Interview with Father Gabriele Gionti SJ


Specola Vaticana‏ @SpecolaVaticana 7 dic

Intervista a p. Gionti sull’inserto “Tutti Liberi” del Corriere della Sera
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LIGO and Virgo Announce Four New Gravitational-Wave Detections

O2 catalog paper news

On Saturday 1st December 2018, scientists attending the Gravitational Wave Physics and Astronomy Workshop in College Park, Maryland, presented new results from searches for coalescing cosmic objects, such as pairs of black holes and pairs of neutron stars, by the LIGO and Virgo detectors. The LIGO and Virgo interferometers have now confidently detected gravitational waves from a total of 10 stellar-mass binary black hole mergers and one merger of neutron stars, which are the dense, spherical remains of stellar explosions. Seven of these events had been reported before, while four of the black hole detections are newly announced.

From September 12, 2015, to January 19, 2016, during the first LIGO observing run since undergoing upgrades in a program called Advanced LIGO, gravitational waves from three binary black hole mergers were detected. The second observing run, which lasted from November 30, 2016, to August 25, 2017, yielded a binary neutron star merger and seven additional binary black hole mergers, including the four new gravitational wave events being reported now. The new events are known as GW170729, GW170809, GW170818 and GW170823 based on the dates on which they were detected.

The Virgo interferometer joined the two LIGO detectors on August 1, 2017, while LIGO was in its second observing run. Although the LIGO-Virgo three-detector network was operational for only three-and-a-half weeks, five events were observed in this period. Two events detected jointly by LIGO and Virgo, GW170814 and GW170817, have already been reported.

One of the new events, GW170818, detected by the global network formed by the LIGO and Virgo observatories, was precisely pinpointed in the sky. The sky position of the binary black holes, located about 2.5 billion light-years from Earth, was identified with a precision of 39 square degrees. That makes it the next best localized gravitational-wave source after the GW170817 neutron star merger.

The figure on the left shows the localizations of the various gravitational-wave detections in the sky. The triple detections are labelled as HLV, from the initials of the three interferometers (LIGO-Hanford, LIGO-Livingston and Virgo) that observed the signals. The reduced areas of the triple events demonstrate the capabilities of the global gravitational-wave network.

 Science Papers and supplementary materials

 GWTC-1: Gravitational-Wave Transient Catalog 1

 Press release – Communiqué de presse – Comunicato stampa – Persbericht – Notas de prensa – Materiały dla prasy – Sajtókiadványok

Posted: 03/12/2018

LIGO and Virgo Announce Four New Revelations of Gravitational Waves

news_o2_catalog

3 DECEMBER 2018

LIGO e Virgo Annunciano Quattro Nuove Rivelazioni di Onde Gravitazionali

Saturday, December 1, scientists participating at the Gravitational Wave Physics and Astronomy Workshop at College Park in Maryland (USA) presented the new results achieved by the research of coalescing cosmic objects, such as pairs of black holes and pairs of neutron stars, conducted from LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and from the Virgo gravitational wave detector, in Italy. The LIGO and Virgo collaborations have now confidently revealed gravitational waves from a total of ten fusions of binary systems of stellar mass black holes and a fusion of neutron stars, which are dense and spherical remains of stellar explosions. Seven of these events have already been published while four of the revelations of black holes are now announced for the first time.

From 12 September 2015 to 19 January 2016, during the first period of observation of LIGO from the beginning of the improvement program called Advanced LIGO, gravitational waves were revealed by three mergers of black hole binary systems. The second observation period, which lasted from 30 November 2016 to 25 August 2017, led to the observation of the merger of a binary neutron star system and seven further mergers of black binary holes, including the four new gravitational events that are now being communicated . The new events are referred to as GW170729, GW170809, GW170818 and GW170823, based on the dates on which they were revealed.

The Virgo interferometer joined the two LIGO detectors on August 1, 2017, when LIGO was in its second observing period. Although the network of three LIGO-Virgo detectors was operational for only three and a half weeks, five events were observed at that time. Two events revealed together by LIGO and Virgo, GW170814 and GW170817, have already been published.

One of the new events, GW170818, revealed by the global network formed by the LIGO and Virgo observatories (respectively in the United States and in Italy), has been located in the sky with great precision. The position of the black hole binary system, at a distance of 2.5 billion light years from Earth, has been detected in the sky with an accuracy of 39 degrees. This makes it the second most localized gravitational wave source, after the melting of neutron stars GW170817.

The figure on the left shows the location of the various gravitational wave detections. Triple detections are referred to as HLV, from the initials of the three interferometers (LIGO-Hanford, LIGO-Livingston and Virgo) that observed the signals. The fact that for the triple detections the location area is smaller is a demonstration of the potential of the global network of gravitational wave detectors.

for further information: VIRGO

Contacts:
Gabriele Vedovato  gabriele.vedovato@pd.infn.it  +39 049 967 7082 – 049 8068 825
Livia Conti  livia.conti@pd.infn.it  +39 049 967 7381 – 049 8068 826
comunicazione@pd.infn.it

Studenti delle Superiori alla ricerca dei Raggi Cosmici

Behind the Scenes of Recovering NASA’s Hubble

Release date: Nov 27, 2018 11:30 AM (EST)

Behind the Scenes of Recovering NASA's Hubble

Thanks to the operations team’s hard work, the Hubble is back to full science capability with three working gyros.

In the early morning of October 27, 2018, the Hubble Space Telescope targeted a field of galaxies not far from the Great Square in the constellation Pegasus. Contained in the field were star-forming galaxies up to 11 billion light-years away. With the target in its sights, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 recorded an image. It was the first picture captured by the telescope since it closed its eyes on the universe three weeks earlier, and it was the result of an entire team of engineers and experts working tirelessly to get the telescope exploring the cosmos once again.Release ID: STScI-2018-61


Release images (2)

Behind the Scenes of Recovering NASA's Hubble

DSF2237b

Tags GalaxiesHubble TelescopeInfraredObservations

The Full Story

Release date: Nov 27, 2018

News Release number: STScI-2018-61

In the early morning of October 27, 2018, the Hubble Space Telescope targeted a field of galaxies not far from the Great Square in the constellation Pegasus. Contained in the field were star-forming galaxies up to 11 billion light-years away. With the target in its sights, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 recorded an image. It was the first picture captured by the telescope since it closed its eyes on the universe three weeks earlier, and it was the result of an entire team of engineers and experts working tirelessly to get the telescope exploring the cosmos once again.

“This has been an incredible saga, built upon the heroic efforts of the Hubble team,” stated Hubble senior project scientist, Jennifer Wiseman, at NASA Goddard. “Thanks to this work, the Hubble Space Telescope is back to full science capability that will benefit the astronomical community and the public for years to come.”

On the evening of Friday, October 5, the orbiting observatory had put itself into “safe mode” after one of its gyroscopes (or “gyros”) failed. Hubble stopped taking science observations, oriented its solar panels toward the Sun, and waited for further instructions from the ground.

It was the beginning of a three-day holiday weekend when members of the spacecraft’s operations team started receiving text messages on their phone, alerting them that something was wrong with Hubble. In less than an hour, more than a dozen team members had gathered in the control room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to assess the situation. After unsuccessfully reviving the failed gyro, they activated a backup gyro on the spacecraft. However, the gyro soon began reporting impossibly high rotation rates — around 450 degrees per hour, when Hubble was actually turning less than a degree per hour.

“This is something we’ve never seen before on any other gyros — rates this high,” stated Dave Haskins, Hubble’s mission operations manager at Goddard.

Hubble has six gyros aboard, and it typically uses three at a time to collect the most science. However, two of its six gyros had previously failed. This was Hubble’s final backup gyro. The operations team either had to figure out how to get it working, or turn to a previously developed and tested “one-gyro mode,” which is proven to work but would limit Hubble’s efficiency and how much of the sky the telescope could observe at a given time of the year — something both the operations team and astronomers want to avoid until there is no other choice.

As they decided what to do next, team members stayed in the control center continuously to monitor the health and safety of the spacecraft. Because Hubble’s control center had switched to automated operations back in 2011, there were no longer people in place to monitor Hubble 24 hours a day.

“The team pulled together to staff around the clock, something we haven’t done in years,” Haskins shared. Team members stepped in to take shifts — several of Hubble’s systems engineers, others who help run tests and checkouts of Hubble’s ground systems, and some who used to staff Hubble’s control room but hadn’t in a long time. “It’s been years since they’ve been on console doing that kind of shift work,” Haskins said. “To me it was seamless. It shows the versatility of the team.”

Meanwhile, during the holiday weekend, Hubble’s Project Manager, Pat Crouse, was busy recruiting a team of experts from Goddard and around the country to analyze the backup gyro’s unusual behavior and determine whether it could be corrected. This anomaly review board met for the first time that Tuesday, October 9, and contributed valuable insight throughout Hubble’s recovery.

It took weeks of creative thinking, continued tests, and minor setbacks to solve the problem of the misbehaving gyro. Members of the operations team and the review board suspected there might be some sort of obstruction in the gyro affecting its readings. Attempting to dislodge such a blockage, the team repeatedly tried switching the gyro between different operational modes and rotating the spacecraft by large amounts. In response, the extremely high rotation rates from the gyro gradually fell until they were close to normal.

Encouraged but cautious, the team uploaded new software safeguards on Hubble to protect the telescope in case the gyro reports unduly high rates again, and then sent the telescope through some practice maneuvers to simulate real science observations. They kept a close watch to make sure everything on the spacecraft performed correctly. It did.

“Early on we had no idea whether we’d be able to resolve that issue or not,” Hubble’s deputy mission operations manager, Mike Myslinski, said about the high gyro rates.

In the background, other team members at Goddard and the Space Telescope Science Institute had begun preparing in case Hubble would have to switch to using just a single gyro, with the other working gyro held in reserve as a backup. Fortunately, the results of their efforts weren’t needed this time, but their work wasn’t for naught. “We know that we’ll have to go to one gyro someday, and we want to be as prepared as possible for that,” Myslinski explained. “We’d always said that once we got down to three gyros we would do as much up-front work as possible for one-gyro science. That day has come.”

For now, however, Hubble is back to exploring the universe with three working gyros, thanks to the hard work of a multitude of people on the ground.

“Many team members made personal sacrifices to work long shifts and off-shifts to ensure the health and safety of the observatory, while identifying a path forward that was both safe and effective,” Crouse said of the efforts to return to science. “The recovery of the gyro is not only vital for the life expectancy of the observatory, but Hubble is most productive in three-gyro mode, and extending this historic period of productivity is a main objective for the mission. Hubble will continue to make amazing discoveries when it is time to operate in one-gyro mode, but due to the tremendous effort and determination of the mission team, now is not the time.”

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

Credits

Image: NASAESA, and A. Shapley (UCLA)

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Contact

Vanessa Thomas 
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 
vanessa.j.thomas@nasa.gov

Celebratory Galaxy Photo Honors 25th Anniversary of NASA’s First Hubble Servicing Mission

Release date: Dec 4, 2018 11:00 AM (EST)

Celebratory Galaxy Photo Honors 25th Anniversary of NASA's First Hubble Servicing Mission


Portrait of Spiral Galaxy M100 Demonstrated Hubble’s Optical Repair

Over the past 28 years Hubble has photographed innumerable galaxies throughout the universe, near and far. But one especially photogenic galaxy located 55 million light-years away holds a special place in Hubble history. As NASA made plans to correct Hubble’s blurry vision in 1993 (due to a manufacturing flaw in its primary mirror) they selected several astronomical objects that Hubble should be aimed at to demonstrate the planned optical fix. The magnificent grand spiral galaxy M100 seemed an ideal target that would just fit inside Hubble’s field-of-view. This required that a comparison photo be taken while Hubble was still bleary-eyed. The Wide Field/Planetary Camera 1 was selected for the task. And, the picture had to be taken before astronauts swapped-out the camera with the vision-corrected Wide Field/Planetary Camera 2, in December 1993. Following the servicing mission Hubble re-photographed the galaxy again, and it snapped into crystal clear focus. The public celebrated with Hubble’s triumphant return to the clear vision that had been promised. And, jaw-dropping pictures of the vast universe that followed have not disappointed space enthusiasts. Because of the astronaut servicing missions, Hubble’s capabilities have only gotten better. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first servicing mission, this 2-panel photo compares the blurry, pre-servicing 1993 image to a 2009 image taken with Hubble’s newer, Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, installed during the last astronaut servicing mission to the space telescope.Release ID: STScI-2018-48
Release images (8)Spiral Galaxy M100Release videoVideo Comparison of Galaxy M100 (Hubble WFPC1 to WFC3)TagsAnnotated ObservationsGalaxiesHubble TelescopeObservationsSpiral GalaxiesCredits

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Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland 
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Finding God in the cosmos: an interview with a Vatican astronomer

FAITH INTERVIEWS

Sean Salai, S.J.

December 03, 2018

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Photo: AP

Photo: AP

David Brown, S.J., is a Vatican astronomer specializing in stellar evolution and a native of New Orleans who joined the Society of Jesus in 1991 after earning his B.S. in physics at Texas A&M University. Ordained a priest in 2002, Father Brown completed his Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Oxford in England in 2008.

Father Brown joined the Vatican Observatory in November 2008, working as a research astronomer and serving as caretaker of the telescopes in Castel Gandolfo. He is a member since 2009 of the American Astronomical Society and since 2012 of the International Astronomical Union. On Oct. 2, I interviewed him at Rockhurst High School during a lecture stop in Kansas City. The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for style and length.

How do you reconcile being a Jesuit priest and a scientist, two things which strike some people as contradictory?

They actually aren’t. The church has a great tradition of being a patron of the sciences and arts. The sciences were just a natural part of what the church did. If you look at the medieval universities the church founded in Europe, astronomy and mathematics were a natural part of the curriculum.‘I’ve always been fascinated with the unknown frontier: outer space, astronauts, black holes, planets and stars,’ Father Brown said.Tweet this

Then you look at the Vatican Observatory, founded in its earliest incarnation for a very practical reason by Pope Gregory XIII and staffed by astronomers and mathematicians who were already clerics, like Jesuit Father Christopher Clavius, the greatest mathematician of his day. So the church has been doing science for a large part of its history. In that sense, being a priest and scientist is not anything exceptional. It strikes people as exceptional today because of the perceived gap between the worlds of science and of religion. But any cursory glance at the church and its role in culture tells a very different story. For me, it’s a very natural thing to be a priest and scientist.

What inspired you to become a scientist?

I’ve always been fascinated with the unknown frontier, including outer space. When I was young, I read books about outer space, astronauts, black holes, planets and stars, space travel. I was the right age when “Star Wars” came out, again pointing to the stars and their mystery, piquing my curiosity and sense of adventure. Also, I loved math and how math was capable of describing phenomena in the universe. The order of the universe fascinated and profoundly affected me.

What inspired you to become a Jesuit priest?

The charism is so beautiful. To use the familiar Jesuit line, I think “finding God in all things” summarizes very well the society’s capacity to enter, via its ministries, into many different environments in this world, from traditional pastoral outlets all the way to working with migrants and refugees, and then at the same time in the universities and the academic apostolates, including even astronomers as part of its tradition. That God can be found in all things means that this creation bears the fingerprint of its creator and thus constitutes a way that we can know and find God.

You have said repeatedly your work as a scientist affirms your faith in God. Can you explain that?

It affirms my faith in God in the sense that, when I look up into the sky or down at whatever data I have, I’m filled with a profound sense of awe for what God has made: its beauty, its mystery, its order.  

Who is God to you?

God first is origin and source of all things, the creator. At the same time, God is not just creator and Lord God Almighty, but also friend, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The same God who made the heavens and the earth, and all that lies therein in such a vast cosmos where people might feel very small, at the same time comes to us in a very personal way in the Incarnation through Jesus Christ. Through his words, we can see him and know him, even touch him—as John would say, “what we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands”—sacramentally and in so many different ways.

What would you say to people who argue you can’t prove God’s existence?

We have to realize science is a method able to probe and study one slice of the reality of our universe through very precise methods, but by no means does that precise methodology presume to be the definitive word on everything. Obviously, it’s a very powerful way of knowing the truth, and a beautiful way. But the methods of science don’t lend themselves to prove, definitely in the sense of mathematical proof, the existence of God in the way we can demonstrate things from an empirical point of view, though what science explains very much for me already reveals a profound beauty suggestive of God. Who God is in his totality remains beyond those things.‘God did not hesitate to use the things of this world to make himself known.’ Tweet this

That said, our faith is historically based on the witness of the apostles, so we don’t need things proved scientifically on every count to be able to believe, because our faith is based on the testimony of those who have come before us, of what they saw and encountered.

How do you reconcile the scientific errors of the Bible with its status for believers as God’s revealed truth?

The Bible is not written as a science book, the way we understand science books now, in the sense of giving precise language and methods and up-to-date results. The Bible is the inspired word of God, but written by human beings who had limitations of what they knew of the world when they were writing. They didn’t have open to them the mysteries of the universe in their totality. What God revealed to them wasn’t so much science as God’s plan of salvation more than anything else.

How does being a Jesuit priest inform the way you do science?

From the faith perspective, we can rejoice in the beauty of what science tells us about the universe. Also, being a Jesuit priest gives an added dimension to that, to see how easily the faith perspective is able to blend into the scientific perspective. Even more so, it gives a sacramental way of looking at this universe. If you look at the Incarnation, if God became flesh and blood among us, then God did not hesitate to use the things of this world to make himself known. So to be able to know him through physical things is a beautiful sacramental way of looking at creation that complements one’s scientific output.

How does the way you do science inform your Jesuit priesthood?

One beautiful way of looking at it is the great liturgy of the cosmos, how everything works and moves according to what has been ordained by God. It very much informs my priesthood in the sense that being a priest itself is a participation in the grand cosmic liturgy that revolves around God and worships God.

Why is it wrong to think we must choose to prioritize either scientific or religious truths, rather than holding both together in tension?

It’s wrong to prioritize either because, in the end, all truth comes from God whether it’s physical or spiritual. In the end, if both really are the truth, both must exist in harmony. Of course, getting to the harmony might involve a certain amount of purification, and so you see the tension at times. To paraphrase Pope John Paul II’s line in “Fides et Ratio,” the truth cannot contradict the truth if it is the truth. He also says religion can help guide science to see greater perspective and science can help purify religion from superstition.

Why does the Vatican care about science enough to employ Jesuit scientists to study the cosmos through telescopes in Italy and Tucson, Arizona?

The reason why the church cares about these things is the same reason there’s a Rockhurst High School, a Boston College, a Vatican Observatory. The Observatory is one example in a long church tradition. It’s the pursuit of the truth of God that changes us, but more than just knowing things, it’s about allowing the truth of God to transform us. To know what it means to be a just person, a moral person, has tremendous implications for our approach to justice, economics, the environment.

Astronomy is also one of those sciences that has always lent itself to prompting philosophical and theological questions, existential questions with tremendous bearing on human beings. In more modern times, the church also continues to sponsor the Vatican Observatory in order to show that it supports and encourages the sciences, that there is no conflict.

RELATED STORIES

A long exposure at the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope in southeastern Arizona in 2014. Photo courtesy of the Vatican Observatory

Meet the Vatican’s space explorersJosephine McKenna – Religion News Service

Astronauts give Pope Francis a custom space suitCarol Glatz – Catholic News Service

What scientific projects are you currently working on at the Vatican Observatory?

One project has to do with hot subdwarf stars, thought to evolve from stars in a binary system. The other has to do with pulsating stars, stars whose luminosities change periodically. The question is why do those things do that, and that can tell us about the internal structure of stars. Which is very difficult to do, because when we look at a star like the sun, we see the outside and not the inside.

Like medieval Catholics building a cathedral over many generations, you do this work in the hope that it will benefit posterity?

Yes, the medieval cathedrals were intricate buildings that often took 200 years to build, and likewise the progress of science is measured day to day in small increments. Of course, you have big revolutions whereby science takes a big leap, but the ordinary progress is very quiet like the construction of a cathedral. After a lot of time, you see how much has actually been built.

What do you hope people will take away from your work?

Just something of the beauty of God’s creation and God himself, that we live in a beautiful cosmos.

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Sean Salai, S.J.

Sean Salai, S.J., is a special contributor to America.

@SeanSalaiSJ

Piero Benvenuti made Commissioner of the Italian Space Agency

ann18059 — Announcement

19 November 2018


Piero Benvenuti made Commissioner of the Italian Space Agency

Former General Secretary and current Advisor of the IAU Executive Committee, Piero Benvenuti, has been made Commissioner of the Italian Space Agency by the Italian Minister of Education, University and Research.

Piero Benvenuti, the first Italian astronomer to hold the position of General Secretary of the IAU Executive Committee (2015–2018) has accepted his nomination as Commissioner of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) after Roberto Battiston, former President of ASI, had been removed from his position by the Italian Minister of Education, University and Research.

In his outstanding career, Benvenuti has acted as Project Scientist at the Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility and for the International Ultraviolet Explorer of the European Space Agency, as well as held positions of Director of the Center for Space Studies and Activities “G. Colombo” and full professor of high-energy astrophysics at the University of Padova, where he is now professor emeritus. He was also President of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics and Vice-Commissioner of ASI.

After the end of his term as IAU General Secretary in 2018, Benvenuti has continued his contribution to the international astronomical community through his positions as Advisor of the IAU Executive Committee and representative of the IAU to UNCOPUOS.

More Information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 13 500 professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.

Links

Contacts

Piero Benvenuti
Conegliano, Italy
Tel: +39 3280117563
E-mail: piero.benvenuti@unipd.it

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 320 06 761
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621
E-mail: lars@eso.org

Astronomer Teresa Lago, Professor Filipe Resurreição and radio presenter Edgar Canelas are the winners of the 2018 Ciência Viva Montepio Awards

ann18056 — Announcement

12 November 2018
Astronomer Teresa Lago is the winner of the 2018 Ciência Viva Montepio Grand PrizeTeresa Lago, General Secretary of the IAU has been awarded the 2018 Ciência Viva Montepio Grand Prize for her contribution to promoting science.Click to Enlarge

Astronomer Teresa Lago, Professor Filipe Resurreição and radio presenter Edgar Canelas are the winners of the 2018 Ciência Viva Montepio Awards.

The Ciência Viva Montepio Grand Prize distinguishes Teresa Lago for her outstanding work in promoting scientific culture as a professor, researcher, author and disseminator in the field of astronomy. After receiving her PhD in astrophysics from the University of Sussex, she was the founder of the Center for Astrophysics of the University of Porto and created the first degree in astronomy in Portugal. She is currently General Secretary of the International Astronomical Union.

The awards ceremony will take place on 24 November 2018, National Day of Scientific Culture, at 15:00 WET, in the Amphitheatre of the Science Museum of the University of Coimbra.

This initiative is part of the Science and Technology Week and will be attended by the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor.

The Ciência Viva Montepio Awards are awarded annually by Ciência Viva and Montepio and celebrate personalities and institutions that stand out for their exceptional merit in promoting scientific culture in Portugal. The winners were selected by the representatives of the scientific research institutions that make up the Ciência Viva Agency.

More information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 13 500 professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.

The associated institutions of Ciência Viva are:

Links

Contacts

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 320 06 761
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621
Email: lars@eso.org

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Hubble Uncovers Thousands of Globular Star Clusters Scattered Among Galaxies

Release date: Nov 29, 2018 10:00 AM (EST)

Hubble Uncovers Thousands of Globular Star Clusters Scattered Among Galaxies

Survey will allow for mapping of dark matter in huge galaxy cluster

Globular star clusters are favorite targets for amateur sky watchers. To the naked eye they appear as fuzzy-looking stars. Through a small telescope they resolve into glittering snowball-shaped islands of innumerable stars crowded together. About 150 globular star clusters orbit our Milky Way, like bees buzzing around a hive. They are the earliest homesteaders of our galaxy, containing the universe’s oldest known stars.

Hubble is so powerful it can see globular star clusters 300 million light-years away. And, a lot of them. Peering into the heart of the giant Coma cluster of galaxies Hubble captured a whopping 22,426 globular star clusters. The survey found the globular clusters scattered in space among the 1,000 galaxies inside the Coma cluster. They have been orphaned from their home galaxy due to galaxy near-collisions inside the traffic-jammed galaxy cluster. Because they are so numerous in the Coma cluster, they are excellent tracers of the entire gravitational field that keeps the galaxies from flinging off into space. The gravity is a tracer of the distribution of dark matter. Release ID: STScI-2018-44


Release images (3)

Hubble Uncovers Thousands of Globular Star Clusters Scattered Among Galaxies

Coma Cluster Full Mosaic

Tags Galaxy ClustersGlobular ClustersHubble TelescopeObservations 

The Full Story Release date: Nov 29, 2018

News Release number: STScI-2018-44

Gazing across 300 million light-years into a monstrous city of galaxies, astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to do a comprehensive census of some of its most diminutive members: a whopping 22,426 globular star clusters found to date.

The survey, published in the November 9, 2018, issue of  The Astrophysical Journal, will allow for astronomers to use the globular cluster field to map the distribution of matter and dark matter in the Coma galaxy cluster, which holds over 1,000 galaxies that are packed together.

Because globular clusters are much smaller than entire galaxies – and much more abundant – they are a much better tracer of how the fabric of space is distorted by the Coma cluster’s gravity. In fact, the Coma cluster is one of the first places where observed gravitational anomalies were considered to be indicative of a lot of unseen mass in the universe – later to be called “dark matter.”

Among the earliest homesteaders of the universe, globular star clusters are snow-globe-shaped islands of several hundred thousand ancient stars. They are integral to the birth and growth of a galaxy. About 150 globular clusters zip around our Milky Way galaxy, and, because they contain the oldest known stars in the universe, were present in the early formative years of our galaxy.

Some of the Milky Way’s globular clusters are visible to the naked eye as fuzzy-looking “stars.” But at the distance of the Coma cluster, its globulars appear as dots of light even to Hubble’s super-sharp vision. The survey found the globular clusters scattered in the space between the galaxies. They have been orphaned from their home galaxy due to galaxy near-collisions inside the traffic-jammed cluster. Hubble revealed that some globular clusters line up along bridge-like patterns. This is telltale evidence for interactions between galaxies where they gravitationally tug on each other like pulling taffy.

Astronomer Juan Madrid of the Australian Telescope National Facility in Sydney, Australia first thought about the distribution of globular clusters in Coma when he was examining Hubble images that show the globular clusters extending all the way to the edge of any given photograph of galaxies in the Coma cluster.

He was looking forward to more data from one of the legacy surveys of Hubble that was designed to obtain data of the entire Coma cluster, called the Coma Cluster Treasury Survey. However, halfway through the program, in 2006, Hubble’s powerful Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) had an electronics failure. (The ACS was later repaired by astronauts during a 2009 Hubble servicing mission.)

To fill in the survey gaps, Madrid and his team painstakingly pulled numerous Hubble images of the galaxy cluster taken from different Hubble observing programs. These are stored in the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes in Baltimore, Maryland. He assembled a mosaic of the central region of the cluster, working with students from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. “This program gives an opportunity to students enrolled in universities with little or no astronomy to gain experience in the field,” Madrid said.

The team developed algorithms to sift through the Coma mosaic images that contain at least 100,000 potential sources. The program used globular clusters’ color (dominated by the glow of aging red stars) and spherical shape to eliminate extraneous objects – mostly background galaxies unassociated with the Coma cluster.

Though Hubble has superb detectors with unmatched sensitivity and resolution, their main drawback is that they have tiny fields of view. “One of the cool aspects of our research is that it showcases the amazing science that will be possible with NASA’s planned Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) that will have a much larger field of view than Hubble,” said Madrid. “We will be able to image entire galaxy clusters at once.”

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.Credits

Image: NASAESA, J. Mack (STScI), and J. Madrid (Australian Telescope National Facility)

Science: NASAESA, and J. Madrid (Australian Telescope National Facility)Related LinksThis site is not responsible for content found on external links

Contact

Ray Villard 
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland 
410-338-4514 
villard@stsci.edu

Juan Madrid 
Australian Telescope National Facility, Sydney, Australia 
jmadrid@astro.swin.edu.auEmail list: Inbox Astronomy
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