04/21/2016: Hunt Continues for Gravitational Waves from Black Hole Megamergers

GravitationalwavesThe sound of merging supermassive black holes does not saturate the universe.

For the past decade, scientists with the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) collaboration have been listening for a constant “hum” of low-frequency gravitational waves.

Theoretical work suggests that this hum — generated by collisions involving supermassive black holes, which contain millions or billions of times more mass than the sun — should be detectable at Earth. NANOGrav hasn’t heard the hum yet, a new study reveals, but this lack of detection is an interesting result in its own right, revealing new details of how galaxies might evolve and merge, team members said. [The Search for Gravitational Waves in Pictures]

Published by space.com.  See more at: http://www.space.com/32643-gravitational-waves-black-holes-megamergers-nanograv.html

4/13/16: All Quiet on the West Virginia Border: The National Radio Quiet Zone

Hackaday_2016Ask a hundred people why they like to escape to the forest and you’ll probably get a hundred reasons, but chances are good that more than a few will say they seek the peace and quiet of the woods. And while the woods can be a raucous place between the wildlife and the human visitors, it is indeed a world apart from a busy city street, at least in the audio frequencies. But on the EM spectrum, most forests are nearly as noisy as your average cube farm, and that turns out to be a huge problem if you happen to run exquisitely sensitive radio receivers.

Like so many aspects of our contemporary technological life, the NRQZ can trace its roots all the way back to the Cold War era. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and started the Space Race, the US was far behind and knew it. Playing catch-up involved building all the infrastructure needed to support a space-faring culture, and radio astronomy was a big part of those early efforts. Finding a convenient place to build that infrastructure that was not subject to a lot of interference was an imperative.

Published by: hackaday.com.  See more at: http://hackaday.com/2016/04/13/all-quiet-on-the-west-virginia-border-the-national-radio-quiet-zone/

4/12/16: Breakthrough Listen Initiative Publicly Sharing Data from Unprecedented Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe

Breakthrough ListenThe $100 million initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe – is releasing initial observational datasets to the world, Breakthrough Initiatives announced today.

January 2016 saw ‘first light’ for Breakthrough Listen, with observations marking the start of the 10-year effort announced in July 2015 at London’s Royal Society by Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking, Lord Martin Rees, Ann Druyan, and Frank Drake. Hundreds of hours of observations have taken place using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia and Lick Observatory’s Automated Planet Finder in Mt. Hamilton, California.

Today Breakthrough Listen is releasing the first batch of data for public access at the Breakthrough Initiatives website. Data from the Green Bank Telescope is also available to users of UC Berkeley’s SETI@home software.

Observations made so far by Breakthrough Listen include most of the stars within 16 light years of Earth (including stars such as 51 Pegasi that are known to host extra-solar planets), and a sample of stars between 16 and 160 light years away. This included nearby sun-like and giant stars as well as numerous binary stars. The search also targeted around 40 of the nearest spiral galaxies, including members of the Maffei Group in the direction of the constellation Cassiopeia. Stars within 16 light years accessible only from the Southern Hemisphere, such as Alpha Centauri, will be observed by the end of the year with the Parkes Telescope.

Published by: Breakthrough Initiatives.  See more at: http://www.breakthroughinitiatives.org/News/3

4/12/16: Green Bank Telescope begins 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence

milner_2016Since January, scientists taking part in a $100 million, 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence have used Pocahontas County’s Green Bank Telescope to search the 200 stars nearest Earth for radio signals bearing clues of the possible presence of other civilizations.

The search, called Project Breakthrough Listen, was announced last July by Russian billionaire and space philanthropist Yuri Milner and renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

The announcement that Breakthrough Listen observations are underway came during a news conference in New York on Tuesday, during which Milner and Hawking announced the launch of Breakthrough Starshot, another $100 million space research initiative funded by Milner’s Breakthrough Foundation. The new initiative provides funding to design, engineer and demonstrate the feasibility of developing a fleet of miniature, robotic, light-powered “nanocraft” to explore beyond our solar system and check for signs of life in the neighboring Alpha Centauri star system, 4.37 light years distant.

Published in The Charleston Gazette.  See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/20160412/green-bank-telescope-begins-10-year-search-for-extraterrestrial-intelligence#sthash.0A6gPyrX.dpuf