HiPACC Computational Astronomy Press Room. From: LLNL

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 9, 2014 — Dead star shines on

Dead star shines on
High-energy X-rays streaming from a rare and mighty pulsar (magenta), the brightest found to date, can be seen in this new image of a galaxy called Messier 82 (M82), or the “Cigar galaxy,” combining multi-wavelength data from three telescopes. The bulk of M82 is seen in visible light captured by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona. Starlight is white, and lanes of dust appear brown. Low-energy X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in blue, and higher-energy X-rays from NuSTAR are pink.
LLNL 10/9/2014—A supernova is the cataclysmic death of a star, but its remnants shine on. Astronomers have found a pulsating, dead star beaming with the energy of about 10 million suns. This is the brightest pulsar—a dense stellar remnant leftover from a supernova—ever recorded, and was seen using NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers were involved in the design and testing of the NuSTAR X-ray optics. Like black holes, neutron stars are the burnt-out cores of exploded stars, but puny in mass by comparison. Pulsars are neutron stars that send out beams of light. As the star spins, these beams intercept Earth-like lighthouse beacons, producing a pulsed signal. NuSTAR’s discovery of the massive pulsar is helping astronomers better understand mysterious sources of extreme X-rays, called ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs). Before now, all ULXs were thought to be actively feeding black holes. This NuSTAR finding, published in in the Oct. 9 issue of Nature, shows that at least one ULX, about 12 million light-years away in a galaxy called Messier 82 (M82), is not a black hole but a pulsar.

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September 4, 2014 — Edward Moses to lead Giant Magellan Telescope Organization

Moses to lead to promised telescope
Ed Moses
LLNL 9/4/2014—Ed Moses, a longtime scientific leader at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has been appointed by the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) as president of their organization, effective Oct. 2, 2014. The GMTO is a major international collaboration to build a billion-dollar, 25-meter telescope, located at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The GMT will be significantly larger than any telescope in existence today. It will be used to discover and characterize planets around other stars (including the search for telltale signs of life), to probe the formation of stars and galaxies shortly after the Big Bang, to measure the masses of black holes and to explore fundamental issues in cosmology and physics, including dark matter and dark energy. The giant telescope is expected to come on line early in the next decade.

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July 17, 2014 — Peering into giant planets from in and out of this world

 Peering into giant planets
The interior of the target chamber at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The object entering from the left is the target positioner, on which a millimeter-scale target is mounted. Researchers recently used NIF to study the interior state of giant planets. Credit: Damien Jemison/LLNL
LLNL 7/17/2014—Using the largest laser in the world, the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), teams from LLNL, UC Berkeley, and Princeton University squeezed samples to 50 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure, which is comparable to the pressures at the center of Jupiter and Saturn. In so doing, Lawrence Livermore scientists for the first time have experimentally re-created the conditions that exist deep inside giant planets, such as Jupiter, Uranus, and many of the planets recently discovered outside our solar system. Researchers can now re-create and accurately measure material properties that control how those planets evolve over time—information essential for understanding how these massive objects form. This study focused on carbon, the fourth most abundant element in the cosmos (after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen), which has an important role in many types of planets within and outside our solar system. The research appears in the July 17 edition of the journal, Nature.

View LLNL Press Release

May 15, 2014 — Giant telescope tackles orbit and size of exoplanet

Giant telescope images exoplanet orbiting star
LLNL researchers and international collaborators have refined estimates of the orbit and size of the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b.
LLNL 5/15/14 — Using one of the world’s largest telescopes, a team from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and international collaborators have tracked the orbit of a planet at least four times the size of Jupiter. The scientists were able to identify the orbit of the exoplanet, Beta Pictoris b, which sits 63 light years from our solar system, by using the Gemini Planet Imager’s next-generation, high-contrast adaptive optics (AO) system dubbed “extreme AO.” GPI is the first fully optimized planet imager, designed from the ground up for exoplanet imaging and deployed on one of the world’s biggest telescopes, the 8-meter Gemini South telescope in Chile.

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19 February 2014 — NuSTAR helps untangle how stars explode

NuSTAR traces how stars explode (1 of 2 stories)
The NuSTAR high-energy X-ray observatory captured this image of Cassiopeia A, a remnant that blew up as a supernova more than 11,000 years ago, leaving a dense stellar corpse and its ejected remains. Because the supernova was so far from Earth, the light only reached Earth about 350 years ago, when it may have appeared to be a new, bright star in the sky.
LLNL 2/19/14 — For the first time, an international team of astrophysicists, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists, have unraveled how stars blow up in supernova explosions. Using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) -- a high-energy X-ray observatory -- the international collaboration created the first-ever map of radioactive material in a supernova remnant, named Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short. The findings reveal how shock waves likely rip apart massive dying stars, and ultimately end their lives.

January 7, 2014 — Out of this world first light images emerge from Gemini Planet Imager. Second of 3 releases about GPI.

Gemini Planet Imager: Second of 3 releases.
GPI team during the first light run in November 2013.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — Probing the environments of distant stars in a search for planets has required the development of next-generation, high-contrast, extreme adaptive optics (AO), in which a deformable mirror is made of etched silicon, similar to microchips, rather than the large reflective glass mirrors used on other AO systems. The new mirror corrects for atmospheric distortions by adjusting its shape 1,000 times per second with accuracy better than 1 nanometer. Together with the other parts of Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), astronomers can directly image extra-solar planets that are 1 million to 10 million times fainter than their host stars.

View full Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory press release

September 4, 2013 — It's a shock: Life on Earth may have come from out of this world

It's a shock: Life on Earth may have come from out
Comets contain elements such as water, ammonia, methanol and carbon dioxide that could have supplied the raw materials, in which upon impact on early Earth would have yielded an abundant supply of energy to produce amino acids and jump start life.
A group of international scientists including a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher have confirmed that life really could have come from out of this world; from comets impacting the early Earth. Comets contain elements such as water, ammonia, methanol and carbon dioxide that could have supplied the raw materials, and their impacts would have yielded an abundant supply of energy to produce amino acids and jump-start life. To test that scenario, the team shock-compressed an icy mixture similar to what is found in comets, a procedure that created a number of amino acids: the building blocks of life. This is the first experimental confirmation of what LLNL scientist Nir Goldman first predicted in 2010 and again in 2013 using computer simulations performed on LLNL's supercomputers Rzcereal and Aztec.

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June 5, 2013 — Life on Earth shockingly comes from out of this world

Life on Earth shockingly comes from out of this wo
Synthesis of prebiotic hydrocarbons in impacts of simple icy mixtures on early Earth.
A Lawrence Livermore Laboratory scientist with a former LLNL postdoc found that icy comets that crashed into Earth billions of years ago could have produced life-building organic compounds, including the building blocks of proteins and nucleobases pairs of DNA and RNA. New simulations, developed on LLNL's supercomputers Rzcereal and Aztec, Goldman used much more computationally efficient models and was able to capture hundreds of picoseconds of the impacts—much closer to chemical equilibrium.

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March 14, 2013 — “Water signature in distant planet shows clues to its formation, Lawrence Livermore research finds”

“Water signature in distant planet shows clues t
Artist's rendering of the planetary system HR 8799 at an early stage in its evolution, showing the planet HR 8799c, a disk of gas and dust, and interior planets. Image courtesy of Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics; Mediafarm.
A team of international scientists including a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory astrophysicist has made the most detailed examination yet of the atmosphere of a Jupiter-size like planet beyond our solar system. The finding provides astrophysicists with additional insight into how planets are formed. They were able to observe this planet in unprecedented detail because of Keck Obervatory's advanced instrumentation, LLNL’s ground-breaking observing and data processing techniques, and because of the nature of the planetary system.

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December 12, 2012 — X-ray laser takes aim at cosmic mystery

X-ray laser takes aim at cosmic mystery
A photograph of the instrument setup for an astrophysics experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory''s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a powerful X-ray laser. The experiment was conducted in the Soft X-ray hutch using this electron beam ion trap, or EBIT, built at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany.
By Anne M Stark

An international collaboration including researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has refined a key process in understanding extreme plasmas such as those found in the sun, stars, at the rims of black holes and galaxy clusters.

In short, the team identified a new solution to an astrophysical phenomenon through a series of laser experiments.

In the new research, appearing in the Dec. 13 edition of the journal Nature, scientists looked at highly charged iron using the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) free-electron laser at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.. Highly charged iron produces some of the brightest X-ray emission lines from hot astrophysical objects, including galaxy clusters, stellar cornae and the emission of the sun.

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October 22, 2012 — Milky Way's black hole getting ready for snack

Milky Way gets a snack
Simulations of the dust and gas cloud G2 on its orbit around the Milky Way central black hole SgrA*. Photo courtesy of M. Schartmann and L. Calcada/ European Southern Observatory and Max-Planck-Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik.
Robert H Hirschfeld, LLNL, (925) 422-2379, hirschfeld2@llnl.gov

Get ready for a fascinating eating experience in the center of our galaxy.

The event involves a black hole that may devour much of an approaching cloud of dust and gas known as G2.

A supercomputer simulation prepared by two Lab physicists and a former postdoc suggests that some of G2 will survive, although its surviving mass will be torn apart, leaving it with a different shape and questionable fate.

The findings are the work of computational physicist Peter Anninos and astrophysicist Stephen Murray, both of AX division within the Weapons and Complex Integration Directorate (WCI), along with their former postdoc Chris Fragile, now an associate professor at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, and his student, Julia Wilson.

They came up with six simulations, using the Cosmos++ computer code developed by Anninos and Fragile, which required more than 50,000 computing hours on 3,000 processors on the Palmetto supercomputer at Clemson University in Columbia, S.C. ...

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October 4, 2012 — Livermore experiments illuminate how order arises in the cosmos

Order in the cosmos
Plasmas stream from the top and bottom to form large-scale electromagnetic fields.
LIVERMORE, Calif. -- One of the unsolved mysteries of contemporary science is how highly organized structures can emerge from the random motion of particles. This applies to many situations ranging from astrophysical objects that extend over millions of light years to the birth of life on Earth.
The surprising discovery of self-organized electromagnetic fields in counter-streaming ionized gases (also known as plasmas) will give scientists a new way to explore how order emerges from chaos in the cosmos. This breakthrough finding was published online in the journal, Nature Physics on Sept. 30.
"We've created a model for exploring how electromagnetic fields help organize ionized gas or plasma in astrophysical settings, such as in the plasma flows that emerge from young stars," said lead author Nathan Kugland, a postdoctoral researcher in the High Energy Density Science Group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). "These fields help shape the flows, and likely play a supporting role alongside gravity in the formation of solar systems, which can eventually lead to the creation of planets like the Earth."...

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June, 18, 2012 — Supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Lab passes 16 petaflops

NNSA's Sequoia: fastest
From left to right in front of Sequoia: Bruce Goodwin, principal associate director for WCI, Dona Crawford, associate director for Computation, Michael Browne, IBM, Kim Cupps, leader of the Livermore Computing Division, and Michel McCoy, head of LLNL's Advanced Simulation and Computing program and deputy director for Computation.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that a supercomputer called Sequoia at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) was ranked the world's most powerful computing system.

Clocking in at 16.32 sustained petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations per second), Sequoia earned the No. 1 ranking on the industry standard Top500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers released Monday, June 18, at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC12) in Hamburg, Germany. Sequoia was built for NNSA by IBM...

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February 1, 2012 — LLNL: Scientists help define structure of exoplanets

The planet GJ 1214b, shown here in an artist's conception with two hypothetical moons, orbits a "red dwarf" star 40 light-years away from Earth.

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- Using models similar to those used in weapons research, scientists may soon know more about exoplanets, those objects beyond the realm of our solar system.

In a new study, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists and collaborators came up with new methods for deriving and testing the equation of state (EOS) of matter in exoplanets and figured out the mass-radius and mass-pressure relations for materials relevant to planetary interiors...more

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