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News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Boulder, Colo. -- April 12, 2017 -- Dr. Robin Canup, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been named a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The 2017 class of inductees includes leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities and the arts. Academy members contribute to publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, the humanities and culture, and education. Canup, who joined SwRI in 1998, is particularly known for her studies concerning the formation of planets and their satellites, including her research that demonstrated a single impact from a Mars-sized object could have produced the Earth-Moon system. "This is fantastic recognition for Robin and her research," said Dr. Jim Burch, vice president of SwRI's Space Science and Engineering Division. "Her work has been vastly important to our understanding of the Earth-Moon system and our place in the universe." Canup holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Duke University, and a master's degree and doctorate in astrophysical, planetary and atmospheric sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has received several honors during her career including the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences' Harold Urey Prize (2003) and the American Geophysical Union's Macelwane Medal (2004). She was also named one of Popular Science magazine's "Brilliant 10" young scientists to watch (2004) and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (2012). Canup will be inducted Oct. 7, 2017, in Cambridge, Mass. Other inductees of the Academy's class of 2017 include singer-songwriter John Legend, mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and award-winning actress Carol Burnett. Editors: A photo to accompany this story is available at: http://www.


News Article | April 13, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Take a nighttime drive into Arizona Sky Village, in a remote valley in south-east Arizona, and the only thing you can see clearly are the millions of stars twinkling overhead. Beyond the light show, the sky is a deep inky black, and the ground below is nothing but shadows. Dimmed car headlights might pick up spooked jackrabbits hopping through the desert brush, but the village’s unlit houses are all but invisible in the darkness. That’s the way the residents of this astronomy-loving community like it. The less light, the better their view of the universe. There’s only one rule here, says Jack Newton, co-founder of the village: “Turn off your goddamned lights.” Arizona Sky Village is home to a quirky community of stargazers. Shielded by the nearby Chiricahua mountains from urban sky glow – scientists’ poetic name for light pollution – nearly every house in the rural 450-acre development has its own domed observatory, complete with an array of telescopes. Outdoor lights are strictly forbidden; blackout shades are required in every window of every house; and nighttime driving is discouraged. Most residents don’t want to be bothered with driving at night anyway: they’re too busy scanning the skies. “This is what we do,” villager Frank Gilliland says cheerfully one starry night as he peers through the community’s biggest telescope, a 24-incher belonging to neighbor Rick Beno. At the moment, the scope is aimed at the Milky Way through an open hatch in the dome of Beno’s personal observatory, giving Gilliland a crystal-clear view of the Orion nebula, a remarkable 1,344 light years away. The powerful instrument, Beno allows, is something a “small college would be pretty darn proud of”. While Gilliland, a retired highway engineer, stands at the college-worthy scope, Beno is glued to a computer screen. A former software engineer, Beno likes to look at the heavens through a monitor that captures images of the stars in real time. “We all love astronomy,” Beno says. “But we all do it differently.” Beno and Gilliland are just two of several dozen astronomy aficionados spending a good chunk of their retirement holed up in expensive desert domes, their eyes trained on the far reaches of the universe. Co-founder Newton, just shy of 75 years old, estimates he spends “90% of my time up in my dome”. The work and the hours have paid off. “I’ve got three supernova discoveries just this year,” Newton boasts, and in honor of his widely published deep sky photos, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) named an asteroid after him and his wife, Alice: 30840 Jackalice. “There’s a problem with ‘Newton’,” Alice says with a grin: too many celestial bodies already named for the Newton known as Isaac. Most of the Sky Villagers had technical or scientific careers – Dr Fred Espenak, a bona fide astronomy pro, is a retired Nasa astrophysicist known as Mr Eclipse – but Newton spent his working life managing department stores in his native Canada. He always made time for the sky though, rambling miles into the countryside outside his hometown of Victoria. “He had a 25-inch telescope on a trailer,” Alice Newton says. “He hooked it up and hauled it out and had adventures in the middle of the night.” When Jack retired, the Newtons wanted a break from rainy Victoria and its murky skies. After a first retirement stop at a sky village in Florida, Newton and development partner Gene Turner came out to Arizona to scout dark places. The isolated stretch of treeless desert they found outside Portal was perfect: it was sparsely populated, 150 miles distant from Tucson, the nearest city, and velvety black at night. Now some 21 households live there peaceably under Newton’s Law: they cover up their windows and they turn off the goddam lights. Jack got exactly what he wanted. “Here,” he says, “we get 300 clear nights a year.” The world could use a few more Jack Newtons. Outside protected environs like Arizona Sky Village, light pollution has infected the industrialized world. In the US, some 99% of Americans live with perpetual sky glow, losing what the American Astronomical Society considers a universal right to starlight. In Arizona, “light pollution is a very serious concern”, says astronomer Dr Lori Allen, director of the Kitt Peak national observatory, some 56 miles west of Tucson. No fewer than 28 professional observatories operating on mountaintops around the state – run by the University of Arizona, the federal National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and even the Vatican, whose observatory is staffed by Jesuits. High mountains, dry climate and clear skies have made the state a hotbed for sky science at least since the early days of the last century. Pluto – now unceremoniously booted from the planet canon – was discovered in 1930 by one Clyde Tombaugh, working out of Lowell Observatory in the northern Arizona town of Flagstaff, elevation 6,909ft. In 1958 the city, proud of that heritage, banned searchlights, then an up-and-coming outdoor advertising tool. “It’s the first law in the world that we know of for protection of the night sky,” says Dr John Barantine, an astronomer with the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), a nonprofit dedicated to making the night skies dark again. “Searchlights were popular then and the city looked at them as a threat to the observatory.” Even Arizona’s state government – not known for progressive policies – has restricted electronic billboards. The flashy placards are allowed only in several designated sites at least 75 miles from the venerated Grand Canyon and from the Kitt Peak and Mt Lemmon observatories. In 2012, the then governor Jan Brewer vetoed a 2012 attempt to light up more of the state’s highways with dancing electronic videos, declaring that she refused to put astronomy in jeopardy. As she noted, the industry contributes $250m annually to Arizona’s economy and employs more than 3,300 people. Kitt Peak national observatory, nestled on a picturesque 6,880ft mountain on the Tohono O’odham reservation, has benefited from the laws. Endowed with an array of multi-meter telescopes that Rick Beno might envy, the observatory is poised to embark on research that could change everything we know about deep space. The US Department of Energy is spending $60m on equipment for a “five-year survey to make the most detailed and accurate 3D map of the universe”, says Allen, the Kitt Peak director. “We still have a dark sky. But if we allow the sky to get brighter we will no longer attract those kinds of projects. “There are three simple things people can do” to help, she adds. “Shield their lights, dim their lights and use the right color bulbs.” If people don’t care about astronomy, they might care about the health implications of light pollution. Cellphone and laptop users have already learned that their devices’ blue light leads to insomnia – the light is telling them that the sun is up. And medical research is starting to point to more dire health effects. The evidence is not yet conclusive, Barantine says, but studies suggest that shifting the body’s natural light-dark rhythms may raise the risks of diabetes, obesity and even cancer. So far, Barentine says, “we’re not there yet in convincing people” to curb their lights. But in Arizona Sky Village, he adds wistfully, “the people are already practicing what we recommend”.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 202.50K | Year: 2013

Astronomy is a fully international endeavor. To participate in the international scientific community, American researchers must meet and collaborate with researchers from around the world, and to do this they must attend international scientific meetings. These meetings provide a forum for interacting with other researchers, forming collaborations, presenting new results and participating in the international scientific community.

This award will provide support for approximately 150 US astronomers, postdocs, and students to participate in international professional meetings. This award will be especially important to early-career scientists and those from less-endowed institutions as it will help give them the opportunity to actively participate in these important meetings.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2015

This award supports the transition of the World Wide Telescope (WWT) project from Microsoft Research to the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Amateur astronomers support an industry of considerable value and are involved in research through citizen science efforts such as the Zooniverse. The WWT software provides a uniquely capable platform for involvement of amateur and professional astronomers alike in research, education, publishing, outreach, and communication. Keeping this package available is a valuable service for the country. The investment to ensure a smooth transition from its current state of being proprietary, albeit free, to an open source project led by the AAS, is clearly very worthwhile and at the same time extremely cost-effective.

Microsoft supported the WWT software system up until the fall of 2014, when they decided to release WWT to the open source community. The AAS is keen to assume a leadership role in a project of such evident value, but needs time to arrange for long-term support of WWT in aid of the US astronomical community. Microsoft funding ended on June 30, 2015, so this project will bridge the gap, although supporting only maintenance activities. This will ensure both that the WWT remains available to AAS and that the system remains available for existing users.

As noted, WWT is currently used widely by many constituencies. This software has unique capabilities, including the creation of video abstracts for publications. It is used in many schools, planetariums and museums across the country and the world. Under a community-driven open source model, these activities will be supported by experts from the respective constituencies, and connections between the various activities can leverage the work in one community for the benefit of all.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 348.76K | Year: 2016

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will traverse the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. Millions of Americans will witness totality, in which the Moon completely blocks the Sun, and over 500 million people across North America will experience a partial eclipse. In this project, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) will forge an umbrella organization consisting of an eclipse project manager, a centralized website of resources, and a mini-grants program to coordinate and facilitate local and national activities that will educate the public about the science of this rare event. The project will leverage this fascinating display of beauty to engage as many people as possible in the endeavor of science.

This project will involve scientists, educators, and amateur and professional eclipse observers in developing extensive plans for unique outreach activities to reach a significant fraction of the diverse U.S. population. The goal is to use the eclipse, which will generate significant media attention, to educate a broad audience about the associated science and to encourage young people from widely diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in science. Special emphasis will be placed on citizen science projects and on educational activities targeting groups that are underrepresented in STEM disciplines. A mini-grants program will be established to fund efforts specifically targeting underrepresented groups in order to increase their participation. The evaluation plan will focus on the utilization of the materials on the website and the learning gains of participants in specific activities funded by the mini-grants. All lessons learned will be collated in a publicly available formal report and will lay the groundwork for a strategic plan to fully capitalize on the next U.S.-based solar eclipse in 2024. Because this project aligns well with the objectives of multiple NSF directorates, this award is co-funded by the Division of Undergraduate Education and the Division of Research on Learning in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources; the Division of Astronomical Sciences in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences; and the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences in the Directorate for Geosciences.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 190.00K | Year: 2014

Astronomy is a fully international endeavor; we all share the same sky. To participate in the international scientific community, American researchers must meet and collaborate with researchers from around the world. Every three years, the International Astronomical Union has a General Assembly accompanied by topical symposia, joint discussions, working groups, and business meetings. The next such meeting, in August 2015, will be held in Hawaii and hosted by the US (the last US-hosted meeting was in 1988). In order to ensure a vigorous participation by the US astronomical community, this award will fund small travel grants to approximately 200 US astronomers. Preference will be given to early-career astronomers, astronomers from less-endowed institutions, and astronomers playing an active role in the governance of the IAU and the conduct of the associated symposia. Scientists supported by this program will come from a wide range of educational institutions, museums, planetariums, etc. The experiences they gain from this meeting will be shared with a broad segment of the US population, exposing them to the global nature of astronomy and the importance of international collaboration to the advancement of science and technology.

The small travel grant program will be administered by the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the principal professional organization for US astronomers. They have very successfully and economically administered similar programs in the past, and the proposed procedures ensure that these funds will provide the maximum benefit to the astronomical community at minimal cost. The AAS will solicit proposals, select awardees, issue funds to be used for airfare only, collect receipts and meeting reports from the grantees, and prepare a final assessment and report on the entire program.


Astronomy is a fully international endeavor. To participate in the international scientific community, American researchers must meet and collaborate with researchers from around the world, and to do this they must attend international scientific meetings. These meetings provide a forum for interacting with other researchers, forming collaborations, presenting new results and participating in the international scientific community.

This award will provide support for US astronomers, postdocs, and students to participate in international professional meetings. The award will cover three years of travel grants, including a large number of grants (approximately 120) that will support travel to the IAU General Assembly which will be held in Beijing, China in 2012. This award will be especially important to early-career researchers and those from less-endowed institutions as it will help give them the opportunity to actively participate in these important meetings.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SOLAR-TERRESTRIAL | Award Amount: 30.00K | Year: 2015

This award supports participation of students and early-career scientists at the Triennial Earth-Sun Summit (TESS), a joint meeting of the Space Physics and Aeronomy Section of the American Geophysical Union and the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. TESS is intended to be a gathering of the entire Heliophysics community, including distinct sub-disciplines devoted to studies of the Sun, the near-Earth space environment, and their interactions with the Earths atmosphere. The goal of this conference is to promote greater interaction and unity within this community. This increasingly interdisciplinary effort is necessary to understand, predict, and mitigate the effects of space weather.

This program will be administered by the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the principal professional organization for US astronomers. They have very successfully and economically administered similar programs in the past, and the proposed procedures ensure that these funds will provide the maximum benefit to the astronomical and geospace communities at minimal administrative cost.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 107.94K | Year: 2012

The proposing professional scholarly organizations, the American Astronomical Society and the American Institute of Physics, will conduct a pilot project to deliver the digital data sets that underlie figures and tables in three of the journals that they publish in astronomy and plasma physics. The project will involve developing methods for identifying and acquiring those digital data, as well as for providing access to the actual data objects in the published literature. The proposers will (i) conduct surveys of authors to determine their willingness to share data and their interest in re-using data that other researchers might publish; (ii) convene expert stakeholders for focused workshops on metadata semantics, digital structures and formats, and on practices for peer review of data; (iii) develop and refine publishing production methods to acquire, validate, deliver, maintain, and curate data; and (iv) raise the awareness of scientists about the merits of and prospects for sharing data. The pilot will be assessed in part by quantitative metrics on the submission of data sets for publication and the use of these data sets by readers of the participating journals, and the outcomes will be disseminated through multiple forums to the scholarly publishing and research communities.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SOLAR-TERRESTRIAL | Award Amount: 17.26K | Year: 2012

The principal invesitgators are members of a committee convening a planning workshop to prepare for the rare total solar eclipse that will traverse the US continent on 21 August 2017. The workshop will be held April 9-11, 2012, at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, and will bring together eclipse experts and scientists to plan for this 2017 event.

The workshop wii allow plans to be developed to capitalize on the unique scientific and public outreach potential of the 2017 eclipse. By traversing the extended US landmass, the shadow band of the 2017 eclipse will provide almost uninterrupted observations of the solar corona over 90 minutes, from its start in the northwest to its end in the southeast. Such a span will provide the opportunity to capture the temporal variations and spatial characteristics of coronal structures on times scales of fractions of seconds, to minutes, to over an hour. Since a number of identical experiments can be set up along the path of totality to maximize chances of success, the 2017 eclipse promises an optimal scientific yield.

The broader impact of this activity will be in its ability to spark the interest of the public at large and to entice them to take part in exploratory and discovery opportunities. This workshop will provide the first meeting for specialists to collectively develop ideas for public experiments and outreach that would fully exploit the 90 minute duration of this 2017 event across the USA, and involve a significant fraction of the national population, as well as a large number of visitors from abroad. In addition, the workshop will allow planning for eclipse observations that will test new technologies and concepts for later incorporation in ground-based and space-based observatories.

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