Research Highlights

Jan 31, 2018 | What observers really DO at the telescope -- Part 2: Targets of Opportunity

In Part I of this 2-part series on what astronomers do while observing, we looked at what happens when we take wide-field data for the cosmological side of things, and here in Part 2 we will continue with discussing the other mode that most people think of when they imagine what astronomers do at a telescope: searching for specific interesting objects.

Jan 31, 2018 | What observers really DO at the telescope -- Part 1: Wide field survey mode

I recently returned from an observing run at a telescope in Chile, and I thought our readers might wonder what astronomers do when they’re observing. After all, it can’t all be sitting around romantically staring up at the stars, right? So here’s a detailed description of what I did when I was observing for those who have wondered what actual observing is like.

Nov 27, 2017 | Simulating the universe as the ultimate Big Data problem

In the early summer of 1945, physicist Bob Christy asked fellow physicist Richard Feynman to carry out a task as quickly as possible. The deadline was the Trinity nuclear test, the first nuclear bomb and the culmination of years of secret work by Manhattan Project scientists. The task was to predict the total energy that would be released by the Gadget device, the prototype implosion bomb designed at Los Alamos.

Nov 14, 2017 | A three-dimensional step towards sorting out the GRB zoo

A powerful tool for characterizing and classifying gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) has recently been presented by an international team of researchers led by KIPAC member Dr. Maria Dainotti (Marie Curie outgoing Fellow at INAF, Italy and Stanford University and assistant professor at Jagiellonian University, Poland).

Oct 15, 2017 | An event that blew away the astronomical world

On the morn of Thursday, August 17, 2017 the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration (LVC) gravitational wave detectors saw a binary neutron star (BNS) collision in gravitational waves—and kind of blew up the astronomical world who was in on it, that day.

Why do I say this, after the announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves from a binary black hole (BBH) coalescence already made such major "ripples" amongst those who pay attention to things astronomical, just 1 1/2 years ago? (Resulting in the Nobel Prize being awarded for this, on October 3, 2017).

Sep 21, 2017 | Probing the planet formation environment

As an astronomer, I think I live in a spectacularly exciting time to be studying the process of planet formation. Little needs to be said about how dramatically the Kepler satellite telescope and other exoplanet surveys have revolutionized our understanding of the exoplanet population, as these kinds of discoveries pop up in the news on a seemingly daily basis. We now know that the planet formation process produces a diverse set of final products, many of which (such as hot Jupiters and super Earths) look very different from the planets in our own solar system.

Sep 4, 2017 | DES clinches the most precise cosmological results ever extracted from gravitational lensing

For decades, cosmologists have been attempting to piece together the history and composition of the Universe. Since we now know that ~95% of the Universe’s mass-energy content takes the form of invisible dark matter and dark energy, this is a very difficult task indeed. However, with such enormous catalogs of galaxies such as those produced by the Dark Energy Survey (DES), we can use what we observe about the visible matter in the Universe (in the form of stars and galaxies) to infer the behavior of dark matter and dark energy.

Sep 3, 2017 | KIPAC reacts: Members' stories from the path of totality

Now, to bring it a little closer to home from our general astronomical discussion of eclipses (see the previous blog post), let's check in with some KIPAC folks who actually were in the eclipse's zone of totality and see what their reactions were to the actual event.

Sep 3, 2017 | When our life-giving local star disappears!

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 occurred on August 21 in a slightly less than 100-mile-wide strip. It entered the US off the northern Oregon coast and exited off the coast of South Carolina about two hours later (see, for example, here for a clickable path map)—and several KIPAC members made sure to station themselves within this strip, also known as the "Zone of Totality," hoping to experience firsthand this very rare life event (on any given place on the Earth, total eclipses occur only about every 100 years, though they occur somewhere on the Earth about every year and a half).

Aug 16, 2017 | On the trail of dark matter with LUX-ZEPLIN

Based on a press release from the SLAC Office of Communications

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, including several KIPAC scientists, are on a quest to solve one of physics’ biggest mysteries: What exactly is dark matter—the invisible substance that accounts for 85 percent of all the matter in the universe but can’t be seen even with our most advanced scientific instruments?

Aug 4, 2017 | Standard model of the universe withstands most precise test by Dark Energy Survey

Astrophysicists have a fairly accurate understanding of how the Universe ages: That’s the conclusion of new results from the Dark Energy Survey (DES), a large international science collaboration, including researchers from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, that put models of cosmic structure formation and evolution to the most precise test yet.

Jul 5, 2017 | The first galaxies could really mix it up!

An international team of researchers, most of whom have ties to KIPAC, has shown that the hot diffuse gas that fills the space between the galaxies has the same concentration of iron in all galaxy clusters that were studied in sufficient detail by the Japanese Suzaku satellite.

An international team of researchers, most of whom have ties to KIPAC, has shown that the hot diffuse gas that fills the space between the galaxies has the same concentration of iron in all galaxy clusters that were studied in sufficient detail by the Japanese Suzaku satellite.

These results confirm the team's earlier findings regarding the Perseus Cluster, published in Nature, which suggested that most of the iron in the Universe was produced and spread throughout intergalactic space before galaxy clusters formed, more than 10 billion years ago. The iron, along with many other elements, was blown out of galaxies by the combined energy of billions of supernovae, as well as outbursts from growing supermassive black holes.