News and Events
NASA chooses UAH for cosmic ray study
From AL.com: "A team from the University of Alabama in Huntsville will be helping NASA answer one of science's most pressing questions: How do cosmic accelerators work and what are they accelerating?" Read more here.
ScienceCasts: Dark Lightning
Dr. Valerie Connaughton was featured in this ScienceCast YouTube video about a Fermi satellite that detected antimatter coming from thunderstorms right here on Earth.
Researchers studying thunderstorms have made a surprising discovery: The lightning we see with our eyes has a dark competitor that discharges storm clouds and flings antimatter into space. Astrophysicists and meteorologists are scrambling to understand "dark lightning."
Fermi Improves Its Vision for Thunderstorm Gamma-Ray Flashes
WASHINGTON -- Thanks to improved data analysis techniques and a new operating mode, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) aboard NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is now 10 times better at catching the brief outbursts of high-energy light mysteriously produced above thunderstorms.
The outbursts, known as terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs), last only a few thousandths of a second, but their gamma rays rank among the highest-energy light that naturally occurs on Earth. The enhanced GBM discovery rate helped scientists show most TGFs also generate a strong burst of radio waves, a finding that will change how scientists study this poorly understood phenomenon.
Before being upgraded, the GBM could capture only TGFs that were bright enough to trigger the instrument's on-board system, which meant many weaker events were missed...(Read More)
UPDATE: Part of our work has been featured on HEASARC Image of the Week: http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/objects/heapow/archive/solar_system/tgf_fermi.html
Voyager 1 finds a surprise at the edge of the solar system
Gary Zank, a space physicist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, said he wasn't convinced Voyager 1 was still contained within the solar system and that it would take several months to figure out whether the probe had crossed the heliopause after all...(Read More)
CSPAR - Physics GRA Lauren Kahre takes second place in the physical science category at the 2012 Von Braun Symposium Poster Competition
Motivated by the development of a very general theoretical model describing the transport of turbulence throughout the heliosphere, we present a study of the turbulent and bulk properties of the solar wind. We investigate the bulk plasma flow speed, the bulk plasma density, the magnetic field turbulence and the kinetic turbulence. We use archival Voyager, Helios, and Ulysses data sets to explore low frequency solar wind turbulence properties throughout the heliosphere. We present results that describe the radial scaling of different measures related to magnetic field turbulence and turbulent velocity fluctuations.
NASA Telescope Captures Sharpest Images of Sun's Corona
In collaboration with UAHuntsville:
A telescope launched July 11 aboard a NASA sounding rocket has captured the highest-resolution images ever taken of the sun's million-degree atmosphere called the corona. The clarity of the images can help scientists better understand the behavior of the solar atmosphere and its impacts on Earth's space environment.
Voyager 1 Achievements Not Unlike Magellan Travels, Moon Landing
The Voyager 2 spacecraft has recently celebrated its 35th anniversary since its launch by NASA in 1977. The Huntsville Times sought out the expertise of Dr. Gary Zank, Director of CSPAR and Chair of the Department of Physics, on the history and future of the farthest reaching human exploratory program in space. CSPAR hosted the interview in its video wall equipped CSTAR facility, which provided an elegant and technological backdrop for Dr. Zank. The article featuring the interview can be found at the Huntsville Times blog website.
Voyager's Long Goodbye
Are we there yet? Ed Stone, the project scientist for NASA’s two Voyager space-craft, wants to know. Since their launch in 1977, the probes have ventured billions of kilometres beyond the outer planets. Now, Stone and his colleagues are looking for signs that Voyager 1 may finally be nearing the edge of the Solar System...(Read More)
No Meridional Plasma Flow in the Heliosheath Transition Region
Over a two-year period, Voyager 1 observed a gradual slowing-down of radial plasma flow in the heliosheath to near-zero velocity after April 2010 at a distance of 113.5 astronomical units from the Sun (1 astronomical unit equals 1.5 X 10^8 kilometres). Voyager 1 was then about 20 astronomical units beyond the shock that terminates the free expansion of the solar wind and was immersed in the heated non-thermal plasma region called the heliosheath...(Read More)
Voyager 1: reports of my exit are greatly exaggerated
It launched 35 years ago today, but the most distant spacecraft from Earth is stubbornly refusing to leave home turf. NASA's Voyager 1 has seemed on the verge of exiting our solar system for years, but new results suggest that it still has a way to go before it enters interstellar space...(Read More)
Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)
Scientists from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center will host a Research Experience for Undergraduate in the summer of 2012. Ten undergraduates will be invited to Huntsville, Alabama for 10 weeks to engage in cutting edge heliophysics research with astrophysicists from UAHuntsville or NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).
Joint Space Weather Summer School 2012
UAHuntsville is co-hosting a Joint Space Weather Summer School with German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the University of Rostock. It consists of three consecutive 2 week sessions during the summer break, 9 July - 5 August 2012. The first 4-weeks will be held in Huntsville, and the last 2-week session will be in Germany. The summer school combines intensive site visits to various German space weather monitoring facilities, first-hand experience with operation and application of Space Weather related services, and lectures and hands-on project work in a team environment. All application materials are available through Dr. Nazirah Jetha (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR). All applications must be submitted to CSPAR (Cramer Hall, NSSTC 2017) by 15th February 2012.
Prof. Gary P. Zank Elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union(AGU)
Gary P. Zank, director of CSPAR has been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. Only one in a thousand members is elected to Fellowship each year. In a letter dated April 4, 2011, Michael J. McPhaden, president of AGU, members of the Fellows Committee, the Officers of the Union, and the entire AGU membership extended their sincere congratulations to Prof. Zank upon receiving this singular honor. Prof. Zank will be officially honored at the December 2011 Fall AGU Meeting in San Francisco.
NASA: Storms Blast Antimatter Into Space
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has detected antimatter shooting out of thunderstorms. NASA says, If you find thunderstorms scary, here's one more thing to think about: Scientists say some big boomers create antimatter. Certain lightning flashes produce terrestrial gamma ray flashes, which indicate the presence of antimatter, said Michael Briggs, a member of the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor team at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The team works with NASA's space-based Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
UAHuntsville Researcher Makes 'Significant' Atmospheric Discovery
HUNTSVILLE, AL -- Michael Briggs, a researcher at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Monday, January 11, 2011 was described as having made a "significant" geoscience discovery. Briggs presented a report to the American Astronomical Society in Seattle that, in a complex way, provides insight into the mysteries of thunderstorms(read more).
2010 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
Numerous CSPAR and Department of Physics researchers will be attending the annual American Geophysical Union(AGU) meeting in San Francisco, presenting a record number of papers and several invited talks to review the state of the field in various disciplines. CSPAR and Dept of Physics researchers Dr(s) Vladimir Florinski, Jacob Heerikhuisen, Qiang Hu, Jakobus le Roux, Gang Li, and Dastgeer Shaikh are organizing special sessions at the meeting. The Fall Meeting is expected to draw a crowd of over 16,000 geophysicists from around the world. The Fall Meeting provides an opportunity for researchers, teachers, students, and consultants to present and review the latest issues affecting the Earth, the planets, and their environments in space. This meeting will cover topics in all areas of Earth and space sciences.
Solar Wind Electrons, Alphas, and Protons (SWEAP) Proposal Awarded
SOLAR PROBE PLUS The University of Alabama in Huntsville has been awarded one of the five instrument suites on a new NASA mission called SOLAR PROBE PLUS. The instrument suite is called SWEAP and is designed to measure protons and electrons in one of the most challenging environments imaginable. The project is a close collaboration between NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and The UAHuntsville Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR).
The UAHuntsville team lead is Prof. Gary Zank (PI), who is both Director of CSPAR and Chair of the Physics Department. Dr Jonathan Certain is the NASA MSFC (PI) team lead. Other CSPAR members engaged in the SOLAR PROBE PLUS mission are Dr Qiang Hu, and Ken Wright (Instrument Scientist); and Prof.’s Nick Pogorelov, Gang Li, Vladimir Florinski, and Jacob Heerikhuisen, all in the Physics Department as well. The SWEAP instrument suite is the result of a partnership between UAHuntsville, NASA MSFC, SAO, Los Alamos National Lab, SSL Berkeley, and MIT(read more).
Dr Ross Burrows Recipient of Air Force Young Investigator Award
Dr Ross Burrows is the recipient of an Air Force Young Investigator Award (YIP); these programs are intended for late postdoctoral investigators and new faculty. AFOSR's YIP supports scientists and engineers who have received a Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last five years, and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. The objective of this program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering; enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators; and increase opportunities for the young investigator to recognize the Air Force mission. His proposal entitled, Space Weather Effects Due to Particle Acceleration at Shocks” embodies the proposed objective of the YIP program. This project is being implemented by CSPAR scientists at UAHuntsville in collaboration with members of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
Dr Vladimir Florinski Recipient of NSF Career Grant
Dr Vladimir Florinski is the recipient of a NSF CAREER Grant awarded March 2010 - the second ever that UAHuntsville has been awarded (last year June 2009, Dr Gang Li, also of CSPAR was UAHuntsville’s first NSF CAREER award recipient). The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization. His proposal entitled, “Computational Space Physics for Research and Industry” proposes to accomplish this task by developing an integrated graduate teaching/research program in computational space physics and astrophysics at UAHuntsville intended to prepare future space scientists for the realities and demands of modern computational environment. The integrated program will consist of the following elements and activities:
- Development of a new Master’s degree track in Computation Physics in the UAHuntsville Physics Department that will teach modern computational methods and high-performance computing techniques in the context of space and industrial applications.
- A space science research program employing the PI, a postdoc, and two graduate students that will focus on applying the numerical methods and techniques to variety real-world problems.
- Improvements to UAHuntsville supercomputer infrastructure with an emphasis on innovative high-performance computing technologies, such as graphic processer (GPU) hardware.
This is a singular honor and recognition of Dr Florinski’s outstanding research activities. The competition for the NSF CAREER award is extremely fierce and very few are selected.
NASA IBEX Spacecraft Discovery
CSPAR and Department of Physics Professors Jacob Heerikhuisen, Nick Pogorelov, and Gary Zank were in the news recently. All three had been part of the successful NASA IBEX spacecraft team that had, much to everyone’s considerable surprise last year discovered a giant ribbon of energetic neutral atom emission at the edge of the solar system, leaving researchers mystified. To quote several news articles, the researchers called it a “shocking result” and puzzled over its origin. Now the mystery may have been solved.
In an Astrophysical Journal Letter that appeared on 10 January 2010, Heerikhuisen, Pogorelov, and Zank introduced a new physical process not considered before, and were able to emerge with a compelling explanation only two months after the observation had first been reported. The Figure below shows the correspondence between the observed ribbon feature and that simulated by UAH researchers.
The impact of our simulations has been dramatic (multiple NASA press releases and related news stories), but more importantly presents a concrete demonstration of discovery and explanation through computational modeling in concert with very sophisticated observations. Not only has our approach proved transformational to the space physics community in understanding and modeling complex systems, but it is introducing a new paradigm for space missions by including state-of-the-art simulation and modeling as part of the mission itself. In the same sense that we employ software on an MRI scan to transform the data into a 3D image of the patient for a doctor, the observations returned by IBEX can be understood only by applying state-of-the-art computer simulations to the data to extract knowledge of the physics behind the system.
These two maps show the entire sky in the emission of neutral hydrogen. The energetic neutral atom (ENA) measurements by the IBEX mission (top image) show a ribbon feature spanning the entire sky. With our models, we discovered that this feature can be understood and reproduced (bottom image) after adding an unpredicted "mirror effect". The two images show observed and modeled ENAs, respectively, at comparable speeds [Heerikhuisen et al., 2010]
"Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX)" Published
CSPAR Director Gary P. Zank, together with co-authors Dave McComas and Nathan Schwadron, had a new book published by the well-known scientific publisher Springer. The book, entitled "Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX)", provides the physics background to the mission, summarizing the mission instrumentation and the theory behind the observations that will be made.
Dr. Gary P. Zank "Quest for Excellence Award Winner"
Dr Gary Zank was awarded the 2009 - Quest for Excellence Award. These awards are given each year to publicly recognize outstanding contributions of individuals in the greater Huntsville community in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Each year the award highlights a different branch of the STEM arena. The 2009 awards focused on the field of mathematics and were given to members of the scientific, engineering or educational community who bridge the gap between mathematics and its application. This includes work that uses high-level mathematics and/or innovative mathematical tools to solve problems in engineering, science or technology. The award was presented at the Sci-Quest Hands-on Science Center Mad Scientist Ball on Friday, October 23, 2009. In conjunction with this award Dr Zank also received an Alabama House of Representatives resolution adopted in his honor on November 6, 2009.
Dr. Gang Li Recipient of the 2009 International Cosmic Ray Commission
Dr Gang Li is the recipient of the 2009 International Cosmic Ray Commission IUPAP-Young Scientist Prize. The prize was awarded in Lodz, Poland and the citation read “For outstanding contributions towards our understanding of solar energetic particle transport and diffusive shock acceleration in the turbulent solar wind and at interplanetary shocks.” Dr Li’s work represents a major advance in our understanding of the solar cosmic ray problem, and presents an approach of great sophistication to understanding the detailed plasma physics of particle acceleration in the complex environment of the solar wind. The approach for which Dr Li was recognized provides our best opportunity for understanding in situ the detailed mechanics of diffusive shock acceleration as a process and therefore these ideas will find resonance across a broad range of astrophysical problems.
Dr Vladimir Florinski's Winning Proposal
Dr. Vladimir Florinski a CSPAR Researcher and Department of Physics Professor is the recipient of a new 3 year NASA for his proposal entitled, “Structure & Physics of the Global Helioshpere During the Minimum of Solar Cycle 24”. The proposed work focus is on the many aspects of the solar wind observed at 1 AU, which require an understanding of the global heliosphere in its most quiescent state afforded by the unprecedentedly deep 2008-2010 solar minimum. Dr Florinski’ winning proposal will address the physics of these processes through a combination of modeling, theory, and observation. A suite of models and theory developed at the UAHuntsville will be used to better understand solar wind and its interaction with the surrounding interstellar medium. The project aims at solving some of the outstanding problems of space science, including that of the origin of anomalous cosmic rays.
- Hits: 955