ALMA ACHIEVES NEW OBSERVING CAPABILITIES

From FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 10-Sep-2014   Source Newsroom: National Radio Astronomy Observatory

ALMA PIC.coolblueuranus

 

NRAO/AUI/NSF; ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ) The Planet Uranus as seen with ALMA through its new “Band 10” receivers.

Newswise — The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has reached a major milestone by extending its vision fully into the realm of the submillimeter, the wavelengths of cosmic light that hold intriguing information about the cold, dark, and distant Universe.

This achievement, which was marked by the completion of ALMA’s High Frequency Observing Campaign, opens an entirely new window on the Universe for ALMA and goes beyond its existing capabilities with the Band 9 receivers.

It also is a critical step in the telescope’s commissioning process, which brings its full capabilities to bear and makes them available to the international astronomical community.

As a demonstration of its new capabilities, the commissioning team released a stunning new image of planet Uranus as it appears in submillimeter wavelength light. The image — obtained with ALMA’s highest frequency (shortest wavelength), Band 10 receivers — reveals the icy glow from the planet’s atmosphere, which can reach temperatures as low as -224 degrees Celsius.

ALMA’s now broader range of capabilities will enable astronomers and planetary scientists to study and monitor temperature changes at different altitudes above the clouds of Uranus and other giant planets in our solar system.

“The overall goals of the High Frequency Observing Campaign were to help ALMA reach its full potential, enabling research at its highest frequencies and giving ALMA new sight at submillimeter wavelengths,” said astronomer Satoko Takahashi of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the lead of the High Frequency Observing Team.

“Before astronomers could take advantage of this, we first had to take the telescope through its paces and establish observing strategies that yield the best, most accurate results. That is why commissioning is so critical to our success.”

ALMA observes the cosmos by using a series of precisely tuned receivers that are installed on each of the array’s 66 antennas. Each receiver type is sensitive to a particular “band,” or range of wavelengths, of the electromagnetic spectrum. The highest frequency/shortest wavelength Band 10 receivers have already been installed and tested on a majority of the ALMA antennas and the remainder will be installed and integrated over the next several months.

To take full advantage of ALMA’s new high-frequency capabilities, the commissioning team is in the process of refining two new observing techniques. The first, “band to band transfer,” enables ALMA to observe at high frequencies in less than optimal weather conditions by first observing an object at lower frequencies, and then using that data to calibrate, or “tune,” the telescope for a particular observation.

“This technique will greatly expand the amount of time ALMA can effectively study the Universe at higher frequencies,” said Violette Impellizzeri,a Joint ALMA Office astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Another technique involves first observing at very broadband frequencies and then tuning-in to more narrowband, higher frequencies.

“This technique will soon be routine operating procedure, even though it’s unique to ALMA at these frequencies,” said North America ALMA Science Center astronomer Jennifer Donovan Meyer.

“Combined, these two techniques open up many more hours of observations at high frequencies than would otherwise be possible,” said Violette Impellizzeri, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Joint ALMA Office.

Teams from around the world are still on their way to ALMA to further verify these techniques and provide the optimal observing strategy for observing with ALMA at high frequencies.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

The international commissioning team for the High Frequency Observing Campaign was led by Satoko Takahashi of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, ALMA’s representative East Asia and Anthony Remijan of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the ALMA Program Scientist for Extension and Optimization of Capabilities.

Other members include Catherine Vlahakis, Neil Philips, Denis Barkets, Bill Dent (JAO/ESO), Ed Fomalont, Brian Mason, Jennifer Donovan Meyer (NRAO); Violette Impellizzeri, Paulo Cortes, Christian Lopez (JAO/NRAO); Christine Wilson (NRAO/McMaster University); Seiji Kameno, Tsyuoshi Sawada (JAO/NAOJ); Tim Van Kempen, Luke Maud & Remo Tilanus (Leiden); Robert Lucas (Grenoble); Richard Hills(Cambridge); James Chibueze, (NAOJ); Akihiko Hirota (JOA/NAOJ.

 

 

SCIENTIST UNCOVERS RED PLANET’S CLIMATE HISTORY IN UNIQUE METEORITE

From FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 27-Aug-2014                  Source: Florida State University Citations Nature Geoscience

Newswise — TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Was Mars — now a cold, dry place — once a warm, wet planet that sustained life? And if so, how long has it been cold and dry?

Research underway at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory may one day answer those questions — and perhaps even help pave the way for future colonization of the Red Planet. By analyzing the chemical clues locked inside an ancient Martian meteorite known as Black Beauty, Florida State University Professor Munir Humayun and an international research team are revealing the story of Mars’ ancient, and sometimes startling, climate history.

The team’s most recent finding of a dramatic climate change appeared in Nature Geoscience, in the paper “Record of the ancient Martian hydrosphere and atmosphere preserved in zircon from a Martian meteorite.”

The scientists found evidence for the climate shift in minerals called zircons embedded inside the dark, glossy meteorite. Zircons, which are also abundant in the Earth’s crust, form when lava cools. Among their intriguing properties, Humayun says, is that “they stick around forever.”

“When you find a zircon, it is like finding a watch,” Humayun said. “A zircon begins keeping track of time from the moment it is born.”

Last year, Humayun’s team correctly determined that the zircons in its Black Beauty sample were an astonishing 4.4 billion years old. That means, Humayun says, it formed during the Red Planet’s infancy and during a time when the planet might have been able to sustain life.

“First we learned that, about 4.5 billion years ago, water was more abundant on Mars, and now we have learned that something dramatically changed that,” said Humayun, a professor of geochemistry.

“Now we can conclude that the conditions that we see today on Mars, this dry Martian desert, must have persisted for at least the past 1.7 billion years. We know now that Mars has been dry for a very long time.”

The secret to Mars’ climate lies in the fact that zircons (ZrSiO4) contain oxygen, an element with three isotopes. Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons — sort of like members of a family who share the same last name but have different first names.

On Mars, oxygen is distributed in the atmosphere (as carbon dioxide, molecular oxygen and ozone), in the hydrosphere (as water) and in rocks. In the thin, dry Martian atmosphere, the sun’s ultraviolet light causes unique shifts in the proportions in which the three isotopes of oxygen occur in the different atmospheric gases.

So when water vapor that has cycled through the Martian atmosphere condenses into the Martian soil, it can interact with and exchange oxygen isotopes with zircons in the soil, effectively writing a climate record into the rocks. A warm, wet Mars requires a dense atmosphere that filters out the ultraviolet light making the unique isotope shifts disappear.

In order to measure the proportions of the oxygen isotopes in the zircons, the team, led by scientist Alexander Nemchin, used a device called an ion microprobe. The instrument is in the NordSIMS facility at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, directed by team member Martin Whitehouse.

Because of these precise measurements, said Humayun, “We now have an isotopic record of how the atmosphere changed, with dates on it.”

The Black Beauty meteorite Humayun’s team is studying was discovered in the Sahara Desert in 2011. It is also known as NWA 7533, which stands for Northwest Africa, the location where it was found.

In all, more than five pieces of Black Beauty were found by Bedouin tribesmen, who make a living scouring the Sahara for meteorites and fossils that they can sell. The zircons analyzed by Humayun’s team were from Black Beauty samples kept in Paris.

Research underway at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory may one day answer those questions — and perhaps even help pave the way for future colonization of the Red Planet. By analyzing the chemical clues locked inside an ancient Martian meteorite known as Black Beauty, Florida State University Professor Munir Humayun and an international research team are revealing the story of Mars’ ancient, and sometimes startling, climate history.

The team’s most recent finding of a dramatic climate change appeared in Nature Geoscience, in the paper “Record of the ancient Martian hydrosphere and atmosphere preserved in zircon from a Martian meteorite.”

The scientists found evidence for the climate shift in minerals called zircons embedded inside the dark, glossy meteorite. Zircons, which are also abundant in the Earth’s crust, form when lava cools. Among their intriguing properties, Humayun says, is that “they stick around forever.”

“When you find a zircon, it’s like finding a watch,” Humayun said. “A zircon begins keeping track of time from the moment it’s born.”

Last year, Humayun’s team correctly determined that the zircons in its Black Beauty sample were an astonishing 4.4 billion years old. That means, Humayun says, it formed during the Red Planet’s infancy and during a time when the planet might have been able to sustain life.

“First we learned that, about 4.5 billion years ago, water was more abundant on Mars, and now we’ve learned that something dramatically changed that,” said Humayun, a professor of geochemistry.

“Now we can conclude that the conditions that we see today on Mars, this dry Martian desert, must have persisted for at least the past 1.7 billion years. We know now that Mars has been dry for a very long time.

The secret to Mars’ climate lies in the fact that zircons (ZrSiO4) contain oxygen, an element with three isotopes. Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons — sort of like members of a family who share the same last name but have different first names.

On Mars, oxygen is distributed in the atmosphere (as carbon dioxide, molecular oxygen and ozone), in the hydrosphere (as water) and in rocks. In the thin, dry Martian atmosphere, the sun’s ultraviolet light causes unique shifts in the proportions in which the three isotopes of oxygen occur in the different atmospheric gases.

So when water vapor that has cycled through the Martian atmosphere condenses into the Martian soil, it can interact with and exchange oxygen isotopes with zircons in the soil, effectively writing a climate record into the rocks. A warm, wet Mars requires a dense atmosphere that filters out the ultraviolet light making the unique isotope shifts disappear.

In order to measure the proportions of the oxygen isotopes in the zircons, the team, led by scientist Alexander Nemchin, used a device called an ion microprobe. The instrument is in the NordSIMS facility at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, directed by team member Martin Whitehouse.

Because of these precise measurements, said Humayun, “we now have an isotopic record of how the atmosphere changed, with dates on it.”

The Black Beauty meteorite Humayun’s team is studying was discovered in the Sahara Desert in 2011. It’s also known as NWA 7533, which stands for Northwest Africa, the location where it was found.

In all, more than five pieces of Black Beauty were found by Bedouin tribesmen, who make a living scouring the Sahara for meteorites and fossils that they can sell. The zircons analyzed by Humayun’s team were from Black Beauty samples kept in Paris.

CHEMISCOPE TO CATCH CHEMISTRY IN THE ACT

Center for Chemistry at the Space-Time Limit develops new tool that could revolutionize chemistry

From FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Science Bation on line Magazine National Science Foundation Where Discoveries Begin
Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 21.41.42

 

 

 

 

 

What the microscope did to unlock the secrets of biology, the “chemiscope” is intended to do, to revolutionize chemistry. The ultimate goal is to observe chemistry in the act, to see the making and breaking of bonds in real-space and real-time.

The ability to see the world of molecules, atoms and bonds, in real space-time, would completely shift the paradigm in chemical inquiry. Seeing is the first step toward manipulating individual atoms and molecules, to atomistically engineer molecules and control chemistry. Such a capability will drive future innovations in chemistry, and in industries based on nanotechnology and molecular electronics. With support from the National Science Foundation, the Center for Chemistry at the Space-Time Limit is a nexus of the multidisciplinary expertise required to develop the enabling science and technology to make the chemiscope a reality.

The challenge is great. To see individual atoms, spatial resolution must be improved by a factor of 10,000 over the best optical microscope. To see molecules in motion, the images must be recorded at a frame rate of a thousand million million per second (a frame / femtosecond). The two capabilities must be combined to reach joint space-time resolution at angstrom-femtosecond (Å-fs) limit, to record moving pictures of elementary steps in chemistry.

The ability to see the world of molecules, atoms and bonds, in real space-time, would completely shift the paradigm in chemical inquiry.

Seeing is the first step toward manipulating individual atoms and molecules, to atomistically engineer molecules and control chemistry. Such a capability will drive future innovations in chemistry, and in industries based on nanotechnology and molecular electronics.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Center for Chemistry at the Space-Time Limit (CaSTL), is a nexus of the multidisciplinary expertise required to develop the enabling science and technology to make the chemiscope a reality. With University of California, Irvine (UCI), chemist Ara Apkarian as center director, a group of scientists with backgrounds in chemistry, physics and engineering, from multiple universities and industry, have joined forces on this mission. The video clip highlighted recent recordings of: the motion of one electron inside one molecule; the quantum mechanical motion of a single chemical bond in an ensemble and in solo; and the hula hoop-like orbiting of an orbital, breaking and making of designated single bonds on a single molecule. These measurements were made using instruments developed within the center, by groups led by Professors V. A. Apkarian, E. Potma and W. Ho of UCI. The animated clip of the breaking of a bond is a simulation contributed by Professor F. Furche.

CaSTL is one of the NSF-funded Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI)–research centers focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. CCIs that address these challenges will produce transformative research, lead to innovation, and attract broad scientific and public interest. The mission of CaSTL is to develop and apply the chemiscope to solve grand challenges in chemistry. Heterogeneous catalysis, photocatalysis and plasmonic chemistry are targeted examples where, to make credible progress, it is essential to “see” the workings of individual molecules and their reactive sites.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF award, The Center for Chemistry at the Space-Time Limit (CaSTL).

Miles O’Brien, Science Nation Correspondent, Marsha Walton, Science Nation Producer.

Division of Chemistry (CHE)

The mission of the Division of Chemistry in NSF’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences is to promote the health of academic chemistry and to enable basic research and education in the chemical sciences. The Division supports research in all traditional areas of chemistry and in multidisciplinary fields that draw upon the chemical sciences.

 My  Comments

 Hope you enjoyed the launch if you watched it on NASA TV. A special thanks for the kind words from John of Storytime, who liked what he read  about NASA three different times on both blogs. That’s dedication man!  THANKS. I will be back tomorrow albeit close to being tomorrow already . Jeanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About jeanne hambleton

Journalist-wordsmith, former reporter, columnist, film critic, editor, Town Clerk and then fibromite and eventer with 5 conferences done and dusted. Interested in all health and well being issues, passionate about research to find a cure and cause for fibromyalgia. Member LinkedIn. Worked for 4 years with FMA UK as Regional Coordinator for SW and SE,and Chair for FMS SAS the Sussex and Surrey FM umbrella charity and Chair Folly Pogs Fibromyalgia Research UK - finding funding for our "cause for a cure" and President and co ordinator of National FM Conferences. Just finished last national annual Fibromyalgia Conference Weekend. This was another success with speakers from the States . Next year's conference in Chichester Park Hotel, West Sussex, will be April 24/27 2015 and bookings are coming in from those who raved about the event every year. I am very busy but happy to produce articles for publication. News Editor of FMS Global News on line but a bit behind due to conference. A workaholic beyond redemption! The future - who knows? Open to offers with payment. Versatile and looking for a regular paid column - you call the tune and I will play the pipes.
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