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HiPACC Computational Astronomy Press Room. From: LBNL

The Press Room highlights computational astronomy work around the UC-HiPACC consortium; the wording of the short summaries on this page is based on wording in the individual releases or on the summaries on the press release page of the original source. Press releases below appear in reverse chronological order (most recent first); they can also be displayed by UC campus or DOE lab by clicking on the desired venue at the bottom of the left-hand column.

October 28, 2014 — Creating the coldest cubic meter in the Universe

Why do we exist? Look into Italy’s deep freeze
An illustration of the cross-section of the cryostat with a human figure for scale. Credit: CUORE collaboration
LBNL 10/28/2014—In an underground laboratory in Italy, an international team of scientists has created the coldest cubic meter in the universe. The frigid chamber—roughly the size of a vending machine—was chilled to 6 milliKelvin or -273.144 degrees Celsius in preparation for a forthcoming experiment that will study neutrinos, ghostlike particles that could hold the key to the existence of matter. The Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events (CUORE) consists of half a dozen nested evacuated chambers, each progressively smaller and colder. The cryostat maintained the record ultra-cold temperature for more than two weeks. Ultimately, it will house a new ultra-sensitive detector to observe a hypothesized rare process called neutrinoless double-beta decay. Detection of this process would allow researchers to demonstrate, for the first time, that neutrinos are their own antiparticles, thereby offering a possible explanation for the abundance of matter over anti-matter in our universe—in other words, why galaxies, stars, and people exist in the universe at all.

View LBNL Press Release

October 2, 2014 — A closer look at the perfect fluid

Perfect fluid: recreating the Big Bang
A simulated collision of lead ions. Credit: ALICE experiment at CERN
LBNL 10/2/2014—By accelerating heavy atomic nuclei to high energies and blasting them into each other, scientists are able to recreate the hot temperature conditions of the early universe. By combining data from two high-energy accelerators, nuclear scientists have refined the measurement of a remarkable property of exotic matter known as quark-gluon plasma. Relying on a branch of theory called relativistic hydrodynamics in which the motion of fluids is described by equations from Einstein’s theory of special relativity, researchers from the JET Collaboration have developed such a model that can describe the process of expansion and the observed phenomena of an ultra-hot perfect fluid, allowing them to understand how jets propagates through the dynamic fireball. The findings reveal new aspects of the ultra-hot, “perfect fluid” that give clues to the state of the young universe just microseconds after the big bang. The multi-institutional JET Collaboration, led by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), published their results in Physical Review C.

View LBNL Press Release

October 1, 2014 — Hide & seek: Sterile neutrinos remain elusive

Come out, come out, wherever you are
Photomultiplier tubes in the Daya Bay detectors. Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt/LBNL
LBNL 10/1/2014—The Daya Bay Collaboration, an international group of scientists studying the subtle transformations of neutrinos—electrically neutral, almost undetectable subatomic particles—has published its first results on the search for a so-called sterile neutrino, a possible new type of neutrino beyond the three known neutrino “flavors,” or types. The existence of elusive sterile neutrinos, if proven, would have a profound impact on our understanding of the universe, and could impact the design of future neutrino experiments. The new results, published in Physical Review Letters, show no evidence for sterile neutrinos in a previously unexplored mass range. The fact that neutrinos have mass at all is a relatively new discovery, as is the observation at Daya Bay that the electron neutrino is a mixture of at least three mass states. While scientists don’t know the exact values of the neutrino masses, they are able to measure the differences between them, or “mass splittings.” They also know that neutrinos are dramatically less massive than the well-known electron, though both are members of the family of particles called “leptons.” Their unexpected observations have led to the possibility that the neutrino could be a special type of matter and a very important component of the mass of the universe.

View LBNL Press Release

July 15, 2014 — Next-generation dark matter experiments get the green light

 Green light $$ for LUX-Zeplin
The LZ water shield, currently housing the LUX experiment.
LBNL 7/15/2014—Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Science Foundation announced support for a suite of upcoming experiments to search for dark matter that will be many times more sensitive than those currently deployed. These so-called Generation 2 Dark Matter Experiments include the LUX-Zeplin (LZ) experiment, an international collaboration formed in 2012, managed by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and to be located at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in South Dakota. With the announcement, the DOE and NSF officially endorsed LZ and two other dark matter experiments.

View LBNL Press Release

June 4, 2014 — Surprisingly strong magnetic fields challenge black holes’ pull

Black holes’ magnetic fields strong as gravity
A computer simulation of gas (in yellow) falling into a black hole (too small to be seen). Twin jets are also shown with magnetic field lines. Image credit: Alexander Tchekhovskoy, LBNL
LBNL 6/4/14—A new study of 76 supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies has found that the black holes’ magnetic field strength matched the force produced by their powerful gravitational pull, says a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany. The findings, which systematically measure the strength of magnetic fields near black holes for the first time, are published in the June 5 issue of Nature. Computational models by Alexander Tchekhovskoy, postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley, had suggested a black hole could sustain a magnetic field that was as strong as its gravity, but until this study there was not yet observational evidence to support this prediction. With the two forces balancing out, a cloud of gas caught on top of the magnetic field would be spared the pull of gravity and instead levitate in place. Tchekhovskoy says the new results mean theorists must re-evaluate their understanding of black-hole behavior.

View LBNL Press Release

May 21, 2014 — Confirmed: Stellar behemoth self-destructs in a Type IIb supernova

“Smoking gun:” Stellar behemoths self-destruct
A very hot, young supernova (arrow) marked the explosive death of a massive star in a galaxy known as UGC 9379 about 360 million light years away from Earth.
LBNL 5/21/14 — For the first time ever, scientists have direct confirmation that a Wolf-Rayet star—sitting in a galaxy 360 million light years away in the constellation Boötes—died in a violent explosion known as a Type IIb supernova. Wolf-Rayet stars are more than 20 times as massive as the Sun and at least five times as hot. They are relatively rare and often obscured by gas and dust, so scientists don’t know much about them. But now an innovative sky survey called the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF)—which uses resources at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), both located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)—exposes fleeting cosmic events such as supernovae. Using the iPTF pipeline, researchers caught supernova SN 2013cu within hours of its explosion. “This is the smoking gun,” says Peter Nugent, who heads LBNL’s Computational Cosmology Center (C3) and leads the Berkeley contingent of the iPTF collaboration.

View LBNL Press Release

April 17, 2014 — Clocking the early universe’s expansion

Early universe on the clock
As light travels to us from very distant quasars (white dots on the right), it passes through the expanding universe, carrying with it the story of its journey through this cosmic web. Astronomers have measured the expansion of the universe by tracing how quasar light has passed through these structures. (Illustration by Paul Hooper at Spirit Design with Mat Pieri and Gongbo Zhao, ICG; Courtesy: Third Sloan Digital Sky Survey)
LBNL 4/17/14 — Astronomers have made the most accurate calculation yet of the expansion rate of the young Universe with help from supercomputers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). Their findings could help scientists discover the nature of dark energy, the mysterious, repulsive force that pervades our universe causing it to expand at an accelerating rate. By analyzing the light of distant quasars gathered by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), two teams of scientists found the 4 billion year-old Universe was expanding by one percent every 44 million years.

View LBNL Press Release

April 7, 2014 — BOSS quasars track the expanding universe—the most precise measurement yet

Tracking universe’s expansion with quasars—BOS
An artist’s conception of how BOSS uses quasars to measure the distant universe. Light from distant quasars is partly absorbed by intervening gas, which is imprinted with a subtle ring-like pattern of known physical scale. Astronomers have now measured this scale with an accuracy of two percent, precisely measuring how fast the universe was expanding when it was just 3 billion years old. (Illustration by Zosia Rostomian, LBNL, and Andreu Font-Ribera, BOSS Lyman-alpha team, LBNL)
LBNL 4/7/14 —The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), pioneered the use of quasars to map density variations in intergalactic gas at high redshifts, tracing the structure of the young universe. BOSS charts the history of the universe’s expansion to illuminate the nature of dark energy, and new measures of large-scale structure have yielded the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies first formed. The latest quasar results combine two separate analytical techniques, one of which is a new kind of analysis led by physicist Andreu Font-Ribera of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). Together, the techniques establish the expansion rate at 68 kilometers per second per million light years at redshift 2.34, with an unprecedented accuracy of 2.2 percent.

View LBNL Press Release

March 19, 2014 — Astrophysics team simulates key supernova phase at unprecedented resolution

Astrophysics team simulates off-center supernova
The color map shows the magnitude of vorticity (the spinning motion of the fluid), with large regions of relatively strong turbulence shown in white/yellow. More at full iSGTW press release.
March 19, 2014 – UCSC/LBNL 3/19/14 - Type Ia supernovae, thermonuclear explosions of compact stars, start their explosion off-center, according to UC Santa Cruz postdoctoral researcher Chris Malone. He and other members of the astrophysics team led by professor Stan Woosley, used computational methods on the Blue Waters supercomputer to follow the evolution of these massive explosions, simulating a turbulent flame in a supernova at unprecedented resolution. Their results appear in the February 2014 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

View UCSC,LBNL Press Release

March 18, 2014 — Setting a trap for gravity waves

Setting a trap for gravity waves
B-mode polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation exhibits a distinctive 'curl,' either left or right-handed, imposed by the distortion of space as gravity waves moved through it. (Image BICEP2 Collaboration)
LBNL 3/18/14 – In 1996, Uros Seljak (then a postdoc at Harvard, now a professor of astrophysics at UCB) was contemplating ways to extract information from the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The distribution of slight temperature differences in the CMB had much to say about the large-scale structure of the universe. If it were also possible to detect the polarization of the CMB itself, however, a much wider window would be opened – polarization could even reveal the tracks of gravitational waves. On Monday, March 17, 2014, the BICEP2 collaboration grabbed the brass ring: first detection of B-mode polarization from gravitational waves, thus first direct evidence of inflation – a signal far stronger than most scientists had expected.

View LBNL Press Release

March 3, 2014 — Standard-candle supernovae are still standard, but why?

Why are standard-candle supernovae standard?
Type Ia supernovae result from the explosions of white dwarf stars. These supernovae vary widely in peak brightness, how long they stay bright, and how they fade away, as the lower graph shows. Theoretical models (dashed black lines) seek to account for the differences, for example why faint supernovae fade quickly and bright supernovae fade slowly. A new analysis by the Nearby Supernova Factory indicates that when peak brightnesses are accounted for, as shown in the upper graph, the late-time behaviors of faint and bright supernovae provide solid evidence that the white dwarfs that caused the explosions had different masses, even though the resulting blasts are all “standard candles.”
LBNL 3/3/14 – Until recently, scientists thought they knew why Type Ia supernovae – the best cosmological “standard candles” – are all so much alike. But their favorite scenario was wrong. White dwarfs don’t all reach the Chandrasekhar limit, 1.4 times the mass of our sun, before they detonate in a massive thermonuclear explosion. Most Type Ia progenitors are less massive, and a few are even more massive. New work by the Berkeley Lab-based Nearby Supernova Factory with both models and observed light curves can identify which theories of the strange circumstances that lead to a Type Ia explosion actually work and which don’t. Read full Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Press Release

January 13, 2014 — Are Earths Rare? Perhaps Not

Are Earths Rare? Perhaps Not
Artist’s representation of the “habitable zone,” the range of orbits where liquid water is permitted on the surface of a planet.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — One out of every five sun-like stars in our Milky Way galaxy has an Earth-sized planet orbiting it in the Goldilocks zone—not too hot, not too cold—where surface temperatures should be compatible with liquid water, according to a statistical analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. UC Berkeley scientists spent three years developing a transit search pipeline called TERRA that is optimized for finding small planets. When run on supercomputers to analyze nearly four years of Kepler observations, the scientists determined that our galaxy could contain as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-sized planets.

View full Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory press release.

January 8, 2014 — BOSS Measures the Universe to One-Percent Accuracy

BOSS Measures the Universe to One-Percent Accuracy
An artist's conception of the measurement scale of the universe. (Image: Zosia Rostomian, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey, has measured the clustering of nearly 1.3 million galaxies spectroscopically to determine the “standard ruler” of the universe’s large-scale structure to within one percent. This is the most precise such measurement ever made. Combined with recent measures of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) and supernova measures of accelerating expansion, the BOSS results suggest that dark energy is a cosmological constant whose strength does not vary in space or time. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), based at Berkeley Lab, was critical to the analysis.

Read full Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory press release.

December 16, 2013 — Supercomputers Capture Turbulence in the Solar Wind

Supercomputers Capture Turbulence in Solar Wind
Visualization zooms in on current sheets revealing the “cascade of turbulence” in the solar wind occurring down to electron scales. (Image: Burlen Loring, Berkeley Lab)
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — Strong magnetic storms on the Sun release tons of highly energetic particles into the solar wind. The Earth’s magnetic field bars most of these particles from plummeting through the atmosphere and damaging our DNA, debilitating power grids, disrupting communications networks, and damaging electronic devices. During particularly intense solar storms, however, the magnetosphere can “crack,” allowing charged particles to seep in and wreak havoc on the Earth’s technological infrastructure. Using supercomputers, LBL scientists simulated all the scales of solar wind turbulence at once—for the first time ever—to help scientists forecast destructive space weather.

View full Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory press release

November 21, 2013 — Searching for Cosmic Accelerators via IceCube

Searching for Cosmic Accelerators via IceCube
Detectors of the IceCube neutrino observatory are buried more than a mile below the South Pole
In our universe there are particle accelerators 40 million times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Scientists don’t know what these cosmic accelerators are or where they are located, but new results being reported from IceCube, the neutrino observatory buried at the South Pole, may show the way.

View full Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory press release.

September 25, 2013 — Simulating the big bang and beyond

Three of the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Labs—Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), Argonne National Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—have announced a partnership to develop a cosmological simulation analysis toolbox. The partnership seeks to take advantage of the DOE’s investments in supercomputers and high-performance computing codes, enhancing existing high-performance computing, high-energy physics, and cosmology-specific software systems to handle the large datasets of galaxy-formation simulations. The three labs are developing an open platform, web-based front end that will enable the scientific community to download, transfer, manipulate, search, and record simulation data. Astrophysicists will be able to upload and share applications as well as carry out complex computational analyses.

view full ISGTW Press Release

March 21, 2013 — Planck Mission Updates the Age of the Universe and What it Contains

Planck Mission Updates the Age of the Universe and
The Planck mission has yielded the most detailed map yet of the cosmic microwave background radiation, from which crucial cosmological parameters have been recalculated.
Crucial contributions to Planck’s analysis have also been made by Julian Borrill, the U.S. Planck Team’s computational systems architect, who led a Berkeley Lab group in creating the thousands of simulations run at NERSC upon which the accuracy of the analysis depended. Another related story is at

view full LBNL Press Release

March 14, 2013 — Building the Massive Simulation Sets Essential to Planck Results

Building the Massive Simulation Sets Essential to
From left, Reijo Keskitalo, Aaron Collier, Julian Borrill, and Ted Kisner of the Computational Cosmology Center with some of the many thousands of simulations for Planck Full Focal Plane 6.
Using NERSC supercomputers, scientists at Berkeley Lab’s Computational Cosmology Center generate thousands of simulations to analyze the flood of data from the the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Planck satellite mission, to make the most precise measurement yet of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – the remnant radiation from the Big Bang.

view full LBNL Press Release

February 20, 2013 — Searching for the Solar System’s Chemical Recipe

Searching for the Solar System’s Chemical Recipe
The protosun evolved in a hot nebula of infalling gas and dust that formed an accretion disk (green) of surrounding matter. Visible and ultraviolet light poured from the sun, irradiating abundant clouds of carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other chemicals. Temperatures near the sun were hot enough to melt silicates and other minerals, forming the chondrules found in early meteoroids (dashed black circles). Beyond the “snowline” (dashed white curves), water, methane, and other compounds condensed to ice. Numerous chemical reactions contributed to the isotopic ratios seen in relics of the early solar system today.
The ratio of isotopes in elements like oxygen, sulfur, and nitrogen in meteorites, interplanetary dust and gas, and the sun itself differ from isotope ratios on Earth. In a paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, planetary researchers at UC San Dieto and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory describe how they used LBNL’s Advanced Light Source to study these “mass-independent” effects to explore their origins in the chemical processes of the early solar system.

view full LBNL Press Release

February 6, 2013 — The Last Big Bump Before a Supernova Explodes

The Last Big Bump Before a Supernova Explodes
The day the supernova exploded (a) it was surrounded by a shell of matter ejected a month earlier (purple) with a radius of 7,000,000,000 kilometers, moving 2,000 kilometers a second. An outer shell (orange) had been ejected earlier and was moving slower. By day 5 (b) the shock front (black circle) was moving 10,000 kilometers a second, and by day 20 (c) had engulfed the inner shell, exposing the debris of the exploded core. (Sketch adapted from Ofek et al, Palomar Transient Factory)
Astronomers have long suspected that the explosion of a Type II supernova is only the last in a series of smaller blasts that successively blow off much of the core’s enveloping matter. Despite many such suggestive clues, no causal proof had previously linked precursor “bumps” in brightness to an actual supernova.

On August 25, 2010, the autonomous machine-learning framework (developed by Josh Bloom of Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division and Peter Nugent of the Computational Research Division and their colleagues) was combing through recent data from the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) and came upon a Type IIn supernova, half a billion light years away in the constellation Hercules. Shortly thereafter, Eran Ofek of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science led a search of previous PTF scans of the stellar neighborhood and found its likely precursor, a massive variable star that only 40 days before it went supernova had shed a huge amount of mass.

view full LBNL Press Release

February 6, 2013 — A Massive Stellar Burst, Before the Supernova

An automated supernova hunt is shedding new light on the death sequence of massive stars—specifically, the kind that self-destruct in Type IIn supernova explosions. Digging through the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) data archive housed at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), astronomers have found the first causal evidence that these massive stars shed huge amounts of material in a “penultimate outburst” before final detonation as supernovae.

view full NERSC Press Release

October 2, 2012 — Panofsky Prize Honors Researchers' Underground Hunt for Dark Matter

Underground hunt for DM
Blas Cabrera, the Stanley G. Wojcicki Professor in the Stanford Physics Department, who has a term appointment at SLAC, is a recipient of the 2013 W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle... (Photo courtesy Stanford University)
by Glenn Roberts Jr.
The search for dark matter runs deep with physicists Blas Cabrera and Bernard Sadoulet, who have chased this mystery far underground and will be recognized for their work as joint recipients of the 2013 W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics. The prize is named for SLAC's founding director, Wolfgang "Pief" Panofsky, and awarded by the American Physical Society.

While some researchers are scanning the heavens with powerful telescopes to detect dark matter or crashing particles together in an effort to create and study its exotic components, Sadoulet, of the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Cabrera, of Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have sought the same answers in deep shafts largely shielded from cosmic rays and other unwanted particle "noise."

Their continuing, decades-long Cryogenic Dark Matter Search has brought them to several underground sites in the hunt for direct evidence of theorized weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. If they are proven to exist, WIMPs could help define and explain dark matter, which is thought to make up about 25 percent of the energy density in the universe and is responsible for the formation of structure in the universe...

view full SLAC Press Release

September 24, 2012 — A Clock that Will Last Forever

Everlasting Clock
Imagine a clock that will keep perfect time forever or a device that opens new dimensions into quantum phenomena such as emergence and entanglement.
Berkeley Lab Researchers Propose a Way to Build the First Space-Time Crystal

Lynn Yarris (510) 486-5375

Imagine a clock that will keep perfect time forever, even after the heat-death of the universe. This is the “wow” factor behind a device known as a “space-time crystal,” a four-dimensional crystal that has periodic structure in time as well as space. However, there are also practical and important scientific reasons for constructing a space-time crystal. With such a 4D crystal, scientists would have a new and more effective means by which to study how complex physical properties and behaviors emerge from the collective interactions of large numbers of individual particles, the so-called many-body problem of physics. A space-time crystal could also be used to study phenomena in the quantum world, such as entanglement, in which an action on one particle impacts another particle even if the two particles are separated by vast distances...

view full LBNL Press Release

September 17, 2012 — Berkeley Lab Sensors Enable First Light for the Dark Energy Camera

1st light for Dark Energy Camera
The Dark Energy Camera is mounted on the Victor Blanco 5-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo. Its focal plane consists of 62 large Berkeley Lab CCDs with exceptionally high sensitivity to the near infrared end of the spectrum. (Photos Roger Smith, NOAO, AURA, NSF; Blanco webcam; Fermilab; Roy Kaltschmidt, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
DECam, the most powerful sky survey instrument yet built, depends on Berkeley Lab’s red-sensitive astronomical CCDs

Paul Preuss 510-486-6249

Early in the morning of September 12 the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), mounted on the Victor Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, recorded its first images of a southern sky spangled with galaxies. Galaxies up to eight billion light years away were captured on DECam’s focal plane, whose imager consists of 62 charge-coupled devices (CCDs) invented and developed by engineers and physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Berkeley Lab CCDs are noted for their exceptionally high sensitivity to light (quantum efficiency), particularly in the red and infrared regions of the spectrum – a crucial advantage for astronomical CCDs searching for objects at extremely high redshifts. Combining the 570-million-pixel focal plane made of Berkeley Lab CCDs with the light-gathering power of the Blanco telescope’s 4-meter mirror, DECam has unique ability to reach wide and deep into the night sky.

August 23, 2012 — Supernovae of the same brightness, cut from vastly different cosmic cloth

Rare Type 1a Supernova
The supernova PTF 11kx can be seen as the blue dot on the galaxy. The image was taken when the supernova was near maximum brightness by the Faulkes Telescope North. The system is located approximately 600 million light years away in the constellation Lynx. Image Credit: BJ Fulton (Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network)
"Berkeley Lab researchers make historic observation of rare Type 1a Supernova.

Exploding stars called Type 1a supernova are ideal for measuring cosmic distance because they are bright enough to spot across the Universe and have relatively the same luminosity everywhere. Although astronomers have many theories about the kinds of star systems involved in these explosions (or progenitor systems), no one has ever directly observed one—until now..."

view full LBL press Release

May 16, 2012 — Science Underground: Going to Great Depths

Science Underground: UCD
The tunnel on the left is the entrance to the cavern that will house the MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR neutrino experiment and also provides access to the LUX experiment, which is searching for particles of dark matter. The tunnel to the right is a separate entrance to the cavern in which Ray Davis performed his famous neutrino experiment, now modified to house LUX. (Photo Matt Kapust)
Science Underground: Going to Great Depths
The Davis Campus of the Sanford Underground Research Facility -- the Halls of Ivy it’s not.

The word “campus” brings to mind neo-Gothic bell towers and green lawns, not tunnels and caverns almost a mile underground. But that’s what the Davis Campus at the Sanford Underground Research Facility looks like, 4,850 feet down in the Homestake Mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Although SURF has weathered a series of funding ups and downs worthy of the rise and fall of the elevator cages that once took miners, and now scientists, to work in the mine, last year the U.S. Department of Energy successfully assumed sponsorship of the Sanford Lab’s scientific program from the National Science Foundation. DOE will maintain the mine as a home for existing and proposed projects to investigate dark matter, the secrets of the elusive neutrino, and other research that can only be done deep down in the dark...

view full LBL feature

April 18, 2012 — Where Do the Highest-Energy Cosmic Rays Come From? Probably Not from Gamma-Ray Bursts

Cosmic Rays w/ IceCube
IceCube’s 5,160 digital optical modules are suspended from 86 strings reaching a mile and a half below the surface at the South Pole. Each sphere contains a photomultiplier tube and electronics to capture the faint flashes of muons speeding through the ice, their direction and energy – and thus that of the neutrinos that created them – tracked by multiple detections. At lower left is the processed signal of an energetic muon moving upward through the array, created by a neutrino that traveled all the way through the Earth.
The IceCube Collaboration, in which Berkeley Lab is a crucial contributor, has taken the first steps toward clearing up a cosmic mystery – and made the mystery more intriguing

The IceCube neutrino telescope encompasses a cubic kilometer of clear Antarctic ice under the South Pole, a volume seeded with an array of 5,160 sensitive digital optical modules (DOMs) that precisely track the direction and energy of speeding muons, massive cousins of the electron that are created when neutrinos collide with atoms in the ice. The IceCube Collaboration recently announced the results of an exhaustive search for high-energy neutrinos that would likely be produced if the violent extragalactic explosions known as gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the source of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays.

“According to a leading model, we would have expected to see 8.4 events corresponding to GRB production of neutrinos in the IceCube data used for this search,” says Spencer Klein of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), who is a long-time member of the IceCube Collaboration. “We didn’t see any, which indicates that GRBs are not the source of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays.”

view full LBNL Press Release

March 30, 2012 — Clocking an Accelerating Universe: First Results from BOSS

BOSS: Precisest Measurements
BOSS measures the three-dimensional clustering of galaxies at various redshifts, revealing their precise distance, the age of the universe at that redshift, and how fast the universe has expanded. The measurement uses a "standard ruler" based on the regular variations of the temperature of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), which reveal variations in the density of matter in the early universe that gave rise to the later clustering of galaxies and large-scale structure of the universe today. (Click on image for best resolution. Credit: Eric Huff, the SDSS-III team, and the South Pole Telescope team. Graphic by Zosia Rostomian)
Berkeley Lab scientists are the leaders of BOSS, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey. They and their colleagues in the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey have announced the most precise measurements ever made of the era when dark energy turned on.

Some six billion light years distant, almost halfway from now back to the big bang, the universe was undergoing an elemental change. Held back until then by the mutual gravitational attraction of all the matter it contained, the universe had been expanding ever more slowly. Then, as matter spread out and its density decreased, dark energy took over and expansion began to accelerate.

Today BOSS, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), announced the most accurate measurement yet of the distance scale of the universe during the era when dark energy turned on.

“We’ve made precision measurements of the large-scale structure of the universe five to seven billion years ago – the best measure yet of the size of anything outside the Milky Way,” says David Schlegel of the Physics Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), BOSS’s principal investigator. “We’re pushing out to the distances when dark energy turned on, where we can start to do experiments to find out what’s causing accelerating expansion.”...

view full LBNL Press Release

March 8, 2012 — New discovery is key to understanding neutrino transformations

Neutrino Transformations
The inside of a cylindrical antineutrino detector before being filled with clear liquid scintillator, which reveals antineutrino interactions by the very faint flashes of light they emit. Sensitive photomultiplier tubes line the detector walls, ready to amplify and record the telltale flashes. (Roy Kaltschmidt photo, LBNL)

BERKELEY - A new discovery provides a crucial key to understanding how neutrinos – ghostly particles with multiple personalities – change identity and may help shed light on why matter exists in the universe.

view UCB Press Release
view LBNL Press Release

January 11, 2012 — Calculating What’s in the Universe from the Biggest Color 3-D Map

Modeling the Cosmos
This image shows over a million luminous galaxies at redshifts indicating times when the universe was between seven and eleven billion years old, from which the sample in the current studies was selected. (By David Kirkby of the University of California at Irvine and the SDSS collaboration.)
Berkeley Lab scientists and their Sloan Digital Sky Survey colleagues use galactic brightness to build a precision model of the cosmos

Since 2000, the three Sloan Digital Sky Surveys (SDSS I, II, III) have surveyed well over a quarter of the night sky and produced the biggest color map of the universe in three dimensions ever. Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and their SDSS colleagues, working with DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) based at Berkeley Lab, have used this visual information for the most accurate calculation yet of how matter clumps together – from a time when the universe was only half its present age until now...

View LBNL UCB Press Release

December 14, 2011 — Closest Type Ia Supernova in Decades Solves a Cosmic Mystery

Type 1A solves Cosmic Mystery
Before and after images of supernova PTF 11kly as it appeared in the nearby M101 galaxy. (Images: Peter Nugent)
Early close-ups of a Type Ia supernova allow Berkeley Lab scientists and their colleagues to picture its progenitor and infer how it exploded.

Type Ia supernovae (SN Ia’s) are the extraordinarily bright and remarkably similar “standard candles” astronomers use to measure cosmic growth, a technique that in 1998 led to the discovery of dark energy – and 13 years later to a Nobel Prize, “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.” The light from thousands of SN Ia’s has been studied, but until now their physics – how they detonate and what the star systems that produce them actually look like before they explode – has been educated guesswork.

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