The Crab Nebula, our old friend, has continued giving us big surprises in the past few years, as we recently saw in this KIPAC blogpost (from April 2015, by Jeff Scargle and Roger Blandford). We have been gaining glimpses into these surprises thanks to the excellent performance of the orbiting gamma-ray telescopes, Fermi and AGILE, which have been able to get glimpses into the hidden secrets kept mum for so long in other wavelengths by this old stalwart.
Jul 10, 2016 | Ripples in spacetime - from 1.3 billion light years away
By now most of you who are “astro-enthusiasts” have already heard the news originally announced in February 2016 of the gravitational wave event observed by Advanced LIGO in September 2015, and perhaps also heard a bit about how excited astrophysicists were about it. As for why we were all so enthused, maybe the simplest explanation is this: we have grown a new sense and have for the first time heard the ripples in spacetime emanating from two colliding black holes, spreading out throughout the Universe, and gently jiggling the Earth as they pass us by, in a way humans have never been able to before.
Jul 2, 2016 | Swift GRBs: a 3D step toward standard candles
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are some of the most energetic events known in astrophysics. In just a few seconds, a typical burst can release as much energy as our sun will emit over its entire 10 billion-year lifetime so it is not surprising that GRBs have been detected billions of light years away. If the intrinsic brightness of GRBs were known, a comparison with their detected brightness would yield their effective distance, and given their observed recession velocity or redshift, GRBs could then be used as accurate distance estimators for cosmology. This would enable researchers to arrive at solid estimates for the distances of all manner of extremely faint, old objects, such as very early galaxies.
Last fall, KIPAC professor Bruce Macintosh managed to make time in his busy schedule of teaching and sleuthing for extrasolar planets orbiting around distant stars to help put together a progress report for a mid-decadal review of what is arguably the most important exercise in his entire field: The Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. For the past 60 years, once each decade the astronomy and astrophysics community in the US takes a good, long look in the mirror. During this comprehensive self-assessment, scientists from across the country and around the world come together to hash out issues of scientific priorities and resource allocations, enabling the field as a whole to face the future together. "This is a good thing," Macintosh says—the democratic process results in a community that is more supportive of the resulting priorities
The Dark Energy Camera (DECam) is a 570-megapixel camera installed on the 4-meter Victor Blanco telescope atop Cerro Tololo, a mountain in the Chilean Andes. The science mission for the Dark Energy Survey, of which I’m a member, is nothing less than to use this camera to understand what Dark Energy is. Which is a tall challenge, since the phrase “Dark Energy” itself is, as some cosmologists say, simply words we use to describe our profound ignorance about the current-day accelerating expansion of the universe.
By Lori Ann White
In the series, "Where are they now?" we check in with KIPAC alumni: where they are now, how they've fared since their days exploring particle astrophysics and cosmology at the Institute, and how their KIPAC experiences have shaped their journeys.
Apr 18, 2016 | First Baby Photos of an Infant Planet
For the first time we've managed to take a baby picture of a planet still in the process of growing. Our team was able to image this so-called “proto"-planet with the Magellan telescope in Chile, taking advantage of the high-speed adaptive optics of the telescope to correct for blurring by the Earth's atmosphere. This allowed us to take a super high-resolution image of the system and, after subtracting the light from the central star, isolate light coming directly from the protoplanet. More specifically, we isolated light emitted by ultra-hot hydrogen gas falling onto the protoplanet, which is named (systematically, if not super-creatively) LkCa 15 b after its star, LkCa 15 A.
Apr 13, 2016 | Directly Imaging Exoplanets or: Seeing Alien Worlds
Professor Bruce Macintosh of KIPAC is the primary protagonist of “In Search of Ancient Jupiters,” an excellent and compelling piece by Lee Billings in the Aug 2015 edition of the popular science magazine Scientific American (SciAm), and in the article he gives a very human perspective on the race to find and see this class of exoplanets directly vs. using the indirect means that most recent methods have focused on.
Apr 13, 2016 | Where are they now? Yvonne Edmonds
In the series, "Where are they now?" we check in with KIPAC alumni: where they are now, how they've fared since their days exploring particle astrophysics and cosmology at the Institute, and how their KIPAC experiences have shaped their journeys. Next up is Yvonne Edmonds, who spent her time at KIPAC searching for signs of dark matter in the data gathered by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (FGST).
By Lori Ann White
Above: Albert sporting a shirt that contains all the particles of the current Standard Model of particle physics (which is now known to be incomplete because it misses dark matter, for one.) (Photo courtesy Albert Wandui.)
Apr 3, 2016 | Up above the Earth so high: Astrophysics at 44,000 feet!
By Rebecca Canning and Norbert Werner
Nov 24, 2015 | The Journey to the Bottom of the World
By Val Monticue