Research Highlights

Sep 12, 2013 | The Highest Energies in the Universe


After a century of study, researchers still struggle to understand the origin of cosmic rays, particles with extreme energies that fill the Universe and bombard the Earth from all directions... On Tuesday at KIPAC@10, we asked: Where Did That Come From? and spent the morning talking about particle acceleration in the Universe. Afterwards, Luigi Tibaldo talked to Angela Olinto (KICP) and Neil Gehrels (NASA Goddard)

May 10, 2013 | Escaping Pulsar Particles Possibly Prominent

The Vela pulsar is in many ways the archetypal pulsar, one of nature's lighthouses where a rapidly spinning, highly magnetized neutron star sends out beams of particles and radiation sweeping through space like a beacon. Vela's proximity to Earth has allowed it to be studied in detail across the electromagnetic spectrum, including with radio waves, X-rays, and the highest energy "TeV" gamma rays. The latest contributions to our wealth of data on this phenomenon are the observations from the Large Area Telescope (LAT) of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the orbiting observatory in which KIPAC is the primary scientific institution. These observations have revealed an extended gamma-ray emitting structure surrounding the pulsar and coincident with a similarly extended area of radio emission, known as the "extended radio nebula," where electrons ejected from near the pulsar emit light through interactions with the ambient magnetic field.

May 5, 2013 | Creating Magnetic Fields In The First Stars, In Computers

Newly detailed computer simulations show how magnetic fields grew in the first stars, and may change our view of the Universe's original shiny objects.

Magnetic energy map of a forming star in the simulations. Columns from left to right show increasing resolution of simulation. Rows from top to bottom show the view zooming in from far away.

May 5, 2013 | Spectroscopy for the FSRQ Zoo

Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are nature's extreme particle accelerators, where twin beams of high energy particles and radiation fly away from a supermassive black hole in the center of a distant galaxy. When one of the beams is pointed at us, we see the phenomenon of a blazar, which can be seen prominently in X-rays or gamma rays, the highest energy kinds of light. Observations with the Large Area Telescope of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope - which was built at SLAC and in which KIPAC is the main science institution - have revolutionized the study of blazars by cataloging their gamma-ray emission.  

Apr 30, 2013 | Supernovae Tracked In Their Natural Environment

By assembling a large amount of optical data from galaxies which host supernova explosions, a KIPAC graduate student has shown that when it comes to supernovae, location matters.

Color composite images of 6 host galaxies of Type-IIb supernovae. The positions of the supernovae are indicated by white circles.

Apr 25, 2013 | Blazar Evolution With Cosmic Archaeology

One of the many places high energy physics and astrophysics meet is in active galactic nuclei (AGN), where in distant galaxies the interaction of a huge quantity of infalling matter with a monstrous spinning supermassive black hole at the center results in enormous jets of particles and radiation. When the alignment of the AGN happens to be such that a jet is pointed right at us, we observe what we call a blazar, an AGN object with significant emission in gamma rays, the highest energy photons of light.

Apr 20, 2013 | Missing Dark Matter Satellites Still Missing

Around the Milky Way Galaxy orbit nearly two dozen known small satellite galaxies that have wide a range of sizes, all of which are much smaller than the Milky Way itself. Like miniature replicas of their big cousin, these dwarf satellite galaxies are systems of stars where the total mass and gravitational behavior is dominated by a concentration of unseen dark matter. Theoretical simulations on computers and models of dark matter structure formation indicate that these satellite galaxies should indeed form, but with a hitch.

Apr 5, 2013 | Many Eyes On A Gamma-ray Burst

Gamma-ray bursts, or "GRBs," are the most energetic explosions in the Universe. As the name implies, their defining characteristic is a large temporary blast of gamma rays, the highest energy kind of light. GRBs result from the catastrophic collapse of an enormous star, or the merger of two neutron stars or a neutron star and black hole. The details of going from the collapse or merger to the burst of gamma-rays and other light involves physics at some of the highest energies ever seen in the Universe.  

Jan 1, 2013 | Astronomers Capture Cosmic Jet Firing Up

Using X-ray, radio, and gamma-ray observations of a distant galaxy, a multinational team of astrophysicists has seen perhaps the first live instance of the turning on of a powerful jet from a supermassive black hole.

Optical image of the region of the new jet, showing the localization of the jet with Swift's X-ray detection and the radio detection from long distance interferometry. Image courtesy of NASA.