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

IMAGE:  Artist concept of the planetary body 2014 UZ224, more informally known as DeeDee. ALMA was able to observe the faint millimeter-wavelength "glow " emitted by the object, confirming it is roughly... view more Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have revealed extraordinary details about a recently discovered far-flung member of our solar system, the planetary body 2014 UZ224, more informally known as DeeDee. At about three times the current distance of Pluto from the Sun, DeeDee is the second most distant known trans-Neptunian object (TNO) with a confirmed orbit, surpassed only by the dwarf planet Eris. Astronomers estimate that there are tens-of-thousands of these icy bodies in the outer solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune. The new ALMA data reveal, for the first time, that DeeDee is roughly 635 kilometers across, or about two-thirds the diameter of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest member of our asteroid belt. At this size, DeeDee should have enough mass to be spherical, the criteria necessary for astronomers to consider it a dwarf planet, though it has yet to receive that official designation. "Far beyond Pluto is a region surprisingly rich with planetary bodies. Some are quite small but others have sizes to rival Pluto, and could possibly be much larger," said David Gerdes, a scientist with the University of Michigan and lead author on a paper appearing in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. "Because these objects are so distant and dim, it's incredibly difficult to even detect them, let alone study them in any detail. ALMA, however, has unique capabilities that enabled us to learn exciting details about these distant worlds." Currently, DeeDee is about 92 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. An astronomical unit is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, or about 150 million kilometers. At this tremendous distance, it takes DeeDee more than 1,100 years to complete one orbit. Light from DeeDee takes nearly 13 hours to reach Earth. Gerdes and his team announced the discovery of DeeDee in the fall of 2016. They found it using the 4-meter Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile as part of ongoing observations for the Dark Energy Survey, an optical survey of about 12 percent of the sky that seeks to understand the as-yet mysterious force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. The Dark Energy Survey produces vast troves of astronomical images, which give astronomers the opportunity to also search for distant solar system objects. The initial search, which includes nearly 15,000 images, identified more than 1.1 billion candidate objects. The vast majority of these turned out to be background stars and even more distant galaxies. A small fraction, however, were observed to move slowly across the sky over successive observations, the telltale sign of a TNO. One such object was identified on 12 separate images. The astronomers informally dubbed it DeeDee, which is short for Distant Dwarf. The optical data from the Blanco telescope enabled the astronomers to measure DeeDee's distance and orbital properties, but they were unable to determine its size or other physical characteristics. It was possible that DeeDee was a relatively small member of our solar system, yet reflective enough to be detected from Earth. Or, it could be uncommonly large and dark, reflecting only a tiny portion of the feeble sunlight that reaches it; both scenarios would produce identical optical data. Since ALMA observes the cold, dark universe, it is able to detect the heat - in the form of millimeter-wavelength light - emitted naturally by cold objects in space. The heat signature from a distant solar system object would be directly proportional to its size. "We calculated that this object would be incredibly cold, only about 30 degrees Kelvin, just a little above absolute zero," said Gerdes. While the reflected visible light from DeeDee is only about as bright as a candle seen halfway the distance to the moon, ALMA was able to quickly home in on the planetary body's heat signature and measure its brightness in millimeter-wavelength light. This allowed astronomers to determine that it reflects only about 13 percent of the sunlight that hits it. That is about the same reflectivity of the dry dirt found on a baseball infield. By comparing these ALMA observations to the earlier optical data, the astronomers had the information necessary to calculate the object's size. "ALMA picked it up fairly easily," said Gerdes. "We were then able to resolve the ambiguity we had with the optical data alone." Objects like DeeDee are cosmic leftovers from the formation of the solar system. Their orbits and physical properties reveal important details about the formation of planets, including Earth. This discovery is also exciting because it shows that it is possible to detect very distant, slowly moving objects in our own solar system. The researchers note that these same techniques could be used to detect the hypothesized "Planet Nine" that may reside far beyond DeeDee and Eris. "There are still new worlds to discover in our own cosmic backyard," concludes Gerdes. "The solar system is a rich and complicated place." The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of ESO, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI). ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its Member States; by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America; and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

Artist impression of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) reaching Earth. The colors represent the burst arriving at different radio wavelengths, with long wavelengths (red) arriving several seconds after short wavelengths (blue). This delay is called dispersion and occurs when radio waves travel through cosmic plasma. Credit: Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetarium / NRAO Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are brief spurts of radio emission, lasting just one-thousandth of a second, whose origins are mysterious. Fewer than two dozen have been identified in the past decade using giant radio telescopes such as the 1,000-foot dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Of those, only one has been pinpointed to originate from a galaxy about 3 billion light-years away. The other known FRBs seem to also come from distant galaxies, but there is no obvious reason that, every once in a while, an FRB wouldn't occur in our own Milky Way galaxy too. If it did, astronomers suggest that it would be "loud" enough that a global network of cell phones or small radio receivers could "hear" it. "The search for nearby fast radio bursts offers an opportunity for citizen scientists to help astronomers find and study one of the newest species in the galactic zoo," says theorist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Previous FRBs were detected at radio frequencies that match those used by cell phones, Wi-Fi, and similar devices. Consumers could potentially download a free smartphone app that would run in the background, monitoring appropriate frequencies and sending the data to a central processing facility. "An FRB in the Milky Way, essentially in our own back yard, would wash over the entire planet at once. If thousands of cell phones picked up a radio blip at nearly the same time, that would be a good sign that we've found a real event," explains lead author Dan Maoz of Tel Aviv University. Finding a Milky Way FRB might require some patience. Based on the few, more distant ones, that have been spotted so far, Maoz and Loeb estimate that a new one might pop off in the Milky Way once every 30 to 1,500 years. However, given that some FRBs are known to burst repeatedly, perhaps for decades or even centuries, there might be one alive in the Milky Way today. If so, success could become a yearly or even weekly event. A dedicated network of specialized detectors could be even more helpful in the search for a nearby FRB. For as little as $10 each, off-the-shelf devices that plug into the USB port of a laptop or desktop computer can be purchased. If thousands of such detectors were deployed around the world, especially in areas relatively free from Earthly radio interference, then finding a close FRB might just be a matter of time. This work has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is available online. More information: "Searching for Giga-Jansky Fast Radio Bursts from the Milky Way with a Global Array of Low-Cost Radio Receivers," Dan Maoz & Abraham Loeb, 2017, accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society arxiv.org/abs/1701.01475


News Article | February 24, 2017
Site: phys.org

Since that first sighting, SN 1987A has continued to fascinate astronomers with its spectacular light show. Located in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, it is the nearest supernova explosion observed in hundreds of years and the best opportunity yet for astronomers to study the phases before, during, and after the death of a star. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of SN 1987A, new images, time-lapse movies, a data-based animation based on work led by Salvatore Orlando at INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo, Italy, and a three-dimensional model are being released. By combining data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, as well as the international Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers—and the public—can explore SN 1987A like never before. Hubble has repeatedly observed SN 1987A since 1990, accumulating hundreds of images, and Chandra began observing SN 1987A shortly after its deployment in 1999. ALMA, a powerful array of 66 antennas, has been gathering high-resolution millimeter and submillimeter data on SN 1987A since its inception. "The 30 years' worth of observations of SN 1987A are important because they provide insight into the last stages of stellar evolution," said Robert Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California. The latest data from these powerful telescopes indicate that SN 1987A has passed an important threshold. The supernova shock wave is moving beyond the dense ring of gas produced late in the life of the pre-supernova star when a fast outflow or wind from the star collided with a slower wind generated in an earlier red giant phase of the star's evolution. What lies beyond the ring is poorly known at present, and depends on the details of the evolution of the star when it was a red giant. "The details of this transition will give astronomers a better understanding of the life of the doomed star, and how it ended," said Kari Frank of Penn State University who led the latest Chandra study of SN 1987A. Supernovas such as SN 1987A can stir up the surrounding gas and trigger the formation of new stars and planets. The gas from which these stars and planets form will be enriched with elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and iron, which are the basic components of all known life. These elements are forged inside the pre-supernova star and during the supernova explosion itself, and then dispersed into their host galaxy by expanding supernova remnants. Continued studies of SN 1987A should give unique insight into the early stages of this dispersal. Some highlights from studies involving these telescopes include: Hubble studies have revealed that the dense ring of gas around the supernova is glowing in optical light, and has a diameter of about a light-year. The ring was there at least 20,000 years before the star exploded. A flash of ultraviolet light from the explosion energized the gas in the ring, making it glow for decades. The central structure visible inside the ring in the Hubble image has now grown to roughly half a light-year across. Most noticeable are two blobs of debris in the center of the supernova remnant racing away from each other at roughly 20 million miles an hour. From 1999 until 2013, Chandra data showed an expanding ring of X-ray emission that had been steadily getting brighter. The blast wave from the original explosion has been bursting through and heating the ring of gas surrounding the supernova, producing X-ray emission. In the past few years, the ring has stopped getting brighter in X-rays. From about February 2013 until the last Chandra observation analyzed in September 2015 the total amount of low-energy X-rays has remained constant. Also, the bottom left part of the ring has started to fade. These changes provide evidence that the explosion's blast wave has moved beyond the ring into a region with less dense gas. This represents the end of an era for SN 1987A. Beginning in 2012, astronomers used ALMA to observe the glowing remains of the supernova, studying how the remnant is actually forging vast amounts of new dust from the new elements created in the progenitor star. A portion of this dust will make its way into interstellar space and may become the building blocks of future stars and planets in another system. These observations also suggest that dust in the early universe likely formed from similar supernova explosions. Astronomers also are still looking for evidence of a black hole or a neutron star left behind by the blast. They observed a flash of neutrinos from the star just as it erupted. This detection makes astronomers quite certain a compact object formed as the center of the star collapsed—either a neutron star or a black hole—but no telescope has uncovered any evidence for one yet. Astronomers combined observations from three different observatories to produce this colorful, multiwavelength image of the intricate remains of Supernova 1987A. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF); Hubble credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) Chandra credit: NASA/CXC/Penn State/K. Frank et al.; ALMA credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) and R. Indebetouw (NRAO/AUI/NSF) Explore further: Space image: New supernova remnant lights up


News Article | February 24, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Three decades ago, astronomers spotted one of the brightest exploding stars in more than 400 years. The titanic supernova, called Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A), blazed with the power of 100 million suns for several months following its discovery on Feb. 23, 1987. Since that first sighting, SN 1987A has continued to fascinate astronomers with its spectacular light show. Located in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, it is the nearest supernova explosion observed in hundreds of years and the best opportunity yet for astronomers to study the phases before, during, and after the death of a star. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of SN 1987A, new images, time-lapse movies, a data-based animation based on work led by Salvatore Orlando at INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo, Italy, and a three-dimensional model are being released. By combining data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, as well as the international Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers -- and the public -- can explore SN 1987A like never before. Hubble has repeatedly observed SN 1987A since 1990, accumulating hundreds of images, and Chandra began observing SN 1987A shortly after its deployment in 1999. ALMA, a powerful array of 66 antennas, has been gathering high-resolution millimeter and submillimeter data on SN 1987A since its inception. "The 30 years' worth of observations of SN 1987A are important because they provide insight into the last stages of stellar evolution," said Robert Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto, California. The latest data from these powerful telescopes indicate that SN 1987A has passed an important threshold. The supernova shock wave is moving beyond the dense ring of gas produced late in the life of the pre-supernova star when a fast outflow or wind from the star collided with a slower wind generated in an earlier red giant phase of the star's evolution. What lies beyond the ring is poorly known at present, and depends on the details of the evolution of the star when it was a red giant. "The details of this transition will give astronomers a better understanding of the life of the doomed star, and how it ended," said Kari Frank of Penn State University who led the latest Chandra study of SN 1987A. Supernovas such as SN 1987A can stir up the surrounding gas and trigger the formation of new stars and planets. The gas from which these stars and planets form will be enriched with elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and iron, which are the basic components of all known life. These elements are forged inside the pre-supernova star and during the supernova explosion itself, and then dispersed into their host galaxy by expanding supernova remnants. Continued studies of SN 1987A should give unique insight into the early stages of this dispersal. Some highlights from studies involving these telescopes include: Hubble studies have revealed that the dense ring of gas around the supernova is glowing in optical light, and has a diameter of about a light-year. The ring was there at least 20,000 years before the star exploded. A flash of ultraviolet light from the explosion energized the gas in the ring, making it glow for decades. The central structure visible inside the ring in the Hubble image has now grown to roughly half a light-year across. Most noticeable are two blobs of debris in the center of the supernova remnant racing away from each other at roughly 20 million miles an hour. From 1999 until 2013, Chandra data showed an expanding ring of X-ray emission that had been steadily getting brighter. The blast wave from the original explosion has been bursting through and heating the ring of gas surrounding the supernova, producing X-ray emission. In the past few years, the ring has stopped getting brighter in X-rays. From about February 2013 until the last Chandra observation analyzed in September 2015 the total amount of low-energy X-rays has remained constant. Also, the bottom left part of the ring has started to fade. These changes provide evidence that the explosion's blast wave has moved beyond the ring into a region with less dense gas. This represents the end of an era for SN 1987A. Beginning in 2012, astronomers used ALMA to observe the glowing remains of the supernova, studying how the remnant is actually forging vast amounts of new dust from the new elements created in the progenitor star. A portion of this dust will make its way into interstellar space and may become the building blocks of future stars and planets in another system. These observations also suggest that dust in the early universe likely formed from similar supernova explosions. Astronomers also are still looking for evidence of a black hole or a neutron star left behind by the blast. They observed a flash of neutrinos from the star just as it erupted. This detection makes astronomers quite certain a compact object formed as the center of the star collapsed -- either a neutron star or a black hole -- but no telescope has uncovered any evidence for one yet. These latest visuals were made possible by combining several sources of information including simulations by Salvatore Orlando and collaborators that appear in this paper: https:/ . The Chandra study by Frank et al. can be found online at http://lanl. . Recent ALMA results on SN 87A are available at https:/ . The Chandra program is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington. ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of South Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.


News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.newscientist.com

Take a deeper look. New observations of a distant corner of the universe add a layer to our understanding of the early universe. Teams of international astronomers used a powerful telescope called the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) to exploreHubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) images from the Hubble telescope showing more than 10,000 galaxies in one tiny portion of the sky. They show how the rate of star formation in young galaxies is closely related to their total mass in stars. They also trace the previously unknown abundance of star-forming gas at different points in time, providing new insights into the “Golden Age” of galaxy formation approximately 10 billion years ago. The studies, which appear in the Astrophysical Journal and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, are being hailed as the deepest ever millimetre observations of the early universe. Astronomers used ALMA – which, with 66 high precision antennae, is currently the world’s largest array – to survey this area for the first time in the millimetre range of wavelengths, allowing them to see the faint glow from gas clouds and the emission from warm dust in galaxies in the early universe. The array observed the HUDF for a total of around 50 hours. “For the first time, we are properly connecting the visible and ultraviolet light view of the distant universe from Hubble and far-infrared/millimetre views of the universe from ALMA,” says Jim Dunlop at Edinburgh University, who describes it as a “breakthrough result”. “Through this, we discovered a population of galaxies that is not clearly evident in any other deep surveys of the sky,” says Chris Carilli at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in New Mexico. “The new ALMA results imply a rapidly rising gas content in galaxies as we look back further in time,” says Manuel Aravena at the Universidad Diego Portales in Chile. “This increasing gas content is likely the root cause for the remarkable increase in star formation rates during the peak epoch of galaxy formation, some 10 billion years ago.” And this may be just the start of enlightening insights from ALMA. The array will make a 150-hour observation of the HUDF in the future.


News Article | February 25, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

Photo credit | NASA, ESA, and A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF); Hubble credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) Photo credit | NASA, ESA, and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), and P. Challis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) Hubble is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Supernova 1987A, a blazing stellar explosion that provided insights into the nature of supernovas. NASA released spectacular images and time-lapse videos that display the supernova’s structure. Photo credit | NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), and M. Mutchler and R. Avila (STScI) Thirty years have passed since NASA spotted one of the brightest supernovas in 400 years. Known as Supernova 1987A, the stellar explosion generated kaleidoscopic fireworks of color and glowed with the power of 100 million suns for several months after its first sighting on Feb. 23, 1987. The supernova continues to fascinate astronomers today with its incredible light show. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the Hubble Space Telescope has released a set of beautiful images and new information about SN 1987A. Prior to the discovery of SN 1987A, astronomers had little knowledge about the nature of supernovas, simply because there had been no nearby events available for observation. But on that fateful night in February three decades ago, the first light from the death of a star in the Large Magellanic Cloud reached Earth. That means a new star appeared in the Southern Hemisphere and became visible to the naked eye for months before it turned faint. SN 1987A has been the brightest supernova visible from Earth since 1604. This stellar event occurred about 166,000 light-years away from Tarantula Nebula, Milky Way's satellite galaxy called, and it offered scientists an unprecedented insight into the death of massive stars. While ground-based telescopes could spot SN 1987A as a small blob in the sky, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured high-resolution images of the supernova in 1990. The mission revealed in detail the incredible structures that surrounded the dead star. Since then, Hubble and other telescopes such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array and the Chandra X-ray Observatory have continued to take images of the supernova. For SN 1987A's 30th birthday, the public can access time-lapse movies, images, and data-based animation on the supernova. Much of these images are based on the research of Salvatore Orlando, from Italy's INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo. All these missions have shown a ring-like structure around the progenitor star of the supernova, which had been ejected from the star 20,000 years before its ending stages. These ring-like structures have been illuminated more than once. The first time happened through the light of the supernova explosion. The second time in 2001, when shock waves reached the distance of the rings. Now, these shock waves are moving beyond that very dense ring of gas, which was generated when the wind it produced later in life struck a slower wind produced in its earlier phase. "The details of this transition will give astronomers a better understanding of the life of the doomed star, and how it ended," said scientist Kari Frank, lead researcher in the Chandra research. However, what lies beyond this structure is still unknown and will depend on details of the star's evolution, scientists said. Full details can be viewed at NASA's website. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | March 30, 2016
Site: www.nature.com

Space silence The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) lost contact with its flagship X-ray astronomical satellite, Hitomi — previously known as ASTRO-H — on 26 March. Launched on 17 February, it had been going through initial tests and calibrations. Hitomi’s status remains unknown, but JAXA engineers are working to regain communication. The US Joint Space Operations Center, which tracks space debris, reported five objects near the spacecraft around the time that it went silent, which it characterized as pieces of a “break-up”. On 28 March, unconfirmed reports said that telescopes had seen the satellite tumbling. See go.nature.com/jlkhvg for more. Hydrogen on Ceres The northern polar region of the dwarf planet Ceres contains lots of hydrogen and probably water, as revealed in an image taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft and released on 22 March. Dawn scientists compiled this false-colour map using data from the spacecraft’s neutron-counting instrument, which scans the uppermost metre of Ceres’s surface material. Red indicates high neutron counts, and blue shows low counts. Fewer neutrons near the north pole indicate the presence of hydrogen there, probably in the form of water ice. Japan’s whaling Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research has confirmed that 333 minke whales were killed by the country’s controversial ‘scientific’ whaling initiative in the Antarctic, which started last year. In a 24 March statement, the institute said that 103 males and 230 females — many of which were pregnant — were caught between December last year and March. In 2014, an international court declared that Japan’s whaling programme was not scientific, and the country has struggled to convince the International Whaling Commission to approve a revised programme (see A. S. Brierley and P. J. Clapham Nature 529, 283; 2016; J. Morishita Nature 531, 35; 2016). Philippines satellite The Philippines’s first micro-satellite was successfully launched on 22 March from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The craft, Diwata-1 — a collaboration between the University of the Philippines Diliman, the Phillipine Department of Science and Technology and Japan’s Tohoku and Hokkaido universities — is part of a resupply mission to the International Space Station, from where it will be placed into orbit. The satellite will beam back images of weather patterns and land and water resources, and represents “a giant leap for Philippine science and technology”, said Jose Cuisia, the country’s US ambassador. Frontier science Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has pledged US$100 million over 10 years to transformative bioscience projects and investigators. The first grants from the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group in Seattle, Washington, were announced on 23 March. Four scientists will receive $1.5 million each: Ethan Bier at the University of California, San Diego; James Collins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley; and Bassem Hassan at the Brain and Spine Institute, Paris. Two universities, Stanford in California and Tufts in Medford, Massachusetts, will each receive $30 million, from the Allen group and partners, over 8 years. Competitions for additional investigators and research centres will be held periodically. Russian funding Concerns have been raised over future support for civilian basic research under a science and technology strategy that the Russian government plans to launch this year. Despite mounting budget pressure, the government’s overall spending on military and civilian science is to remain stable, deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich told the Russian Academy of Sciences last week. But scientists told Nature that they fear that priority research programmes set to be introduced by the end of the year will favour commercial research over fundamental science. Recipients of Russian grants have already lost substantial purchasing power owing to the rapid decline of the rouble. Fetal research A US Congress committee is preparing to subpoena 17 universities and research institutions for data on their use of human tissue from aborted fetuses, according to media reports on 24 March. This is the second round of subpoenas from the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which was created in October 2015 to investigate allegations that reproductive health-care provider Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal tissue to researchers — charges that the non-profit group denies. The committee’s chair, Representative Marsha Blackburn (Republican, Tennessee), is seeking the names of researchers who work with fetal cells and tissue. Canadian science Canada’s government will boost funding for science and technology, finance minister Bill Morneau announced on 22 March. Science-granting agencies will receive an extra Can$76 million (US$58 million) annually from the 2016–17 fiscal year, plus Can$19 million for indirect costs at academic institutions that undertake federally sponsored research. The government also plans to spend up to Can$2 billion over 3 years on a new science infrastructure, and Can$800 million over 4 years on a series of “innovation networks and clusters” that aim to foster research and development ties with the private sector. Intel icon dies Andrew Grove, the legendary chairman and chief executive of semiconductor giant Intel, died on 21 March aged 79, the company has announced. Grove (pictured) was the first engineer to be hired by Intel’s founders in 1968. He later had a crucial role in management as the company, based in Santa Clara, California, drove down the cost of computer chips and boosted their power, both at an exponential rate. Born into a Jewish family in Hungary, Grove survived the Holocaust; in the mid-1950s, he escaped through the Iron Curtain and emigrated to the United States. Macchiarini affair The Karolinska Institute announced on 23 March that it has rescinded its contract with controversial surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. Macchiarini, formerly a visiting professor at the institute in Stockholm, had been internationally fêted for his pioneering transplants of artificial windpipes — but allegations of scientific and ethical misconduct began to emerge almost two years ago. The institute’s disciplinary board now says that he “engaged in conduct and research that is incompatible with a position of employment”. Macchiarini says that he rejects the board’s findings. See go.nature.com/qqeiqk for more. Asymmetry pegged The LHCb experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, has improved the accuracy of a crucial measurement of the difference in behaviour between matter and antimatter. At a meeting in La Thuile, Italy, physicist Matthew Kenzie of CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab, reported on 23 March that one indicator of asymmetry — called γ and measured through the decay of B mesons and their antiparticles — in the behaviour of quarks had been determined with a precision of about 10%, twice that of previous experiments. One of three angles of a triangle, γ encodes the asymmetries in quark behaviour; LHCb physicists hope to measure all three angles with a precision that is better than 1%. Solo observatories Two US radioastronomy observatories will branch out on their own following a funding crunch, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia, announced on 24 March. The Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia will become the independent Green Bank Observatory, and the Very Long Baseline Array — a set of ten dishes stretching from Hawaii to the US Virgin Islands — will be the Long Baseline Observatory. The changes come as the US National Science Foundation, which funds the NRAO, looks to save money by offloading some of its astronomy facilities. Call for drug reform Drug policy needs to be shorn of ideological bias and based on better science, according to the Johns Hopkins–Lancet Commission on Public Health and International Drug Policy. In a 24 March report, the group calls for decriminalization of minor drug offences including use and possession, regulated drug markets and a focus on harm reduction rather than prevention of use (J. Csete et al. Lancet http://doi.org/bdp2; 2016). The commission also says that current global policies are causing huge health problems, and that a more diverse source of funders is needed to provide “non-ideological” science on drug policy and reform. Global investments in renewable energy rose to a record US$286 billion in 2015, more than double the investment in coal and gas-fired power generation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced on 24 March. The world added 134 gigawatts of renewable-energy capacity in 2015 — up 26% from 2014. Most investment went into solar and wind power. For the first time, UNEP reported, investments by developing countries surpassed those of developed countries. 31 March–1 April US President Barack Obama hosts the last of four summits on nuclear security in Washington DC. go.nature.com/4fq3gj 1–2 April Robotics experts gather in Coral Gables, Florida, to wrestle with the legal and policy questions surrounding robots. go.nature.com/sc4fuc 6–7 April The Astroparticle Physics European Consortium holds a meeting in Paris to discuss updating its global-initiatives road map. app2016.in2p3.fr


News Article | November 2, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Astronomers using the super-sharp radio vision of the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) have found the shredded remains of a galaxy that passed through a larger galaxy, leaving only the smaller galaxy's nearly-naked supermassive black hole to emerge and speed away at more than 2,000 miles per second. The galaxies are part of a cluster of galaxies more than 2 billion light-years from Earth. The close encounter, millions of years ago, stripped the smaller galaxy of nearly all its stars and gas. What remains is its black hole and a small galactic remnant only about 3,000 light-years across. For comparison, our Milky Way Galaxy is approximately 100,000 light-years across. The discovery was made as part of a program to detect supermassive black holes, millions or billions of times more massive than the Sun, that are not at the centers of galaxies. Supermassive black holes reside at the centers of most galaxies. Large galaxies are thought to grow by devouring smaller companions. In such cases, the black holes of both are expected to orbit each other, eventually merging. "We were looking for orbiting pairs of supermassive black holes, with one offset from the center of a galaxy, as telltale evidence of a previous galaxy merger," said James Condon, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. "Instead, we found this black hole fleeing from the larger galaxy and leaving a trail of debris behind it," he added. "We've not seen anything like this before," Condon said. The astronomers began their quest by using the VLBA to make very high resolution images of more than 1,200 galaxies, previously identified by large-scale sky surveys done with infrared and radio telescopes. Their VLBA observations showed that the supermassive black holes of nearly all these galaxies were at the centers of the galaxies. However, one object, in a cluster of galaxies called ZwCl 8193, did not fit that pattern. Further studies showed that this object, called B3 1715+425, is a supermassive black hole surrounded by a galaxy much smaller and fainter than would be expected. In addition, this object is speeding away from the core of a much larger galaxy, leaving a wake of ionized gas behind it. The scientists concluded that B3 1715+425 is what has remained of a galaxy that passed through the larger galaxy and had most of its stars and gas stripped away by the encounter -- a "nearly naked" supermassive black hole. The speeding remnant, the scientists said, probably will lose more mass and cease forming new stars. "In a billion years or so, it probably will be invisible," Condon said. That means, he pointed out, that there could be many more such objects left over from earlier galactic encounters that astronomers can't detect. The scientists will keep looking, however. They're observing more objects, in a long-term project with the VLBA. Since their project is not time-critical, Condon explained, they use "filler time" when the telescope is not in use for other observations. "The data we get from the VLBA is very high quality. We get the positions of the supermassive black holes to extremely good precision. Our limiting factor is the precision of the galaxy positions seen at other wavelengths that we use for comparison," Condon said. With new optical telescopes that will come on line in future years, such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), he said, they will then have improved images that can be compared with the VLBA images. They hope that this will allow them to discover more objects like B3 1714+425. "And also maybe some of the binary supermassive black holes we originally sought," he said. Condon worked with Jeremy Darling of the University of Colorado, Yuri Kovalev of the Astro Space Center of the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow, and Leonid Petrov of the Astrogeo Center in Falls Church, Virginia. The scientists are reporting their findings in the Astrophysical Journal. The VLBA, dedicated in 1993, now is part of the Long Baseline Observatory. It uses ten, 25-meter-diameter dish antennas distributed from Hawaii to St. Croix in the Caribbean. It is operated from the NRAO's Domenici Science Operations Center in Socorro, NM. All ten antennas work together as a single telescope with the greatest resolving power available to astronomy. This unique capability has produced landmark contributions to numerous scientific fields, ranging from Earth tectonics, climate research, and spacecraft navigation, to cosmology. The Long Baseline Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered a surprising connection between a supermassive black hole and the galaxy where it resides. Powerful radio jets from the black hole - which normally suppress star formation - are stimulating the production of cold gas in the galaxy's extended halo of hot gas. This newly identified supply of cold, dense gas could eventually fuel future star birth as well as feed the black hole itself. The researchers used ALMA to study a galaxy at the heart of the Phoenix Cluster, an uncommonly crowded collection of galaxies about 5.7 billion light-years from Earth. The central galaxy in this cluster harbors a supermassive black hole that is in the process of devouring star-forming gas, which fuels a pair of powerful jets that erupt from the black hole in opposite directions into intergalactic space. Astronomers refer to this type of black-hole powered system as an active galactic nucleus (AGN). Earlier research with NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory revealed that the jets from this AGN are carving out a pair of giant "radio bubbles," huge cavities in the hot, diffuse plasma that surrounds the galaxy. These expanding bubbles should create conditions that are too inhospitable for the surrounding hot gas to cool and condense, which are essential steps for future star formation. The latest ALMA observations, however, reveal long filaments of cold molecular gas condensing around the outer edges of the radio bubbles. These filaments extend up to 82,000 light-years from either side of the AGN. They collectively contain enough material to make about 10 billion suns. "With ALMA we can see that there's a direct link between these radio bubbles inflated by the supermassive black hole and the future fuel for galaxy growth," said Helen Russell, an astronomer with the University of Cambridge, UK, and lead author on a paper appearing in the Astrophysical Journal. "This gives us new insights into how a black hole can regulate future star birth and how a galaxy can acquire additional material to fuel an active black hole." The new ALMA observations reveal previously unknown connections between an AGN and the abundance of cold molecular gas that fuels star birth. "To produce powerful jets, black holes must feed on the same material that the galaxy uses to make new stars," said Michael McDonald, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and coauthor on the paper. "This material powers the jets that disrupt the region and quenches star formation. This illustrates how black holes can slow the growth of their host galaxies." Without a significant source of heat, the most massive galaxies in the universe would be forming stars at extreme rates that far exceed observations. Astronomers believe that the heat, in the form of radiation and jets from an actively feeding supermassive black hole, prevents overcooling of the cluster's hot gas atmosphere, suppressing star formation. This story, however, now appears more complex. In the Phoenix Cluster, Russell and her team found an additional process that ties the galaxy and its black hole together. The radio jets that heat the core of the cluster's hot atmosphere also appear to stimulate the production of the cold gas required to sustain the AGN. "That's what makes this result so surprising," said Brian McNamara, an astronomer at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and co-author on the paper. "This supermassive black hole is regulating the growth of the galaxy by blowing bubbles and heating the gases around it. Remarkably, it also is cooling enough gas to feed itself." This result helps astronomers understand the workings of the cosmic "thermostat" that controls the launching of radio jets from the supermassive black hole. "This could also explain how the most massive black holes were able to both suppress run-away starbursts and regulate the growth of their host galaxies over the past six billion years or so of cosmic history," noted Russell. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of ESO, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI). ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its Member States; by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America; and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.


Astronomers' long search for a cluster of dwarf galaxies considered the building blocks of bigger galaxies has found an exciting answer. In a breakthrough, a team of astronomers, with the help of data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and optical telescopes, discovered seven distinct groups of dwarf galaxies getting ready for a merger to form bigger galaxies like the Milky Way. The discovery affirmed the long-held belief that many mature galaxies of today are formed by the merger of smaller galaxies, billions of years ago. So far, astronomers were scouting for evidence of such a merger of dwarf galaxies, but it was not coming up. The findings have been published in Nature Astronomy. "We know that to make a large galaxy, the universe has to bring together many smaller galaxies," said Sabrina Stierwalt an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and University of Virginia. The spotting of dwarf galaxy clusters also strengthened a theory that big galaxies such as Milky Way are formed by the amalgamation of smaller galaxies and they have a high presence of dark matter. In terms of size, dwarf galaxies area almost 1,000 times smaller than mighty galaxies like the Milky Way. Stierwalt expressed joy that for the first time, an example of such a merger process has been discovered when the entire population of dwarf galaxies was bound together in the same neighborhoods. They were spotted at a distance between 200 million and 650 million light years away from Earth. What distinguished them was, unlike Milky Way, these dwarfs have stopped giving birth to new stars. "We suspect these groups are gravitationally bound and thus will eventually merge to form one larger, intermediate-mass galaxy," added Stierwalt. Space scientists consider dwarf clusters to be the hub of dark matter, which is the mysterious substance accounting for a quarter of the Universe yet perceived by the gravitational pull that is felt on other objects in space. When compared to dark matter, the visible matter is only just five percent of the Universe. Dwarf galaxies, compared to larger galaxies tend to have "a lot more dark matter," explained Stierwalt. The gravitational force from dark matter holds the clusters together. Another reason for the preponderance of dark matter in dwarfs is that they have very little debris of gas and dust, unlike bigger galaxies. Astronomers are also searching for the elusive dark matter using gamma-ray detecting telescopes hoping that those particles might be producing gamma rays upon decay. The new discovery also bolsters the theory after the Big Bang of some 13.7 billion years ago, many smaller things conjoined to form bigger entities. But that remained hypothetical as evidence based on observations were not available, Stierwalt explained. Adding to the problem is the inability to see dwarf galaxies. Only the Magellanic Clouds are visible to the naked eye. Stierwalt said the independent groups of low-mass galaxies like the ones found out can reveal the possible mechanism for larger ones as the Milky Way. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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