05/23/2016: Science: Nurturing Success From Failure

300ft_after_hi-1200x807On a calm November evening in 1988, the 300 foot radio telescope at Green Bank Observatory collapsed. While the collapse was a huge blow to radio astronomy, it is somewhat surprising that it lasted as long as it did. The radio telescope was proposed in 1960 as a way to fill the observational gap between earlier radio telescopes and telescope arrays such as the VLA, and was intended to operate for about five years. In a way it was meant to nurture success out of failure.

 At the time, the major radio telescope under construction was Green Bank’s 140 foot telescope. This telescope was polar-aligned, and had a tracking mechanism that could follow objects as they moved across the sky. This would allow for high-precision observations of radio objects such as pulsars. Unfortunately the gearing necessary to move such a large telescope was plagued with flaws, and the construction of the telescope faced increasing delays and costs. While the 300-foot telescope was larger, it was also lighter and had limited mobility, making it cheaper and easier to build. It depended upon the rotation of the Earth to bring objects into its view for about 40 seconds before drifting out of range, but that was enough to make good observations of things like pulsar remnants. It was also able to make a survey of the radio sky at a higher precision than ever before. When the 140 foot telescope was finally completed in 1965, it was able to further these discoveries, and even made radio observations of complex molecules in space, opening the door to astrochemistry.

Published by .  See more at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/briankoberlein/2016/05/23/science-nurturing-success-from-failure/#466513113157

05/10/2016: Virtual Earth-space telescope sheds new light on Milky Way

GBT-cloudyAstronomers have created a virtual Earth-space radio telescope more than 100,000 miles across – a super-high resolution that reveals new details of a quasar and our Milky Way. The researchers were surprised when their Earth-space system revealed a temperature hotter then 10 trillion degrees. “Only this space-Earth system could reveal this temperature, and now we have to figure out how that environment can reach such temperatures,” said RadioAstron scientist Yuri Kovalev. “This result is a significant challenge to our current understanding of quasar jets,” he added.

Using an orbiting radio telescope in conjunction with four ground-based radio telescopes, the team achieved the highest resolution of any astronomical observation ever made. The feat produced a pair of surprises that promise to advance the understanding of quasars, supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. The scientists combined the Russian Radio- Astron satellite with the ground-based telescopes to produce a virtual radio telescope. They pointed this system at a quasar called 3C 273, more than two billion light-years from Earth. Quasars like 3C 273 propel huge jets of material outward at speeds nearly that of light. These powerful jets emit radio waves.

Published by .  See more at: http://www.ahmedabadmirror.com/others/scitech/Virtual-Earth-space-telescope-sheds-new-light-on-Milky-Way/articleshow/52193824.cms

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