GLAST Delayed

During a NASA Town Hall meeting at AAS Dr. Morse made mention of GLAST being pushed back from June 5th until the 6th or 7th due to issues with the Delta II rocket. I later confirmed with Dr. Jon Morse that GLAST is being pushed back until at least the 6th or 7th of June. Upon further questioning Dr. Morse said the delay is because the close out operations for the Delta II rocket aren’t yet complete. Apparently the Air Force would like to see a more rigorous close out operation for this particular mission. Scott

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Short Gamma-Ray Bursts: Two Parent Populations are better than One

Short Gamma-Ray Bursts: Two Parent Populations are better than One

When we look up with gamma-ray eyes (or use satellite’s like Swift above the atmosphere to watch the sky with gamma-ray sensitive detectors), many different things draw our attention. There is gamma-ray emission from pulsars, from quasars, from accretion disks around black holes. There are flickers from anti-matter – matter self-annihilation. There are many cool and wonderful things. Most cool and wonderful of all are gamma-ray bursts. Lasting anywhere from a few thousandths of a second to a couple of minutes, these short-lived high-energy events give off ~70 times the light the Sun will give off in its entire lifetime. Randomly appearing all over the sky, we observe roughly 1 gamma-ray burst a day using orbiting observatories.In general, if you make...

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All your darkmatter are belong to unparticles

Sometimes, in science, English is abused in ways that make one giggle while learning. Earlier today I read an abstract that was so fascinatingly unnatural that I had to read the article. “Once a parity is introduced in unparticle physics, under which unparticle provided in a hidden conformal sector is odd while all Standard Model particles are even, unparticle can be a suitable candidate for the cold dark matter (CDM) in the present universe through its coupling to the Standard Model Higgs doublet.” No, I didn’t initially understand it either. (My first thought was actually, “All your base are belong to us.” ) But then I read the paper, and found that it was actually very cool. A few months ago, Harvard’s Howard Georgi (who was...

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Screaming to the Stars: Quasar Echo’s

Screaming to the Stars: Quasar Echo’s

It is possible to map a room using sound, the sea using sonar, and to generally just get at the shape of things based on how the absorb and emit waves. This is true both in our Earthly locations (caves, canyons) and also in the centers of galaxies. In the past several days, I’ve seen a couple different journal articles on how quasar flickering is being used to map galaxy cores. This isn’t a new idea, but it is an idea whose technological time has finally come. Here’s how it works: A supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy eats something and emits a burst of light. Some of that light flies immediately to us on a straight line. That’s what our telescope catches first. Some of the light travels outward and interacts with surrounding...

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Lensing Lenses & Einstein’s Cross

Lensing Lenses & Einstein’s Cross

While going through journal articles today, I came across a really neat paper on teh apparent variability of the different images of the famous lensed quasar, Einstein’s Cross (Q2237+0305, in science speak). The light from this distant quasar is blocked from reaching us directly, and is instead bent toward us along 4 different paths by the nucleus of an intervening spiral galaxy (image left, credit:  J. Rhoads (STScI) et al., WIYN, AURA, NOAO, NSF). Each different image provides us a snap shot of the quasar from slightly different angles. While many quasars with split up images have significant time delays between one image and another, the images in this situation have negligible time delay. Astronomers in Switzerland and Washington, lead by A....

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Einstein was not wrong.

Einstein was not wrong.

I’ve reached a stage in my career in which I have started to get letters addressed directly to my from people who state Einstein was wrong and then typically provide 3 to a lot of pages describing, typically with no math, why Einstein was wrong and why their new theory is right. Here’s the thing. At this stage in the game, even if we do someday find short comings in Einstein’s theories, we won’t be proving his theory wrong, we will be expanding on it. Just as we don’t say Newton’s theories as being wrong, we will not talk of Einstein as being wrong. Newton’s theories were incomplete, but they are correct within the realm of classical physics experiments. We already know Einstein’s theories break in quantum regimens,...

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