News from the Department (2019)

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December 2019

  • Dr. Cole Miller led one of two teams which mapped the hot spots of the pulsar J0030 by performing simulations using UMD's Deepthought2 supercomputer. To learn more, see the NASA feature.

  • Dr. Eliza Kempton and a team of researchers from the University of Maryland, University of Chicago, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published four papers in the Astrophysical Journal, proposing a new technique for identifying the presence of atmospheres of rocky exoplanets using the James Webb Space Telescope which will launch in 2021. UMD Post-Doctoral Associate Dr. Matej Malik led one of these papers. To learn more, see the NASA feature.

  • Congratulations to Astronomy's Tony Farnham, Mike Kelley, Lori Feaga and Matthew Knight, coauthors of a new paper, "First Results from TESS Observations of Comet 46P/Wirtanen," published recently in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Using data from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the team gained a clear start-to-finish image sequence of an explosive emission of dust, ice and gases during the close approach to Earth of comet 46P/Wirtanen in late 2018. The observations are the most complete and detailed to date of the formation and dissipation of a naturally occurring comet outburst.
    To learn more, check the UMD College of Computer, Mathematical, & Natural Sciences press release..

  • Congratulations to Dr. Quanzhi Ye who led a study of the first recently discovered interstellar comet, 2I/Borisov. To learn more, checkout the article..

October 2019

  • Dr. Michael Kelley will be one of the first scientists to observe a comet using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The telescope will allow Dr. Kelley and his team to uncover the mysteries surrounding the composition of two comets, comet Borrelly, a Jupiter-family comet, and main-belt comet, Read. This study will utilize the power of JWST's near and mid-infrared instruments and will be the first of many comet observations. To learn more, checkout the StScI article..

September 2019

  • Congratulations to Astronomy's Sara Frederick, Suvi Gezari, Bradley Cenko, Charlotte Ward, and former Neil Gehrels Prize Postdoctoral Fellow Erin Kara, who observed six low-ionization nuclear emission-line region (LINER) galaxies suddenly transforming into quasars and displaying a unique type of black hole activity. The study, led by Frederick could shed light on the characteristics of LINERS, Quasars and galactic evolution. To learn more, checkout the CMNS article..

  • Much about the details of how Mar's climate changed to a cold, dessert from an environment that potentially contained running water and life is a mystery. Timothy Livengood and his team's recent study of Oxygen isotope ratios, tracers which can reveal more about Mar's past and how its atmosphere changed, however, may soon change that. To learn more, checkout the NASA feature..

August 2019

  • Congratulations to Astronomy's Eleonora Troja and her colleagues, including Astronomy/JSI's Geoffrey Ryan, Bradley Cenko and Sylvain Veilleux, co-authors of a new research paper, "The afterglow and kilonova of the short GRB 160821B," published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    By reexamining data from the August 2016 Gamma Ray burst (GRB) and comparing it against data from the LIGO kilonova detection in August 2017, the team found that the properties of the GRB matched those of the LIGO observations, confirming that the 2016 event was also a result of two neutron star mergers! To learn more, checkout the CMNS release Astronomers Find a Golden Glow From a Distant Stellar Collision.

  • Congratulations to Astronomy's Suvi Gezari, who has been named Kavli Foundation Plenary Lecturer at the 235th American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her lecture, to be delivered on January 5, 2020, will be titled "Black Holes Snacking on Stars: A Systematic Exploration of Transients in Galaxy Nuclei." Find out more on the CMNS website.

  • A team of astronomers, including our very own Drake Deming collected the first observations of heavy metals, magnesium and iron, escaping the atmosphere of the 'ultra-hot Jupiter' exoplanet, WASP-121b. Due to the exoplanets close proximity to its host star, the planet's upper atmosphere reaches 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit and the star's gravity is nearly pulling the planet apart resulting in WASP-121b's unique egg shape. Find out more on the CMNS website.

  • Predicting the exact beginning and end of our Sun's, on average, 11 year sunspot cycle, has been a big challenge to scientists. A team of researchers including Astronomy's Robert Leamon, however, may be closer to predicting these events by identifying signs of "terminators" and creating simulations of solar tsunamis!
    Find out more on the NCAR & UCAR news site.

July 2019

  • Congratulations to Astronomy's Matthew Knight, co-lead author of a new study, "The Natural History of 'Oumuamua," published in Nature. Matthew and fellow scientists undertook the most comprehensive analysis to date of 'Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system. Early reports of 'Oumuamua's odd characteristics led some to speculate that the object could be an alien spacecraft, sent from a distant civilization to examine our star system. But the new analysis strongly suggests that 'Oumuamua has a purely natural origin. Check out the wide media coverage on this story including the CMNS Website, CNN, Newsweek, Fox News, and more!

  • Congratulations to Professor Derek Richardson who received one of the four Distinguished Scholar-Teacher awards to be given campus-wide. The award honors faculty members who exhibit excellence in scholarship and teaching each year, particularly, it recognizes Richardson's notable role in the DART mission, his success as a mentor, effectiveness in the classroom and contribution to computational astrophysics.

    As part of the honor, Derek Richardson will be giving a presentation on October 23, 2019 at 4:00pm in the PSC Lobby regarding the threats of asteroid impacts and the DART deflection mission. Find out more on the CMNS website.

April 2019

  • Congratulations to Astronomy/JSI's Cole Miller, co-author of a new review article, "The new frontier of gravitational waves," published today in the journal Nature. The article traces a century's worth of research, beginning with the publication of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity in 1915, through the historic first detection of gravitational waves by the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in 2015-and beyond. Co-authored by Nicolás Yunes of Montana State University, the article is part of a series that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the journal, which was first published on November 4, 1869. Checkout the Nature article The new frontier of gravitational waves and the CMNS release The Past, Present and Future of Gravitational Wave Astronomy.

  • Checkout the numerical simulation created by Astronomy's Derek Richardson and graduate student Julian Marohnic which demonstrates how two trans-Neptunian objects merged to become Ultima Thule. Formally known as 2014 MU69, Ultima Thule became a target for observation by New Horizons which revealed two objects seemingly clumped together like a "snowman". To find out more about 2014 MU69 and to view the simulation refer to The New York Times article How Ultima Thule Is Like a Sticky, Pull-Apart Pastry.

February 2019

  • Congratulations to all the UMD and JSSI astronomers who have contributed to the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) project; their efforts have led to a wealth of discoveries including 50 near-earth asteroids, more than 1,100 supernovas, black holes and more and have led to several papers. Checkout the CMNS release Zwicky Transient Facility Spots a Bumper Crop of Supernovae, Black Holes and more to find out more about the survey and the research it has generated.

January 2019

  • Congratulations to Erin Kara and her team whose paper "The Corona Contracts in a New Black Hole Transient," appears as the cover story of this week's issue of Nature (January 11, 2019). In this study, the team of scientists observed the echoes of x-ray waves to map the size and shape of the environment nearby the stellar-mass black hole. To find out more, visit the CMNS website!

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