An international team of researchers led by Masamune Oguri at Kavli IPMU and Naohisa Inada at Nara National College of Technology conduced an unprecedented survey of gravitationally lensed quasars, and used it to measure the expansion history of the universe. The result provides strong evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. There were several observations that suggested the accelerated cosmic expansion, including distant supernovae for which the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. The team’s result confirms the accelerated cosmic expansion using a completely different approach, which strengthens the case for dark energy. This result will be published in The Astronomical Journal.
Full Story: http://www.ipmu.jp/node/1281
Fang Lizhi, a major voice for human rights and democracy and a pioneering scientist in his native China, continued to advance the field of astrophysics at the UA for more than 20 years before he died last week.
Human rights activist Fang Lizhi, who died last week at age 76, had been a professor in the University of Arizona department of physics and an adjunct professor with the UA’s Steward Observatory for more than 20 years, where he made highly regarded contributions to astrophysics.
Fang was world renowned for his outspoken and active role in promoting human rights in his native China.
Considered an “undesirable element” by the Chinese government, Fang was dismissed from the Chinese nuclear program and reassigned in 1958 to the University of Science and Technology of China, or USTC, which is regarded as China’s equivalent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Full Story: http://uanews.org/node/46176
NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with space shuttle Discovery mounted atop will fly approximately 1,500 feet above various parts of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on Tuesday, April 17.
The flight, in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, is scheduled to occur between 10 and 11 a.m. EDT. NASA Television and the agency’s web site will provide live coverage.
The exact route and timing of the flight depend on weather and operational constraints. However, the aircraft is expected to fly near a variety of landmarks in the metropolitan area, including the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor and the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center. When the flyover is complete, the SCA will land at Dulles International Airport.
One day in the fall of 2011, Neil Sheeley, a solar scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did what he always does – look through the daily images of the sun from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
But on this day he saw something he’d never noticed before: a pattern of cells with bright centers and dark boundaries occurring in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. These cells looked somewhat like a cell pattern that occurs on the sun’s surface — similar to the bubbles that rise to the top of boiling water — but it was a surprise to find this pattern higher up in the corona, which is normally dominated by bright loops and dark coronal holes.
Sheeley discussed the images with his Naval Research Laboratory colleague Harry Warren, and together they set out to learn more about the cells. Their search included observations from a fleet of NASA spacecraft called the Heliophysics System Observatory that provided separate viewpoints from different places around the sun. They describe the properties of these previously unreported solar features, dubbed “coronal cells,” in a paper published online in The Astrophysical Journal on March 20, 2012 that will appear in print on April 10.
“We’re thrilled,” said LCOGT Scientific Director Tim Brown, “to have our first telescope in such a well-supported site, with superbly dark skies.”
The 1-meter (40-inch) telescope will be used for both research and outreach to K-12 schools. It is part of a large planned network of LCOGT telescopes to be installed around the world, and the first of five (two 1-meter and three 0.4-meter) and possibly more LCOGT telescopes to be installed at McDonald Observatory over the next few years.
The most recent spacecraft tracking and telemetry data were collected on April 4 using the Deep Space Network’s 34 meterStation 15 at Goldstone, California. Aside from the issues in work with the Ultrastable Oscillator (see the Jan. 5, 2012 Significant Events) and the Cosmic Dust Analyzer, the Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health and its subsystems are operating normally. Information on the present position of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the “Present Position” page at: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/presentposition/.
Telemetry data from the targeted Enceladus encounter E-17 on March 27 were transmitted 1.3 billion kilometers to Earth on Wednesday; every bit was captured successfully by the Deep Space Network. The Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) was able to discern variations in CO2 density among the individual gas jets as the spacecraft dove through the Enceladus south polar plume. The Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS), which was recently powered back on, acquired excellent data in and near the plume, along with the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) and INMS. A spectacular image of the south polar plume may be seen here, along with images of the icy moons Janus, taken March 27, and Dione, taken March 28:http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/cassinifeatures/feature20120328/
Engineers and astronomers are celebrating the much anticipated first light of the MOSFIRE instrument, now installed on the Keck I telescope at W. M. Keck Observatory. MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration) will vastly increase the data gathering power of what is already the world’s most productive ground-based observatory.
“This is a near-infrared multi-object spectrograph, similar to our popular LRIS and DEIMOS instruments, only at longer wavelengths,” explained Keck Observatory Observing Support Manager Bob Goodrich. “The MOSFIRE project team members at Keck Observatory, Caltech, UCLA, and UC Santa Cruz are to be congratulated, as are the observatory operations staff who worked hard to get MOSFIRE integrated into the Keck I telescope and infrastructure. A lot of people have put in long hours getting ready for this momentous First Light.”
Three of the six crew members living aboard the International Space Station will take questions from reporters during a news conference on Wednesday, April 11, at 9:15 a.m. CDT. The conference will air live on NASA Television and will be streamed on the agency’s website.
The news conference will link up reporters with NASA Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineers Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers.
The crew members will discuss research they are conducting, the myriad of cargo delivery vehicles visiting the station — including SpaceX Dragon, the first American commercial vehicle — and the return of Burbank and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin in their Soyuz spacecraft later this month.
One of the world’s largest astronomy archives, containing a treasure trove of information about myriad stars, planets, and galaxies, has been named in honor of the United States Senator from Maryland Barbara Mikulski.
Called MAST, for the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, the huge database contains astronomical observations from 16 NASA space astronomy missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope.
“In celebration of Sen. Mikulski’s career-long achievements, and particularly this year, becoming the longest-serving woman in U.S. Congressional history, we sought NASA’s permission to establish the Senator’s permanent legacy to science by naming the optical and ultraviolet data archive housed here at the Institute in her honor,” said Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md.
STScI is the science operations center for Hubble and its upcoming successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.