KIPAC Newsletter, Spring 2016


            Welcome to our latest Newsletter. Often when we in the management team sit down to think about whether we have any news items to share, we start thinking it couldn’t be much given we just recently had one. But every time we start making a list of topics we realize that once again an enormous amount of exciting things have and are happening. At the same time we also will have overlooked including further newsworthy items and encourage you to remind us so we can share it in the next Newsletter.

Thanks again to everyone for all your great work!
Hoping to see you at the Open House this Saturday. It’ll be great no doubt!


Tom for the KIPAC management team: Greg, Pat, Risa, Tom and Ziba


  • Congratulations to the Stanford team for making LIGO’s remarkable discovery of gravtational waves possible. Specifically, Stanford’s Hansen Experimental Physics Lab as well as the Gintzon Lab were involved in the development of the LIGO main laser, mirrors, and the seismic isolation system.  All of us are looking forward to the science and insights derived from gravitational wave astronomy. Stanford’s Brian Lantz, one of the LIGO team members, will give a public lecture at SLAC on May 24 on LIGO and the gravitational wave event measured during the run in 2015.  Also congratulations for them receiving the special breakthrough prize.
  • Congratulations to Roger Blandford on the Crafoord prize in Astronomy. Roger and Roy Kerr share it for their “fundamental work concerning rotating black holes and their astrophysical consequences”.
  • The new Japanese X-ray astronomy satellite Hitomi was launched successfully in late February by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA. The instruments aboard the satellite were turned on and already provided some data (reported at the High Energy Astrophysics meeting in Naples, FL in early April), but the satellite has encountered an anomaly, and currently there is no contact with it. The next Hitomi Science Meeting, to discuss the data on hand, will take place in the 2nd half of May.    
  • DOE to partner with NSF on a CMB stage 4 experiment.
    • Its official. At the February 25 meeting of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC), a federal advisory panel advising DOE, NASA, and NSF, and at the February 26 meeting of the National Academy of Sciences Midterm Astronomy and Astrophysics Assessment Committee, Kathy Turner, DOE program manager, presented the DOE-HEP Cosmic Frontier update. This included CMB-S4 explicitly saying:
      • As recommended by Particle Physics Projects Prioritization Panel (P5), we are planning to participate in CMB-S4.
      • A small funding wedge in FY18 would put us in line with the P5 recommended project timeline.
      • The DOE will work with NSF to develop possibilities.
    • If all goes well this project will be in construction in the early 2020s and our CMB groups led by Chao Lin Kuo, Panofsky Fellow Zeesh Ahmed, and Kent Irwin will help make this exciting project a reality.


  • Upcoming events
    • SLAC will host the upcoming collaboration meeting for the Dark Energy Survey May 9-13.
    • KIPAC 2016 Open house will be on May 7th at SLAC, starting at 5PM.  We’ll be using the entire first floor of the Science & User Support Building. This year’s events and exhibits include talks, 3-D movies, inflatable dome planetarium, spectroscopy, and a cratering activity.  Cloud chamber, bottle rocket, solar telescopes, star-gazing, and many more activities. As always we hope all KIPAC members will help make this year’s event as successful as all the previous years. It literally takes an army to organize and run the event. Please write to Ziba, Mandeep Gil and or Phil Marshall to participate.
    • High Energy Density Laboratory Astrophysics
      • The 20th anniversary of the HEDLA conference series will be held in the Kavli auditorium May 16-20, 2016 and will be a great opportunity to discuss exciting recent work and future prospects in laboratory astrophysics. During the past decade, research teams around the world have developed astrophysics-relevant research utilizing high energy-density facilities such as intense lasers and z-pinches. Research is underway in many areas, such as compressible hydrodynamic mixing, shock phenomena, magnetic reconnection, turbulence, jets, dynamos, heat conduction, radiative transport, complex opacities, equations of state, warm dense matter, relativistic plasmas, pair plasmas, and QED.
  • Recent events:  
    • The LSST DESC meeting was hosted at SLAC from March 7-11, including the popular Dark Energy School and a lively hackday.
    • Fermi Collaboration meeting took place at SLAC March 14-17:  the mission is operating flawlessly, providing excellent data.  One key matter that was discussed is Fermi’s all-sky monitoring capability vis-a-vis the recent (and future!) detection of gravitational waves by LIGO.  
    • Elliott’s event - Wonderful 1-day event to celebrate Elliott Bloom’s scientific accomplishments took place at SLAC on March 18th.  The slides are available at the publicly accessible Web site.
    • Intensity Mapping Workshop: It was hosted by KIPAC March 21st to 23rd  and the sessions took place at SLAC.   We welcomed ~50 participants (including 6 from KIPAC) representing 10 experiments from the US, Canada, Italy, France, Taiwan, and South Africa.  The goals of the workshop were to identify the most pressing challenges facing this still young field, and to promote collaborative efforts going forward.  To achieve that, the event was centered around splinter sessions split broadly into theory, instrumentation, and observation.  Splinter notes and talk slides are archived here for future reference, and a summary document will appear May 1.  
    • March 2016 marked the launch of the Bay Area chapter of Astronomy on Tap, thanks to the work of several KIPAC members, initiated by Sean McLaughlin. Astronomy on Tap is a public outreach event where astronomers take over a local bar for a night to talk about all things space. The first event was held on March 8th at the Patio in Palo Alto. After Sean McLaughlin covered Astronomy in the News, Vanessa Bailey, Andrea Albert, and Phil Marshall spoke to great acclaim. Turnout was excellent, and we are looking forward to hosting more events around the Bay Area in the future! The next event will be May 25th, also at the Patio.  If you're interested in helping out or just attending, be sure to reach us at @AoTBayArea or
    • Thanks everyone for participating at all the events during the two days when  prospective graduate students admitted to Stanford Physics were visiting this April. We have almost 40 new students joining the physics department.   


  • People coming and going
    • New postdocs coming in the Fall
      • Ian Czekala He has developed a novel approach that combines spatially resolved sub-millimeter spectral line imaging and optical/near-infrared high resolution spectroscopy to derive the fundamental properties of a young star: mass, temperature, and radius. He is excited to exploit Alma and G-PI to further his studies here.
      • Alden Fan (Kavli fellow) As part of the DarkSide collaboration, he used a Time Projection Chamber filled with reduced-radioactivity liquid argon from underground wells to get the world’s best limit on WIMP dark matter interactions with argon nuclei. He also built and operated a table-top liquid argon detector to study the fundamental response of the detector medium, and looks forward to applying those techniques to liquid xenon detectors at KIPAC.
      • Aaron Phipps (Kavli Fellow) As a member of the SuperCDMS collaboration, Arran has helped operate a deep underground array of cryogenic germanium detectors in an effort to directly detect WIMP dark matter. He has designed a fully-cryogenic HEMT-based charge amplifier with the best ionization energy resolution ever achieved with a CDMS detector. He has also developed an apparatus to study the fundamental charge transport physics which determine the ionization collection efficiency of these detectors. Arran is excited to apply his knowledge of dark matter detectors and low temperature electronics to search for axion-like particles with the Dark Matter Radio experiment.
      • Dan Wilkins (Einstein Fellow) has completed his PhD thesis covering interpretation of X-ray data for accreting black holes at Cambridge University:  this includes the full General Relativistic treatment of radiation from the accretion disk surrounding the black hole.  He intends to continue his work on accreting sources, but plans to also address the issue of formation of relativistic jets associated with accretion on compact sources.  
      • Gregory Green (Porat Fellow). He has produced a three-dimensional map of dust reddening in the Milky Way, based on photometry from Pan-STARRS 1 and 2MASS. This involved inferring the distance, reddening and type of approximately 800 million stars, and using stars along small lines of sight to infer the dust reddening versus distance.  In addition to dust, he is interested in a wide range of topics in statistical inference from big data sets.
  • All the best wishes to our former postdocs that are off to their next adventure:  
    • Andrea Albert received the prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship at Los Alamos National Lab and started there recently.
    • Matt Becker has started a new position as a senior data scientist at Civis analytics in Chicago.  
    • Philipp Mertsch has started as an Assistant Professor at Niels Bohr International Academy (NBIA) in the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen

Tom Abel
Director, Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology @ Stanford
Division Director, Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology @ SLAC