Like cosmic lighthouses sweeping the universe with bursts of energy, pulsars have fascinated and baffled astronomers since they were first discovered 50 years ago. In two studies, international teams of astronomers suggest that recent images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory of two pulsars — Geminga and B0355+54 — may help shine a light on the distinctive emission signatures of pulsars, as well as their often perplexing geometry.
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
An unparalleled image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is giving an international team of astronomers the best look yet at the growth of black holes over billions of years beginning soon after the Big Bang. This is the deepest X-ray image ever obtained, collected with about 7 million seconds, or 11 and a half weeks, of Chandra observing time.
Dramatic climate cycles on early Mars, triggered by buildup of greenhouse gases, may be the key to understanding how liquid water left its mark on the planet's surface, according to a team of planetary scientists.
Astronomers are announcing this week the sharpest view yet of the properties of dark energy -- the force that currently is driving the accelerated expansion of the universe. "These results are a milestone in the study of the large-scale structure of the universe," said Penn State professor Donald Schneider, who was the survey coordinator and scientific publications coordinator for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) -- a collaboration of hundreds of scientists whose work produced the largest-ever, three-dimensional map of distant galaxies as well as one of the most precise measurements yet of dark energy.
A free presentation titled "Searching for Alien Megastructures: Hype vs. Reality" will take place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 in 100 Thomas Building on Penn State's University Park Campus. The lecture will be presented by Jason Wright, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. The event is part of the 2015 Friedman Lecture Series in astronomy, which is free and open to the public.
The extensive valley networks on the surface of Mars were probably created by running water billions of years ago, but the source of that water is unknown. Now, a team of Penn State and NASA researchers is using climate models to predict how greenhouse warming could be the source of the water.
The "man in the moon" appeared when meteoroids struck the Earth-facing side of the moon creating large flat seas of basalt that we see as dark areas called maria. But no "face" exists on farside of the moon and now, Penn State astrophysicists think they know why.
AMON stands for Astrophysical Multimessenger Observatory Network. Its mission is to form a network of high-energy observatories across the globe that will search for previously unseen astrophysical signals and send alerts to more traditional telescopes in order to corroborate the possible celestial events.
A large new collection of space photos taken at wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye and blocked by Earth's atmosphere has been released as a New Year's gift to the people of Earth by NASA and Penn State. The images were captured by a telescope on board NASA's Swift satellite, whose science and flight operations are controlled by Penn State's Mission Operations Center using the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope, which resulted from Penn State's collaboration with the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of the University College-London. The telescope is one of just a few that study ultraviolet light, much of which is blocked by Earth's atmosphere.
To see the complete story, go to http://science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2013-news/Siegel1-2013.
The aging of star clusters is linked more with their lifestyle than with how old they actually are, according to a new NASA/European Space Agency Hubble Space Telescope study coauthored by Steinn Sigurdsson, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State.
"Our observations of star clusters have shown us that, although they all formed more than 10 billion years ago, some of them are still young at heart," Sigurdsson said. "We now can see how fast the clusters are racing toward their final collapse. It is as if each cluster has its own internal clock, some of which are ticking slower than others." Sigurdsson is a Penn State theorist working in collaboration with the European Research Council's Cosmic-Lab project. The study is published in the current issue of the journal Nature. More information is online at http://bit.ly/VT0Fhe.
Mercedes Richards, a Penn State professor of astronomy and astrophysics, has been elected to a three-year term as president of the International Astronomical Union Commission 42 on Close Binary Stars, one of the largest commissions. Richards served as vice president of the commission from 2009 to 2012.
A free presentation titled "James Webb Space Telescope: NASA's Next Great Observatory" will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus. The program will be presented by Heidi Hammel, the Executive Vice President of AURA, Inc (The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy). This event is part of the 2012-2013 Friedman Lecture Series in Astronomy, which is free and open to the public.
Penn State's popular "AstroFest" program, a four-night festival of astronomy activities and stargazing during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, will welcome visitors from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. on July 11-14. People of all ages are welcome to participate in a variety of exciting and educational activities sponsored by the University's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Events are free and will be conducted rain or shine in classrooms and in the planetarium located on the fifth floor of Davey Laboratory.
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) has announced the most accurate measurements yet of the distances to galaxies in the faraway universe, giving an unprecedented look at the time when the universe first began to expand at an ever-increasing rate.
The results, announced at a press conference in Manchester, England, are the culmination of more than two years of work by the team of scientists and engineers, including a Penn State astronomer, behind the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), one of the SDSS-III's four component surveys.
Lawrence W. Ramsey, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics and a former head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, has been honored at the University with the title of Eberly College of Science Distinguished Senior Scholar. The honor is given in recognition of a sustained record of extraordinary achievement in research and education. Holders of this position have had a profound effect on their fields through creative innovation and internationally acclaimed scientific leadership, and have had exceptional accomplishments in teaching and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students.