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Astrophysics Division UpdatetoAAACOctober 12, 2006 Rick Howard Astrophysics Division Director (acting) Science Mission Directorate NASA Headquarters
Recent Cover Stories September 4, 2006
HST - 16 Candidate Planets at the Center of Our Galaxy This discovery is the culmination of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS). The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was used to look farther than has ever successfully been searched for extrasolar planets, looking at 180,000 stars in the crowded central bulge of our galaxy 26,000 light-years away. Fiveof the newly discovered planets represent a new extreme type of planet not found in any nearby searches. Dubbed Ultra-Short-Period Planets (USPPs), these worlds whirl around their stars in less than one Earth day, and would heated to a temperature of 3,000 F. HST could not view directly the 16 newly found planet candidates. Astronomers used Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys to search for planets by measuring the slight dimming of a star due to the passage of a planet in front of it, an event called a transit. The planet would have to be about the size of Jupiter to block enough starlight, about one to 10%, to be measurable by HST. (They are called candidates because they are too distant to study for follow-up evidence, such as the wobble of the star caused by the planet.) The planets tend to be found with stars high in heavier elements, supporting theories that higher elements are needed in star systems for planets to form. When extrapolated to the entire galaxy, HST's data provides strong evidence for the existence of about 6 billion Jupiter-sized planets in the Milky Way.
Division Press Events WMAP: Universe’s First Trillionth of a Second Glimpsed March 16, 2006 Spitzer: Finds Hints of Planet Birth Around Dead Planet April 5, 2006 HST: “Tenth Planet” Slightly Larger than Pluto April 11, 2006 ATP/LISA: Black Hole Merger Simulation Breakthrough April 18, 2006 Chandra: Black Holes found to be Energy Efficient April 24, 2006 FUSE: Infant Solar System Awash in Carbon June 7, 2006 Chandra: Solves Black Hole Paradox June 21, 2006 Hubble: Update on Hubble Camera Operations June 30, 2006 Chandra: Dark Matter Discovery August 21, 2006 2006 Nobel Physics Prize to Mather & Smoot October 3, 2006 * Hubble: Exosolar Planets Far Across Galaxy October 4, 2006 * * Televised events
Recent Activities in Astrophysics Division • SOFIA reinstated (funding from SIM in 07) - July 6. • Kepler held Replan Continuation Review - July 26. • GLAST LAT TV completed, at Spectrum Astro. • WISE provided budget profile and program direction (Delta CR October 13.) • Spitzer went into safehold Aug. 19. Switched from Side A to Side B on C+DH (13 days of science lost in total). • 3 JDEM concept studies selected for two year study - Aug 9. • JDEM Joint response to Congress in early August. • Exo-Planet Task Force (ExoPTF) in the works. • BE NRC assessment - request letter sent, proposal received, funding started. • SOFIA Program Office moved to DFRC, Baseline Plan Review Nov 1. • GP-B SAC - Sept 6-8, approved DA extension.
Recent Activities in Astrophysics Division (cont.) • HST ACS went into suspend mode June 19, +15V PS in side 1 suspected, switch to side 2 electronics box successful June 30 . • HST ACS (HRC) went into suspend mode Sept 23, relay toggle worked/ACS back to nominal Oct 10. • Division Director position posted Sept 1 - Oct 31, open to all sources. • Program Scientist position will be posted within NASA soon. • Jennifer Wiseman will be transferring to GSFC effective mid-November 2006. She will be the Chief of the Laboratory for Exoplanet and Stellar Astrophysics. • Hubble PS assignment will transition to Jeff Hayes. • SIM PS assignment will transition to Stephen Ridgway. • Herschel PS assignment will transition to Doug Hudgins.
Prizes and Appointments • Astronomer Adam Riess of STScI and John Hopkins University (and two colleagues) were awarded the $1M Shaw Prize in Astronomy, for their discovery of the mysterious “dark energy” that is causing the universe to expand at an ever-faster rate. • The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named Dr. Robert Williams (Space Telescope Institute) as its 2009 President-Elect. • John Mather (GSFC) and the COBE science team, including Dr Michael G. Hauser (Space Telescope Institute deputy director), are sharing the Peter Gruber Foundations 2006 Cosmology Prize for fundamental advances in the field of cosmology. • R&A Grantee Andrew Lange (Caltech) and his co-investigator Paulo de Bernardis of Italy are the 2006 Balzan Prize for Astronomy and Astrophysics for their contributions to cosmology, in particular the Boomerang Antarctic balloon experiment. • Mather (GSFC) and Smoot (LBNL) are sharing 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics.
2006 Balzan Prize for Astronomy and Astrophysics 0 • Paolo de Bernardis, Italy and Andrew Lange, USA • Fisica Spazielw Universita’ degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza • Physics Department, California Institute of Technology "For their contributions to cosmology, in particular the Boomerang Antarctic balloon experiment.” • Details about the Prize are available at: http://www.balzan.com/en/preistraeger/preistraeger06.cfm • “One of the highest awards for science, culture and humanitarian achievement, ranking close to the Nobel Prize” • This prize comes with 1 Million Swiss Francs • Awarded only occasionally for Observational Astronomy and Astrophysics • Reinhard Genzel (2003) • Fred Hoyle and Martin Schwarzchild (1994) • Martin Rees (1989) • Jan Oort (1984) • Award ceremony in Rome on November 2 • Alternates with Bern, Switzerland 04-27-00 issue
0 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics COBE • John C. Mather and George F. Smoot • Goddard Space Flight Center • University of California, Berkeley “for their discovery of the blackbody form and anistropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation” • Details about the Prize: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/ • This prize comes with $10 million in Swedish kronor (SEK). • Awarded only occasionally for astrophysical topics: • Davis, Koshiba & Giacconi (2002) • Hulse & Taylor (1993) • Chandrasekhar & Fowler (1983) • Penzias & Wilson (1978) • Hans Bethe (1967) • Award ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.
Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) Result • Mather COBE Project Scientist. • Mather PI for COBE Far-Infrared Absolute Spectrometer (FIRAS) instrument. • Measured temperature of the cosmic microwave background (CMB): 2.726 +/- 0.010 K over the wavelength range from 0.5 to 5 mm. • Deviates from pure blackbody spectrum by less than 0.01%. • Small deviation places strict limits on energy release after Universe was 1 year old! (z~3x106). • Supreme confirmation of Big Bang theory for creation of the universe which requires relic radiation signature to be a black body. COBE satellite
Astrophysics Division Developmental Missions Status
Astrophysics Division Operating Missions Status