antarctic neutrino observatory IceCube and on long electromagnetic waves measured by radio telescopes. Cosmic neutrinos turned out to be linked to flares at the centers of distant active galaxies, which are believed to host supermassive black holes. As matter falls toward the black hole, some of it is accelerated and ejected into space, giving rise to neutrinos that then coast along through the universe at nearly thespeed of light.

The study was published on May 12, 2020, in the Astrophysical Journal.

Neutrinos are mysterious particles so tiny that researchers do not even know their mass. They pass effortlessly through objects, people, and even entire planets. High-energy neutrinos are created when protons accelerate to nearly the speed of light.

The Russian astrophysicists focused on the origins of ultra-high-energy neutrinos, at 200 trillion electron volts or more. The team compared the measurements of the IceCube facility, buried inthe Antarctic ice, with a large number of radio observations. Theelusive particles were found toemerge during radio frequency flares at the centers of quasars.

Quasars are sources of radiation at the centers of some galaxies. They are comprised by amassive black hole that consumes matter floating in a disk around it and spews out extremely powerful jets of ultrahot gas.

Our findings indicate that high-energy neutrinos are born in active galactic nuclei, particularly during radio flares. Since both the neutrinos and the radio waves travel at the speed of light, they reach the Earth simultaneously, said the studys first author Alexander Plavin.

Plavin is a PhD student at Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences(RAS) and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. As such, he is one of the few young researchers to obtain results of that caliber at the outset of their scientific career.

After analyzing around 50 neutrino events detected by IceCube, the team showed that these particles come from bright quasars seen by a network of radio telescopes around the planet. The network uses the most precise method of observing distant objects in the radio band: very long baseline interferometry. This method enables assembling a giant telescope by placing many antennas across the globe. Among the largest elements of this network is the 100-meter telescope of the Max Planck Society in Effelsberg.

Additionally, theteam hypothesized that the neutrinos emerged during radio flares. To test this idea, the physicists studied the data of the Russian RATAN-600 radio telescope in the North Caucasus. The hypothesis proved highly plausible despite the common assumption that high-energy neutrinos are supposed to originate together with gamma rays.

Previous research on high-energy neutrino origins had sought their source right under the spotlight. We thought we would test an unconventional idea, with little hope of success. But we got lucky! Yuri Kovalev from Lebedev Institute, MIPT, and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy commented. The data from years of observations on international radio telescope arrays enabled that very exciting finding, and the radio band turned out to be crucial in pinning down neutrino origins.

At first the results seemed too good to be true, but after carefully reanalyzing the data, we confirmed that the neutrino events were clearly associated with the signals picked up by radio telescopes, Sergey Troitsky from the Institute for Nuclear Research of RAS added. We checked that association based on the data of yearslong observations of the RATAN telescope of the RAS Special Astrophysical Observatory, and the probability of the results being random is only 0.2%. This is quite a success for neutrino astrophysics, and our discovery now calls for theoretical explanations.

The team intends to recheck the findings and figure out the mechanism behind the neutrino origins in quasars using the data from Baikal-GVD, an underwater neutrino detector in Lake Baikal, which is in the final stages of construction and already partly operational. The so-called Cherenkov detectors, used to spot neutrinos including IceCube and Baikal-GVD rely on alarge mass of water or ice as a means of both maximizing the number of neutrino events and preventing the sensors from accidental firing. Of course, continued observations of distant galaxies with radio telescopes are equally crucial to this task.

Reference: Observational Evidence for the Origin of High-energy Neutrinos in Parsec-scale Nuclei of Radio-bright Active Galaxies by Alexander Plavin, Yuri Y. Kovalev, Yuri A. Kovalev and Sergey Troitsky, 12 May 2020, The Astrophysical Journal.DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab86bdarXiv: 2001.00930

Original post:

Russian Astrophysicists Trace Neutrinos Mysterious Ghost Particles From Where No One Had Expected - SciTechDaily

The Weight of the Universe Physicists Challenge the Standard Model of Cosmology – SciTechDaily

The Universe contains unimaginably many objects. Cosmologists are trying to weigh them all. ESO/T. Preibisc

Results from physicists in Bochum have challenged the Standard Model of Cosmology. Infrared data, which have recently been included in the analysis, could be decisive.

Bochum cosmologists headed by Professor Hendrik Hildebrandt have gained new insights into the density and structure of matter in the Universe. Several years ago, Hildebrandt had already been involved in a research consortium that had pointed out discrepancies in the data between different groups. The values determined for matter density and structure differed depending on the measurement method. A new analysis, which included additional infrared data, made the differences stand out even more. They could indicate that this is the flaw in the Standard Model of Cosmology.

Rubin, the science magazine of Ruhr-Universitt Bochum, has published a report on Hendrik Hildebrandts research. The latest analysis of the research consortium, called Kilo-Degree Survey, was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics in January 2020.

Cosmologist Hendrik Hildebrandt is looking for answers to fundamental questions about the Universe, for example how great the density of matter is in space. Credit: Roberto Schirdewahn

Research teams can calculate the density and structure of matter based on the cosmic microwave background, a radiation that was emitted shortly after the Big Bang and can still be measured today. This is the method used by the Planck Research Consortium.

The Kilo-Degree Survey team, as well as several other groups, determined the density and structure of matter using the gravitational lensing effect: as high-mass objects deflect light from galaxies, these galaxies appear in a distorted form in a different location than they actually are when viewed from Earth. Based on these distortions, cosmologists can deduce the mass of the deflecting objects and thus the total mass of the Universe. In order to do so, however, they need to know the distances between the light source, the deflecting object and the observer, among other things. The researchers determine these distances with the help of redshift, which means that the light of distant galaxies arrives on Earth shifted into the red range.

In order to determine the density of matter in the universe using the gravitational lensing effect, cosmologists look at distant galaxies, which usually appear in the shape of an ellipse. These ellipses are randomly oriented in the sky.On its way to Earth, the light from the galaxies passes high-mass objects, such as clusters of galaxies that contain large quantities of invisible dark matter. As a result light is deflected, and the galaxies appear distorted when viewed from Earth.Since the light travels a long way, it is repeatedly deflected by high-mass objects. Light from galaxies that are close to each other mostly passes the same objects and is thus deflected in a similar way.Neighboring galaxies therefore tend to be distorted in a similar way and point in the same direction, although the effect is exaggerated here. Researchers explore this tendency in order to deduce the mass of the deflecting objects.Credit: Agentur der RUB

To determine distances, cosmologists therefore take images of galaxies at different wavelengths, for example one in the blue, one in the green and one in the red range; they then determine the brightness of the galaxies in the individual images. Hendrik Hildebrandt and his team also include several images from the infrared range in order to determine the distance more precisely.

Previous analyses had already shown that the microwave background data from the Planck Consortium systematically deviate from the gravitational lensing effect data. Depending on the data set, the deviation was more or less pronounced; it was most pronounced in the Kilo-Degree Survey. Our data set is the only one based on the gravitational lensing effect and calibrated with additional infrared data, says Hendrik Hildebrandt, Heisenberg professor and head of the RUB research group Observational Cosmology in Bochum. This could be the reason for the greater deviation from the Planck data.

To verify this discrepancy, the group evaluated the data set of another research consortium, the Dark Energy Survey, using a similar calibration. As a result, these values also deviated even more strongly from the Planck values.

High-mass objects in the Universe are not perfect lenses. As they deflect light, they create distortions. The resulting images appear like looking through the foot of a wine glass. Credit: Roberto Schirdewahn

Scientists are currently debating whether the discrepancy between the data sets is actually an indication that the Standard Model of Cosmology is wrong or not. The Kilo-Degree Survey team is already working on a new analysis of a more comprehensive data set that could provide further insights. It is expected to provide even more precise data on matter density and structure in spring 2020.

Reference: KiDS+VIKING-450: Cosmic shear tomography with optical and infrared data by H. Hildebrandt, F. Khlinger, J. L. van den Busch, B. Joachimi, C. Heymans, A. Kannawadi, A. H. Wright, M. Asgari, C. Blake, H. Hoekstra, S. Joudaki, K. Kuijken, L. Miller, C. B. Morrison, T. Trster, A. Amon, M. Archidiacono, S. Brieden, A. Choi, J. T. A. de Jong, T. Erben, B. Giblin, A. Mead, J. A. Peacock, M. Radovich, P. Schneider, C. Sifn and M. Tewes, 13 January 2020, Astronomy & Astrophysics.DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201834878

Read the original here:

The Weight of the Universe Physicists Challenge the Standard Model of Cosmology - SciTechDaily

Hot Super-Earth Discovered Orbiting Ancient Star | Astronomy – Sci-News.com

An international team of astronomers has discovered a close-in super-Earth exoplanet in the HD 164922 planetary system.

An artists impression of the super-Earth exoplanet HD 164922d. Image credit: Sci-News.com.

HD 164922 is a bright G9-type star located approximately 72 light-years away in the constellation of Hercules.

Also known as Gliese 9613 or LHS 3353, the star is slightly smaller and less massive than the Sun and is 9.6 billion years old.

HD 164922 is known to host two massive planets: the temperate sub-Neptune HD 164922c and the Saturn-mass planet HD 164922b in a wide orbit.

The sub-Neptune is 12.9 times more massive than Earth, and orbits the parent star once every 75.8 days at a distance of 0.35 AU (astronomical units).

The Saturn-like planet has a mass 0.3 times that of Jupiter and an orbital period of 1,201 days at a distance of 2.2 AU.

In a new study, Dr. Serena Benatti from the INAF Astronomical Observatory of Palermo and colleagues searched for additional low-mass planets in the inner region of the HD 164922 system.

The astronomers analyzed 314 spectra of the host star collected by HARPS-N (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher for the Northern hemisphere), a spectrograph on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain.

We monitored this target in the framework of the Global Architecture of Planetary Systems (GAPS) project focused on finding close-in low-mass companions in systems with outer giant planets, they said.

The team detected an additional inner super-Earth with a minimum mass of 4 times that of the Earth.

Named HD 164922d, the planet orbits the star once every 12.5 days at a distance of 0.1 AU.

This target will not be observed with NASAs Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS), at least in Cycle 2, to verify if it transits, the researchers said.

Dedicated observations with ESAs CHarachterizing ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS) could be proposed, but they can be severely affected by the uncertainty on the transit time.

The teams paper will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.


S. Benatti et al. 2020. The GAPS Programme at TNG XXIII. HD 164922 d: a close-in super-Earth discovered with HARPS-N in a system with a long-period Saturn mass companion. A&A, in press; arXiv: 2005.03368

Continue reading here:

Hot Super-Earth Discovered Orbiting Ancient Star | Astronomy - Sci-News.com

Exploring Astronomy Club and enduring COVID-19 The Mesa Press – Mesa Press

Astronomy Club is the only club at San Diego Mesa College that allows you to explore all that lies beyond the planet on which we live. Between the study, exploration and discovery of countless planets, stars, galaxies, comets, asteroids, and the infinite concept of space itself, its easy to see why astronomy is such a uniquely sought-after field of study. Marie Yokers, a student majoring in astrophysics, is the Astronomy Clubs current president. Upon attending the virtual presentation given by Jonny Kim, An Evening with an Astronaut on April 29, I noticed the event was organized by the San Diego Mesa Astronomy Club and reached out to its president.

Astronomy Club was originally founded in the fall semester of 2018 by Alexander Beltzer-Sweeney as founding president, with Ana Parra, Alex Hewett and Danny Rosales fulfilling the remaining crucial positions within the club.

The idea of a club based in science may sound off-putting to some, but Yokers extended this message to those unsure, I want to mimic what Dr. Kim had said, which was, Space is for everyone. It doesnt belong to anyone. The demographic absolutely reflects this sentiment. People come in from all walks of life, all ages, and all different experiences.

Space is vast, unknown, abstract, daunting and even confusing to some, but why is it important? Astronomy may not have daily applications like mathematics or English, but rather encompasses a broader realm of both academics and interest.

Yokers described the importance of this complex subject stating, Astronomy has played such a deep role in the development of the human race with agriculture, travel, culture, religion, etc. This begs the question, if astronomy is a more complex, all-encompassing subject, then how is it any less important than other subjects deemed essential? It isnt any less important. Astronomy is a field of study that observes all that lies outside of our atmosphere, and utilizes the knowledge and practices of physics, biology, geology and mathematics to continually broaden our understanding of the universe. These key traits, the nagging acknowledgement that there are many things we dont have answers for and the fascination with the possibility of life found outside of the world we know make astronomy a study, field, and practice all its own.

According to American Astronomical Society, astronomy is a rather small field in terms of career, which incidentally leads to high levels of competition for open positions.

If you browse classes online, Astronomy is a class offered at Mesa, so how is Astronomy club different from the class? First, its a club, and beyond that, Astronomy Club has its own constitution which includes the following two goals, To promote interest in astronomy and related space sciences on the San Diego Mesa College campus. Provide opportunities for members to learn more about astronomy & related space sciences through club outings, lectures, work-based learning opportunities, and internships.

Astronomy Club operates through a balance of volunteering, education and discussions. Due to COVID-19 shifts have been made. If you find yourself wondering what types of things happen in Astronomy Club, Yokers identified a few including film discussions, attending talks such as the one held at the Fleet Science Center earlier this year, attending the Astronomy Associations Star Parties which allows amateur astronomers to observe, practice and congregate in a fun learning environment, and various other activities. In the words of Yokers, Basically, if its space-related, we try to jump in to learn and have fun!

After taking a two-year hiatus break from school to work, Yokers returned in 2018 to revisit her interest in astrophysics and took Astronomy 101 at Mesa. About her choice to enroll in the class, It was the first class that I actually had a passion to do well in, and it was the first class that I really connected with the professor (Dr. Stojimirovic). I confided in Dr. Stojimirovic about wanting to pursue astrophysics as a career and she really helped push me in the correct direction.

It was at this point that Yokers found a role in Astronomy Club as treasurer and grew with it. Yokers went on to say, If I did not take that chance- I would not have met the great network of people that I have so much to credit to today.

Busy class or work schedules, the idea exploring personal interests, and the pressure to pursue the right education and career path can get overwhelming. Finding encouragement or inspiration from your family, a club, a friend or professor can give you the extra boost you may have needed.

At the moment, COVID-19 has taken a toll on classes, jobs, student clubs, businesses, and leisurely activities alike, yet strides are being made to ensure Astronomy Clubs continuance. Dont settle for locking yourself in your room with your now dust-coated textbooks, Yokers encouraged, My motto for the club post-virus has been keep moving forward. Would I step away from my physics homework for this event? If its a yes, then the event is a go.

At this time, Astronomy Club consists mainly of movie nights, game nights and discussion, with the occasional lecture found easily online. Among the present changes, Yokers mentioned the voting of new officers is hopefully taking place within the next two weeks, inviting anyone interested to reach out to the club email, astroclubmesa@gmail.com.

Astronomy Club meetings happen every Wednesday from 5:30 7 p.m., through Zoom for the time being. Once students are able to return to campus, the club meetings will be at the STEM Center.

With many student clubs derailed by COVID-19, and social distancing leading to feelings of loneliness and even lack of direction or drive, Astronomy Club will take you to the cosmos.

See the rest here:

Exploring Astronomy Club and enduring COVID-19 The Mesa Press - Mesa Press

Astronomers Find Earth’s Closest Black Hole (So Far) – The Wire

Featured image: An artists impression depicts the orbits of the two stars and the black hole in the HR 6819 triple system, made up of an inner binary with one star (orbit in blue) and a newly discovered black hole (orbit in red), as well as a third star in a wider orbit (also in blue), in this image released on May 6, 2020. Photo: ESO/L. Calcada/Handout via Reuters

Washington: Astronomers have spotted the closestblackholeto Earth ever discovered and are surprised about its living arrangements residing harmoniously with two stars in a remarkable celestial marriage that may end in a nasty breakup.

Theblackhole, at least 4.2 times the mass of the sun, is gravitationally bound to two stars in a so-called triple system roughly 1,000 light years from Earth, researchers said on Wednesday.

Just around the corner in cosmic terms, said Chile-based European Southern Observatory astronomer Thomas Rivinius, lead author of the study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

Blackholes are extraordinarily dense objects possessing gravitational pulls so powerful that not even light can escape. Some are monstrous like the one at our galaxys centre 26,000 light years from Earth that is four million times the suns mass.

Also read: A Surprisingly Big Black Hole Might Have Swallowed a Star From the Inside Out

Garden variety so-called stellar-massblackholes like the newly discovered one have the mass of a single star. This one probably began its life as a star up to 20 times the suns mass that collapsed into ablackholeat the end of its relatively short lifespan.

This triple system, called HR 6819, can be seen from Earths southern hemisphere with the naked eye, in the constellation Telescopium. Until now, the closest-knownblackholewas one perhaps three times further away.

Only a few dozen stellar-massblackholes previously were known. But there may be hundreds of millions or even a billion of them in the Milky Way, said astrophysicist and study co-author Petr Hadrava of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

Thisblackhole, detected using an observatory in Chile, is minding its manners and has not shredded its two partners: stars about five or six times the mass of the sun. At least not yet.

The formation of ablackholeis a violent process, and most models would not have predicted a triple system could survive that but rather would fly apart, Rivinius said.

Theblackholeforms a pair with one of the two stars, as near to one another as the Earth is to the sun. The other star is much further away, orbiting the pair. This star spins so rapidly that it is misshapen, bulging at the equator.

The two stars are sufficiently distant from theblackholethat it is not pulling material from them. But in a few million years the closer star is expected to grow in size as part of its life cycle.

What happens then is uncertain, Rivinius said. The most spectacular outcome would be if theblackholeends up with that star inside it.


Read the rest here:

Astronomers Find Earth's Closest Black Hole (So Far) - The Wire

A long-lost type of dark matter may resolve the biggest disagreement in physics – Times Famous

One of the deepest mysteries in physics, known as the Hubble tension, could be explained by a long-since vanished form of dark matter.

The Hubble tension, as Live Science has previously reported, refers to a growing contradiction in physics: The universe is expanding, but different measurements produce different results for precisely how fast that is happening. Physicists explain the expansion rate with a number, known as the Hubble constant (H0). H0 describes an engine of sorts thats driving things apart over vast distances across the universe. According to Hubbles Law (where the constant originated), the farther away something is from us, the faster its moving.

And there are two main ways of calculating H0. You can study the stars and galaxies we can see, and directly measure how fast theyre moving away. Or you can study the cosmic microwave background (CMB), an afterglow of the Big Bang that fills the entire universe, and encodes key information about its expansion.

Related: The 11 Biggest Unanswered Questions About Dark Matter

As the tools for performing each of these measurements have gotten more precise, however, its become clear that CMB measurement and direct measurements of our local universe produce incompatible answers.

Researchers have offered different explanations for the disparity, from problems with the measurements themselves to the possibility we live in a low-density bubble within the larger universe. Now, a team of physicists is suggesting that the universe might have fundamentally changed between the time after the Big Bang and today. If an ancient form of dark matter decayed out of existence, that loss would have changed the mass of the universe; and with less mass, there would be less gravity holding the universe together, which would have impact the speed at which the universe expands leading to the contradiction between the CMB and the direct measurements of the universes expansion rate.

There was a time, decades ago, when physicists suspected dark matter might be hot zipping around the universe at close to the speed of light, said Dan Hooper, head of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and co-author of the new paper. But by the mid-1980s they were convinced that this unseen stuff that makes up most of the mass of the universe is likely slower-moving and cold. Physicists refer to the mostly widely-accepted model of the universe as Lambda-CDM, for Cold Dark Matter.

Still, Hooper told Live Science, the idea of warm dark matter a form of dark matter that falls somewhere in between the hot and cold models still gets some traction in the physics world. Some physicists speculate that dark matter is made of sterile neutrinos, for example, theoretical ghostly particles that barely interact with matter. This hypothetical dark matter would be much warmer than typical Lambda-CDM models allow, but not hot.

Another possibility is that most of the dark matter is cold, but maybe some of it is warm. And in our paper, the stuff thats warm isnt even stuff thats around today. Its stuff that was created in the early universe and after thousands or tens of thousands of years it started to decay. Its all gone by now, Hooper said.

Related: 11 fascinating facts about our Milky Way galaxy

That lost dark matters mass would have represented a significant chunk of the total mass of the universe when it existed, leading to a different expansion rate when the CMB formed just after the Big Bang. Now, billions of years later, it would be long gone. And all the stars and galaxies we can measure would be moving away from us at speeds determined by the universes current mass.

When you measure the local Hubble constant youre really measuring that thing: Youre measuring how fast things are moving apart from one another, youre measuring how fast space is expanding, Hooper said. But translating the CMB data into an expansion rate requires using a model, such as the Lambda-CDM. So if you get different measurements from the local measurements and the CMB measurement, maybe that models wrong.

Local measurements measurements of the region of space close enough to Earth for astronomers to precisely measure the speed and distance of individual objects dont require cosmological models to interpret, so theyre typically seen as more straightforward and robust.

Some researchers have still suggested there may be problems with our measurements of the local universe. But most attempts to resolve the Hubble tension involve tweaking Lambda-CDM somehow. Usually, they add something to the model that changes how the universe expands or evolves. This paper, Hooper said, is another step down that road.

Im not going to give the impression that it makes everything great, he said. Its not a perfect concordance among the data by any means. But it makes the tension less severe I dont know of any solution to this, other than the measurements are wrong, that reduces the tension [as much as youd need to fully solve the problem].

Hoopers original proposal to his collaborators on the paper didnt involve warm dark matter at all, he said. Instead, he imagined a second, lost form of cold dark matter. But when they started to test that idea, he said, they found that this extra cold dark matter was screwing up the whole structure of the universe. Stars and galaxies formed in ways that didnt match what we see around us in the universe today. The decayed, lost form of dark matter, they concluded, had to be warm if it was going to fit observations.

The new paper doesnt determine what particles the lost dark matter might be made of, but strongly suggests that warm dark matter might have been made up of sterile neutrinos particles that other physicists also believe are likely out there.

Its definitely the thing that requires the fewest number of tooth fairies to make work, Hooper said. But other possibilities exist.

Whatever it is though, it must have turned into something even more exotic and feebly interacting when it decayed. Matter cant just stop existing; it has to transform into something else. If that something else were distributed differently through the universe, or interacted differently with other particles in the universe, that would change how the universe expanded.

So wed be surrounded in a bath of this dark radiation, Hooper said. Were already surrounded in a bath of neutrinos so this would just be a little bit more of that kind of stuff. Some sort of bath that fills the universe today of very, very inert forms of matter.

For now, researchers dont have methods for probing the for this sort of hidden radiation, Hooper said, so the idea remains speculative. The paper was published to the arXiv database April 13.

Originally published on Live Science.

Click Here To Read More

Like Loading...


View post:

A long-lost type of dark matter may resolve the biggest disagreement in physics - Times Famous

Student mothers describe increased stressors as COVID-19 mixes home and work – Daily Northwestern

On a regular weekday during the COVID-19 pandemic, graduate students like Heather McCambly and Nikki McDaid-Morgan are teaching classes, grading and meeting with students while providing childcare.

McCambly, a SESP Ph.D. student who is in her fourth year studying racial justice, is collecting data on the pandemic while full-time parenting her 4-year-old daughter and ensuring she is emotionally supported.

Im trying to figure out how to help my kid keep learning and also mostly just be OK, McCambly said. (My child is) definitely feeling whats going on in the world and on this planet right now. And she needs a lot of attention.

Life-work balance has become difficult for many amid coronavirus, as remote work pushes the office into living spaces. Parents have had to balance childcare duties with professional duties. Women already bore the brunt of domestic work in heterosexual couples a dynamic highlighted further by the pandemic.

McCambly recently took her daughter to see a doctor because she was showing symptoms related to stress part of which comes from the drastic transition from daycare to homeschooling due to the pandemic.

Going to the doctors office during the pandemic, McCambly said, didnt feel safe. The experience compounded the stress.

I might put being a researcher before most things in my life, McCambly said. And for better or for worse.

Between McCambly and her husband, she said he performs more childcare than she does. Yet she told The Daily she still finds herself completing less and less academic work.

Shes not alone. Academic journal committees across subjects have seen the number of article submissions by female-identifying researchers plummet, with a deputy editor of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science noting that she has never seen anything like it.

Even though not all female-identifying researchers are mothers or caregivers for elderly parents, they are more burdened with completing domestic work in heterosexual relationships, with childcare being one such task.

Disciplines such as astrophysics have witnessed up to 50 percent productivity loss, with submissions by female researchers to academic journalists noticeably decreasing. Comparative Political Studies, a journal that publishes on a subject less disproportionately male-dominated than astrophysics, has seen a consistent number of submissions by women this year and a 50 percent increase by men.

McDaid-Morgan, another SESP Ph.D. student who has two children, said she said she felt hyper-productive before the coronavirus closed Northwesterns campus.

Now, her timeline has been pushed back. McDaid-Morgans dissertation proposal, which she she was due to defend last month, has been delayed. Her 4-year-old is bedwetting again, partially due to stress. On top of this, the student is expected to produce the same level of academic work.

My identity is wrapped up in being a researcher and an educator and a learning scientist, McDaid-Morgan said. Now that we cant be on campus anymore, my own mental health has declined and its hard for me to get work done.

In the past, McDaid-Morgan tried to separate work from home because doing work at home may lead to the children feeling neglected. Now, she said she has no choice.

Both doctoral candidates told The Daily that they are a skewed example, as their partners play an equal or larger role in parenting and other household duties. They said they know a colleague whose partner is an essential worker and has to raise three children.

At the same time, both McCambly and McDaid-Morgans husbands are temporarily unemployed due to the pandemic. Academia is already a precarious workforce. If they graduate on course, they may not be entering a desirable job market.

Its really taking a lot out of me emotionally to reconcile, McCambly said. Ive done all the right things, Im continuing to do the right thing. I love my work. And I cannot count on my university right now to kind of have my back in this moment (and) long term in terms of making sure that I can pursue the academic career I came here to pursue.

Northwestern University Graduate Workers have been advocating for an additional year of funding since April through the hashtag #universal1yr and other organizing efforts.

The University has not acted to extend an additional year of funding to graduate students in light of the pandemic, despite receiving numerous endorsements of #universal1yr from the political science department, African American Studies department, the School of Communication and more.

During NUGWs May 1 virtual sit-in, Alcia Hernndez Grande, a Ph.D. candidate, said that doing graduate work and taking care of her young daughter full-time during a pandemic has taken away time from her studies.

As a graduate student (and) parent, my work time is limited, Hernndez Grande said. I am trying to do the best that I can, but without childcare, without the possibility of childcare, without knowing when childcare might be available, I am at the mercy of nap-times, I am at the mercy of my own energy levels as I try to do full-time parenting.

On the other side of the situation, the loss of time also takes away formative opportunities for children. McDaid-Morgan, who is from the Shoshone-Bannock Nation, helps design a summer program for indigenous youths. There, her children are able to interact and be part of the community. Due to the coronavirus, the camp is not happening this summer.

Adults are dealing with similar losses. McDaid-Morgan and McCambly, who is Latinx, are from communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. McDaid-Morgan said that Native Americans in Seattle who she collaborates with for research told her that instead of the funding and personal protective gear tribes asked for, the federal government sent them body bags.

At Northwestern, McDaid-Morgan used to go to the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research to meet up with members of the community. Now, she cant and said she is tired of sitting in front of computers to socialize.

Were all missing our community, McDaid-Morgan said. Its hard, and then its lonely.

Email: yunkyokim2022@u.northwestern.eduTwitter: @yunkyomoonk

Related Stories: Graduate workers hold #universal1yr rally on International Workers Day to highlight academic worker concerns Faculty and staff juggle parenting with remote work

Read the rest here:

Student mothers describe increased stressors as COVID-19 mixes home and work - Daily Northwestern

UWMadison announces its fourth round of cluster hires – University of Wisconsin-Madison

Artificial intelligence, ethics in technology, the origins of life, astrophysical data these exciting but complex subjects are the focus of the University of WisconsinMadisons fourth round of cluster hires, the Office of the Provost announced today.

The hires, which are made as a group across departments rather than individually within departments, build upon the universitys existing strengths. They foster collaborative research, education and outreach by creating new interdisciplinary areas of knowledge.

UWMadison first launched the Cluster Hiring Initiative in 1998 as an innovative partnership between the university, state and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. In its first phase, the initiative authorized nearly 50 clusters, adding nearly 150 new faculty members through several rounds of hiring. In 2017, the Office of the Provost authorized phase two of the initiative, with a goal of supporting at least 12 clusters.

Previous clusters were announced in April 2019 andSeptemberandFebruaryof 2018. This latest round brings the total of clusters supported to 19. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, each cluster will be given at least two years to complete its hiring plans. New cluster competition will be suspended for at least the next academic year.

The latest cluster hires are:

Artificial Intelligence in Precision Medical Imaging and Diagnostics

Proposal advanced by: Thomas Grist, professor of radiology, medical physics and biomedical engineering; Kristin Eschenfelder, associate director of the School of Computing, Data and Information Sciences; Rob Nowak, professor of electrical and computer engineering, computer sciences, statistics and biomedical engineering; Vallabh Sambamurthy, dean of the Wisconsin School of Business.

Through new approaches to data acquisition and analysis, advances in artificial intelligence are poised to revolutionize the way in which medical imaging affects clinical care and scientific discoveries in medicine. This cluster outlines three key faculty positions that will be foundational to an expansion of UWMadisons leadership in the field. It will also address urgent opportunities for curriculum development in areas of interest to multiple colleges and schools on campus and extramural entities.

Next-generation medical imaging uses AI techniques to improve its diagnostic accuracy and predictive power, enabling advances in basic understanding of human disease, treatment monitoring and long-term surveillance of disease.

Collaborations like those forged by the cluster hire will contribute to the realization of the full potential of AI for precision medical imaging and diagnostics.

Ethics in Computing, Data, and Information

Proposal advanced by: Alan Rubel, professor in the Information School and director of the Center for Law, Society and Justice; Michael Titelbaum, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy; Loris DAntoni, professor of computer sciences; Aws Albarghouthi, professor of computer sciences; Noah Weeth Feinstein, director of the Holtz Center for Science, Technology and Society and a professor of curriculum and instruction and community and environmental sociology.

Computational systems, data analytics, artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision systems affect large and important facets of society, including governance, education, commerce, democracy and media. These tools can be used to advance social goods, but they can also go awry, used for bad purposes by bad actors. The tools can also reflect and engender unfair social structures.

To effectively address ethical issues in AI, data, and information systems requires collaboration between scholars working on computational systems, on the social facets of information technologies, and on conceptual and moral questions about how such systems function and how they are used.

UWMadison is well-positioned to be a world leader in these areas because of its current strengths and existing collaborations. The cluster proposes hiring three faculty members working on distinct facets of the ethics of computing, data and information.

Exploring the Origins of Life Across the Galaxy

Proposal advanced by: Sebastian Heinz, professor and chair of astronomy; David Baum, professor of botany; Judith Burstyn, professor and chair of chemistry; Greg Tripoli, professor and chair of atmospheric and oceanic sciences; Jeff Hardin, professor and chair of integrative biology; Ken Cameron, professor and chair of botany; Chuck DeMets, professor and chair of geoscience; Annie Bauer, assistant professor of geoscience; Tristan LEcuyer, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences; Robert Mathieu, professor of astronomy; Steve Meyers, professor of geoscience; Phillip Newmark, professor of integrative biology; Andrew Vanderburg, assistant professor of astronomy; Susanna Widicus Weaver, professor of chemistry; John Yin, professor of chemical and biological engineering; Tehshik Yoon, professor of chemistry; Ke Zhang, assistant professor of astronomy.

Questions about the origins and nature of life are as old as humanity itself. Today, the search for understanding the origin of life extends to the cosmos, as recent work has uncovered countless planets orbiting stars throughout the Milky Way, each potentially bearing life of its own. But how do we detect life on planets we can never visit? And how do we know how common life might be if we dont know how it arose on Earth?

The search for evidence of life on other planets is by nature interdisciplinary. Chemistry, biology and geoscience combine to understand how life arose on our planet and how it might have done so on other worlds, while astronomy and atmospheric sciences can probe for evidence of that life from light-years away. This cluster will allow the hiring of researchers who straddle these fields and who can bridge the gaps between expertise across the participating departments. The group will also establish the Wisconsin Center for Origins Research to house new and existing faculty and encourage new collaborations in astrobiology.

Breakthrough Science with Multi-messenger Astrophysical Data

Proposal advanced by: Albrecht Karle, professor of physics; Keith Bechtol, assistant professor of physics; Francis Halzen, professor of physics; Kael Hanson, professor of physics; Sebastian Heinz, professor and chair of astronomy; Sebastian Raschka, assistant professor of statistics; Justin Vandenbroucke, associate professor of physics; Jun Zhu, professor and chair of statistics; Ellen Zweibel, professor of astronomy.

For millennia, humans learned about the night sky only from the light from distant stars. But recently, astrophysicists have gained access to signals that go beyond light. These messengers about the universe include gravitational waves and neutrinos ghostly particles that rarely interact with other matter. UWMadison is the headquarters of the worlds largest neutrino observatory, IceCube, which surveys a billion tons of Antarctic ice for signs of rare neutrino collisions.

Now, the IceCube project is preparing for a major upgrade to generation two. This cluster hire will invest in the astronomy, physics and statistics faculty necessary to continue and expand UWMadisons leadership in multi-messenger astrophysics. This data-heavy field requires collaborations between these three fields to probe the constant stream of information recorded by IceCube and to find the sources of the neutrinos that stream toward Earth. That analysis can help answer fundamental questions about the physical laws governing the universe and help us understand complex phenomena like black holes and cosmic rays.

Share via Facebook

Share via Twitter

Share via Linked In

Share via Email

See the rest here:

UWMadison announces its fourth round of cluster hires - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Search For Intelligent Alien Life: Galaxies That Are More Likely to Harbor Technologically Advanced Civilizations – SciTechDaily

Galaxies such as our own Milky Way are more likely to harbor intelligent, technologically advanced civilizations.

Giant elliptical galaxies are not as likely as previously thought to be cradles of technological civilizations such as our own, according to a recent paper by a University of Arkansas astrophysicist.

The paper, published May 1 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, contradicts a 2015 study that theorized giant elliptical galaxies would be 10,000 times more likely than spiral disk galaxies such as the Milky Way to harbor planets that could nurture advanced, technological civilizations.

The increased likelihood, the authors of the 2015 study argued, would be because giant elliptical galaxies hold many more stars and have low rates of potentially lethal supernovae.

But Daniel Whitmire, a retired professor of astrophysics who is an instructor in the U of A mathematics department, believes that the 2015 study contradicts a statistical rule called the principle of mediocrity, also known as the Copernican Principle, which states that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, an object or some property of an object should be considered typical of its class rather than atypical.

Historically, the principle has been employed several times to predict new physical phenomena, such as when Sir Isaac Newton calculated the approximate distance to the star Sirius by assuming that the sun is a typical star and then comparing the relative brightness of the two.

The 2015 paper had a serious problem with the principle of mediocrity, said Whitmire. In other words, why dont we find ourselves living in a large elliptical galaxy? To me this raised a red flag. Any time you find yourself as an outlier, i.e. atypical, then that is a problem for the principle of mediocrity.

He also had to show that most stars and therefore planets reside in large elliptical galaxies in order to nail down his argument that the earlier paper violated the principle of mediocrity.

According to the principle of mediocrity, Earth and its resident technological society should be typical, not atypical, of planets with technological civilizations elsewhere in the universe. That means that its location in a spiral-shaped disk galaxy should also be typical. But the 2015 paper suggests the opposite, that most habitable planets would not be located in galaxies similar to ours, but rather in large, spherical-shaped elliptical galaxies.

In his paper, Whitmire suggests a reason why large elliptical galaxies may not be cradles of life: They were awash in lethal radiation when they were younger and smaller, and they went through a series of quasar and star-burst supernovae events at that time.

The evolution of elliptical galaxies is totally different than the Milky Way, said Whitmire. These galaxies went through an early phase in which there is so much radiation that it would just completely have nuked any habitable planets in the galaxy and subsequently the star formation rate, and thus any new planets, went to essentially zero. There are no new stars forming and all the old stars have been irradiated and sterilized.

If habitable planets hosting intelligent life are unlikely in large elliptical galaxies, where most stars and planets reside, then by default galaxies such as the Milky Way will be the primary sites of these civilizations, as expected by the principle of mediocrity, Whitmire said.

Reference: The habitability of large elliptical galaxies by Daniel P Whitmire, 13 April 2020, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.DOI: 10.1093/mnras/staa957

Read the original:

Search For Intelligent Alien Life: Galaxies That Are More Likely to Harbor Technologically Advanced Civilizations - SciTechDaily

A mystery solved? Fast Radio Burst detected within Milky Way – News Info Park

Not the Fast Radio Burst. Radio waves arent visible to the eye. This is something else, from the Hubble Space Telescope. See a spectrum of the burst below. Image via NASA/ ESA/ Hubble/ ScienceAlert.

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are short, intense bursts of radio waves lasting perhaps a thousandth of a second, coming from all over the sky and of unknown origin.In a shock discovery that could help to solve one of astronomys greatest mysteries on April 28, 2020 astronomers used an Astronomers Telegram to announce a Fast Radio Burst originating from inside our Milky Way galaxy. Thats a first. All other FRBs have been extragalactic, that is to say outside our galaxy. Even more importantly, the astronomers think theyve also identified the source of the burst.

Explanations have ranged from neutron stars to supernovae to the inevitable aliens.

FRBs were first detected in 2007. This new detection of an FRB is, in astronomical terms, very close to home. Astronomers found it using the CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) radio telescope in Canada, an instrument designed specifically to study phenomena such as FRBs in order to answer major questions in astrophysics. This particular telescope has greatly increased the bursts detection rate since its first light in September 2017.

At the time of the April 28 signal, the telescope was not pointing straight at the source. But the signal was so strong the telescope captured it, so to speak, out of the corner of its eye. The signal was of sufficient strength to be detected from another galaxy (indicating it is the same phenomenon as those earlier extragalactic bursts detected from our galaxy), and it had the typical duration of a Fast Radio Burst.

The day before, on April 27, 2020, the Swift Burst Alert Telescope had detected a series of gamma-ray bursts originating from the same point in the sky as the FRB. Those gamma rays are associated with a known object, labeled SGR 1935+2154, a so-called Soft Gamma Repeater. This object is a type of stellar remnant known for periodically generating bursts of gamma rays. The distance to this object has been estimated at about 30,000 light-years. For comparison, the Milky Way galaxy is over 150,000 light-years across.

Excitingly, at the same time there was a burst of high-energy X-rays from the same point in the sky. The X-ray burst was observed by ground- and space-based X-ray telescopes. No FRB had ever been associated with gamma- or X-rays before, making this observation, if indeed it was of a FRB, something completely new.

Now you need to know that X-ray and gamma-ray bursts are not unusual in observations of magnetars.

Artists concept of an eruption on a magnetar. The Fast Radio Burst detected in our galaxy may be associated with these sorts of eruptions. Image via NASA Goddard Visualization Studio.

SGR 1935+2154 is believed to be a magnetar, a type of neutron star with a hypermagnetic field strong enough to pull the keys from your pocket from as far away as the moon!

While the reason for this ultra-strong magnetic field a thousand times stronger than that of a normal neutron star is unknown, astronomers theorize that FRBs might be produced when the crust of the neutron star suffers a starquake as a result of tension between the neutron stars intense gravity and its magnetic field. This tension may be suddenly, and incomprehensibly violently, released in the starquake.

This may mean that the neutron stars crust, thought to be a million times stronger than steel, slips by just a millimeter; however, this tiny shift may be sufficient to generate a brief burst of radio energy so powerful it can be detected from other galaxies, which we detect as an FRB.

Maybe! It seems possible, anyway, and, in astrophysics, whats possible is the name of the game.

However, this detection does not mean that astronomers are ready to confirm that all FRBs originate from magnetars. The burst received by CHIME was at the low end of the signal strength historically associated with FRBs, which may or may not be of significance. As yet, astronomers have not analyzed the waveform of the signal to see if it matches that from FRBs. However, if this analysis and ongoing observations of magnetar SGR 1935+2154 do demonstrate conclusively that magnetars are the origin of Fast Radio Bursts, one of astronomys greatest mysteries will have been solved.

The CHIME radio telescope in Canada. Its specifically designed to study objects such as Fast Radio Bursts. Image via CHIME.

Bottom line: Fast Radio Bursts are mysterious, short, intense bursts of radio waves coming from locations all over the sky. Before April 28, all the FRBs we knew were thought to come from outside our galaxy. The April 28 FRB, which apparently originated within our galaxy, will help astronomers unravel thorny questions in astrophysics.

Andy Briggs has been a science and technology communicator for more than 30 years, mainly in the fields of information technology, astronomy and astrophysics. He has been involved with many astronomy societies in the UK and is a frequent contributor to Astronomy Ireland magazine. He also lectures regularly on astrophysics-related themes such as gravitational waves and black holes. Andy lives in Catalonia, Spain, with his wife and daughter.

See the rest here:

A mystery solved? Fast Radio Burst detected within Milky Way - News Info Park

Here’s How to Spot the Starlink Satellite Cluster in the Sky This Month – Our Community Now at Maryland

Starlink satellites are easily spotted in the right conditions. Photo by Forest Katsch on Unsplash, Santa Cruz CA

Low-Earth orbit keeps getting busier. Last month, SpaceX sent up its seventh group of 60 router-satellites to join the Starlink constellation. There are over 400 Starlink satellites in orbit now, with a goal to have 1,000 in orbit by the end of the year. SpaceX has permission from the FCC to launch 12,000 in total, all with the purpose of providing high-speed broadband internet to places that couldn't get it before.

Starlink orbits much lowerthan most satellites, and have a propulsion system that brings them back down to Earth after a few months.

They're also unexpectedly shiny. Especially right after launch, the little metal birds are easily spotted with the naked eye in their low orbit. They fly through the night sky in little trains, one after the other, spaced about the same distance apart. UFO-reporting websites have been flooded with the new sightings

While satellite-spotting has turned into a bit of a hobby in the past few months, many astronomers are worriednow and for the future. Astronomer Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics tweeted:

Still others comment:

SpaceX plans to launch the next Starlink cluster with sunshades that will dim their brightnessin the night sky. If those shades work, now might be the best time for space enthusiasts to catch a glimpse of the orderly little shooting stars beaming internet down to earth.

There are tons of resources for tracking stargazing phenomena. A great place to follow Starlink is on the Heavens-Above website. They've got a specific Starlink trackerthat gives you a forecast when you put in your location. From my spot in Virginia, it looks like I can see some Starlink activity next month. But in Colorado, there's visible activity this week.

You can also check out N2Y0.com to automatically scan the forecast for bright satellites with your browser's coordinates. You can also search for "Starlink" at CalSky.com for predictions.

Satellite tracker Marco Langbroek gave this advice to space.com:

"For prospective observers, I would advise to see whether Calsky of Heavens-Above issue predictions for your location, and allow for several minutes uncertainty in the pass time. Iexpect them to be bright now they are still very low, but having binoculars handy would be a good idea. Make sure your eyes are dark adapted (i.e. spent some 125 minutes in the dark at least, avoiding lamplight)."

Do you have any interest in spotting the satellite march? Have you seen them already? Comment below!

Follow this link:

Here's How to Spot the Starlink Satellite Cluster in the Sky This Month - Our Community Now at Maryland

Astronomers find closest known black hole to Earth, hints of more – KING5.com

The black hole is about 1,000 light-years away, but it's close enough that the stars around it can be seen by the naked eye.

Meet your new but shy galactic neighbor: A black hole left over from the death of a fleeting young star.

European astronomershave found the closestblack hole to Earth yet, so near that the two stars dancing with it can be seen by the naked eye.

Of course, close is relative on the galactic scale. This black hole is about 1,000 light-years away and each light-year is 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion kilometers). But in terms of the cosmos and even the galaxy, it is in our neighborhood, said European Southern Observatory astronomer Thomas Rivinius, who led the study published Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The previous closest black hole is probably about three times further, about 3,200 light-years, he said.

The discovery of a closer black hole, which is in the constellationTelescopium in the Southern Hemisphere, hints that there are more of these out there. Astronomers theorize there are between 100 million to 1 billion of these small but dense objects in the Milky Way.

The trouble is we cant see them. Nothing, not even light, escapes a black holes gravity. Usually, scientists can only spot them when they're gobbling up sections of a partner star or something else falling into them. Astronomers think most black holes, including this newly discovered one, don't have anything close enough to swallow. So they go undetected.

Astronomers found this one because of the unusual orbit of a star. The new black hole is part of what used to be a three-star dance in a system called HR6819. The two remaining super-hot stars aren't close enough to be sucked in, but the inner star's orbit is warped.

Using atelescope in Chile, they confirmed that there was something about four or five times the mass of our sun pulling on the inner star. It could only be a black hole, they concluded.

Outside astronomers said that makes sense.

It will motivate additional searches among bright, relatively nearby stars, said Ohio State University astronomer Todd Thompson, who wasnt part of the research.

Like most of these type of black holes this one is tiny, maybe 25 miles (40 kilometers) in diameter.

Washington, D.C. would quite easily fit into the black hole, and once it went in it, would never come back, said astronomer Dietrich Baade, a study co-author.

These are young hot stars compared to our 4.6 billion-year-old sun. Theyre maybe 140 million years old, but at 26,000 degrees F (15,000 degrees C) they are three times hotter than the sun, Rivinius said. About 15 million years ago, one of those stars got too big and too hot and went supernova, turning into the black hole in a violent process, he said.

It is most likely that there are black holes much closer than this one, said Avi Loeb, director of Harvards Black Hole Initiative, who wasnt part of the study. If you find an ant while scanning a tiny fraction of your kitchen, you know there must be many more out there.

See the original post:

Astronomers find closest known black hole to Earth, hints of more - KING5.com

Super Flower Moon 2020: All you need to know about the last super moon of this year – Jagran English

Publish Date: Wed, 06 May 2020 03:47 PM IST

New Delhi | Jagran Lifestyle Desk:The final super moon of the year will be seen on Thursday 7th May, worldwide. That will exactly be the time when a full moon is expected to occur at the closest point to Earth during its orbit, making it appear way too larger and brighter than usual.

The phenomenon, though will start appearing from sunset itself, but will be visible to its fullest glory during 10:30-11:30 PM, Indian Standard Time according to NASA.

Also Read: Super Flower Moon 2020: When, where and how to watch last 'Super Moon' of this year

The May moon has earned its "flower" nickname as a dedication to the spring in the Northern Hemisphere part of the globe. NASA said in a statement that the nomenclature traces back to the Maine Farmers of USAs Almanac in the 1930s.

The full moon measures about 0.52 degrees wide in the night sky at an average, and on May 7 it will be about 33 arc minutes (0.55 degrees) across. A clenched fist can get you the reference for it measures about 10 degrees wide at your arm's length, a report from space.com stated.

Though binoculars and telescopes are not specifically required, but these devices can certainly provide a more unadulterated view of the magnificent event.

Such super moon events are usually the affairs full of glitz among the astrophysics enthusiasts, but the Space Centers in India and beyond are closed for the normal public in the wake of novel Coronavirus pandemic.

So your homes balcony or buildings terrace is all youve got for a super moon view this time amid the lockdown in-place to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

Also Read: Super Flower Moon 2020: From Aries to Virgo to Pisces, how supermoon will affect your zodiac sign

According to CGTN, while a super moon is considered less serious and scientific than an eclipse, it represents a chance to encourage people to start looking at the moon. The next full super moon won't come around until late April in 2021.

Posted By: Talib Khan

Go here to read the rest:

Super Flower Moon 2020: All you need to know about the last super moon of this year - Jagran English

Lessons from above: U of T astronomers help bring the heavens into homes during COVID-19 – News@UofT

If you are searching for homeschooling activities for your children or looking to try a new hobby during the pandemic, now might be the perfect time to turn your gaze toward the heavens as the weather gets warmer. From stars and galaxies to the cultural importance of the night sky, theres a fascinating universe out therewaiting to be explored andastronomers from the University of Toronto can help guide you on your journey.

The moon, for example, is obviously easy to spot and can be followed through its phases. Percy, who is also affiliated with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education andhelped develop curriculum for elementary and high school students, suggests budding astronomers keep a moon diary, noting their observations. Arethere lighter and darker regions visible or are they able to glimpse a face on the surface of the moon? Its good practice, he says, because science is based on recording observations.

Those searching out planets will find Venus shining brightly throughout May, very low in the west after sunset. Mercury, which is usually too close to the sun to be seen, will appear close to Venus on May 21, Percy says. To know what to look for when and where, its best to use a star chart. Percy recommendsSkymapsor an interactive star chart fromSky and Telescope.

For those who cant get out to view the night sky or who simply want to learn more, Dunlap is a co-sponsor ofDiscover the Universe, a program that offers daily astronomy-at-home talks at 2 p.m. daily for young people. The universitys partner,The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada(RASC), offers regular presentations, with aneducation sectionthat contains activities and links that are especially useful for children learning online. U of T astronomers, meanwhile, have createdCosmos on Your Couch, a series of weekly talks on YouTube.

Today at 7 p.m., Percy will be talking about archeoastronomy during a Cosmos on Your Couch livestream(above). He says he will explore astronomy of pre-technology civilizations, which used the daytime and nighttime sky as a calendar and compass.

It was high-tech for them, he says, noting earlier civilizations found direction and marked time by looking at the sky. Clocks would be set based on the position of the sun and sea captains had to learn basic astronomy because they navigated by the stars, Percy says.

People also looked to the heavens for religious reasons.

It is preserved today in the names of the planets because they were assumed to have a connection with the gods, Percy says, noting that Mars is the Roman god of war, Venus the goddess of beauty, and so on. Much of what can be seen in the sky is similarlyimbued with cultural meaning. Different cultures see different things, Percy says.

When physical distancing measures are lifted, Percy suggests attending one of RASCs star parties atThe Riverwood Conservancy. Its anopportunity for those who have become familiar with the sky to see different telescopes in action and talk to fellow stargazers.

Be curious, Percy advises. Theres a whole universe up there.

Read the rest here:

Lessons from above: U of T astronomers help bring the heavens into homes during COVID-19 - News@UofT

The Inconstant Universe Weird Findings Point to a New Physics – The Daily Galaxy –Great Discoveries Channel

Posted on Apr 27, 2020 in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Science

Our standard model of cosmology is based on an isotropic universe, one that is the same, statistically, in all directions, says astrophysicist John Webb at the University of New South Wales about the universal constant which appears inconstant at the outer fringes of the cosmos, it occurs in only one direction. .That standard model itself is built upon Einsteins theory of gravity, which itself explicitly assumes constancy of the laws of Nature. If such fundamental principles turn out to be only good approximations, the doors are open to some very exciting, new ideas in physics.

Those looking forward to a day when sciences Grand Unifying Theory of Everything could be worn on a t-shirt may have to wait a little longer as astrophysicists continue to find hints that one of the cosmological constants is not so constant after all.

In a paper published in Science Advances, scientists from UNSW Sydney reported that four new measurements of light emitted from a quasar 13 billion light years away reaffirm past studies that found tiny variations in the fine structure constant.

UNSW Sciences Professor Webb says the fine structure constant is a measure of electromagnetismone of the four fundamental forces in nature (the others are gravity, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force).

The fine structure constant is the quantity that physicists use as a measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force, Professor Webb says. Its a dimensionless number and it involves the speed of light, something called Plancks constant and the electron charge, and its a ratio of those things. And its the number that physicists use to measure the strength of the electromagnetic force.

The electromagnetic force keeps electrons whizzing around a nucleus in every atom of the universewithout it, all matter would fly apart. Up until recently, it was believed to be an unchanging force throughout time and space. But over the last two decades, Professor Webb has noticed anomalies in the fine structure constant whereby electromagnetic force measured in one particular direction of the universe seems ever so slightly different.

Great Unknown Question The End of Spacetime

We found a hint that that number of the fine structure constant was different in certain regions of the universe. Not just as a function of time, but actually also in direction in the universe, which is really quite odd if its correct but thats what we found.

Ancient Quasars Offer Clues

Ever the sceptic, when Professor Webb first came across these early signs of slightly weaker and stronger measurements of the electromagnetic force, he thought it could be a fault of the equipment, or of his calculations or some other error that had led to the unusual readings. It was while looking at some of the most distant quasarsmassive celestial bodies emitting exceptionally high energyat the edges of the universe that these anomalies were first observed using the worlds most powerful telescopes.

The most distant quasars that we know of are about 12 to 13 billion light years from us, Professor Webb says.

So if you can study the light in detail from distant quasars, youre studying the properties of the universe as it was when it was in its infancy, only a billion years old. The universe then was very, very different. No galaxies existed, the early stars had formed but there was certainly not the same population of stars that we see today. And there were no planets.

He says that in the current study, the team looked at one such quasar that enabled them to probe back to when the universe was only a billion years old which had never been done before. The team made four measurements of the fine constant along the one line of sight to this quasar. Individually, the four measurements didnt provide any conclusive answer as to whether or not there were perceptible changes in the electromagnetic force. However, when combined with lots of other measurements between us and distant quasars made by other scientists and unrelated to this study, the differences in the fine structure constant became evident.

Our weird universe

And it seems to be supporting this idea that there could be a directionality in the universe, which is very weird indeed, Professor Webb says. So the universe may not be isotropic in its laws of physicsone that is the same, statistically, in all directions. But in fact, there could be some direction or preferred direction in the universe where the laws of physics change, but not in the perpendicular direction. In other words, the universe in some sense, has a dipole structure to it.

In one particular direction, we can look back 12 billion light years and measure electromagnetism when the universe was very young. Putting all the data together, electromagnetism seems to gradually increase the further we look, while towards the opposite direction, it gradually decreases. In other directions in the cosmos, the fine structure constant remains just thatconstant. These new very distant measurements have pushed our observations further than has ever been reached before.

In other words, in what was thought to be an arbitrarily random spread of galaxies, quasars, black holes, stars, gas clouds and planetswith life flourishing in at least one tiny niche of itthe universe suddenly appears to have the equivalent of a north and a south. Professor Webb is still open to the idea that somehow these measurements made at different stages using different technologies and from different locations on Earth are actually a massive coincidence.

This is something that is taken very seriously and is regarded, quite correctly with scepticism, even by me, even though I did the first work on it with my students. But its something youve got to test because its possible we do live in a weird universe.

But adding to the side of the argument that says these findings are more than just coincidence, a team in the US working completely independently and unknown to Professor Webbs, made observations about X-rays that seemed to align with the idea that the universe has some sort of directionality.

I didnt know anything about this paper until it appeared in the literature, he says.

And theyre not testing the laws of physics, theyre testing the properties, the X-ray properties of galaxies and clusters of galaxies and cosmological distances from Earth. They also found that the properties of the universe in this sense are not isotropic and theres a preferred direction. And lo and behold, their direction coincides with ours.

Answers the Cosmic Why

While still wanting to see more rigorous testing of ideas that electromagnetism may fluctuate in certain areas of the universe to give it a form of directionality, Professor Webb says if these findings continue to be confirmed, they may help explain why our universe is the way it is, and why there is life in it at all.

For a long time, it has been thought that the laws of nature appear perfectly tuned to set the conditions for life to flourish. The strength of the electromagnetic force is one of those quantities. If it were only a few percent different to the value we measure on Earth, the chemical evolution of the universe would be completely different and life may never have got going. It raises a tantalising question: does this Goldilocks situation, where fundamental physical quantities like the fine structure constant are just right to favor our existence, apply throughout the entire universe?

Shape-Shifting Cosmos Physicists Seek the Question to Which the Universe is the Answer

If there is a directionality in the universe, Professor Webb argues, and if electromagnetism is shown to be very slightly different in certain regions of the cosmos, the most fundamental concepts underpinning much of modern physics will need revision.

Our standard model of cosmology is based on an isotropic universe, one that is the same, statistically, in all directions, he says. That standard model itself is built upon Einsteins theory of gravity, which itself explicitly assumes constancy of the laws of Nature. If such fundamental principles turn out to be only good approximations, the doors are open to some very exciting, new ideas in physics.

Webbs team believe this is the first step towards a far larger study exploring many directions in the universe, using data coming from new instruments on the worlds largest telescopes. New technologies are now emerging to provide higher quality data, and new artificial intelligence analysis methods will help to automate measurements and carry them out more rapidly and with greater precision.

Sources: Michael R. Wilczynska et al. Four direct measurements of the fine-structure constant 13 billion years ago, Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay9672. K. Migkas et al. Probing cosmic isotropy with a new X-ray galaxy cluster sample through the LXT scaling relation, Astronomy & Astrophysics (2020). DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201936602

The Daily Galaxy, Max Goldberg, via University of New South Wales

Excerpt from:

The Inconstant Universe Weird Findings Point to a New Physics - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel

Astronomers Have Watched a Nova Go From Start to Finish For The First Time – ScienceAlert

A nova is a dramatic episode in the life of a binary pair of stars. It's an explosion of bright light that can last weeks or even months. And though they're not exactly rare - there are about 10 each year in the Milky Way - astronomers have never watched one from start to finish.

Until now.

A nova occurs in a close binary star system, when one of the stars has gone through its red giant phase. That star leaves behind a remnant white dwarf. When the white dwarf and its partner become close enough, the massive gravitational pull of the white dwarf draws material, mostly hydrogen, from the other star.

That hydrogen accretes onto the surface of the white dwarf, forming a thin atmosphere. The white dwarf heats the hydrogen, and eventually the gas pressure is extremely high, and fusion is ignited. Not just any fusion: rapid, runaway fusion.

Artist's impression of a nova eruption, showing the white dwarf accreting matter from its companion. (Nova_by K. Ulaczyk, Warschau Universitt Observatorium)

When the rapid fusion ignites, we can see the light, and the new hydrogen atmosphere is expelled away from the white dwarf into space. In the past, astronomers thought these new bright lights were new stars, and the name "nova" stuck.

Astronomers now call these types of nova "classical" novae. (There are also recurrent novae, when the process repeats itself.)

This is an enormously energetic event, that produces not only visible light, but gamma rays and x-rays too. The end result is that some stars that could only be seen through a telescope can be seen with the naked eye during a nova.

All of this is widely accepted in astronomy and astrophysics. But much of it is theoretical.

Recently, astronomers using the BRITE (BRIght Target Explorer) constellation of nanosatellites were fortunate enough to observe the entire process from start to finish, confirming the theory.

BRITE is a constellation of nanosatellites designed to "investigate stellar structure and evolution of the brightest stars in the sky and their interaction with the local environment," according to the website.

They operate in low-Earth orbit and have few restrictions on the parts of the sky that they can observe. BRITE is a coordinated project between Austrian, Polish, and Canadian researchers.

This first-ever observation of a nova was pure chance. BRITE had spent several weeks observing 18 stars in the Carina constellation. One day, a new star appeared. BRITE Operations Manager Rainer Kuschnig found the nova during a daily inspection.

"Suddenly there was a star on our records that wasn't there the day before," he said in a press release. "I'd never seen anything like it in all the years of the mission!"

Werner Weiss is from the Department of Astrophysics at the University of Vienna. In a press release, he emphasized the significance of this observation.

A shows bright V906 Carinae labelled with a white arrow. B and C show the star before and after the V906 Carinae nova. (A. Maury and J. Fabrega)

"But what causes a previously unimpressive star to explode? This was a problem that has not been solved satisfactorily until now," he said.

The explosion of Nova V906 in the constellation Carina is giving researchers some answers and has confirmed some of the theoretical concept behind novae.

V906 Carinae was first spotted by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae. Fortunately, it appeared in an area of the sky that had been under observation by BRITE for weeks, so the data documenting the nova is in BRITE data.

"It is fantastic that for the first time a nova could be observed by our satellites even before its actual eruption and until many weeks later," says Otto Koudelka, project manager of the BRITE Austria (TUGSAT-1) satellite at TU Graz.

V906 Carinae is about 13,000 light years away, so the event is already history. "After all, this nova is so far away from us that its light takes about 13,000 years to reach the earth," explains Weiss.

The BRITE team reported their findings in a new paper. The paper is titled "Direct evidence for shock-powered optical emission in a nova." It's published in the journal Nature Astronomy. First author is Elias Aydi from Michigan State University.

"This fortunate circumstance was decisive in ensuring that the nova event could be recorded with unprecedented precision," explains Konstanze Zwintz, head of the BRITE Science Team, from the Institute for Astro- and Particle Physics at the University of Innsbruck.

Zwintz immediately realised "that we had access to observation material that was unique worldwide," according to a press release.

Novae like V906 Carinae are thermonuclear explosions on the surface of white dwarf stars. For a long time, astrophysicists thought that a nova's luminosity is powered by continual nuclear burning after the initial burst of runaway fusion. But the data from BRITE suggests something different.

In the new paper, the authors show that shocks play a larger role than thought. The authors say that "shocks internal to the nova ejecta may dominate the nova emission."

These shocks may also be involved in other events like supernovae, stellar mergers, and tidal disruption events, according to the authors. But up until now, there's been a lack of observational evidence.

"Here we report simultaneous space-based optical and gamma-ray observations of the 2018 nova V906 Carinae (ASASSN-18fv), revealing a remarkable series of distinct correlated flares in both bands," the researchers write.

Since those flares occur at the same time, it implies a common origin in shocks.

"During the flares, the nova luminosity doubles, implying that the bulk of the luminosity is shock powered." So rather than continual nuclear burning, novae are driven by shocks.

"Our data, spanning the spectrum from radio to gamma-ray, provide direct evidence that shocks can power substantial luminosity in classical novae and other optical transients."

In broader terms, shocks have been shown to play some role in events like novae. But that understanding is largely based on studying timescales and luminosities. This study is the first direct observation of such shocks, and is likely only the beginning of observing and understanding the role that shocks play.

In the conclusion of their paper the authors write: "Our observations of nova V906 Car definitively demonstrate that substantial luminosity can be produced - and emerge at optical wavelengths - by heavily absorbed, energetic shocks in explosive transients."

They go on to say that: "With modern time-domain surveys such as ASAS-SN, the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, we will be discovering more - and higher luminosity - transients than ever before. The novae in our galactic backyard will remain critical for testing the physical drivers powering these distant, exotic events."

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.

Continued here:

Astronomers Have Watched a Nova Go From Start to Finish For The First Time - ScienceAlert

NSF funds RIT researchers to develop code for astrophysics and gravitational wave calculations – RIT University News Services

The National Science Foundation recently awarded researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Louisiana State University, Georgia Tech and West Virginia University grants totaling more than $2.3 million to support further development of the Einstein Toolkit.

The Einstein Toolkit is a community-developed code for simulating the collisions of black holes and neutron stars, as well as supernovas and cosmology. The RIT numerical Relativity group, including Associate Professor Yosef Zlochower, Professor Manuela Campanelli and Professor Joshua Faber, have been part of the Einstein Toolkit consortium since its creation more than a decade ago.

The Einstein Toolkit has been critical to our simulations of binary black hole and binary neutron star mergers and our modeling of gravitational waveforms for LIGO, said Zlochower, principal investigator of the grant to RIT.

One of the key targets of modern numerical relativity simulations is the mergers of black holes and neutron stars, particularly the extreme mass ratio limit of binary black holes and evolutions of the hypermassive remnant from neutron star mergers. These challenging simulations will require exascale-level resources, and the NSF award to RIT of a grant of nearly $440,000 will support RIT students and faculty as they work to make the toolkit scale to hundreds of thousands of processors on some of the largest super computers in the world.

The Einstein Toolkit is used extensively by graduate and undergraduate students at RIT working with faculty at the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, according to co-PI Faber.

The Einstein Toolkit has been a critical resource for the Center for over a decade, added co-PI Campanelli, director of the CCRG.

Zlochower noted that these efforts will have an impact on numerical relativity groups around the world, since the Toolkit is open source and available for use by researchers and students at institutions ranging in size from small colleges up to large research universities. For more information, visit the Einstein Toolkit website.

See more here:

NSF funds RIT researchers to develop code for astrophysics and gravitational wave calculations - RIT University News Services