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Confidence drop for Big Bang signal

Astronomy News - 20 June 2014 - 12:25am
Scientists who claimed to have found a pattern in the sky left by the super-rapid expansion of space just fractions of a second after the Big Bang say they are now less confident of their result.

Groundbreaking for the E-ELT

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 10:20pm
Today a groundbreaking ceremony took place to mark the next major milestone towards ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Part of the 3000-metre peak of Cerro Armazones was blasted away as a step towards levelling the summit in preparation for the construction of the largest optical/infrared telescope in the world.

Swiftly Moving Gas Streamer Eclipses Supermassive Black Hole

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 7:00pm

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Active galaxies host supermassive black holes in their cores. The intense gravity of the black hole creates a turbulent cauldron of extreme physics. These galaxies, such as NGC 5548 in this study, are too far away for the plasma fireworks to be directly imaged. Therefore astronomers use X-ray and ultraviolet spectroscopy to infer what is happening near the black hole. The new twist is the detection of a clumpy stream of gas that has swept in front of the black hole, blocking its radiation. This deep look into a black hole's environment yields clues to the behavior of active galaxies.

Hubble:Swiftly moving gas streamer eclipses supermassive black hole [heic1413]

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 7:00pm
Astronomers have discovered strange and unexpected behaviour around the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy NGC 5548. The international team of researchers detected a clumpy gas stream flowing quickly outwards and blocking 90 percent of the X-rays emitted by the black hole. This activity could provide insights into how supermassive black holes interact with their host galaxies.

Big Bang breakthrough team back-pedals on major result

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 6:56pm
For the first time, the BICEP2 team – hailed for their gravitational wave discovery earlier this year – have dialled back on the certainty of the result

Doubts about big bang breakthrough won't kill inflation

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 5:09pm
Cosmic inflation is sound whether or not we have found primordial gravitational waves, says the theory's co-founder Andrei Linde

Swiftly Moving Gas Streamer Eclipses Supermassive Black Hole

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 5:00pm
An international team of astronomers, using data from several NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) space observatories, has discovered unexpected behavior from the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy NGC 5548, located 244.6 million light-years from Earth. This behavior may provide new insights into how supermassive black holes interact with their host galaxies.

NASA's Hubble Finds Dwarf Galaxies Formed More Than Their Fair Share of Universe's Stars

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 2:51pm
They may be little, but they pack a big star-forming punch. New observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show small galaxies, also known as dwarf galaxies, are responsible for forming a large proportion of the universe's stars.

Rosetta: Icy quarry coming into view

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 2:44pm
The Rosetta spacecraft is now 165,000km from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and closing. Pictures of the 4km-wide ice ball will now get more and more detailed.

Hubble Finds That Dwarf Galaxies Formed More Than Their Fair Share of the Universe's Stars

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 1:00pm

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They may be little, but they pack a big star-forming punch. Hubble astronomers have found that dwarf galaxies in the young universe were responsible for an "early wave" of star formation not long after the big bang. The galaxies churned out stars at a furiously fast rate, far above the "normal" star formation expected of galaxies. Understanding the link between a galaxy's mass and its star-forming activity helps to assemble a consistent picture of events in the early universe.

Hubble:Small but significant - Astronomers use Hubble to study bursts of star formation in the dwarf galaxies of the early Universe [heic1412]

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 1:00pm
They may only be little, but they pack a star-forming punch: new observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope show that starbursts in dwarf galaxies played a bigger role than expected in the early history of the Universe.

Rosetta:Rosetta's comet: expect the unexpected

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 12:54pm
An image snapped earlier this month by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft shows its target comet has quietened, demonstrating the unpredictable nature of these enigmatic objects.

Mountain to be blasted for telescope

Astronomy News - 19 June 2014 - 11:35am
The top of a mountain in Chile will be blown up make way for the world's largest optical and infrared telescope.

UK’s COSMOS supercomputing research facility becomes an Intel Parallel Computing Centre

Astronomy News - 18 June 2014 - 5:00pm

The COSMOS facility, which is located in the Stephen Hawking Centre for Theoretical Cosmology (CTC) at the University, is dedicated to research in cosmology, astrophysics and particle physics. It was switched on in 2012.

To date, the facility has been used to simulate the dynamics of the early Universe and for pipelines analysing the statistics of Planck satellite maps of the cosmic microwave sky. The COSMOS supercomputer was the first very large (over 10 terabyte) single-image shared-memory system to incorporate Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors, which are behind the most power-efficient computers in the world.

Intel Parallel Computing Centres (IPCC) are universities, institutions, and labs that are leaders in their field. The centres are focusing on modernising applications to increase parallelism and scalability through optimisations that leverage cores, caches, threads, and vector capabilities of microprocessors and coprocessors.

As an IPCC, the COSMOS research facility will receive enhanced Intel support from its applications and engineering teams, as well as early access to future Intel Xeon Phi and other Intel products aimed at high-performance computing. IPCC status will allow COSMOS to better focus on delivering computing advances to the scientific community it serves and also highlight the efforts Intel has put into advancing high-performance computing.

When operating at peak performance, the COSMOS Supercomputer can perform 38.6 trillion calculations per second (TFLOPS), and is based on SGI UV2000 systems with 1856 cores of Intel Xeon processors E5-2600, 14.8 TB RAM and 31 Intel® Xeon PhiTM coprocessors.

The research centre has already developed Xeon Phi for use in Planck Satellite analysis of the cosmic microwave sky and for simulations of the very early Universe. These capabilities will become even more important in the near future pending the arrival of new generations of Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors and associated technologies.

“I am very pleased that the COSMOS supercomputer centre has been selected among the vanguard of Intel Parallel Computing Centres worldwide,” said Professor Stephen Hawking, founder of the COSMOS Consortium. “These are exciting times for cosmology as we use COSMOS to directly test our mathematical theories against the latest observational data. Intel’s new technology and this additional support will accelerate our scientific research.”

“Building on COSMOS success to date with Intel’s Many Integrated Core-based technology, our new IPCC status will ensure we remain at the forefront of those exploiting many-core architectures for cosmological research,” said COSMOS director, Professor Paul Shellard. “With the SGI UV2 built around Intel Xeon processors E5-2600 family and Intel Xeon Phi processors, we have a flexible HPC platform on which we can explore Xeon Phi acceleration using distributed, offload and shared-memory programming models. Intel support will ensure fast code development timescales using MICs, enhancing COSMOS competitiveness and discovery potential.”

“Intel Parallel Computing Centres are collaborations to modernise key applications to unlock performance gains that come through parallelism, enabling the way for the next leap in discovery.

We are delighted to be working with the COSMOS team in this endeavour as they strive to understand the origins of the universe,” said Stephan Gillich, Director Technical Computing, Intel EMEA.

COSMOS is part of the Distributed Research utilising Advanced Computing (DiRAC) facility, funded by the Science & Technology Facilities Council and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.

Cambridge’s COSMOS supercomputer, the largest shared-memory computer in Europe, has been named by computer giant Intel as one of its Parallel Computing Centres, building on a long-standing collaboration between Intel and the University of Cambridge.

computingsupercomputerSpotlight on innovationPaul ShellardStephen HawkingIntelCentre for Theoretical CosmologyDepartment of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical PhysicsSchool of the Physical SciencesThese are exciting times for cosmology as we use COSMOS to directly test our mathematical theories against the latest observational dataStephen HawkingUniversity of CambridgeCOSMOS

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Saturn's largest moon was once a titanic snowball

Astronomy News - 18 June 2014 - 4:37pm
If Titan sometimes freezes over entirely, it would help to solve the moon's methane mystery, and a probe to Pluto may offer the first test of the idea

Gaia grapples with stray light

Astronomy News - 18 June 2014 - 2:44am
The orbiting Gaia telescope will lose a very small level of performance because stray light is getting inside the observatory, the European Space Agency says.

Precision measurement of the Newtonian gravitational constant using cold atoms

Astronomy News - 18 June 2014 - 1:00am

Precision measurement of the Newtonian gravitational constant using cold atoms

Nature 510, 7506 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13433

Authors: G. Rosi, F. Sorrentino, L. Cacciapuoti, M. Prevedelli & G. M. Tino

About 300 experiments have tried to determine the value of the Newtonian gravitational constant, G, so far, but large discrepancies in the results have made it impossible to know its value precisely. The weakness of the gravitational interaction and the impossibility of shielding the effects of gravity make it very difficult to measure G while keeping systematic effects under control. Most previous experiments performed were based on the torsion pendulum or torsion balance scheme as in the experiment by Cavendish in 1798, and in all cases macroscopic masses were used. Here we report the precise determination of G using laser-cooled atoms and quantum interferometry. We obtain the value G = 6.67191(99) × 10−11 m3 kg−1 s−2 with a relative uncertainty of 150 parts per million (the combined standard uncertainty is given in parentheses). Our value differs by 1.5 combined standard deviations from the current recommended value of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology. A conceptually different experiment such as ours helps to identify the systematic errors that have proved elusive in previous experiments, thus improving the confidence in the value of G. There is no definitive relationship between G and the other fundamental constants, and there is no theoretical prediction for its value, against which to test experimental results. Improving the precision with which we know G has not only a pure metrological interest, but is also important because of the key role that G has in theories of gravitation, cosmology, particle physics and astrophysics and in geophysical models.

Fundamental constants: A cool way to measure big G

Astronomy News - 18 June 2014 - 1:00am

Fundamental constants: A cool way to measure big G

Nature 510, 7506 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13507

Authors: Stephan Schlamminger

Published results of the gravitational constant, a measure of the strength of gravity, have failed to converge. An approach that uses cold atoms provides a new data point in the quest to determine this fundamental constant. See Letterp.518

Monster move completes Earth's biggest radio telescope

Astronomy News - 17 June 2014 - 5:37pm
The arrival of the 66th antenna completes the world's largest ground-based observatory for radio waves &ndash now it is ready to gaze deep into space

The RAS reacts to new ownership arrangements for the James Clerk Maxwell Telesco...

Astronomy News - 17 June 2014 - 5:04pm
The RAS reacts to new ownership arrangements for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.

JCMT future looking brighter
The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), the largest sub-millimetre telescope in the world, which was under threat for some years as a result of cuts to the UK science budget, may now be able to continue operations.