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Archive for August 17, 2012

Inital Public Statement From AUI And NRAO On The Report Of The NSF’s Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Associated Universities Inc. (AUI) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) have made a preliminary examination of the report released today from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee (PRC). Among the recommendations of that report are that the NSF’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) be fully divested from the NSF Astronomy Division’s portfolio of research facilities in the next five years, with no further funding from the Astronomy Division.

AUI and NRAO recognize and acknowledge the need to retire obsolete facilities to make way for the state-of-the-art. However, both the GBT and the VLBA are the state-of-the-art, and have crucial capabilities that cannot be provided by other facilities. Separately the two telescopes provide unparalleled scientific access to the universe. When their information is combined, the instruments provide the highest sensitivity and resolution available for any astronomical instrument in the world.

Full Story: http://www.aui.edu/pr.php?id=20081194

Magnetic Turbulence Trumps Collisions To Heat Solar Wind

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

New research led by University of Warwick physicist Dr Kareem Osman has provided significant insight into how the solar wind heats up when it should not. The solar wind rushes outwards from the raging inferno that is our Sun, but from then on the wind should only get cooler as it expands beyond our solar system since there are no particle collisions to dissipate energy. However, the solar wind is surprisingly hotter than it should be, which has puzzled scientists for decades. Two new research papers led by Dr Osman may have solved that puzzle.

The new research led by Dr. Kareem Osman at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics has revealed how turbulence heats the solar wind. He says:

“Turbulence stretches and bends magnetic field lines, and often two oppositely directed field lines can come together to form a current sheet. These current sheets, which are distributed randomly in space, could be sites where the magnetic field snaps and reconnects transferring energy to particle heating. There are also many more ways that current sheets can heat and accelerate the plasma.”

Full Story: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/magnetic_turbulence_trumps#

AST Portfolio Review

August 17, 2012 1 comment

The 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey Report, New Worlds, New Horizons (NWNH), made its recommendations to NSF in the context of a projected budget that would double in ten years, but this optimistic projection has not materialized. NWNH explicitly noted (p. 240) that “If the realized budget is truly flat in FY2010 dollars … there is no possibility of implementing any of the recommended program this decade – without achieving significant savings through enacting the recommendations of the first 2006 Senior Review process and/or implementing a second more drastic senior review before mid-decade.”

Full Story: http://www.nsf.gov/mps/ast/ast_portfolio_review.jsp

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The Sun’s Almost Perfectly Round Shape Baffles Scientists

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Image of the sun taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA

The sun is nearly the roundest object ever measured. If scaled to the size of a beach ball, it would be so round that the difference between the widest and narrow diameters would be much less than the width of a human hair.

The sun rotates every 28 days, and because it doesn’t have a solid surface, it should be slightly flattened. This tiny flattening has been studied with many instruments for almost 50 years to learn about the sun’s rotation, especially the rotation below its surface, which we can’t see directly.

Full Story: http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/press-releases/RoundSun/

NASA to Host Curiosity Rover Teleconference Aug. 17

August 17, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA will host a media teleconference at 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. EDT), Friday, Aug. 17, to provide a status update on the Curiosity rover’s mission to Mars’ Gale Crater.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are checking out Curiosity’s subsystems and 10 instruments. Curiosity is in the opening days of a two-year mission to investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-244