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SSU Program Updates. July 26, 2010 Professor Lynn Cominsky. Current SSU Missions. Fermi (formerly GLAST) - launched June 11, 2008 – nominal mission is 5 years – Project Scientist Julie McEnery will update Swift – launched November 20, 2004 XMM-Newton – launched December, 1999

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SSU Program Updates

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SSU Program Updates

July 26, 2010

Professor Lynn Cominsky

Current SSU Missions

  • Fermi (formerly GLAST) - launched June 11, 2008 – nominal mission is 5 years – Project Scientist Julie McEnery will update

  • Swift – launched November 20, 2004

  • XMM-Newton – launched December, 1999

  • NuSTAR – now in Phase C/D, planned for Feb. 2012 launch

  • SNAP – reconsituted as JDEM = Joint Dark Energy Mission. In limbo pending “Blandford committee” report

  • EXIST – also in limbo…

Changes in the EA program

  • Fermi EAs have resigned: Walter Glogowski, Sharla Dowding

  • Fermi EA has had a baby – Janet Moore – cannot be with us this week

  • Linda Smith, Fermi EA is in Master’s program at Penn which will not let her attend training week

  • David Beier has had some health problems recently and is under Dr’s order not to fly

  • NuSTAR EA Bill Panczner has had serious surgery and has had to retire.

  • Tyson Harty (Georgia) is with us this week to see if he will join the program.

Senior Review Results 2010

  • Happens every 2 years – determines funding for next 2-4 years.

  • Fermi was not reviewed – it is in its 5-year nominal mission. It will be up for review in 2012 cycle.

Swift and the Sr. Review

  • Swift was #1 in the 2008 senior review. However, it still did well in this review: “Swift was launched on November 30, 2004 and is presently operating well. There are no known issues that would prevent operation for many more years.”

  • “Swift is a productive and important mission making significant contributions to astronomy. The Swift Guest Investigator program is producing very good science and should continue to be a key component of the mission.”

  • Funding was recommended at the expected level through 2012, with reassessment for 2013-2014.

  • I expect to receive sufficient Swift E/PO funds for at least two more years, to continue to fund the 5 Swift EAs. And probably for four more years.

XMM and the Sr. Review

  • XMM was rated #8/10 in 2008. It did much better this year. “XMM-Newton, launched in 1999, is a facility-class X-ray observatory that is a cornerstone of ESA’s Horizon 2000 program. It retains strong European support, and in the most recent review of extended ESA missions it was among the most highly rated. After a decade of operation, the spacecraft health and performance remain satisfactory”

  • Because XMM was rated so low in 2008, it came into the Sr. Review with a very low “in-guide” number. Therefore, they asked for an augmentation for 2011-2014. This was approved for 2011, with more for 2012, and another review for 2013-2014.

  • I am waiting to see how this translates into money for E/PO. I will probably know by the Fall.

EA Shuffle….

  • So if XMM funding is seriously cut, the two XMM EAs will switch over to being funded by Fermi, which is now 2 EAs short.

  • But we won’t know until Fall.

  • Also, travel money seems to be at a premium since so many people are overrunning.

  • I can’t afford to keep the stipends the same, and also raise the travel funding. Last time we raised both…. Let’s discuss.

New SSU Project(s)

  • Funding received for development of an on-line general education Cosmology course for undergraduates – in progress. We will have a short presentation by Geraldine Cochran, who has been doing education research with Prof. Kim Coble about students’ views in Cosmology

  • SSU is trying to get funding for other projects – High School CanSat and high-powered rocket curriculum development, Palomar Observatory museum exhibit to augment NuSTAR E/PO program, and (at least one) potential new Explorer satellite. Results for the first two should be announced in the late Fall 2010.

Bright blazar

Gamma-ray pulsar


High-mass binary

Radio galaxy

Globular cluster

Fermi Update – details from Julie McEnery, Project Scientist

Fermi products

  • Updated since launch:

    • Fermi factsheet

    • AGN guide – will be reprinted after EA training (also poster)

    • Fermi paper model

    • Fermi stickers (two types)

    • Fermi race card game

    • Fermi litho

  • Other products for educators:

    • Active Galaxy Pop-up Book and Ed guide

    • 3 TOPS modules

  • Also have to give away:

    • Fermi Epo’s Chronicles lithos

    • Fermi post-it notes pads


  • Swift continues to enjoy good health, has recently detected 500th burst.

  • Swift is now a mature mission, and although its primary science is still GRBs, there are many other exciting things that Swift is studying…

    • Supernovae

    • Active Galaxies

    • Other flares

Swift Press-worthy Science

  • May 26, 2010 - NASA's Swift Survey finds 'Smoking Gun' of Black Hole Activation

  • April 19, 2010 - NASA's Swift Catches 500th Gamma-ray Burst

  • January 27, 2010 - Newborn Black Holes Boost Explosive Power of Supernovae

  • November 10, 2009 - Swift, XMM-Newton satellites tune into a middleweight black hole

  • September 16, 2009 - Swift Creates Best-Ever Ultraviolet Image of Andromeda Galaxy

  • June 8, 2009 - Keck Study Sheds New Light On ‘Dark’ Gamma-ray Bursts

Swift Press-worthy Science

  • April 28, 2009 - New Gamma-ray Burst Smashes Cosmic Distance Record

  • February 28, 2009 - NASA's Swift Spies Comet Lulin

  • February 10, 2009 - NASA's Swift, Fermi Probe Fireworks From a Flaring Gamma-Ray Star

  • January 6, 2009: NASA's Swift Shows Active Galaxies Are Different Near And Far

  • September 19, 2008 - Swift Catches Farthest Gamma-Ray Burst

  • September 10, 2008- "Naked-Eye" Gamma-Ray Burst Was Aimed Squarely At Earth

Swift/UVOT M31 tour


By NASA’s Stefan Immler

Swift’s 500 Bursts

Most distant burst (again)

  • April 23, 2009 – redshift 8.2 or 630 million years after the BB

  • So far away that the optical afterglow was redshifted into infrared

  • Previous record holder GRB080913 had z=6.7, was 190 million light years closer

“Naked Eye” Burst = GRB080319B

  • Afterglow so bright it could have been seen by someone’s unaided eye (if they had been looking)

  • Jet must have been aimed right at Earth, with particles traveling at 99.99995% c

The burst that “blinded” Swift

  • GRB100621A – so bright in x-rays that the XRT was saturated

  • Not noticed until UK astronomer Phil Evans returned from vacation and data were missing from this burst

  • He reconstructed the burst to determine that this was the brightest x-ray source ever seen by Swift – 143,000 x-ray photons per second!

  • Distance to burst was about 5 billion light years

XRT image shown in red to yellow colors.

The UVOT saw nothing unusual.

Swift Products

  • Newton’s Laws poster set

  • Swift Eyes Through Time videos and educator’s guide (Penn State) - download

  • GRB Educator’s Guide and poster

  • Out of stock: Priorities?

    • Swift glider

    • Swift model booklets

  • Still available

    • Swift sticker

    • Swift mini-plots

  • Needing update: GEMS guide

Latest XMM News:


  • 6/21/10: XMM-Newton line detection provides new tool to probe extreme gravity

  • 5/31/10: Novel observing mode on XMM-Newton opens new perspectives on galaxy clusters

  • 5/27/10: Molecular clouds reveal a giant outburst of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Galaxy

  • 5/11/10: Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium in the Sculptor Wall

  • 5/10/10: Invisible light discovers the most distant cluster of galaxies – redshift 1.62, this is 9.6 billion light years

Sunyaev-Zel’dovich Effect

  • Photons from cosmic microwave background travel through clusters of galaxies on their way to our detectors

  • The electrons in the ionized (X-ray emitting) gas in the clusters interact with the CMB photons, modifying their spectrum in a special way – this is the “Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect”

  • The modified CMB spectrum can be measured by mm-wavelength telescopes

XMM detections of galaxy clusters

  • Microwave contours in white

  • X-ray emitting gas: purple

  • Overlaid on optical image

  • The cluster has a mass of over 1015 solar masses,

    • a temperature of about 9.3 keV

    • redshift z=0.32

  • Needs multi-wavelength approach to detect and measure distant clusters

Latest XMM News:

  • 4/30/10: Jets from BHs expel gas not only from their host galaxies but even from the space between galaxies in groups

Blue is radio jet

Red is X-ray emitting gas

Green is galaxy

Latest XMM News:

  • 4/30/10: New XMM Source catalog brings total X-ray source counts to over ¼ million

XMM-Newton Products

  • We have restocked the Earth balls for the 3D magnetic field activity

  • Rulers have been reprinted – 6 inch version

  • Supernova guide is approved by NASA Product Review – but we are not printing them (CDs only)

  • Also still available online:

    • CLEA Lab “Dying Stars and the Birth of the Elements” and manual

    • Space Place “Black Hole Rescue” in English and Spanish

  • eXtreme Universe planetarium show is still in progress – Kevin John will show this on Wednesday

  • Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array

  • NuSTAR “slideshow” and pens – a few available

NuSTAR after launch

  • First focusing hard x-ray (6-80 keV)


NuSTAR hardware

  • Focusing optics – low background, compact detector

NuSTAR Hardware

Copenhagen (DTU-Space): optics coating

depth graded Pt/SiC and W/Si coatings

GSFC: optics slumping

>50% of flight substrates produced

similar to planned IXO process

measured figure: 20”-30”

ATK/Goleta: extendable mast

fully deployed flight mast

Columbia: optics assembly

expected performance: 43” (HPD), 7.5” (FWHM)

Caltech: focal plane

CdZnTe detectors

NuSTAR Performance


NuSTAR Baseline Science Plan (2 yr)

Objective #1: How are black holes distributed through the cosmos, and how do they affect the formation of galaxies?

Objective #2: How are stellar remnants distributed within the Galaxy and near the Galactic center?

Objective #3: How do stars explode and forge the elements that compose the Earth?

Objective #4: What powers the most extreme active galactic nuclei?

~6 months of unallocated science observing time in first 2 years for ToO’s, additional programs, and/or to respond to primary program

Other resources of interest:

  • GRB Lottery Site:

  • GRB Skymap Site:

  • GTN Site:

  • Black Hole Rescue:

  • Epo’s Chronicles:

  • MySpace, Facebook and CafePress sites for: Fermi (fermi), Swift (swiftsatellite), XMM-Newton (xmmnewton), Spaceship Epo

  • MySpace only for: NuSTAR (nustarsatellite)

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