Sunday, November 30, 2008

Worth reading: Men from Earth by Buzz Aldrin and Malcolm McConnell

My father in law Mike lent me Men from Earth, by Buzz Aldrin and Malcolm McConnell (1989, Amazon link), and it turned out to be quite a page-turner.

The book is an account of the space program from the end of World War II through to Apollo 11, in particular the manned space program. It is a mix of Buzz Aldrin's first hand account with technical and historical details of both the US and Soviet space programs, the blending of which both humanizes the history and places the human aspect in context.

It is refreshingly frank regarding the disappointments, problems and failures experienced on both sides of the space race, and also regarding the issues confronting NASA in the 1980's with the lack of a real mission or a mandate to develop a long term space program. Given that it was written in the late 80's it is ironic how Aldrin and McConnell identify the same problems that confront NASA now: the shuttle as a flawed launcher, the need to develop a safe launch capability, the lack of direction for the manned space program, the sad fact that we don't have a heavy launcher comparable to the Saturn launcher technology that was thrown away in the 70's when the Shuttle program was cobbled together.

I was also surprised at how much was known about the Soviet moon program - although I knew the Soviets had been developing the G-1 launcher and that they'd had accidents with it I hadn't realized how seriously they had taken the moon race, or how much political pressures for propaganda victories had damaged their space program.

All in all I learned a lot that I hadn't seen or heard before - there was a lot of detail that you can't get in wikipedia articles - and its really quite well written. Well worth a read.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Interesting Astrophysics: Turkey Edition

The latest batch of preprints and papers I consider interesting, assembled between November 24th and November 28th, 2008.

The galaxy shown is the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 5907 (from APOD), showing the faint stellar streams in its halo that are all that remains of a smaller satellite galaxy that has been tidally disrupted and absorbed by NGC 5907. See the Martínez-Delgado et al paper linked to below.

Galaxies and Starbursts

Far-Ultraviolet Observations of Starburst Galaxies with FUSE: Galactic Feedback in the Local Universe
J.P. Grimes, T.M. Heckman, A. Aloisi, D. Calzetti, C. Leitherer, C.L. Martin, G. Meurer, K. Sembach, D.K. Strickland, arXiv:0811.3618 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: ApJS, in press

Martin Zwaan1, Fabian Walter2, Emma Ryan-Weber3, Elias Brinks4, W. J. G. de Blok5 and Robert C. Kennicutt, 2008, The Astronomical Journal 136 2886-2896
PDF (699 KB) | HTML | References

Spitzer Observations of the z = 2.73 Lensed Lyman Break Galaxy: MS 1512cB58 Brian Siana, Harry I. Teplitz, Ranga-Ram Chary, James Colbert, and David T. Frayer The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 10, Vol. 689, No. 1: 59-67.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (436 KB)

The Nature of Faint Spitzer-selected Dust-obscured Galaxies
Alexandra Pope, R. Shane Bussmann, Arjun Dey, Nicole Meger, David M. Alexander,
Mark Brodwin, Ranga-Ram Chary, Mark E. Dickinson, David T. Frayer,
Thomas R. Greve, Minh Huynh, Lihwai Lin, Glenn Morrison, Douglas Scott,
and Chi-Hung Yan, The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 10, Vol. 689, No. 1: 127-133.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (521 KB)

Filaments in Galactic Winds Driven by Young Stellar Clusters A. Rodríguez-González, A. Esquivel, P. F. Velázquez, A. C. Raga, and V. Melo The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 10, Vol. 689, No. 1: 153-159.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (388 KB)

The Recent Star Formation Histories of M81 Group Dwarf Irregular Galaxies
Daniel R. Weisz, Evan D. Skillman, John M. Cannon, Andrew E. Dolphin, Robert C. Kennicutt, Jr., Janice Lee, and Fabian Walter The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 10, Vol. 689, No. 1: 160-183.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (1869 KB)

The Ghost of a Dwarf Galaxy: Fossils of the Hierarchical Formation of the Nearby Spiral Galaxy NGC 5907
David Martínez-Delgado, Jorge Peñarrubia, R. Jay Gabany, Ignacio Trujillo, Steven R. Majewski, and M. Pohlen The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 10, Vol. 689, No. 1: 184-193.
Abstract | Full Text with Enhancements | PDF Version (1187 KB)

CI and CO in nearby galaxy centers: the bright galaxies NGC1068 (M77), NGC2146, NGC3079, NGC4826 (M64), and NGC7469
F.P. Israel, arXiv:0811.4058 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication by A&A. 15 pages, 9 figures, 7 tables

The Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey: A High-Resolution Spectroscopy Anthology
D.A. Dale, J.D.T. Smith, E.A. Schlawin, L. Armus, B.A. Buckalew, S.A. Cohen, G. Helou, T.H. Jarrett, L.C. Johnson, J. Moustakas, E.J. Murphy, H. Roussel, K. Sheth, S. Staudaher, C. Bot, D. Calzetti, C.W. Engelbracht, K.D. Gordon, D.J. Hollenbach, R.C. Kennicutt, S. Malhotra, arXiv:0811.4190 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication in ApJ

Dark Matter in Gas-Rich Dwarf Galaxies

U. Klein, G. Gentile, P. Salucci, G. J, G. Józsa, arXiv:0811.4289 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 2 pages, 1 figure
Journal-ref: ASP Conference Series, Vol. 396, 2008., p.485

Active Galactic Nuclei

Constraining the Active Galactic Nucleus Contribution in a Multiwavelength Study of Seyfert Galaxies
M. Meléndez, S. B. Kraemer, H. R. Schmitt, D. M. Crenshaw, R. P. Deo, R. F. Mushotzky, and F. C. Bruhweiler, The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 10, Vol. 689, No. 1: 95-107.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (947 KB)

Numerical astrophysics and hydrodynamics

Dependence of Interstellar Turbulent Pressure on Supernova Rate
M. Ryan Joung, Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, Greg L. Bryan, arXiv:0811.3747 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 13 pages incl. 8 figures, submitted to ApJ

Three-dimensional modeling of the asymmetric blast wave from the 2006 outburst of RS Ophiuchi: Early X-ray emission
S. Orlando, J.J. Drake, J.M. Laming, arXiv:0811.3941 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 12 pages, 7 Figures; paper accepted for publication in A&A; the paper
with high-resolution figures can be downloaded at this http URL

Stars and Supernovae

Abundances of massive stars: some recent developments
T. Morel, arXiv:0811.4114 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Invited review presented at 'Evolution and Pulsation of Massive Stars on the Main Sequence and Close to it' (Liege, July 2008). To appear in Communications in Asteroseismology (8 pages and 7 colour figures)

On or beyond the edge of seriousness

The search for a strategy for mankind to survive the solar Red Giant catastrophe
M. Taube, W. Seifritz, arXiv:0811.4052 (cross-list from [pdf, other]
Comments: 15 pages, 2 figures

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dark Matter Annihilation?

The physicists are getting all excited by the hints from PAMELA and ATIC of an excess in the electron cosmic ray spectrum at around 620 GeV - could this be a signal of dark matter (WIMPs) interacting with itself and annihilating?

Dennis Overbye has a nice article in yesterdays NYT suitable for a general readership ("A Whisper, Perhaps, From the Universe's Dark Side"). Yousaf Butt wrote the Nature "News and Views" article that serves as a good introduction or perspective on the Chang et al (2008, Nature, 456, 362, "An excess of cosmic ray electrons at energies of 300–800 GeV" article that has kick started the media interest.

[Image is Figure 2 from the Chang et al paper, accessible with caption here as long as you have a Nature subscription]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fireball over Canada

On Thursday 24th November at about 5:30pm MT viewers in western Canada could see a brilliant meteor pass overhead, which may later have broken up over Alberta. While not as spectacular as the 1972 daylight fireball seen over the American West, it still looks pretty damn impressive.

Video footage of the meteor from the BBC can be seen here.

[Update: Dec 02 2008 - more on the Saskatchewan fireball here. Fragments have been found.]

Friday, November 21, 2008

Interesting astrophysics: Nov 17 to Nov 21.

The latest crop of astronomy-related papers and preprints I consider interesting.

Galaxies and starburst galaxies

AGN-Starburst connection in NGC7582: GNIRS IFU observations
Rogemar A. Riffel, Thaisa Storchi-Bergmann, Oli L. Dors Jr, Claudia Winge, arXiv:0811.2327
Comments: 16 pages, 11 figures, accepted for publication in MNRAS

Starburst99 for Windows
Claus Leitherer, Julia Chen, arXiv:0811.2396
Comments: 19 pages, 6 figures, accepted for publication in New Astronomy

The Structure of Active Merger Remnant NGC 6240 from IRAC Observations
Stephanie J. Bush, Zhong Wang, Margarita Karovska, and Giovanni G. Fazio, The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 1, Vol. 688, No. 2: 875-884.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (601 KB)

Strange Filamentary Structures (Fireballs) around a Merger Galaxy in the Coma Cluster of Galaxies
Michitoshi Yoshida, Masafumi Yagi, Yutaka Komiyama, Hisanori Furusawa, Nobunari Kashikawa, Yusei Koyama, Hitomi Yamanoi, Takashi Hattori, and Sadanori Okamura, The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 1, Vol. 688, No. 2: 918-930.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (2398 KB)

Emission-lines calibrations of the Star Formation Rate from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
B. Argence, F. Lamareille, arXiv:0811.2420 [ps, pdf, other]

Warm gas accretion onto the Galaxy

J. Bland-Hawthorn, arXiv:0811.2467 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 14 pages, 6 figures. "The Galaxy Disk in Cosmological Context," Copenhagen, IAU Symp 254, in press

A kinematic study of the irregular dwarf galaxy NGC 2366 using HI and Halpha observations
J. van Eymeren, M. Marcelin, B. Koribalski, R.-J. Dettmar, D.J. Bomans, J.-L. Gach, P. Balard, arXiv:0811.2724 [pdf, other]
Comments: 15 pages, 14 figures, accepted for publication by A&A

The Expected Detection of Dust Emission from High-Redshift Lyman Alpha Galaxies
Steven Finkelstein, Sangeeta Malhotra, James Rhoads, Nimish Hathi, Norbert Pirzkal, arXiv:0811.2794 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted to MNRAS; 9 pages, 5 figures

MgII absorption systems and their neighbouring galaxies from a background subtraction technique
Michelle Caler, Ravi Sheth, Bhuvnesh Jain, arXiv:0811.2805 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Submitted to MNRAS

Identikit 1: A Modeling Tool for Interacting Disk Galaxies
Joshua E. Barnes, John E. Hibbard, arXiv:0811.3039 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 22 pages, 16 figures. Accepted by The Astronomical Journal; to appear February 2009. To get a copy with high-resolution figures, use the web interface, or download software, see this http URL

Galactic Parameters from Whole Sky 2MASS Star Count
C.K. Chang, C.M. Ko, T.H. Peng, arXiv:0811.3269 [pdf, other]

Spectra of Nearby Galaxies Measured with a New Very Broadband Receiver
Gopal Narayanan, Ronald L. Snell, Neal R. Erickson, Aeree Chung, Mark H. Heyer, Min Yun, William M. Irvine, arXiv:0811.3374 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: published in the Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union (2008), 4. Vol 251, pp 251-256 Cambridge University Press Journal-ref: Organic Matter in Space, Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union, 2008, IAU Symposium, Volume 251, p. 251-256

(The galaxies are M82, NGC 253, Arp 220 and IC 342)

Active Galactic Nuclei

The location and kinematics of the coronal-line emitting regions in AGN
Authors: J. R. Mullaney, M. J. Ward, C. Done, G. J. Ferland, N. Schurch, arXiv:0811.3204 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 6 Pages, 5 Figures, Accepted for publication in MNRAS Letters

X-ray astronomy

On the importance of satellite lines to the He-like K ALPHA complex and the G ratio for calcium, iron, and nickel
J. Oelgoetz, C. J. Fontes, H. L. Zhang, S. N. Nahar, A. K. Pradhan, arXiv:0811.2240
Comments: 12 pages, 5 figures, to appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Searching for Narrow Emission Lines in X-Ray Spectra: Computation and Methods
Taeyoung Park, David A. van Dyk, and Aneta Siemiginowska, The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 1, Vol. 688, No. 2: 807-825.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (3531 KB)

Chi-square and Poissonian Data: Biases Even in the High-Count Regime and How to Avoid them
Philip J. Humphrey, Wenhao Liu, David A. Buote, arXiv:0811.2796 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 9 pages, 2 figures. Accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal

Wide Area X-ray Surveys for AGN and Starburst Galaxies
A. Ptak, arXiv:0811.3223 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 7 pages, 5 figures. Conference proceedings in "Classification and Discovery in Large Astronomical Surveys", 2008, C.A.L. Bailer-Jones (ed.)


A hydrodynamical analysis of the steady-state shock model
Authors: A. Preite Martinez, arXiv:0811.3338 [pdf]
Comments: 9 pages, to be published in The Open Astronomy Journal (this http URL)


A Realistic Cosmological Model Based on Observations and Some Theory Developed Over the Last 90 Years
Geoffrey Burbidge, arXiv:0811.2402
Comments: 21 pages, conference

The anti-Big Bang contrarians are a dying breed. This is worth reading simply to see some of the reasons why they believe what they believe, before they are gone and forgetten. I expect that the detailed refutations of this that will undoubtedly appear in the next few weeks or months will be more informative regarding the validity of the hot Big Bang cosmology than the Burbidge paper is.

Stars and Supernovae

Supernova 1996cr: SN 1987A's Wild Cousin?
F. E. Bauer, V. V. Dwarkadas, W. N. Brandt, S. Immler, S. Smartt, N. Bartel, and M. F. Bietenholz, The Astrophysical Journal 2008 December 1, Vol. 688, No. 2: 1210-1234.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (1314 KB)

No evidence for mass segregation in young clusters
J. Ascenso, J. Alves, M. T. V. T. Lago, arXiv:0811.3213 [pdf, other]
Comments: 10 pages, 12 figures. Download a high-resolution version at this http URL (1 MB)

Planets, Astrobiology

Mars Before the Space Age
Barrie W Jones, arXiv:0811.2700 [pdf]
Comments: 13 pages as published, 13 Figures. Journal-ref: Int. J. Astrobiol. vol. 7 no. 2, 143-155 (2008)

IRAS-based whole-sky upper limit on Dyson Spheres
Richard A. Carrigan Jr, arXiv:0811.2376
Comments: 32 pages, 8 figures

You will be relieved to know that there are no Type II civilizations within 300 pc of us!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SciAm article on Planck mission

The Scientific American online has an nice little article on ESA's Planck mission to study the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the fading afterglow of the Big Bang.

Want to know what science there is still left to do on the CMB after WMAP? Read the official Plank science case here (PDF).

Planck is named after Max Planck, one of the founders of quantum theory, and who introduced quantization of energy in 1900 (and h, Planck's constant) "as an act of despair" in order to correctly predict the frequency dependence of black body radiation.

[Images: (1) CAD image of the Planck satellite from the official Planck web site. (2) Max Planck in 1878, aged 20. He looks spiffy and well groomed in this image, but the 1901 picture of him is a mess!]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

von Daniken

Aardvarchaelogy has a guest post by Florian Freistetter reporting on a recent popular lecture given by Erich von Däniken, which is worth a read if you know who von Daniken is.

At age 10 or so I was terribly impressed and convinced by von Daniken's books, of which the local library seemed to have the full collection at that time. While von Daniken, and similar works by Peter Kolosimo, were terribly contrived, they were certainly entertaining (the plot of the latest Indiana Jones movie is basically a simplistic copy of von Daniken's work) and in some way informative (I wouldn't say educational) - I probably first heard about Easter Island, Nazca, the Mayans, and so on in those books, while having largely forgotten the wacky parts.

[Image: Pacal the Great's sarcophagus lid, interpreted by von Daniken as a Mayan riding a rocket.]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Interesting Astrophysics: Nov 07-14, 2008

The latest crop of papers and preprints I consider interesting, again arranged by general category. Enjoy!

Galaxies and Starbursts

The Physical Scale of the Far-Infrared Emission in the Most Luminous Submillimeter Galaxies Joshua
D. Younger, Giovanni G. Fazio, David J. Wilner, Matthew L. N. Ashby,
Raymond Blundell, Mark A. Gurwell, Jia-Sheng Huang, Daisuke Iono,
Alison B. Peck, Glen R. Petitpas, Kimberly S. Scott, Grant. W. Wilson,
and Min S. Yun The Astrophysical Journal 2008 November 20, Vol. 688, No. 1: 59-66.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (1963 KB)

Chandra Evidence for AGN Feedback in the Spiral Galaxy NGC 6764 J. H. Croston, M. J. Hardcastle, P. Kharb, R. P. Kraft, and A. Hota The Astrophysical Journal 2008 November 20, Vol. 688, No. 1: 190-197.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (1898 KB)

Quenching of Star Formation
Vivienne Wild, Tamas Budavari, Jeremy Blaizot, C. Jakob Walcher, Peter H. Johansson, Gerard Lemson, Gabriella de Lucia, Stephane Charlot, arXiv:0811.1174v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 7 pages, 3 figures. Conference proceedings in "Classification and Discovery in Large Astronomical Surveys", 2008, C.A.L. Bailer-Jones (ed.)

Nobeyama Millimeter Array Observations of the Nuclear Starburst of M83: A GMA Scale Correlation between Dense Gas Fraction and Star Formation Efficiency
Kazuyuki Muraoka, Kotaro Kohno, Tomoka Tosaki, Nario Kuno, Kouichiro Nakanishi, Kazuo Sorai, Sumio Ishizuki, Toshihiro Handa, Takeshi Okuda, arXiv:0811.1431v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 25 pages, 13 figures, PASJ in press, version with high resolution figures is available via this http URL

Highly ionized gas on galaxy scales: mapping the interacting Seyfert galaxy LEDA 135736
J. Gerssen, D. J. Wilman, L. Christensen, R. G. Bower, V. Wild, arXiv:0811.1576v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Accepted for publication in MNRAS Letters

The Stellar Populations of Lyman Break Galaxies at z~5
Kiyoto Yabe, Kouji Ohta, Ikuru Iwata, Marcin Sawicki, Naoyuki Tamura, Masayuki Akiyama, Kentaro Aoki, arXiv:0811.2041v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 29 pages, 21 figures, accepted for publication in ApJ. For high-resolution figures, see this http URL

The local FIR Galaxy Colour-Luminosity distribution: A reference for BLAST, and Herschel/SPIRE sub-mm surveys
Edward L. Chapin, David H. Hughes, Itziar Aretxaga, arXiv:0811.2214v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 12 pages, 7 figures. Accepted by MNRAS

Physical properties of galaxies and their evolution in the VIMOS VLT Deep Survey. I. The evolution of the mass-metallicity relation up to z~0.9
F. Lamareille et al, arXiv:0811.2053v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 21 pages, revised version submitted to A&A

Physical properties of galaxies and their evolution in the VIMOS VLT Deep Survey. II. Extending the mass-metallicity relation to the range z=0.89-1.24
E. Perez-Montero et al, arXiv:0811.2085v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 9 pages and 8 figures. In press in Astronomy & Astrophysics

Did they really need to split this into two papers? But anyway, they conclude that their results are consistent with the Tremonti et al (2004) interpretation: low mass galaxies lose metal, while high mass galaxies experience effectively closed box chemical evolution.

X-ray specific papers of interest

X-Ray Reflection Nebulae with Large Equivalent Widths of Neutral Iron Ka Line in the Sgr C Region
Hiroshi Nakajima, Takeshi Go Tsuru, Masayoshi Nobukawa, Hironori Matsumoto, Katsuji Koyama, Hiroshi Murakami, Atsushi Senda, Shigeo Yamauchi, arXiv:0811.1830v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Accepted for publication in PASJ

Stars and Supernovae

Probing The Lower Mass Limit for Supernova Progenitors and the High-Mass End of the Initial-Final Mass Relation from White Dwarfs in the Open Cluster M35 (NGC 2168)
Kurtis A. Williams, Michael Bolte, Detlev Koester, arXiv:0811.1577v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. 16 pages, 9 figures, Figures 1-5 and 7 reduced in resolution. Uses emulateapj.cls

Elemental abundances, chemical evolution, plasma physics

On the solar nickel and oxygen abundances
Pat Scott, Martin Asplund, Nicolas Grevesse, A. Jacques Sauval, arXiv:0811.0815v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 4 pages, 2 figures. Submitted to ApJL

Metal-Absorption Column Densities in Fast Radiative Shocks
Orly Gnat, Amiel Sternberg, arXiv:0811.1774v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 32 pages, 29 figures. ApJ in press. Electronic data available at this http URL


Coreless Terrestrial Exoplanets Linda T. Elkins-Tanton and Sara Seager The Astrophysical Journal 2008 November 20, Vol. 688, No. 1: 628-635.
Abstract | Full Text | PDF Version (356 KB)

The X-Ray Environment During the Epoch of Terrestrial Planet Formation: Chandra Observations of h Persei
Thayne Currie, Nancy Remage Evans, Brad Spitzbart, Jonathan Irwin, Scott J. Wolk, Jesus Hernandez, Scott J. Kenyon, Jay Pasachoff, arXiv:0811.1753v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 34 pages, 7 Figures, 2 Tables; Accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal

Long Period Exoplanets
Caleb Scharf, Kristen Menou, arXiv:0811.1981v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Submitted ApJ Letters

First direct image of an exoplanet?

The popular science news is giving heavy coverage to the claims (pretty persuasive claims) of the first direct imaging of approximately Jupiter-mass exoplanet orbiting the young star Fomalhaut - see SciAm, Newswise or the NYT, or read the Hubble Space Telescope press release.

Of course, this is not the first claim of a direct image of an exoplanet - back in 1999 a team of British astronomers (including Dave James, a former PhD colleague of mine from Birmingham) claimed to detect a 8 Jupiter mass planet orbiting Tau Bootis (see their old press release here). The presence of a planet orbiting Tau Bootis had previously (Butler et al 1997) been inferred using radial velocity measurements, but the imaging detection turned out to be false.

By the way, is a pretty neat site if you're interested in nearby stars and planets.

For those interested in technical details, the team involved with the Fomalhaut imaging detection posted the following observational and theoretical papers on todays astro-ph:

Optical Images of an Exosolar Planet 25 Light Years from Earth
Paul Kalas, James R. Graham, Eugene Chiang, Michael P. Fitzgerald, Mark Clampin, Edwin S. Kite, Karl Stapelfeldt, Christian Marois, John Krist,
Comments: 25 pages; 4 tables; 4 figures. To appear in Science November 13, 2008

Fomalhaut's Debris Disk and Planet: Constraining the Mass of Fomalhaut b From Disk Morphology
E. Chiang, E. Kite, P. Kalas, J. R. Graham, M. Clampin

Comments: Accepted to the Astrophysical Journal, 17 pages, 11 figures. Companion theory paper to Science discovery paper. See the movie at this http URL

[Update @ 10:38AM: Added links to the astro-ph versions of the Fomalhaut papers.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More on NASA conference funding weirdness

Steinn Sigurðsson has a post discussing the latest regarding the recent unclear directives regarding NASA funding and conference travel for 2009.

Short version: if you're at a actual University and get NASA money through grants you might be OK, but if you're at a non-University institution things might be troublesome.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Future of UK physics still under threat

The funding woes of physics and astronomy in the UK, in particular those fields covered by the Science and Technologies Facilities Council, still appear to be unresolved, at least in the eyes of UK physicists themselves.

Read Pallab Ghosh's article "Future of physics 'under threat'" at the BBC (the article was published online on 11/03/08).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Interesting Astrophysical Papers: Oct 20 to Nov 06.

Now that the election is out of the way, lets get back to astrophysics. Here is another set of recent papers and preprints that I consider interesting, arranged into rough categories.


The nucleus of NGC 253 and its massive stellar clusters at parsec scales
Juan Antonio Fernández-Ontiveros, M. Almudena Prieto, Jose Antonio Acosta-Pulido (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias), arXiv:0810.3250v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 5 pages, 3 figures. Accepted for publication in MNRAS (Letters)

The Sub-parsec Scale Radio Properties of Southern Starburst Galaxies. II. Supernova Remnants, the Supernova Rate, and the Ionised Medium in the NGC 4945 Starburst
E. Lenc, S. J. Tingay, arXiv:0811.0057v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Accepted by the Astronomical Journal. 38 pages, 7 figures,

The Sizes of Early-type Galaxies
Joachim Janz, Thorsten Lisker (ARI/Zentrum fuer Astronomie, University of Heidelberg), arXiv:0810.2999v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Accepted by ApJL; 5 page, 3 figures

Low-Level Nuclear Activity in Nearby Spiral Galaxies
Himel Ghosh and Smita Mathur, The Astrophysical Journal, 687:216–229, 2008 November 1

Dust and Gas as Seeds for Metal-Poor Star Formation
Deidre A. Hunter (Lowell Observatory), arXiv:0810.5069v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: To be published in "Low Metallicity Star Formation: From the First Stars to Dwarf Galaxies," Proceedings of IAU Symposium No. 255, eds. L.K. Hunt, S. Madden, & R. Schneider (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press)

Spitzer/IRS Mapping of Local Luminous Infrared Galaxies
Miguel Pereira-Santaella, Almudena Alonso-Herrero, George H. Rieke, Luis Colina, arXiv:0810.5088v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 4 pages, 5 figures. To appear in "Highlights of Spanish Astrophysics V", Proceedings of the VIII Scientific Meeting of the Spanish Astronomical Society (SEA) held in Santander, 7-11 July, 2008

Resolution of the Distance Ambiguity for Galactic HII Regions
L. D. Anderson, T. M. Bania, arXiv:0810.5570v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Accepted to ApJ

Massive star formation in Wolf-Rayet galaxies: I. Optical and NIR photometric results
Angel R. Lopez-Sanchez, Cesar Esteban, arXiv:0811.0202v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Published in A&A, 491, 131 (2008). 39 Figures have NOT been included
here. Full version in this http URL False color pictures of the galaxies can be found in this http URL

Chandra Acis Survey of X-Ray Point Sources in 383 Nearby Galaxies I. the Source Catalog
Jifeng Liu, arXiv:0811.0804v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 77 pages, 14 figures, 5 tables

Numerical Astrophysics and Hydrodynamics

Modeling the Disk (three-phase) Interstellar Medium
Gerhard Hensler, arXiv:0810.3347v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 14 pages, to be published in Proceed. IAU Symp. No. 254, "The Galaxy Disk in Cosmological Context", J. Andersen, J. Bland-Hawthorn, & B. Nordstroem (eds.), 2009, invited review

Supernova Explosions and the Triggering of Galactic Fountains and Outflows
E. M. de Gouveia Dal Pino, C. Melioli, A. D'Ercole, F. Brighenti, A. Raga, arXiv:0811.0038v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 9 pages, 7 figures, invited paper accepted to: "Magnetic Fields in the Universe II: from Laboratory and Stars to the Primordial Structures", RevMexAA

Visualization and Computing

Algorithmic comparisons of decaying, isothermal, compressible turbulence. I. Low-resolution simulations with fixed grids
S. Kitsionas, R. Klessen, C. Federrath, W. Schmidt, D. Price, J. Dursi, M. Gritschneder, S. Walch, R. Piontek, J. Kim, A.-K. Jappsen, P. Ciecielag, M.-M. Mac Low, arXiv:0810.4599v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Submitted to A&A, 26 pages, 120 figures

Interchanging Interactive 3-d Graphics for Cosmology
C. J. Fluke, D. G. Barnes, N. T. Jones, arXiv:0810.4201v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 10 pages, 7 figures, submitted to Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, Supporting demonstrations are available at this http URL

Stars and Stellar Evolution

The evolution of massive and very massive stars in clusters
Dany Vanbeveren, arXiv:0810.4781v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 16 pages, 7 figures, Review talk presented at the conference From Taurus to the Antennae, Sheffield 4-8th August 2008

The mass-radius relationship from solar-type stars to terrestrial planets: a review
G. Chabrier, I. Baraffe, J. Leconte, J. Gallardo, T. barman, arXiv:0810.5085v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: Cool Stars, Stellar Systems and the Sun 15, invited review

Tycho Brahe's 1572 supernova as a standard type Ia explosion revealed from its light echo spectrum
Oliver Krause, Masaomi Tanaka, Tomonori Usuda, Takashi Hattori, Miwa Goto, Stephan Birkmann, Ken'ichi Nomoto, arXiv:0810.5106v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 15 pages, 3 figures - accepted for publication in Nature


The Impact of Feedback on Disk Galaxy Scaling Relations
Aaron A. Dutton, Frank C. van den Bosch, arXiv:0810.4963v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 25 pages, 14 figures, submitted to MNRAS

GalICS II: the [alpha/Fe]-mass relation in elliptical galaxies
A.Pipino, J.E.G. Devriendt, D.Thomas, J.Silk, S.Kaviraj, arXiv:0810.5753v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 12 pages, 13 figure, A&A submitted, comments welcome

Planets, Comets and assorted small fry

Extrasolar Giant Planets and X-Ray Activity
Vinay L. Kashyap, Jeremy J. Drake, and Steven H. Saar, The Astrophysical Journal, 687:1339–1354, 2008 November 10.

A New Orbit Determination for Bright Sungrazing Comet of 1843
Zdenek Sekanina and Paul W. Chodas, The Astrophysical Journal, 687:1415–1422, 2008 November 10

Planet formation in the habitable zone of alpha Centauri B
Philippe Thebault, Francesco Marzari, Hans Scholl,
arXiv:0811.0673v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: accepted for publication in MNRAS

Bragging rights

The Science Impact of Astronomy PhD Granting Departments in the United States
Anne L. Kinney, arXiv:0811.0311v1 [astro-ph]
Comments: 18 pages, 6 figures

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hope for a better tomorrow

"An historic night" as Steven Colbert said repeatedly said last night. Barack Obama won the Presidency of the USA in something very close to a landslide, winning states that have not gone Democratic since the party realignment of the 1960's.

Although to me it felt less like history and more like the entire future realigning itself into something more hopeful.

The last time I felt that everything had suddenly changed was the dark day of September 11th, 2001.

Before that the more hopeful, if now tarnished, night of May 2nd, 1997, when the Labour Party swept to power in the UK after 18 years of Conservative mis-rule.

McCain's concession speech was remarkably gracious and non-partisan, especially considering the remarkably ungracious, bigoted and partisan campaign he ran. Unfortunately the small (and almost uniformly white) crowd of McCain supporters who heard him were less gracious, booing mentions of Obama's name.

Obama's victory speech was also impressive, and surprisingly cerebral. I caught some of the Lincoln riffs and the obvious MLK Jr references, but I'm sure I missed some clever stuff. And as usual, it presented a remarkably calm and considered point of view.

Of the two candidates there is no doubt that it is Obama who genuinely wishes to heal the partisan and ideological rifts than wound this country. The difference in the diversity and behavior of the pro-Obama crowd at Grant Park only served to emphasize the essential rightness of the Obama election.

I often doubt that any politician can truly be the transformative figure that many believe Obama to be - is he not just yet another centrist Democrat (obviously better for the US than any Republican, but still far from perfect)? But the more I see and hear him speak the more I begin to think that there is something really different about him from other centrist Democrats. That he does actually believe in change, that people can make a positive difference. I can't imagine Hilliary, or Kerry, or even Gore giving the speech Obama gave last night, or giving me reason to hope that the future will be a better place.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Change is here

We drove by the school hosting the poll in out area at 7:40am, 40 minutes after the poll had opened, to see a line stretching outside the school entrance and all the way along the side of the building. Parking lot full, neighboring streets full of parked cars. Without the time to spend an hour or two in line before work it appears like we'll have to come back after work.

Rain is predicted here all afternoon and up to poll closing time at 8pm.

The highways were surprising free of cars, no stop and go traffic, haven't driven to work this quickly in months. A lot of people must have changed their schedules, or be stuck in lines at the polling booths.

Maryland is very much a blue state, so that Obama (or pretty much any Democrat) winning this state is inevitable. Yet it appears that voter turnout here will be historic.

[Update @ 6pm: Got out of work early, drove the polling place through heavy and intermittent showers arriving there at ~5pm. Essentially no queue, in and out within 10 minutes. Now the wait begins...]