Thursday, 14 January 2016

What is 10 miles across, but powers an explosion brighter than the Milky Way?

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Right now, astronomers are viewing a ball of hot gas billions of light years away that is radiating the energy of hundreds of billions of suns. At its heart is an object a little larger than 10 miles across. And astronomers are not entirely sure what it is. If, as they suspect, the gas ball is the result of a supernova, then it's the most powerful supernova ever seen.
via Science Daily
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Winter therapy for the accelerators

On 12 January, members of the team working on CERN's year-end technical stop prepare to install one of the LHC’s new beam absorbers. The six-metre-long component will be lowered 100 metres into the LHC ring.

When the accelerators are asleep, the technical teams get to work. Since 14 December, no particles have circulated in any part of CERN's accelerator chain, from the particle source to the intermediate rings and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) itself. The annual year-end technical stop provides an opportunity to carry out maintenance work on equipment and repair any damage as well as to upgrade the machines for the upcoming runs. “We started planning this technical stop as early as June 2015,” says Marzia Bernardini, the leader of the team that organises and coordinates the work. “Hundreds of people from all the technical departments were involved over the course of the 12 weeks."

A long list of maintenance work had to be completed along with important upgrades on all the machines and infrastructures. In the Proton Synchrotron (PS), for example, the third link in the chain, two new items of beam instrumentation equipment have been installed. One ring further along, 14 of the 1818 magnets in the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) and its transfer lines to the LHC have been replaced. Since each magnet weighs 16 tonnes, it’s a big job, but one that is performed routinely. The SPS will be 40 this year, and its magnets wear out over time and need to be renovated.

In the LHC, several major operations are under way. Two beam absorbers for injection have been replaced. These huge six-metre-long pieces of equipment are used when the beams are ejected from the SPS and into the LHC: they absorb the SPS beam if a problem occurs, providing vital protection for the LHC. The accelerator’s complex cryogenics system also needs regular maintenance. Two of the LHC’s eight sectors have been emptied of helium, the cooling fluid, to ensure that no losses occur while one of the coldboxes is being repaired. Twelve collimators, on either sides of ATLAS and CMS, have been dismantled ready to be upgraded. These devices protect the machine by absorbing particles that stray from the beam trajectory. Finally, cabling campaigns are continuing throughout the machine: four teams are working in parallel to install 25 km of signal cabling for new equipment and upgrades.

The work affects not only the accelerators but also the experiments, especially the LHC experiments. The collaborations are making the most of the stop to carry out maintenance and upgrades on their detectors, which are made up of millions of components.

The work on the injectors has to be completed by early February and on the LHC and its experiments by early March. The injectors will then be progressively restarted while the LHC magnets are tested, before the arrival of the first beams in the LHC scheduled for the end of March.

via CERN: Updates for the general public

Infrared Portrait of the Large Magellanic Cloud

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Cosmic dust clouds ripple across this infrared portrait of our Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. In fact, the remarkable composite image from the Herschel Space Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope show that dust clouds fill this neighboring dwarf galaxy, much like dust along the plane of the Milky Way itself. The dust temperatures tend to trace star forming activity. Spitzer data in blue hues indicate warm dust heated by young stars. Herschel's instruments contributed the image data shown in red and green, revealing dust emission from cooler and intermediate regions where star formation is just beginning or has stopped. Dominated by dust emission, the Large Magellanic Cloud's infrared appearance is different from views in optical images. But this galaxy's well-known Tarantula Nebula still stands out, easily seen here as the brightest region to the left of center. A mere 160,000 light-years distant, the Large Cloud of Magellan is about 30,000 light-years across.

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A Milky Way twin swept by an ultra-fast X-ray wind

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ESA’s XMM-Newton has found a wind of high-speed gas streaming from the centre of a bright spiral galaxy like our own that may be reducing its ability to produce new stars.

via ESA Space Science

'Green pea' galaxy provides insights to early universe evolution

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Astronomers gain a new understanding of the re-ionization of the universe by studying a nearby dwarf 'green pea' galaxy.
via Science Daily
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