KICP in the News, 2007



 
Think 'n' drink: Cafe Scientifique puts a nice head on a bar scene thirsty for something more
Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2007
by Chris McNamara, Chicago Tribune

Though the back half of the Map Room, 1949 N. Hoyne Ave., was packed with young adults, nobody was watching the Duke-Georgia Tech basketball game on the TVs. And no patrons were flirting with each other or rehashing the day's events or singing along with a jukebox. They were too busy listening to a lecture on global warming. And they actually seemed to be enjoying themselves.

That, says Randy Landsberg, is the point of Cafe Scientifique. As the director for education and outreach with the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, Landsberg is like a concert promoter, though his performers are less likely to be rock stars than U. of C. professors (who frequently discuss rocks and stars).

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KICP Members: Randall H. Landsberg
 
Scientists elucidate the origin of the darkest galaxies in the universe
Stanford News Release, February 14, 2007
by Neil Calder, Stanford News Release

Kazantzidis, who completed part of the study as a fellow at the University of Chicago's Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, reports his findings in the Feb. 15 issue of Nature.

"These results are so exciting because they are based on a combination of physical effects that has never before been postulated," said Kazantzidis. "This is one step toward a more complete understanding of the formation of structure in the universe, which is one of the fundamental goals of astrophysics."

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KICP Members: Stelios Kazantzidis
 
New South Pole telescope to study mysterious dark energy
USA Today, February 26, 2007
by SPACE.com Staff, USA Today

The new South Pole Telescope (SPT) has successfully collected its first light as part of a long-term project to unravel one of the biggest mysteries in cosmology, researchers announced today.

The goal of SPT is to learn the nature of mysterious dark energy, an anti-gravity force that permeates the cosmos and is driving the universe apart at an ever-increasing pace.

The telescope does not make conventional images. Instead, it will take advantage of excellent viewing conditions - cold and dry - in Antarctica to detect the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. The CMB is said to be the afterglow of the Big Bang.

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Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
 
U. of C. astronomer loves South Pole's clear sky
Chicago Sun-Times, February 27, 2007
by Jim Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times

Think you've had a rough winter?

University of Chicago astronomer John Carlstrom just spent nearly four months at the South Pole directing construction of a $19.2 million telescope.

About 30 scientists and construction workers were outside 10 hours a day -- in temperatures as low as minus 40 -- assembling the 280-ton device.

"A warm day was minus 15 degrees," Carlstrom said.

Scientists made the first test observation Monday. They will make scientific observations during the antarctic winter, which begins next month. There will be six months of uninterrupted darkness and minus-80 degree temperatures.

Related Links:
KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
 
Landmark Completion of South Pole Telescope to Help Scientists Learn What the Universe Is Made of and How it Got Here
NSF, Press Release, February 27, 2007
by Peter West(NSF) and Steve Koppes (University of Chicago), NSF, Press Release

Just days before nations around the world were set to begin a coordinated global research campaign called the International Polar Year (IPY); scientists at the South Pole aimed a massive new telescope at Jupiter and successfully collected the instrument's first test observations.

Soon, a far more distant quarry will enter the South Pole telescope's (SPT) sights, as a team of researchers from nine institutions tackles fundamental mysteries of modern cosmology and the nature of the universe: What, for example, is dark energy, the force that dominates the universe?

The $19.2 million telescope is funded primarily by the National Science Foundation (NSF), with additional support from the Kavli Foundation of Oxnard, Calif., and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco.

"The telescope, camera and optics are all working as designed," said John Carlstrom, the S. Chandrasekhar distinguished service professor in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago, who heads the SPT team that tested the scope on Feb. 26. "SPT's first light is a major milestone for the project and a fitting conclusion to a remarkably productive summer at the South Pole station. We now look forward to fully characterizing the instrument and beginning cosmological observations."

"First light" is the scientific term for the time when a telescope becomes operational.

The telescope stands 75 feet (22.8 meters) tall, measures 33 feet (10 meters) across and weighs 280 tons (254 metric tons). It was assembled in Kilgore, Texas, then taken apart, shipped across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, and flown from there to the South Pole. Since November, the SPT team under the guidance of project manager Steve Padin has worked furiously to reassemble and deploy the telescope.

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KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
 
Telescope fixes itself on South Pole skies in search of clues to explain universe's composition, evolution
The University of Chicago Chronicle, March 1, 2007
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago Chronicle

Scientists aimed the University's South Pole Telescope at Jupiter on Friday, Feb. 16, and successfully collected the massive instrumentís first test observations. Soon, a far more distant quarry will fall under the telescopeís sights as the team tackles one of the biggest mysteries to beset modern cosmologists-the nature and origin of dark energy.

"The telescope, camera and optics are all working as designed," said John Carlstrom, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and the College, who heads the SPT team. "First light with the SPT is a major milestone for the project and is a fitting conclusion to a remarkably productive summer season for the South Pole Station. We now look forward to fully characterizing the instrument and beginning cosmological observations," he said.

The SPT is designed to pierce the mystery behind dark energy, an unknown force that dominates the universe. The solution to that mystery will determine whether what Einstein considered his greatest blunder was actually one of his greatest achievements.

Astrophysicists know the universe has been expanding since the big bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago. In the late 1990s, astronomers using exploding stars as cosmic tape measures discovered that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This led to the idea that dark energy pushes the universe apart, overwhelming gravity, the attractive force exerted by all matter in the universe.

Primary funding for the $19.2 million SPT comes from the National Science Foundation, with additional support from the Kavli Foundation of Oxnard, Calif., and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco.

The telescope stands 70-feet tall, measures 33-feet across and weighs 280 tons. It was test-assembled in Kilgore, Texas, then taken apart, shipped by boat to New Zealand, and flown to the South Pole. Since November, the SPT team has worked furiously to reassemble and deploy the instrument.

The cold, dry atmosphere above the South Pole allows the telescope to more easily detect the cosmic microwave background radiation, or the CMB, the afterglow of the big bang, with minimal interference from water vapor. On the electromagnetic spectrum, the CMB falls somewhere between heat radiation and radio waves.

Though largely uniform, the CMB contains tiny ripples of varying density and temperature. These ripples reflect the seeds, which, through gravitational attraction, grew into the galaxies and galaxy clusters visible to astronomers in the sky today. The SPT's first key project will be to study small variations in the CMB to determine if dark energy began to affect the formation of galaxy clusters by overwhelming gravity over the last few billion years.

Galaxy clusters are groups of galaxies, the largest celestial bodies that gravity can hold together. "Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is in one of these clusters," said Stephan Meyer, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and the College. "And these clusters of galaxies actually change with time."

The CMB allows astronomers to take snapshots of the infant universe, when it was only 400,000 years old. No stars or galaxies had yet formed. If dark energy changed the way the universe expanded, it would have left its "fingerprints" in the way that it forced galaxies apart over the deep history of time. Different causes would produce a different pattern in the formation of galaxy clusters.

According to one idea, dark energy could be Einsteinís cosmological constant: a steady force of nature operating at all times and in all places. Einstein introduced the cosmological constant into his theory of general relativity to accommodate a stationary universe, the dominant idea of the day. After astronomers discovered that the universe was actually expanding, he called the idea his greatest blunder.

If Einstein's idea is correct, scientists will find that dark energy was much less influential in the universe five billion years ago than it is today. "Clusters weren't around in the early universe. They took a long time to evolve," Carlstrom said.

Another form of dark energy, called quintessence, suggests a force that varies in time and space. Some scientists even suggest that there is no dark energy, and that gravity merely breaks down on vast intergalactic scales.

To pinpoint when dark energy became important, the SPT will use a phenomenon called the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect. This effect distorts the CMB as it passes through the hot gas of intervening galaxy clusters. As the microwaves interact with gas in the clusters, some of the microwaves change in frequency. The SPT will measure the slight temperature difference associated with the frequency change and produce an image of the gas in the cluster.

The SPT can scan large regions of the sky quickly. Scientists expect it to detect thousands or even tens of thousands of galaxy clusters within a few years. "To get a meaningful constraint on dark energy through measuring galaxy clusters, you need something like this South Pole Telescope for the S-Z work," Carlstrom said. "The cluster S-Z signals cover small patches of sky relative to the intrinsic variations in the cosmic microwave background. To get some resolution, you need a big telescope. Now we have one."

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KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
 
South Pole Telescope to study dark energy: Telescope may detect thousands of galaxy clusters within a few years
MSNBC, March 2, 2007
MSNBC

The new South Pole Telescope has successfully collected its first light as part of a long-term project to unravel one of the biggest mysteries in cosmology, researchers announced today.

The goal of SPT is to learn the nature of mysterious dark energy, an antigravity force that permeates the cosmos and is driving the universe apart at an ever-increasing pace.

The telescope does not make conventional images. Instead, it will take advantage of excellent viewing conditions-cold and dry-in Antarctica to detect the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. The CMB is said to be the afterglow of the Big Bang.

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Related Links:
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
 
Up 'scope
Chicago Tribune, March 25, 2007
by Jeff Lyon, Chicago Tribune

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO'S long-awaited South Pole Telescope just went on-line in Antarctica and scientists will soon start using it to study one of the biggest of cosmic mysteries-dark energy, the antigravity force that seems to be driving the universe apart at an ever-faster rate. Astronomers have long known that the universe is expanding, attributing it to the Big Bang, but in the late '90s, they discovered the process is unexpectedly speeding up, which led them to theorize that a dark form of energy is overwhelming the gravity force that holds the universe together. The $19.2-million, 70-foot telescope can take snapshots of the microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang, and by studying it at various cosmic distances, determine if dark energy really exists and when it began to make galaxies start hitting the gas.

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Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
 
Polar research brings program to Chicago
Chicago Tribune, April 23, 2007
by Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

South Pole Telescope

The 75-foot tall, 280-ton telescope will "give astronomers a powerful new tool to explore dark energy, the mysterious force that may be causing the universe to accelerate," according to the project's Web site. University of Chicago professor John Carlstrom heads the South Pole telescope team. Web site: http://spt.uchicago.edu

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KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
 
University of Chicago honored with 11 new fellows in American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The University of Chicago News Office, May 4, 2007
by William Harms, The University of Chicago News Office

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced on Monday, April 30, its election of 203 new fellows and 24 new foreign honorary members. Ten Chicago scholars and one University trustee are among them, and Chicago is one of three institutions with the most fellows elected this year.
...
Bruce Winstein currently studies the cosmic microwave background radiation, the afterglow from the big bang, for information about the physical conditions in the early universe. He was the founding director of the National Science Foundation Physics Frontier Center for Cosmological Physics, established in 2001 and known today as the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. Winstein now heads the Q/U Imaging Experiment.

A multi-institutional collaboration, Q/U Imaging Experiment is attempting to measure small variations in the cosmic microwave background polarization using novel detectors operating at a facility at high altitude in Chile. These variations contain information about the structure and composition of the early universe.

Before turning his attention to cosmology in recent years, Winstein specialized in particle physics. He led a research team that in 1999 announced making the definitive observation of a new type of CP violation. CP (charge-parity) violation is the phenomenon that led to the vast predominance of matter over antimatter in the universe. The only other observation of CP violation before that came in 1964, in an experiment that earned James Cronin, the University Professor Emeritus in Physics and the College, and Val Fitch, the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Winstein's honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, a Panofsky Prize and a John Simon Memorial Foundation Guggenheim fellowship.

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KICP Members: Bruce D. Winstein
Scientific projects: Q/U Imaging ExperimenT (QUIET)
 
First light focuses on dark energy
University of Chicago Magazine, v. 99, issue 5, May 9, 2007
by Steve Koppes, University of Chicago Magazine, v. 99, issue 5

Scientists have aimed the University's South Pole Telescope (SPT) at Jupiter and collected the instrument's first test observations. Soon a far more distant quarry will fall under the telescope's sights as the team tackles one of the biggest mysteries to beset modern cosmologists - the nature and origin of dark energy.
In Antarctica's cold, dry air the telescope can better detect the big bang's afterglow.

"The telescope, camera, and optics are all working as designed," said John Carlstrom, the S. Chandrasekhar distinguished service professor in astronomy & astrophysics and the College, who heads the nine - institution SPT team. Reaching "first light' - the moment light initially passes through the telescope, making it operational - this past February was "a major milestone for the project and is a fitting conclusion to a remarkably productive summer season for the South Pole Station," Carlstrom said. "We now look forward to fully characterizing the instrument and beginning cosmological observations."

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KICP Members: John E. Carlstrom
Scientific projects: South Pole Telescope (SPT)
 
Map of the universe
University of Chicago Magazine, v. 99, issue 5, May 9, 2007
by Katie Brandt, University of Chicago Magazine, v. 99, issue 5

Dozens came - artists, attorneys, construction workers, scientists. So many showed up, in fact, that some were turned away once the bar reached its capacity of 94. The patrons gathered on a drizzly Wednesday evening at the Map Room, a Bucktown hot spot, to hear University of Chicago astrophysicist Stephan Meyer discuss "Measuring the Big Bang: Still Confused after All These Years."

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KICP Members: Stephan S. Meyer
 
KICP in the Slackerpedia Galactica
The Slackerpedia Galactica, May 29, 2007
by Aaron Price, The Slackerpedia Galactica

The Kavli Institute For Cosmological Physics (KICP) is one of the world's leading institutes for cosmology research. It is located at the University of Chicago and endowed in part by the Kavli Foundation.

Aaron spent a week there in May of 2007 to develop a slate of cosmological material for the Slackerpedia Galactica podcasts and web site.

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Opine: Simon Swordy
The University of Chicago Chronicle, August 20, 2007
The University of Chicago Chronicle

Simon Swordy, the James Franck Professor in Physics and the College, is a member of the VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) collaboration. As a member of the collaboration, he is looking for evidence of gamma-ray emissions from the remnants of exploding stars. He recently has been named the Director of the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University.

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KICP Members: Simon P. Swordy
Scientific projects: Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS)
 
Can one theory explain all things physical?
MSNBC, August 22, 2007
by Dave Mosher, MSNBC

"You hear people complain about how good the standard model is," said Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago. "It's an incomplete model, and yet we can't find flaws in it."

Turner explained that discovering a mass-inducing particle, called the Higgs boson, remains the next big test for the standard model. If discovered, the heavy particle would definitively show that properties like electromagnetism and radioactivity are really different facets of the same force.

"It's the miracle that allows us to combine them together," Turner said of the Higgs, which may be found someday in the collisions of particle accelerators that "rewind" matter to the intense energies of the early universe.

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KICP Members: Michael S. Turner
 
University scholars receive distinguished, named professorships
The University of Chicago Chronicle, September 21, 2007
by William Harms, Steve Koppes, Lien Payne, and Josh Schonwald, The University of Chicago Chronicle

Edward Kolb, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Enrico Fermi Institute and the College, has been named the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor.

His major research interest is the application of particle physics to cosmology and astrophysics, with a special focus on studying elements of the very early Universe. He writes and lectures on cosmology as part of an effort to increase science education, particularly for the general public.

Over the course of his career, Kolb has won a number of awards and honors. In 2002, he was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kolb, who was a founding head of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group and the founding Director of the Particle Astrophysics Center at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, began his career at the lab and as a Professor at the University in 1983. Previously, he was a Deputy Group Leader in the Theoretical Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

He has held visiting positions at a number of institutions, including the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Michigan.

He received his B.S. in physics from the University of New Orleans in 1973, where he was the top graduate in his field. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978.

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KICP Members: Edward W. Kolb
 
Find your way: Cosmic Cartography Journey Through the Universe
Chicago Tribune, November 2, 2007
by Trine Tsouderos, Chicago Tribune

Beginning this week, Chicago becomes the center of the mapping universe as dozens of the world's most fascinating, influential and downright odd maps will be shown over the next several months at the massive Festival of Maps. At more than 30 institutions across the city and suburbs, you'll find hundreds of maps, including rarely displayed ones by Claudius Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer who kicked off modern mapping, maps by Leonardo da Vinci and maps by "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien.

EVENTS
COSMIC CARTOGRAPHY JOURNEY THROUGH THE UNIVERSE: Two cosmologists will lead a tour of observatories around the world and talk about dark matter and dark energy. Dec. 5. University of Chicago, Department of Astronomy and Physics, 280 S. Columbus Drive; 773-702-8212, astro.uchicago.edu.
 
"Auger Collaboration - Correlation of Highest-Energy Cosmic Rays with Nearby Extragalactic Objects" Cover article in Science
Science Vol. 318. no. 5852, November 8, 2007
Science Vol. 318. no. 5852

COVER All-sky projection of highest-energy cosmic rays detected by the Pierre Auger Observatory (open circles) that are correlated with the positions of nearby quasars (crosses), a measure of the local galaxy distribution. The supergalactic and Milky Way planes are marked. The background shows a composite image of a nearby galaxy (M82) observed by NASA's Spitzer, Hubble, and Chandra space observatories. See page 938. Composite image: Kelly Krause/Science (figure: Auger Collaboration; photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/Chandra X-ray Center/Univ. of Arizona/ESA/AURA/Johns Hopkins Univ.)

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Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)
 
Mysterious cosmic rays linked to galactic powerhouses
The University of Chicago News Office, November 9, 2007
James W. Cronin, KICP senior member
James W. Cronin, KICP senior member
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago News Office

The sprawling Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory in South America has produced its first major discovery while still under construction. The international Auger collaboration has traced the rain of high-energy cosmic rays that continually pelts the Earth to the cores of nearby galaxies, which emit prodigious quantities of energy.

"This is a fundamental discovery," said Nobel laureate James Cronin, the University Professor Emeritus in Physics at the University of Chicago. "The age of cosmic-ray astronomy has arrived. In the next few years, our data will permit us to identify the exact sources of these cosmic rays and how they accelerate these particles."

The Auger collaboration, which includes 370 scientists and engineers from 17 countries, will formally announce its discovery in the Friday, Nov. 9 issue of the journal Science. Ten researchers belong to the University of Chicago contingent of the Auger collaboration, including Cronin and Angela Olinto, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Cronin initiated the project with Alan Watson of the University of Leeds in the early 1990s.

Photo (Credit: Lloyd DeGrane): Nobel laureate James Cronin, University Professor Emeritus in Physics at the University of Chicago, and co-founder of the Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory.

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KICP Members: James W. Cronin
Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)
 
Energetic Cosmic Rays May Start From Black Holes
The New York Times, November 9, 2007
by Dennis Overbye, The New York Times

Now 370 scientists and engineers from 17 countries in a group known as the Pierre Auger Collaboration say they finally have evidence of a fitting answer: supermassive black holes that rumble at the hearts of many galaxies, crushing stars and gas out of existence and spewing jets of radiation and subatomic particles into intergalactic space.

Using a new array of cosmic ray detectors known as the Pierre Auger Observatory, which is spread over an area the size of Rhode Island near Malargue, in the pampas of Argentina, the scientists traced some of the highest-energy cosmic rays back to the vicinities of nearby galaxies bubbling with black hole fireworks, so-called active galaxies.

The work is reported today in the journal Science.

"The age of cosmic-ray astronomy has arrived," said James Cronin, a Nobel-prize winning physicist at the University of Chicago and the co-founder of the Auger observatory.

"We're really just getting started," he added in an interview.

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KICP Members: James W. Cronin
Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)
 
Scientists trace cosmic rays to black holes
Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2007
by John Johnson Jr., Los Angeles Times

Researchers at the Pierre Auger Observatory, a complex of detectors spread over a Rhode Island-sized slice of the South American prairie, said the most likely source for these ultra-high-energy particles is a type of black hole found at the center of some galaxies.

These violent phenomena are called active galactic nuclei because they both gobble up energy from the surrounding space and spit some out with tremendous force.

"This is a fundamental discovery. We have taken a big step forward in solving the mystery of the nature and origin of the highest-energy cosmic rays," said Nobel laureate James Cronin, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and coauthor of the paper published in the current issue of the journal Science.

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KICP Members: James W. Cronin
Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)
 
Pierre Auger Collaboration: Scientists seeking exact source of high-energy cosmic rays with array
The University of Chicago Chronicle, November 18, 2007
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago Chronicle

While only 90 percent complete, the sprawling Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory in South America has produced its first major discovery. The international Auger collaboration has traced the rain of high-energy cosmic rays that continually pelts the Earth to the cores of nearby galaxies, which emit prodigious quantities of energy.

"This is a fundamental discovery," said Nobel laureate James Cronin, the University Professor Emeritus in Physics and the College. "The age of cosmic-ray astronomy has arrived. In the next few years, our data will permit us to identify the exact sources of these cosmic rays and how they accelerate these particles."

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KICP Members: James W. Cronin
Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)
 
Sloan Digital Sky Survey: Universe of data changes face of astronomy
The University of Chicago Chronicle, November 19, 2007
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago Chronicle

Two hundred and seventy two stars gave their lives for the photo spread on cosmic explosions that graced pages 80 and 81 of the March National Geographic.

Ben Dilday, University graduate student in Astronomy & Astrophysics, assembled these images of exploding stars from observations the Sloan Digital Sky Survey collected in 2005 and 2006. The images come in the vanguard of the SDSS II (Sloan Digital Sky Survey's Phase Two), which focuses, in part, on supernovas. During its first phase, survey astronomers invented a new way of doing astronomy by dedicating a single telescope to mapping the universe in three dimensions.

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KICP Students: Benjamin E. Dilday
Scientific projects: Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)
 
Public invited to cosmic tour of universe Dec. 5
The University of Chicago News Office, November 30, 2007
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago News Office

University of Chicago cosmologists Rocky Kolb and Michael Turner will conduct a cosmic magical mystery tour from Chicago to the edge of the visible universe from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5., at the Art Institute of Chicago. The free event will take place at the Art Institute's Rubloff Auditorium, 230 S. Columbus Dr. and is sponsored by the University of Chicago's Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Festival of Maps Chicago.

The cosmic tour of the universe will include virtual visits to observatories around the globe and interviews with leading scientists from the University of Chicago who are mapping the dark matter that holds galaxies together and discovering the nature of the dark energy, which pulls space apart. The event is part of the Festival of Maps Chicago, a citywide celebration of humanity's greatest discoveries and the maps that record its boldest explorations.

"In addition to discussing the science, we will highlight the scientists who are mapping the universe in one way or another," said Kolb, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics. "We have an incredibly active group of scientists who go out from their offices in Hyde Park to look for dark matter and dark energy in places as diverse as Chile, Antarctica, Fermi National Acceleratory Laboratory, and Chicago's Deep Tunnel. This program allows us to give the public an insider's view of what it's all about."

The list of guest scientists includes James Cronin, co-recipient of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics, and Young-Kee Kim, the Deputy Director of Fermilab.

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KICP Members: Edward W. Kolb; Michael S. Turner
 
Cosmic mapmakers to rendezvous in Chicago Dec. 3-6
The University of Chicago News Office, November 30, 2007
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago News Office

Astronomers and astrophysicists make maps of the sky-pervading radiation left behind by the big bang. They make maps of stars and galaxies. And they make maps of the brightest objects in the sky, including gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful explosions in the universe.

Usually these scientists attend conferences on topics that tightly focus on their areas of special interest. Nevertheless, the Chicago Festival of Maps provided the inspiration to bring more than 100 of them here together from Dec. 3 to 6 to share their ideas under the umbrella of a larger theme: Cosmic Cartography, Mapping the Universe from the Big Bang to the Present. The meeting is sponsored by the University of Chicago's Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics and the Chicago Festival of Maps.

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Radiation flashes may help crack cosmic mystery
The University of Chicago News Office, December 4, 2007
by Steve Koppes, The University of Chicago News Office

Faint, fleeting blue flashes of radiation emitted by particles that travel faster than the speed of light through the atmosphere may help scientists solve one of the oldest mysteries in astrophysics.

For nearly a century, scientists have wondered about the origin of cosmic rays-subatomic particles of matter that stream in from outer space. "Where exactly, we don't know," said Scott Wakely, Assistant Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago. "They're raining down on the atmosphere of the Earth, tens of thousands of particles per second per square meter."

Recent results from the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory suggest that the highest-energy cosmic rays may come from the centers of active galaxies. But the vast majority of the cosmic rays seen at Earth originate from its own galaxy, from sources that are still unknown. Tracking down these sources is crucial to developing a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon, scientists say.

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KICP Members: Scott P. Wakely
Scientific projects: Pierre Auger Observatory (AUGER)
 
Studying Particles Moving Faster Than Light
Wired Science, December 5, 2007
by John Borland, Wired Science

Wait a minute, you say. Nothing moves faster than light, that's a physical limit, right?

Yes and no. Whatís true is that nothing moves faster than light in a vacuum. But light slows down in other substances, such as air. It is thus possible for particles with extraordinarily high energy to move faster than light through the Earth's atmosphere, for example - a phenomenon with some interesting consequences.

Particles that travel faster than light through the atmosphere produce radiation that scientists liken to the sonic boom produced by faster-than-sound travel. This effect, called Cerenkov Radiation, can provide some clues about the composition of the original particles. That's proved to be particularly interesting to scientists studying cosmic rays.

Cosmic rays are particles from outer space, often protons or complete atomic nuclei, that frequently strike the Earth's atmosphere with enough energy to fall into this faster-than-light category, emitting Cerenkov radiation.

Scientists are still unsure about the origin of most cosmic rays. One recent study tracked a small percentage back to the centers of distant galaxies. But most are believed to originate inside the Milky Way, possibly thrown off by exploding stars.

A number of different methods of observing these rays' Cerenkov signatures have been devised, ranging from very precise balloon-based detectors to large ground-based facilities. Now researchers at the University of Chicago are using a National Science Foundation grant to build a new kind of detector that combines the advantages of both methods, with an eye towards detecting the presence of iron atomic nuclei Ė ideally gaining enough data to help shed new light on the exploding-star theory.

"They're raining down on the atmosphere of the Earth, tens of thousands of particles per second per square meter," said University of Chicago assistant professor Scott Wakely, who will be running the experiment, in a statement. "(From) where exactly, we don't know."

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KICP Members: Scott P. Wakely
 
Great minds drink alike: University of Chicago professors bond with locals over suds and science
TimeOut Chicago, December 13, 2007
by Liz Plosser, TimeOut Chicago

When he talks about mapping the ancient universe using 13-billion-year-old light waves on Monday 17, University of Chicago professor Clem Pryke wonít be holding a piece of chalk and pointing at diagrams. Like the other scholars who present on a variety of brainy topics at Cafe Scientifique gatherings, Pryke will probably be clutching a frosty mug of beer.

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KICP Members: Clement L. Pryke