HiPACC Computational Astronomy Press Room. From: UCSB

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 13, 2014 — Inside the Milky Way

Place your bets: Inside the Milky Way
This composite of Sagittarius A-Star combines radio images from the NRAO Very Large Array (green), BIMA (red) and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope (blue). Credit: NRAO/AUI
UCSB 10/13/2014— Is matter falling into the supermassive (4 million solar masses) black hole at the center of the Milky Way or being ejected from it? Carl Gwinn, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Physics, and colleagues have analyzed images collected by the Russian spacecraft RadioAstron, launched into orbit from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in July 2011. One of its missions was to investigate the scattering of light from pulsars—the cores of dead stars—by surrounding interstellar gas. Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star), the source that marks the Milky Way’s central black hole, is visible from the gas around it at radio, infrared and X-ray wavelengths—wavelengths also scattered by the gas as light is scattered by fog on Earth. Gwinn and his colleagues found that gas has lumpy substructure, which could be used to infer the actual size of the underlying source. Their findings appear in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. A friendly international race is going on to see who will be the first to determine whether gas falls into the black hole or is being ejected in the form of a jet.

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July 17, 2014 — In search of elusive dark matter

A dark matter telescope made of xenon
Diagram shows a cross section of the LUX-Zeplin experiment, which when constructed will be the largest dark matter detector in the world, holding 7 tons of liquid xenon.
UCSB 7/17/2014—While scientists have long known that dark matter exists, they have never been able to touch it. That could change, however, with the development of what might one day be the biggest and most capable dark matter experiment in the world. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) last week announced funding for the second-generation Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment, dubbed LUX-ZEPLIN (ZonEd Proportional scintillation in LIquid Noble gases). UC Santa Barbara physics professor Harry Nelson is the scientific leader of the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) collaboration, and UCSB physicists, who led the design and building of LUX’s ultrapure water tank, will design a new element for LZ.

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October 30, 2013 — First Results from LUX, the World's Most Sensitive Dark Matter Detector

First Results from LUX, the World's Most Sensitive
With 122 detector tubes, LUX is much more sensitive than its closest rival in the competitive field of dark-matter searches.
“Astronomers and astrophysicists have gold-plated proof that dark matter exists,” said University of California, Santa Barbara, physicist Harry Nelson, who helped design, build and fill the sophisticated water tank that houses the LUX experiment. “What we're trying to do is touch it here on Earth.”

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October 29, 2013 — New Grad Program Dives into Emerging Fields of Big Data and Network Science

With funding from a recently granted $3 million Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) award from the National Science Foundation, several co-principal investigators from a wide range of disciplines at University of California, Santa Barbara, have established a new graduate program focused on network science in the era of Big Data.

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July 5, 2013 — Feeding Galaxy Caught in Distant Searchlight by International Research Team

Feeding Galaxy Caught in Distant Searchlight by In
Artist’s impression of a galaxy accreting material from its surroundings.
An international group of astronomers that includes two UC Santa Barbara astrophysicists has spotted a distant galaxy hungrily snacking on nearby gas. The gas is seen to fall inward toward the galaxy, creating a flow that both fuels star formation and drives the galaxy's rotation. This is the best direct observational evidence so far supporting the theory that galaxies pull in and devour nearby material in order to grow and form stars.

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July 1, 2013 — UCSB Astronomer Uncovers The Hidden Identity Of An Exoplanet

UCSB Astronomer Uncovers The Hidden Identity Of An
The relative size of the Earth and Sun next to those of HD 97658 (the star) and HD 97658b (the super-Earth exoplanet).
While the discovery of this particular exoplanet is not new, determining its true size and mass is, thanks to Diana Dragomir, with the UC Santa Barbara-affiliated Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) network. As part of her research, Dragomir looked for transits of this exoplanet with Canada's Microvariability & Oscillations of Stars (MOST) space telescope.

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June 20, 2013 — Dusty Surprise Around Black Hole Found By UCSB Physics Postdoctoral Fellow

Dusty Surprise Around Black Hole Found By UCSB Phy
This artist's impression shows the surroundings of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the active galaxy NGC 3783 in the southern constellation of Centaurus.
New observations of a nearby active galaxy called NGC 3783 have given a team of astronomers –– including a UC Santa Barbara postdoctoral fellow in physics –– a surprise about active galactic nuclei (AGN), the most energetic objects in the universe.

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May 21, 2013 — Comprehensive Analysis of Impact Spherules Supports Theory of Cosmic Impact 12,800 Years Ago

Comprehensive Analysis of Impact Spherules Support
Examples of impact spherules collected from different sites.
About 12,800 years ago when the Earth was warming and emerging from the last ice age, a dramatic and anomalous event occurred that abruptly reversed climatic conditions back to near-glacial state. According to a UC Santa Barbara emeritus professor in earth science, this climate switch fundamentally –– and remarkably –– occurred in only one year, heralding the onset of the Younger Dryas cool episode. New evidence supports a cosmic impact theory.

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March 21, 2013 — Planck Mission Brings Universe Into Sharp Focus

Planck Mission Brings Universe Into Sharp Focus
Map of Matter in the Universe: This full-sky map from the Planck mission shows matter between Earth and the edge of the observable universe. Regions with less mass show up as lighter areas while regions with more mass are darker.
UCSB physicists play key role in international effort to map the early universe. Planck, launched in 2009, has been scanning the skies, mapping the cosmic microwave background, the afterglow of the big bang that created our universe. This relic radiation provides scientists with a snapshot of the universe 370,000 years after the Big Bang. Light existed before this time, but it was locked in a hot plasma similar to a candle flame, which later cooled and set the light free.

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December 14, 2012 — UCSB Physicists Make Strides in Understanding Quantum Entanglement

UCSB Physicists Make Strides in Understanding Quan
Leon Balents Credit: Rod Rolle
Santa Barbara, Calif. - While some theoretical physicists make predictions about astrophysics and the behavior of stars and galaxies, others work in the realm of the very small, which includes quantum physics. Such is the case at UC Santa Barbara, where theoretical physicists at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) cover the range of questions in physics.

Recently, theoretical physicists at KITP have made important strides in studying a concept in quantum physics called quantum entanglement, in which electron spins are entangled with each other. Using computers to calculate the extreme version of quantum entanglement –– how the spin of every electron in certain electronic materials could be entangled with another electron's spin –– the research team found a way to predict this characteristic. Future applications of the research are expected to benefit fields such as information technology.

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December 11, 2012 — UCSB's Joseph Incandela Receives Prestigious International Physics Prize

UCSB's Joseph Incandela Receives Prestigious Inter
Joseph Incandela delivers his historic presentation to the seminar at CERN on July 4, 2012 Credit: CERN
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Joseph Incandela, professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara and spokesman for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research's (CERN) Large Hadron Collider (LHC), has been awarded a Special Fundamental Physics Prize by the Milner Foundation.

Incandela will share the $3 million prize with six other members of the LHC project, including Peter Jenni, Fabiola Gianotti, Michel Della Negra, Tejinder Singh Virdee, Guido Tonelli, and Lyn Evans. The group is being recognized for its leadership role in the scientific endeavor that led to the discovery of the new Higgs-like particle by the CMS and ATLAS collaborations at CERN's LHC.

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December 11, 2012 — UCSB Physicist Receives International Acclaim for His Work in Theoretical Physics

UCSB Physicist Receives International Acclaim
Joseph Polchinski
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Joseph Polchinski, a permanent member of UC Santa Barbara's Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) and professor of physics at UCSB, has been named one of three recipients of the 2013 Physics Frontier Prize from the Milner Foundation.

With the award, Polchinski becomes a nominee for the foundation's $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize, which will be presented on March 20, 2013, in a special ceremony at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. Frontier Prize laureates who do not win the Fundamental Physics Prize receive an award of $300,000, and are automatically nominated again each year for the next five years.

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November 15, 2012 — Dark Matter Detector Installed Underground and Submerged; Data Collection to Begin in 2013

Dark Matter Detector Installed Underground and Sub
UC Davis physicist Jeremy Mock inspects the LUX detector, the cylinder in the center, inside its protective water tank, which now has been filled with ultra-pure water.
Santa Barbara, Calif. - An experiment to look for one of nature's most elusive subatomic particles is finally under water, in a stainless steel tank nearly a mile underground, beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The Large Underground Xenon experiment, nicknamed LUX, will be the most sensitive device yet to look for dark matter. Thought to comprise more than 80 percent of the mass of the universe, dark matter has so far eluded direct detection.

"This is a major step forward on the road to an operational detector in early 2013," said Mike Headley, laboratory director for the Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab) in Lead, S.D. The Sanford Lab, located in the former Homestake gold mine, is owned and operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, with support from the Department of Energy, and oversight by DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

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August 23, 2012 — New Findings Show Some Type Ia Supernovae Linked to Novae

Type Ia Supernovae
Left: Host galaxy of PTF11kx before the supernova exploded as seen from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Right: the blue dot is the supernova near peak brightness as seen with LCOGT's Faulkes Telescope North. The supernova is 600 million lightyears away in the constellation Lynx. Credit: B.J. Fulton, LCOGT
(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– In the August 24 issue of the journal Science, astronomers show for the first time that at least some thermonuclear (Type Ia) supernovae come from a recurrent nova. The results of the study, led by Ben Dilday, a postdoctoral researcher in physics at UC Santa Barbara and at Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT), are surprising because previous indirect –– but strong –– evidence had pointed to the merger of two white dwarf stars as the originators of other Type Ia supernovae.
The authors conclude that there are multiple ways to make a Type Ia supernova –– a finding that could have implications for understanding the differences seen in these "standard candles," that were used to reveal the presence of dark energy.

Supernova PTF 11kx was discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) in a galaxy 600 million light years away –– relatively nearby in astronomical terms, but like all Type Ia supernovae, much too far away to make out the details of the stars before they exploded. However, the astronomers could discern that the supernova was surrounded by shells of gas, some of it containing hydrogen that had likely been cast off in previous nova eruptions, decades before the supernova occurred. These are much more frequent weak explosions that do not destroy the star. While similar shells of material had been seen before in a handful of Type Ia supernovae, their origin was debated, and they had never before been firmly linked to novae. Some doubted that the material was even near to the supernova at all...

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May 16, 2012 — Three-Telescope Interferometry Allows Astrophysicists to Observe How Black Holes are Fueled

New SMBH observations
Artist's view of a dust torus surrounding the accretion disk and the central black hole in active galactic nuclei. Credit: NASA E/PO - Sonoma State University, Aurore Simonnet (http://epo.sonoma.edu/)
(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– By combining the light of three powerful infrared telescopes, an international research team has observed the active accretion phase of a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy tens of millions of light years away, a method that has yielded an unprecedented amount of data for such observations. The resolution at which they were able to observe this highly luminescent active galactic nucleus (AGN) has given them direct confirmation of how mass accretes onto black holes in centers of galaxies.
"This three-telescope interferometry is a major milestone toward directly imaging the growth phase of supermassive black holes," said Sebastian Hoenig, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Santa Barbara Department of Physics, and one of the astrophysicists who utilized this technique to observe the AGN at the center of galaxy NGC 3783. The observation was led by Gerd Weigelt, a director of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany...

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