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Content about Astronomy

March 18, 2015

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will provide an unprecedented look into the cosmos, and the Dark Energy Science Collaboration is preparing a variety of analyses for the huge data sets it will produce. In anticipation of their needs, Fermilab is developing innovative software tools and approaches.

January 28, 2015

Video courtesy GLORIA project (CC BY 3.0).

The GLORIA (GLObal Robotic telescope Intelligent Array for e-science) project has created an online portal that enables internet users to operate a network of 13 telescopes around the world and contribute to astronomical research.

January 21, 2015

The Center for Computational Astrophysics in Japan recently upgraded its ATERUI supercomputer, doubling the machine’s theoretical peak performance to 1.058 petaFLOPS. Eiichiro Kokubo, director of the center, tells iSGTW how supercomputers are changing the way research is conducted in astronomy.

March 19, 2014

Image courtesy Becciani, U. et al. Click for larger version.

December 18, 2013

Once fully operational, the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope could produce data at a rate more than 100 times greater than current global internet traffic. Successful handling of this unparalleled data deluge will be key to the project's ability to find answers to some of the most complex puzzles in astronomy.

December 4, 2013

For roughly two decades, scientists have struggled to understand the ratio of lithium isotopes found within the bellies of the oldest stars in the universe. Now, with the aid of high-performance computing, an international group of researchers has put this cosmic problem to rest.



February 13, 2013

A recently published study from the University of Alberta, Canada, examines what happens when binary stars come together. The research, published in the journal Science, has also shed ‘light’ on where mysterious cool and red outbursts, called intermediate-luminosity red transients, originate form.



January 30, 2013

The ALMA space observatory promises new insights into our cosmic origins. But the supercomputer at the heart of the telescope array faces some serious challenges, due to the extreme high altitude of the site.

January 23, 2013

In their initial phases of research on supernovae, two scientists at the University of Texas at Arlington, US, are trying something new – using SNSPH computer code to develop 3D simulations of a core-collapse supernova evolving into remnants.

November 7, 2012

Astronomers are using grid computing to build an  asteroid famiy tree. The work could be key to revealing the mysterious origins of a new type of comet recently discovered.

November 17, 2010

Feature - Life at the extreme at the Pierre Auger Observatory The Pierre Auger Observatory has a detection area of 3,000 km², so large that it is best seen by airplane. A space-based sucessor with a detection area hundreds of times greater is already being planned: the JEM-EUSO will be attached to the International Space Station in 2013. It will use large volumes of the earth’s atmosphere to detect and observe particles colliding with planet’s magnetic field. All images courtesy Pierre Auger Observatory Some people enjoy living life at the edge, such as participants in extreme sports. At the other extreme are those who relish watching rare events.Among the latter are astronomers at the Pierre Auger Observatory, a multi-national collaboration to detect the 'light-signature' given off as these cosmic rays hit particles in our atmosphere. Based in Argentina, the observatory monitors ultra-high energy cosmic rays —  spectacular examples of some of nature

November 17, 2010

Image of the Week - Elegance of darkness When galaxies collide. Original courtesy Argonne National Laboratory What you see is the collision of two galaxies over billions of years, albeit virtually. As physicists at CERN investigate the smallest particles in the universe, US scientists are studying the behavior of the largest cosmic structures in existence. A team at the University of Chicago Flash Center and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used an Argonne National Laboratory Supercomputer to identify elusive dark matter. The researchers simulated the motion and collision of galactic clusters — some of the largest structures in the universe — to infer dark matter’s influence, as it cannot be observed directly. Dark matter greatly influences gas and galaxies over trillions of light years.  Furthermore, these collisions more accurately predict the interaction of both normal and dark matter (it is thought dark matter constitu

November 10, 2010

Link of the week - ImpactEarth

A screenshot of the ImpactEarth website. Click on the picture for a larger version.

The destruction of the Earth by an asteroid is among our favorite horror stories.
But what would really happen if an asteroid hit the Earth?
Jay Melosh and Robert Marcus of the University of Arizona, and Gareth Collins of Imperial College London created a web-based program to estimate the consequences of a comet or asteroid impact.
A basic version was created in 2005, but the version recently created by Purdue is much more attractive - and fun to use. Check it out at this week's featured link!
-Miriam Boon, iSGTW

November 10, 2010

Video of the week - NASA goes to the clouds

Lately, the media has been flooded with stories about NASA and cloud computing.
Some have been about how the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA is using Amazon's cloud services to plan the Mars Rover's daily activities.
More, however, have been about the impending open source release of NASA’s Nebula Cloud Computing Platform.
That’s why we decided to feature two videos about Nebula as our videos of the week. Watch them to learn more about Nebula and computing at NASA.
—Miriam Boon, iSGTW

November 3, 2010

Feature - Ultra-fast networks: The Final Frontier A network researcher in awe of the billions of dark matter particles simulated on 15 ultra-high definition monitors. Image courtesy Freek Dijkstra Researchers from Holland have demonstrated a network infrastructure that could potentially help scientists save time and even transform the movie business. This could be done without the need for large computer clusters or grids, just off-the-shelf hardware components combined with human ingenuity and one of the world’s fastest research networks. The team were from SARA, a Dutch supercomputing and e-science support center. Threshold The SARA researchers wanted to show the practicalities of streaming video between two institutions (from SARA, Amsterdam to CERN, Geneva) at 40Gb/second (5GB/s). This link, if successful, would be 16 times faster than the TEIN3 network, which streamed Malaysian dancers over 9,000 kilometers away to a live orchestra performance in Stockholm at 2.5 Gb/s. Th

November 3, 2010


Link of the Week: Physics for Poets

Woodblock print of ‘The Sea off Satta,’ from ‘36 Views of Mount Fuji’ by Hiroshige Utagawa. Image courtesy Wikipedia under Creative Commons license

At the scifaiku website, fans of science fiction can express their passion for time travel, spaceships and aliens in haiku.
The rules of this ancient Japanese poetic form are relatively simple: each poem is composed of a maximum of three lines, with 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the next, and 5 on the last.
But while traditional haiku make a reference to nature; “scifaiku” call for a science fiction reference, such as:
Asteroids collidewithout a sound . . . We maneuver between fragments.
It seemed unfair that science fiction fans should have all the fun, so we tried our hands at this art, focusing on the theme of computing. This can be a challenge, given the distressing number of syllables in phrases such as “distributed computing infrastructur

October 27, 2010

Feature - Theorists find dark matter evidence in open data

A visualization of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Image courtesy of NASA and General Dynamics.

Dan Hooper and Lisa Goodenough are not part of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope collaboration. But by using FGST’s publicly released data, they were able to find clues to some of the universe’s juiciest secrets at the center of the Milky Way.
In their analysis, Hooper, a Fermilab theorist, and Goodenough, a graduate student at New York University, report that very-high-energy gamma rays coming from the center of the Milky Way originate from dark-matter collisions.
“We went out of our way to consider all causes of backgrounds that mimic the signal, and we found no other plausible astrophysics sources or mechanics that can produce a signal like this,” Hooper said.
A recent paper, published on the pre-print server arXiv, outlines their findings.
Astrophysicists have long postulated a wide range of

October 20, 2010

Feature - New physics in space

A C5 Supergalaxy, one of the world’s largest planes, loading the AMS-02 experiment at Geneva Airport. Image courtesy CERN Bulletin

New life was breathed into the International Space Station (ISS) this year after NASA announced it will extend the ISS from 2015 to at least 2020.The new deadline extends opportunities for science experimentation in the largest space research laboratory ever constructed. One of these experiments is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02), a detector that may help scientists understand why our universe exists and why there is more matter than anti-matter.Most space-grade electronics are about ten years old, so the AMS-02 represents the newest and most advanced physics experiment in outer space to date. Currently, it is being tested and due to launch in February 2011. AMS-02 was shipped via Geneva airport to NASA this August in one of the largest planes in the world, a US Air Force C5 Super Galaxy.Once aboard the ISS, A

October 13, 2010

Feature - Astronomical computing
Supporting the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope means thinking big

A visualization of the LSST.
Image credit: Todd Mason, Mason Productions Inc./LSST Corporation

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope to be constructed in Chile will incorporate the world’s largest digital camera, capable of recording highly detailed data more quickly than any other telescope of comparable resolution.
For the scientists working on the project, that all amounts to an exciting opportunity to learn more about moving objects (including monitoring asteroids near the Earth), transients such as the brief conflagrations of supernovae, dark energy, and the structure of the galaxy.
For computing specialists, it means more data. A lot more data.
The LSST will take between 1000 and 2000 panoramic 3.2 gigapixel images per night, covering its hemisphere of the sky twice weekly. Along with daytime calibration images, this will amount to 20 terabytes of data stored every 2

October 13, 2010

Image of the week - A better supernova model

This image shows a 3D time series of the development and expansion of the supernova shock. Time is increasing as you move from left to right. The purple surface is an isocontour of entropy while the blue/green surface is an isocontour of density.
Image by Jason Nordhaus and Adam Burrows, Princeton University. Image and caption courtesy of NERSC.

When large stars die out and collapse, they explode, creating a supernova. But when scientists attempted to simulate this process, they got a “fizzle” instead of a “bang.” Until now, scientists simply assumed that there is something fundamental about the physics of supernovae that we didn't understand.
Now scientists may have cracked the problem by using a new approach to create computer simulations of supernovae.
“The new simulations are based on the idea that the collapsing star itself is not sphere-like, but distinctly asymmetrical and affected by a host of inst

October 6, 2010

Announcement - Registration open, Computing and Astroparticle Physics-ASPERA, Lyon, France

Photo courtesy ASPERA

Registration is now open for Computing and Astroparticle Physics-ASPERA, to be hold in Lyon, France from 07 October to 08 October 2010.
Astroparticle Physics has grown in a few years from a field of a few charismatic pioneers transgressing interdisciplinary frontiers to a global science activity projecting very large infrastructures involving hundreds of researchers each. In particular, the large infrastructures proposed in the ASPERA Roadmap will face challenging problems of data collection, data storage and data mining. In some of these, the cost of computing will be a significant fraction of the cost of the infrastructure and the issues of model of computation, data mining complexity and public access will be extremely challenging.
In the Lyon workshop these issues will be addressed, along with data storage and analysis models developed in neighboring fields such as part

October 6, 2010

Image of the Week - Death of a star

Ever wonder what the collapse of an inspiralling neutron-star binary looks like? Now you can see one rendtion, in this vizualization. For more information, click here.
Copyright: Ralf Kähler (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics/Zuse Institute Berlin) Numerical Simulation: Bruno Giacomazzo, Luciano Rezzolla (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics). Used with permission.

October 6, 2010


Link of the Week: Einstein@home bags a pulsar

Albert Einstein (c) Camera Press, K. of Ottawa

The Einstein@Home volunteer computing project, run on the BOINC platform to run distributed computing projects, usually   searches for gravity waves. (See previous iSGTW article.) However, a side project spotted a rare pulsar in radio observatory data.Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars; their rapid rotation causes the emission from the poles to sweep across the line-of-sight to the Earth, creating a periodic flash. Initially, most pulsars are energetic, rotating rapidly and emitting radiation in the X-ray region. But, over time, they “spin down;” many only emit at the frequency of radio waves.This summer, a person at a home computer spotted PSR J2007+2722, later confirmed by ground-based observatories.An article in the journal Science praised the efforts of citizen scientists, saying that “This result demonstrates the capability of 'consumer' comput

August 11, 2010

Feature - The sky’s the limit

Image courtesy Simon Langton Grammar School

Becky Parker, head of physics at the Simon Langton Grammar School in Kent, UK, is introducing her students to outer space. In 2007, Becky organized a trip to CERN for her 16 to 18 year-old students. There, they were introduced to the Timepix computer chip, a sensitive light-detector used for medical imaging. Back in Britain, one of her students came up with the idea of using the chips to measure cosmic radiation. Parker’s response: “Brilliant!” A Timepix chip has 65,536 pixels over a 2 cm² area. An event occurs when a particle strikes a pixel and is converted into an electrical signal, which can be measured. Her students wanted to use Timepix chips to detect particle type, energy and possibly, the directionality.Consequently, her students entered and won a space experiment competition with their design made from adapting readouts of the chip. Their instrument, called LUCID (Langton

July 28, 2010

Image of the Week - What the Planck Telescope found

A new view of the Milky Way. (Click on image to enlarge.) Image courtesy European Space Agency

Last summer, iSGTW did a story on the launch of the European Space Agency’s Planck Telescope into orbit. (See Countdown! World’s most sophisticated thermometer blasts off into space). Their goal was to survey the “oldest light” in the cosmos.After six months of collecting data and assembling a map, the 700-million euro observatory created the first full-sky image. It shows what is visible beyond Earth, on instruments sensitive to light at wavelengths much longer than human beings can see.In the foreground are large segments of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The bright horizontal line running the full width of the picture is the galactic plane, in which the sun and Earth reside. Above and below the galactic plane are streamers of cold dust, thousands of light-years long.“It's a spectacular picture; it’s