Cosmic Diary Marchis
THE FOLLOWING ITEM WAS ISSUED BY ASTRONOMY MAGAZINE IN WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN, AND IS POSTED ON MY BLOG FOR YOUR INFORMATION.
29 May 2013
This release is based on a story in the June 2013 issue of Astronomy magazine: http://www.astronomy.com/~/media/Files/PDF/Magazine%20articles/ET-with-infrared-light.pdf
Until recently, one of the ultimate mysteries of the universe — how many civilizations may exist on planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way Galaxy — relied on the possibility of detecting intelligent beings by radio signals. Now a team of astronomers, engineers, and physicists from the University of Hawaii, the University of Freiburg, and elsewhere has proposed a new and powerful technique to search for intelligent life.
The revolutionary method is described by four of the team’s astronomers in the June 2013 issue of Astronomy magazine, the world’s largest magazine on the subject, with a print and web readership of half a million each month. The story, “How to Find ET with Infrared Light,” was written by Jeff R. Kuhn of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, Svetlana V. Berdyugina of the University of Freiburg and the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics in Germany, David Halliday of Dynamic Structures, Ltd., in British Columbia, and Caisey Harlingten of the Searchlight Observatory Network in The Grange, Norwich, England.
Rather than looking for radio waves, the team suggests searching for the heat signatures of nearby planets, which requires a giant telescope that could detect infrared radiation directly from an exoplanet, thus revealing the presence of a civilization.
“The energy footprint of life and civilization appears as infrared heat radiation,” says Kuhn, the project’s lead scientist. “A convenient way to describe the strength of this signal is in terms of total stellar power that is incident on the host planet.” The technique arises from the fact that a civilization produces power that adds to the heat on a planet, beyond the heat received from its host star. A large enough telescope, idealized for infrared detection, could survey planets orbiting stars within 60 light-years of the Sun to see whether or not they host civilizations.
The Colossus Telescope
The quest for direct infrared detection of extraterrestrial civilizations, along with many other research possibilities, has led the team to the funding and building of a giant telescope. Currently planned large infrared telescopes, the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope, and the European Extremely Large Telescope, would not be large enough.
Instead, a telescope (dubbed Colossus) with a primary mirror about 250 feet (77 meters) in diameter could find hundreds of Earth-sized or larger planets in habitable zones, and perhaps dozens of extraterrestrial civilizations, by using a sensitive coronagraph — and the technology to build such an instrument exists.
The international team thus seeks funding to build a 77-m telescope, which would be constructed from revolutionary thin-mirror slumping and polishing technologies developed by the Innovative Optics team. The telescope would consist of approximately sixty 8-m mirror segments, and would operate at a high-altitude site.
Colossus’s field of view would be optimized for star-like sources. It would be the world’s best high-resolution infrared telescope and would excel at the study of stellar surfaces, black holes, and quasars, objects that appear smaller than 1 arcsecond on the sky.
Innovative Optics, Ltd.
The organization behind the technologies that make Colossus-style telescopes possible is Innovative Optics Ltd. (IO). IO (http://www.innovativeoptics.ca) operates its research and development at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy in Maui, and at the National University of Mexico in Ensenada, Mexico. IO also has developmental operations at the Vancouver, B.C., Canada location of Dynamic Structures Ltd.
For decades, Dynamic Structures Ltd. (http://dynamicstructuresltd.com) has been the leader in both design and construction of the world’s largest telescopes and telescope enclosures. These include the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and enclosure, Hawaii; the Sir Isaac Newton Telescope and enclosure, La Palma, Canary Islands; the Sir William Herschel Telescope and enclosure, La Palma, Canary Islands; both W. M. Keck Observatories, Phase 1 and 2, Mauna Kea, Hawaii; the Owens Valley Radio Observatory and support structures, California; the Gemini 8-meter Telescope Projects in both Hawaii and Chile; and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile.
Dynamic Structures Ltd. has also been retained by the Thirty Meter Telescope Corporation (TMT) to provide a solution for the TMT enclosure. This has just been completed, resulting in the “Calotte” design. This design allows for significantly reducing the mass and size of the telescope’s enclosure compared with conventional carousel and dome-type structures.
Dynamic Structures Ltd. is an investment partner in IO and lends its engineering, fabrication and support infrastructure to IO for a joint effort in creating a revolution in astronomical capabilities.
With manageable fabrication timescales, both optical and mechanical, and cost-effective pricing, IO technologies will enable the realization of telescopes of unprecedented size and capability.
Senior Editor, Astronomy
Searchlight Observatory Network
Adapted from MESSENGER Mission News (March 26, 2013)
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) — the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in 1919 — recently approved a proposal from the MESSENGER Science Team to assign names to nine impact craters on Mercury. In keeping with the established naming theme for craters on Mercury, all of the newly designated features are named after famous deceased artists, musicians, or authors or other contributors to the humanities.
The newly named craters are
- Alver, for Betti Alver (1906-1989), an Estonian writer who rose to prominence in the 1930s, toward the end of Estonian independence and on the eve of World War II. She published her first novel, Mistress in the Wind, in 1927. She also wrote several short stories, poetry, and translations.
- Donelaitis, for Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714-1780), a Lutheran pastor who was considered one of the greatest Lithuanian poets. He is best known for The Seasons, considered the first classic Lithuanian poem. It depicts the everyday life of Lithuanian peasants. His other works include six fables and a tale in verse.
- Flaiano, for Ennio Flaiano (1910-1972), an Italian screenwriter, playwright, novelist, journalist, and drama critic especially noted for his social satires. He became a leading figure of the Italian motion-picture industry after World War II, collaborating with writer Tullio Pinelli on the early films of writer and director Federico Fellini.
- Hurley, for James Francis “Frank” Hurley (1885-1962), an Australian photographer and adventurer. He participated in several expeditions to Antarctica and served as an official photographer with Australian Imperial Forces during both world wars. The troops called him “the mad photographer,” because he took considerable risks to obtain photographs.
- L’Engle, for Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007), an American writer best known for young-adult fiction, particularly the award-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. Her works reflect both her Christian faith and her strong interest in modern science.
- Lovecraft, for Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th Century. He popularized “cosmic horror,” the notion that some concepts, entities, or experiences are barely comprehensible to human minds, and those who delve into such topics risk their sanity.
- Petofi, for Sándor Petőfi (1823-1849), a Hungarian poet and liberal revolutionary. He wrote the Nemzeti dal (National Poem), which is said to have inspired the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 that grew into a war for independence from the Austrian Empire.
- Pahinui, for Charles Phillip Kahahawai “Gabby” Pahinui, (1921-1980), a Hawaiian guitar player considered to be one of the most influential slack-key guitar players in the world. His music was a key part of the “Hawaiian Renaissance,” a resurgence of interest in traditional Hawaiian culture during the 1970s.
- Roerich, for Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947), a Russian painter and philosopher who initiated the modern movement for the defense of cultural objects. His most notable achievement was the Roerich Pact of 1935, an international treaty signed by India, the Baltic states, and 22 nations of the Americas (including the United States), affirming that monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational, and cultural institutions and their personnel are to be considered neutral in times of war unless put to military use.
Ray Espiritu, a mission operations engineer on the MESSENGER team, submitted Pahinui’s name for consideration. “I wanted to honor the place where I grew up and still call home even after many years away,” he says. “The Pahinui crater contains a possible volcanic vent, and its name may inspire other scientists as they investigate the volcanic processes that helped to create Mercury, just as investigation of Hawaiian volcanoes helps us understand the volcanic processes that shape the Earth we know today.”
These nine newly named craters join 95 other craters named since the MESSENGER spacecraft’s first Mercury flyby in January 2008.
“We are delighted that the IAU has once again assigned formal names to a new set of craters on Mercury,” adds MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “These names will make it easier to discuss these features in the scientific literature, and they provide a fresh opportunity to honor individuals who have contributed to the cultural richness of our planet.”
More information about the names of features on Mercury and the other objects in the Solar System can be found at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Planetary Nomenclature Web site:http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/index.html.
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and entered orbit about Mercury on March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011 UTC), to begin a yearlong study of its target planet. MESSENGER’s extended mission began on March 18, 2012, and ended one year later. A possible second extended mission is currently under evaluation by NASA. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, the Director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.
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Today I would like to share with you an idea for the International Women’s day on March 8 2013. If you work in an institution, university, or non-profit related to science, have you taken note of the number of women around you? In astronomy and planetary science, it is not too bad even if it is not perfect, but some “hard” science groups, like physics or computer science, clearly have a low proportion of women in their ranks. I will not elaborate on the reasons for such lack of representation; instead , I propose to focus on the bright side.
Yes, there are more and more women in science, some of them even reaching the highest level of responsibility in their field. One of the issues is that women are not as vocal as the men with a similar job. Is that a secondary effect due to years of being the underdog in a field, hence spending your energy fighting against stereotypes and nasty comments? Or it is simply because after getting the recognition of your peers, women enjoy their work and make the best of it? The main issue is that all kids need examples when they grow up, and highlighting woman scientists could help girls think that they can also achieve their dream and become scientists, engineers, astronauts or a successful business woman.
This long preamble brings me to my idea. On Friday March 8, we should make sure that the women in our institutions enjoy a coffee or a lunch together. Let them talk and exchange their thoughts, and take pictures to show the world that there are women in science, and sharing their experience on Twitter (hashtag #WomenOfScience). They are here, not a majority, but they are an important part of scientific work and discussion.