Thursday, July 07, 2011

JWST cancellation by House of Representatives

Neither unexpected, undeserved, disasterous or likely final.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Changed Targets of Interest

I finally got around to making some long-needed changes to the links visible on the right hand side of this blog.

  • Laelaps, Not Exactly Rocket Science, Gene Expression, and the Primate Diaries "in Exile" are back in and/or are now working, finally catching up with all the moves associated with the great scienceblogs Pepsi kerfuffle about a year ago...
  • Deltoid, Sandwalk, john hawk's weblog, Bartholomew's notes, Crooked Timber and so finally got added as I read them often enough to make a direct link worthwhile.
  • My old non-astro blog got removed as I never update it any more.
  • Parasite of the Day, Molecule of the Day, Denialism Blog got removed as they're updated too infrequently. Sad, as they were great.
  • Uncertain Principles gets deleted because there isn't enough interesting science to offset his knee-jerk atheist-bashing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

IXO is dead, long live ATHENA

IXO and LISA are dead as joint NASA/ESA missions, thanks to NASA funding woes and JWST's grotesque cost and time overruns. Nevertheless, ESA will go ahead with a smaller (800 million Euro) X-ray Observatory concept with limited NASA participation (the microcalorimeter, I hope?) called ATHENA... a nice naming joke I didn't get at first. A few years ago ESA's XEUS mission concept and NASA's Constellation-X mission concept merged to form the International X-ray Observatory (IXO). Now the Europeans are back alone ATHENA springs forth, as in Greek myth where Athena emerged from Zeus's forehead.

News from the IXO website.

An update on IXO from Nick White and Jay Bookbinder

US IXO Team,

This is an update on the discussions with the European Space Agency (ESA) at the recent ESA-NASA bilateral meeting. This was reported by Jon Morse (HQ Astrophysics Division Director), first, to the IXO and LISA teams on Tuesday, and then, at the Astrophysics NASA Advisory Committee (NAC) sub-committee meeting on Thursday afternoon.

IXO was one of three candidates competing for the L1 opportunity in ESA´s Cosmic Vision Program (2015-2025). The Astrophysics and Planetary decadal rankings and NASA´s constrained out-year resources projected in the President's FY12 budget request led ESA to conclude that none of the three mission concepts were feasible within the Cosmic Vision L1 schedule. Consequently, ESA has ended consideration of IXO and the other concepts as partnerships at the scale proposed in the New Worlds New Horizons decadal survey (NWNH) and EJSM/Laplace in Visions and Voyages for Planetary Science. Instead, ESA has begun a rapid definition effort that includes the formation of a new science team (to be announced shortly). That effort will identify science goals and a mission concept that can be implemented as part of an ESA-led mission launching in the early 2020´s for a cost to ESA of about 800M Euro. Revised mission concepts from the three science areas will be considered in a selection process tentatively foreseen in February 2012.

A future minor role for NASA in the new ESA-led X-ray mission, in particular contributions at the instrument level, has not been ruled out. NASA will participate in the new ESA science team through a "NASA HQ-empowered scientist." This will be a NASA civil servant scientist who will be the conduit for any engagement with the new ESA team.

Currently the decadal survey recommendations are centered on the IXO (and LISA) concept and partnerships. NASA HQ will NOT disband the current NASA IXO (and LISA) teams immediately, but will follow a deliberate path towards redirecting the NASA efforts in the context of the decadal survey recommendations. NASA's Astrophysics Division plans to continue base funding (assuming not-larger-than-anticipated cuts from Congress) for the IXO (and LISA) study team(s) through FY11 to continue the technology development and so that NASA can support any effort requested by ESA through the NASA representative. The HQ Astrophysics Division may at some point in the future engage the community about strategic investments in X-ray astrophysics and possible solicitations for new concept studies in the context of the NWNH priorities.

It is expected that in about one year´s time NASA will ask the NRC to prioritize possible NWNH investments for the rest of the decade, including funding possible NASA participation in an ESA L1 mission – which we hope will be the X-ray mission. This would be in the context of not only the ESA L1 mission selection, but also the M1 and M2 mission selections, and the JWST re-plan.

We plan to keep in communication with the US IXO team as this unfolds. And seek input from the community at the appropriate times.

Feel free to forward this note to all interested parties.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Nick White,

Jay Bookbinder

Saturday, February 26, 2011

SDO images of the February 15th X2 Solar Flare


It has been a while since I've had any time to even think about astronomy, but today I've got to do some work on a final grant report and while waiting for some software I need to download I thought I'd make some false color images of before and after last week's X2 class solar flare (Feb 15, 2011, 0152 UTC). This is the first X-class flare of the new solar cycle.


The left hand side shows 4500 Angstrom (in red), 1600 Angstrom (in green) and 94 Angstrom (in blue) images taken with the Solar Dynamics Observatory's AIA instrument superimposed on one another. The right hand panels are 304 Angstrom (red), 193 Angstrom (green) and 94 Angstrom (blue).

Something I mean to do is to find out by how much the Sun's EUV/X-ray luminosity increases during flaring, and what contribution to the total solar bolometric luminosity the normal and active corona provide.

Image were obtained in FITS format from the Virtual Solar Observatory, and superimposed using ds9.