Tag: team member (page 1 of 2)

New Horizons Spacecraft Captures Image of Pluto & Tiny Moons

An artist's concept shows the moon view of the Pluto system.

Excerpt from cbc.ca

NASA's Pluto-bound spacecraft can now see the dwarf planet's two tiniest known moons — both less than 30 kilometres wide.
Kerberos (which is 10 to 30 kilometres wide) and Styx (which is seven to 21 kilometres) are seen circling Pluto, along with the slightly larger moons Hydra and Nix, in an animated series of "family photos" captured by the New Horizons spacecraft between April 25 and May 1, and released by NASA Tuesday.

Pluto and its four smallest moons can all be seen in this "family photo" captured by the New Horizons spacecraft on April 27.

space animated GIF

"New Horizons is now on the threshold of discovery," said mission science team member John Spencer, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., in a statement. "If the spacecraft observes any additional moons as we get closer to Pluto, they will be worlds that no one has seen before."

New Horizons is scheduled to make a close flyby of Pluto and its moons on July 14.

At the time the images were taken, the spacecraft was 89 million kilometres away. The glare from Pluto and its largest moon Charon, along with the light of background stars, were damped out using image processing.

Kerberos and Styx were discovered using the Hubble telescope in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

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Study says the universe may be a hologram

Holograms are two-dimensional pictures that appear to the human eye as three-dimensional objects. Some scientists believe that our universe may behave similarly, existing as a sort of all-encompassing hologram.
As explained by Nature World News, “a mathematical description of the Universe actually requires one fewer dimension than it seems” according to the “holographic principle,” which would indicate that what appears to be a 3-D universe may actually “just be the image of 2-D processes on a huge cosmic horizon.”
Prior to this study, scientists looked into this holographic principle by applying their calculations to a universe presenting Anti de Sitter space. Anti de Sitter is the term used to describe space as having a hyperbolic shape, much like a saddle. This hyperbolic space shape behaves, mathematically, as special relativity would predict.
Special relativity is a theory put forth by Albert Einstein to describe the relationship between space and time, and is especially useful when studying very small particles moving at extreme speeds over cosmic distances. The concept of Anti de Sitter space assumes that spacetime itself is hyperbolic in its natural state, in the absence of matter or energy.
A team at the Vienne University of Technology looked at the holographic principle not in the usual Anti de Sitter space framework, but instead applied the principle to flat spacetime, as represents our physical universe.“Our Universe, in contrast, is quite flat – and on astronomic distances, it has positive curvature,” team member Daniel Grumiller said in a statement.
The team created several gravitational theories that apply to flat space to see if calculations regarding quantum gravity would indicate a holographic description as has occurred in former calculations with theories applied to Anti de Sitter space.
“If quantum gravity in a flat space allows for a holographic description by a standard quantum theory, then there must be physical quantities, which can be calculated in both theories – and the results must agree,” Grumiller said.
The team found that the amount of quantum entanglement required for gravitational theory models expressed the same value in flat quantum gravity as in a low dimensional field theory, showing that the theory of a holographic universe can be successfully applied to the reality of the relatively flat field of spacetime evident in our universe.
“This calculation affirms our assumption that the holographic principle can also be realized in flat spaces. It is evidence for the validity of this correspondence in our universe” team member Max Riegler said.
The results were published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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NASA video illustrates ‘X-ray wind’ blasting from a black hole

This artist's illustration shows interstellar gas, the raw material of star formation, being blown away.Excerpt from cnet.com It takes a mighty wind to keep stars from forming. Researchers have found one in a galaxy far, far away -- and NASA mad...

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What happens when you point a telescope for black holes at the sun?

The first image of the sun captured by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), which is sensitive to high-energy X-ray light. X-rays seen by NuSTAR show up as green and blue in the photo, which is overlaid on an image taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Excerpt from

A NASA space telescope designed to peer at faraway black holes has snapped a stunning image of the sun, showing that its sensitive X-ray eyes can investigate mysteries in Earth's own neighborhood.
The new image, which was taken by NASA's NuSTAR spacecraft (short for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array), is the best-ever view of the sun in high-energy X-ray light, space agency officials said. The photo, and others taken by NuSTAR in the future, should help researchers learn more about our star, they added.

"NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere," NuSTAR team member David Smith, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement. 

The new image, which was released Monday (Dec. 22), overlays NuSTAR observations (seen in blue and green) onto an image of the sun captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.

NuSTAR solar observations might also reveal more about the nature of dark matter, the mysterious stuff thought to make up most of the material universe.

Dark matter apparently does not emit or absorb light — hence its name — and nobody knows for sure what it's made of. A number of exotic particles have been proposed as dark matter constituents, including weakly interacting massive particles, sterile neutrinos and axions.

If axions exist, NuSTAR may see signs of them — patches of X-rays in the center of the sun — NASA officials said.

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After Pluto, What’s Next for New Horizons Spacecraft?

NASA's New Horizons space probe is set to zoom by Pluto next summer. Where should it go after that?

Excerpt from

A NASA spacecraft may have another frigid object in its sights after zooming past Pluto next summer.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted three faraway bodies that the New Horizons probe could potentially visit after completing its highly anticipated flyby of the Pluto system in July 2015. One of these newly identified objects is definitely reachable, researchers said, while further tracking is required to determine if the other two are indeed accessible.

The $700 million New Horizons mission launched in 2006 with the primary goal of returning the first-ever up-close looks at Pluto and its moons. But Stern and his colleagues have always wanted the probe to fly by another object in the Kuiper Belt — the ring of frigid bodies beyond Neptune — after the Pluto encounter.

An additional flyby would increase researchers' knowledge of the mysterious Kuiper Belt, mission team members say. Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) have never been "heat-treated" by the sun, so they're viewed as relatively pristine building blocks left over from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago.

Analysis of Hubble's data turned up the three new KBOs, which are each 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto and range in size from 15 to 34 miles wide (25 to 55 km). The KBOs are each about 10 times bigger than a typical comet but just 1 to 2 percent as big as Pluto, researchers said.

"We started to get worried that we could not find anything suitable, even with Hubble, but in the end the space telescope came to the rescue," said New Horizons science team member John Spencer, also of SwRI. "There was a huge sigh of relief when we found suitable KBOs; we are over the moon about this detection."

The additional flyby would likely occur in 2019, he added — but there's no guarantee it will happen.

"In 2016, we need to propose to NASA to get permission (and funding) to fly the KBO mission," he said via email.

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Criticism of Study Detecting Ripples From Big Bang Continues to Expand

The lab housing the Bicep2 telescope near the South Pole. Credit Steffen Richter, Harvard University

Stardust got in their eyes.
In the spring a group of astronomers who go by the name of Bicep announced that they had detected ripples in the sky, gravitational waves that were the opening notes of the Big Bang. The finding was heralded as potentially the greatest discovery of the admittedly young century, but some outside astronomers said the group had underestimated the extent to which interstellar dust could have contaminated the results — a possibility that the group conceded in its official report in June.

Now a long-awaited report by astronomers using data from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite has confirmed that criticism, concluding that there was enough dust in Bicep’s view of the sky to produce the swirly patterns without recourse to primordial gravitational waves.
“We show that even in the faintest dust-emitting regions there are no ‘clean’ windows in the sky,” the Planck collaboration, led by Jean-Loup Puget of the Astrophysical Institute in Paris, wrote in a paper submitted to the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and posted online Monday.
As a result, cosmologists like the Bicep crew cannot ignore dust in their calculations. “However,” said Jonathan Aumont, another of the Planck authors, also from the Paris institute, “our work does not imply that they did not measure at all a cosmological signal.

Moreover, due to the very different observation techniques and signal processing in the Bicep2 and Planck experiments, we cannot say how much of the signal they measured is due to dust” and how much to gravitational waves.

So this is not the end of the story, both the Planck scientists and the Bicep group agree. But the original euphoria that the secrets of inflation and quantum gravity might be at hand has evaporated. Planck and Bicep are now collaborating on a detailed comparison of their results.

John M. Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, lead author of the Bicep paper, said the new report confirmed in greater detail the trend suggested by the first Planck papers in the spring, which indicated there is more dust even in the cleanest parts of the galaxy than anyone had thought.

Raphael Flauger of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N. J., who first raised the issue of dust in the Bicep report, said it confirmed what he had thought. “It doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room,” he wrote in an email, “and it seems clear that at least the majority of the signal is caused by dust.”

The gravitational waves may exist, although they would be weaker than the Bicep analysis indicated, causing theorists to reshuffle their ideas. As Richard Bond, an early universe expert at the University of Toronto and a Planck team member, put it: “Planck showed that dust could possibly be the entire Bicep2 signal, but Planck alone cannot decide. We have to do this in combination with Bicep2.”

The joint comparison and Planck’s own polarization maps are due at the end of the year.

If true, Bicep’s detection of gravitational waves would confirm a theory that the universe began with a violent outward antigravitational swoosh known as inflation, the mainspring of Big Bang theorizing for the last three decades.

The disagreement over the Bicep finding will not mean the end of inflation theory; it just means it will be harder for cosmologists to find out how it worked. The Bicep group and an alphabet soup of competitors are soldiering on with new telescopes and experiments aimed at peeling away the secrets of the sky.

Michael S. Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, said: “This is going to be a long march, but the goal of probing the earliest moments of the universe makes it well worth the effort. Dust is the bane of the existence of astrophysicists — and cosmologists. It is everywhere, and yet our understanding of it is very poor.”

Others are less optimistic. Paul J. Steinhardt of Princeton University, a critic of the Bicep paper — and of inflation theory — said in an email that the Bicep paper should be retracted, “and we should return to good scientific practice.”

The Bicep observations are the deepest look yet into a thin haze of microwaves, known as cosmic background radiation, left over from end of the Big Bang, when the cosmos was about 380,000 years old.

According to theory, the onset of inflation, less than a trillionth of a second after time began, should have left ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves. They would manifest as corkscrew patterns in the direction of polarization of the cosmic microwaves.
The Bicep group — its name is an acronym for Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization — is led by Dr. Kovac; Jamie Bock of Caltech; Clement Pryke of the University of Minnesota; and Chao-Lin Kuo of Stanford. They have deployed a series of radio telescopes at the South Pole in search of the swirl pattern. Their most recent, Bicep2, detected a signal in the sweet spot for some of the most popular models of inflation, leading to a splashy news conference and a summer of controversy and gossip.
As the critics pointed out, things besides quantum ripples from the beginning of time could produce those swirls, including light from interstellar dust polarized by magnetic fields in space.
Planck, launched in 2008 to survey the cosmic microwave sky, can distinguish the characteristic signature of dust by comparing the sky brightness in several radio frequencies, as well as measuring its direction of polarization. Bicep2, in contrast, looked at only one frequency, 150 gigahertz.

The Bicep astronomers asked for Planck data on their patch of sky, but it was not available until now because of suspected instrument problems, Dr. Aumont said. So they extrapolated from existing data to conclude that there was little dust interfering with their observations.

The new Planck report has knocked the pins out from under that. But there are still large uncertainties that leave room for primordial gravitational waves at some level. For example, the Planck team had to extrapolate some of its own measurements.

As the Planck report says, “This result emphasizes the need for a dedicated joint Planck-Bicep2 analysis.”

The group hopes this analysis will include data from the latest Bicep telescope, called the Keck Array, which has been gathering data for several months. In an interview this summer, Dr. Kovac said, “It’s been a funny year to be in the spotlight like this.” He said the group stood behind its work, even if the ultimate interpretation of the measurements is up for grabs.

Acknowledging that dust would not be as sexy a discovery as ripples from inflation, Dr. Kovac said, “It’s really important as an experimentalist that you can divorce yourself from an investment in what the answer is.”

He went on: “One thing that would distress me bitterly is if a major mistake in the measurement or of the analysis would come to light. The most pressing question is, what are the dust contributions to the signal?”

Stay tuned.

Lyman Page, an astrophysicist at Princeton, said the episode illustrated the messy progress of science.

“Taking a step back,” he said by email, “it is amazing that a precise measurement of the cosmos can be made, discussed in fullness, and refuted by another measurement in such a short amount of time. It is testament to a healthy field.”

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The Position and the Transition Teams!

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First Contact – with LOVE: The only Indestructible Matter in the Multiverses


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