There has been a transition since the last HEAD newsletter from the term of Christine Jones (2006-2008) as secretary-treasurer to Ann Hornschemeier (2008-2010). The minutes from the last two HEAD Executive Committee sessions (January 2008 and March 2008) are now available on-line at http://www.aas.org/head/
Following a very successful March 31 -April 3 2008 HEAD meeting in Los Angeles, California, the HEAD Executive Committee is working on early planning for the next meeting, which will be held in spring 2010 at a venue yet to be determined. HEAD will wait two years rather than 18 months to meet due to the Fall 2009 GLAST symposium and Ten Years of Chandra meetings.
This year's Rossi prize winners (originally announced in January) will share an invited speaker slot at the upcoming January 2009 AAS meeting in Long Beach, CA. The 2008 prize was won by Steven Allen, J. Patrick Henry, Maxim Markevitch, and Alexey Vikhlinin who share the prize for their pioneering work on the use of x-ray observations to study the physics and evolution of clusters of galaxies, and on the use of clusters as cosmological probes.
We wish to alert all HEAD members to the existence of a new HEAD dissertation prize which will be awarded for the first time at the 2010 HEAD meeting. Please inform your finishing thesis students of this new opportunity (those who have received their degrees within 3 years prior to the HEAD meeting date, in this case spring 2007, are eligible). A detailed announcement with instructions will be sent out during Fall 2009. The deadline will be January 2010 (~3 months prior to the start of the 2010 HEAD meeting). The winner of the prize will receive a certificate, a cash award of $1000, and an invitation to give a 30-minute invited talk at the HEAD Meeting. HEAD will waive the meeting registration fee for the winner and cover up to $1500 of the winner's travel expenses to attend the meeting.
As a reminder please consider nominating your colleagues who have recently had major accomplishments in high energy astrophysics for the Rossi Prize. Nominations are due to the HEAD secretary-treasurer (Ann Hornschemeier) no later than October 15, 2008 ( http://www.aas.org/head/rossi/rossi.prize.html ). Since letters are required as part of the nomination process, we recommend getting an early start on your nominations.
Finally, NASA is migrating to a centralized email and list structure and this motivates us to remind all HEAD members that they must maintain an up-to-date email address with the AAS to ensure that society email (including ballots for elections) reaches them. To change your email address with the AAS please visit http://www.aas.org and follow the member log-in links.
Along similar lines, all of the current NASA high energy email exploders are being migrated to a new centralized NASA list manager. You can subscribe to the new lists via this web interface: http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/heasarc/news.html or via the NASA public lists page: https://lists.nasa.gov/mailman/listinfo/ and clicking on the list to which you would like to subscribe.
Report from NASA HQ
1. Visiting Scientist Appointments
As mentioned in the November 2007 Newsletter, due to the impending departure of several of the Division‚ôs Visiting Scientists (hired through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, hence the designation ‚úIPA‚Ě), applications for IPA positions were solicited from the US science community. Several individuals have been accepted for appointments under this program and their applications are being processed by the NASA HQ personnel office. The first of the anticipated assignments is planned to begin in July 2008; the names of participating scientists will be announced in a subsequent Newsletter.
2.NASA Science Mission Directorate Front Office Personnel Changes
As many of you are aware, there have been a number of changes in the SMD upper management during the past few months. Most notably, the SMD Associate Administrator, Dr. Alan Stern, resigned his post in late March and was replaced by the former SMD AA, Dr. Ed Weiler. Shortly before Stern's departure, Mr. Charles Gay was appointed SMD Deputy Associate Administrator, replacing Dr. Colleen Hartman, who is now serving a 2-year IPA appointment at the George Washington University's Space Policy Center. In addition, Dr. John Mather and Andrew Cheng, who had been serving one-year terms as Chief Scientist and Deputy Chief Scientist recently returned to their home institutions at GSFC and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, respectively. Dr. Paul Hertz returned to his post as SMD Chief Scientist, a position he previously held between 2004-2007. Finally, Mr. Todd May completed his one-year detail as SMD Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs, returning to the Marshall Space Flight Center. Mr. Michael Luther is now serving in this position, a post that he previously occupied.
3. Current NASA Research Announcements and Announcments of Opportunity
There are several open NASA solicitations of interest to the HEA community that have either recently been completed or are nearing selection:
A. Astrophysics Strategic Mission Concept Studies
Cognizant Program Scientist: E. Smith
A total of nineteen ASMCS investigations were selected for funding. The NASA press release announcing the selection may be found at:
http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/feb/HQ_08054_Astro_Concept_Studies.html. The results of these studies are expected in March 2009.
B. Senior Review of Operating Missions
Cognizant Program Scientist: A. Smale
The following Astrophysics Division missions were included in the review: Chandra, Spitzer, GALEX, Gravity Probe-B, INTEGRAL, RXTE, Suzaku, Swift, WMAP, XMM-Newton.
Such a Review is held every two years, and the Division uses its findings to help define an implementation strategy that maximizes the scientific productivity of its MO&DA program within the available (and, this year, very highly-constrained) budget. The current Senior Review was notable for its inclusion, for the first time, of the Great Observatories Chandra and Spitzer, and a data analysis project, Gravity Probe-B. A panel of fifteen scientists reviewed written proposals and oral presentations from the participating missions, and after considerable in-depth discussion ranked their scientific merit per dollar as follows: (1) Swift, (2) Chandra, (3) GALEX, (4) Suzaku, (5) Warm Spitzer, (6) WMAP, (7) XMM-Newton, (8) INTEGRAL, (9) RXTE, (10) Gravity Probe-B. The Senior Review Panel's final report was publicly released on May 14 and may be viewed at http://nasascience.nasa.gov/astrophysics/mission_list . At the time of writing the Astrophysics's Division‚s budgetary response to this report was still embargoed, but can be expected to closely follow the Panel's recommendations.
Cognizant Program Scientist: H. Hasan
Selection target date: May 2008
Cognizant Program Scientist: W. Sanders
Peer Review: June 2008
Selection planned for August/September 2008
E. Astrophysics Division Archival Review
Cognizant Program Scientist: D. Hudgins
Peer Review: June 17-19, 2008
Selection planned for July/August 2008
Back to Top
3. HEAD in the News - Megan Watzke
During this half year, there were many high-energy astrophysics results that received significant press coverage. From Chandra, the "death star" galaxy (3C321) that was featured in a NASA press conference on December 17th was in scores of newspapers, online outlets, and TV broadcasts. Likewise, the discovery of the "smallest black hole"
(XTE J1650-500) was the subject of a phone-in press conference during the HEAD meeting in Los Angeles. This story was a huge newsmaker and received coverage around the globe.
Here is a list of other notable press releases from Chandra, Swift, RXTE and other HEAD missions during the past six months.
- "Intergalactic "Shot in Dark" Shocks Astronomers" ,
December 18, 2007
This press release described a high-redshift GRB detected by Swift whose host galaxy was invisible even to the powerful eyes of Gemini, Keck, and HST.
- "Vast Cloud of Antimatter Traced to Binary Stars",
January 9, 2008
This press release described Integral's map of the 511-keV line near the galactic center, showing how a vast cloud of antimatter features an asymmetry that matches the asymmetry of X-ray binaries. This apparent alignment suggests that X-ray binaries produce the positrons responsible for the cloud.
- "Jet Power and Black Hole Assortment Revealed in New Chandra Image",
January 9, 2008
The result, featuring a new deep Chandra observation of Centaurus A, was presented during a press conference at the AAS in Austin.
- Chandra Data Reveal Rapidly Whirling Black Holes" ,
January 10, 2008
Also presented to the media during a press conference in Austin by Rodrigo Nemmen, this result described evidence for rapidly spinning supermassive black holes.
- "NASA's Swift Satellite Catches a Galaxy Ablaze with Starbirth",
February 26, 2008
This image release features the Swift ultraviolet mosaic of spiral galaxy M33. This is the highest-resolution ultraviolet image of an entire galaxy ever taken.
- "NASA Satellite Detects Record Gamma Ray Explosion Halfway Across Universe ",
March 20, 2008
This press release describes the remarkable GRB 080319B, whose optical afterglow briefly reached naked-eye visibility despite a redshift of nearly 1.
- "Action Replay of Powerful Stellar Explosion",
March 20, 2008
This press release discussed how researchers used Chandra and XMM-Newton to study the supernova remnant SNR 0509-67.5 while another team used Gemini to look at light echoes from the original explosion. The combined result gave independent but corroborative values for the supernova's energy.
- "Oldest Known Objects May Be Surprisingly Immature" ,
April 28, 2008
In this study, researchers used Chandra to show that some globular clusters may be earlier in the evolution than was previously thought.
Back to Top
4. Chandra X-ray Observatory Operations Report
- Roger Brissenden (SAO) and Martin Weisskopf (MSFC)
The Chandra spacecraft and science instruments have continued to operate superbly during the last 6 months. Both focal plane cameras ACIS and HRC are operating nominally. The ACIS CCDs' charge transfer inefficiency continuing to increase at a predicted and acceptable rate. The contamination on the ACIS Optical Blocking Filter, which decreases the instrument's low-energy sensitivity, continues to accumulate but the impacts are decreasing with time. Following extensive testing, the ACIS detector housing heater was permanently turned off in April 2008 to provide added temperature margin for cooling the ACIS focal plane.
The processing, archiving and distribution of Chandra data has now an average time from completion of an observation to distribution of data products about one day. Following the third major reprocessing of all Chandra data, which was completed in the summer of 2007, several specific datasets have been reprocessed again during the current period, using the most recent calibrations and software enhancements.
The Chandra Press Office regularly produces press and image releases on the latest newsworthy results from the mission (see http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/ ). The popular Chandra podcasts now include segments in High Definition. A new section on the Chandra public web site features blogs by scientists actively involved in using Chandra (see http://chandra.harvard.edu/blog/ ).
The Cycle 10 Call for Proposals was released in December, 2007 together with an updated Proposers' Observatory Guide. By the March 2008 deadline, scientists from 21 nations had submitted a total of 644 proposals, including 546 observing proposals requesting 89.2 Msec of Chandra time (competing for about 16.5 Msec of time to be allotted by the Peer Review), as well as 57 proposals requesting funding for research using data in the Chandra archive and 41 proposals for funding work in astrophysical theory. The Peer Review will be held in June, and Cycle 10 observations will begin in November 2008.
Chandra Fellowships continue to be in high demand with 99 applications this Cycle for 5 positions. The new Fellows will be hosted at the University of Michigan, Cal Tech, University of California at Berkeley, University of Hawaii and Stanford University.
The Chandra X-ray Center will host a science workshop on Radio Galaxies in the Chandra Era on 8-11 July 2008 in Cambridge, Massachusetts (see http://cxc.harvard.edu/radiogals08/ ). The symposium 10 Years of Science with Chandra is planned for fall of 2009.
Back to Top
5. XMM-Newton Mission News
- Lynne Valencic (GSFC), Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State) and Chip McAuley (Sonoma State)
The US XMM-Newton Guest Observer Facility (GOF) just completed the 2008 NASA Senior Review, which examined the mission's successes in the past two years and continued funding through 2012. Despite the fact that the satellite itself is in good health, with all instruments operating normally, and a vast amount of meaningful science being done with XMM data by American scientists, the results were extremely disappointing. We believe that Guest Observer funding for FY09 will continue within guidelines, but
pending any possible changes in NASA budgets, there will be no GO funding for FY10. While the intent of the panel is not completely clear, it did not specifically recommend eliminating GO funding. However, due to XMM‚ôs relatively low ranking in the Senior Review, and the fiscal constraints the Division and the MO&DA program are facing, they were unable to recommend maintaining the XMM GO funding at its current level.
The scientific report to the Senior Review is available at
Recent notable accomplishments include the release in August 2007 of the XMM Serendipitous Source Catalog (Second Version), or 2XMM, which contains 247,000 detections (192,000 unique sources) drawn from 3491 XMM-Newton EPIC observations that were public by May 1st 2007 and covers a sky area of 330 square degrees. It is the largest X-ray source catalog ever produced, containing almost twice as many discrete sources as either the ROSAT survey or pointed catalogs. The catalog includes the positions and fluxes in 5 narrow energy bands, plus an additional 4 broad bands. This catalog should be useful to XMM-Newton observers who are planning new observing proposals.
The latest version of the Science Analysis System (SAS), 7.1.2, was released in February 2008. In addition to patching several bugs in v. 7.1.0, it implements a few changes, the largest of which is a change in the default parameter settings of the basic EPIC pipeline tasks; this requires that the CCF be updated. Users of the SAS are reminded to double-check their CCF directory when updating their version of SAS to avoid potential problems. The US XMM GOF has recently released a new version of the ABC Guide to go along with the new version of SAS. It is available in html, pdf, and ps formats at http://xmm.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/xmm/abc/ .
The results of the AO7 Budget Process are expected in May/June 2008, and the anticipated dates for the AO8 XMM-Newton proposals have been announced. The announcement of opportunity is expected to be released on August 26, 2008, with a due date of October 10, 2008 at 12:00 UT.
The XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre has organized a meeting for May 27-30, 2008, in Granada, Spain, entitled "The X-Ray Universe 2008". A broad range of topics in high energy astrophysics will be covered, and results from Chandra, Suzaku, and XMM-Newton, as well as other current missions, will be highlighted.
For more information about XMM-Newton, please visit the US Guest Observer Facility pages at http://xmm.gsfc.nasa.gov/ .
A recently completed SSU E/PO project is the Supernova Educator Unit, which was developed with support from both the GLAST and XMM-Newton missions. This preparation includes a 50-page comprehensive educator guide, expansion animations, supernova matching game cards and plenty of additional visuals to engage students. The project has been sent to NASA product review and the external evaluators at West Ed. The Supernova Educator Unit is highly anticipated by NASA Educator Ambassadors and received an enthusiastic response from field testers. The accompanying educational wallsheet contains an original illustration of a supernova in optical, x-ray and gamma-ray, by SSU E/PO scientific illustrator Aurore Simonnet. Download these materials from:
XMM-Newton E/PO also contributed to the development of the SUPERNOVA! Toolkit for amateur astronomers in the Night Sky Network. See the Swift E/PO section for more details.
Back to Top
6. INTEGRAL Mission News
Peter Kretschmar (ESA-ESAC), Christoph Winkler (ESA-ESTEC) and Steve Sturner (GSFC)
INTEGRAL participated in the 2008 NASA Senior Review. In their report, the Senior Review Committee recognized the unique capabilities of INTEGRAL in the hard X-ray and soft gamma-ray regime as well as its important synergy with the upcoming GLAST mission. As a result, the committee recommended continuing NASA funding for
INTEGRAL through FY10.
INTEGRAL continues to operate smoothly. In November 2007 ESA's Science Programme Committee approved the extension of the mission until 31 December 2012. All instruments are performing well; the 11th SPI annealing was performed in January 2008 resulting in a very good recovery of the energy resolution.
Proposals received for INTEGRAL Key Programme observations in the 6th observing cycle (mid August 2008 to 2009) were peer reviewed in December 2007/ January 2008. Six proposals wered recommended by the TAC and approved by the ESA Director of Science, each for 2000 ksec:
- Confirming the asymmetry of the positron annihilation radiation
- Deep observations of 47 Tuc and the SMC
- Giant flares from magnetars in the Virgo cluster
- Observations of the central molecular zone
- The ultra-deep INTEGRAL legacy hard X-ray survey
- Nucleosynthesis and anti-matter annihilation in Cygnus X
The Announcement of Opportunity AO-6 for INTEGRAL (standard) open time observing proposals and for proposals on targets associated with the above six Key Programmes, opened on 10 March as scheduled. By the deadline on 18 April 2008 ISOC received 179 proposals, including 118 to be associated with targets contained in the 6 Key Programme observations. The oversubscription for the remaining 61 open time proposals requesting observing time is 5.5.
Some of the recent scientific highlights are:
- Discovery of an asymmetric distribution of positron annihilation in
the Galactic disk.
- Non-thermal hard X-ray emission from eta Car and from the Ophiuchus
- The keV-MeV spectrum of the galactic diffuse continuum emission.
- A new model to explain fast outburst mechanisms for SFXT.
- Pulse-phase resolved spectroscopy of Her X-1.
- Confirmation of OB super-giants as companion stars in the
INTEGRAL-discovered population of obscured high mass X-ray binaries.
The total number of refereed publications using INTEGRAL scientific data since launch is 334, with 10 refereed papers during 2008.
The 7th INTEGRAL Workshop: An INTEGRAL View of Compact Objects will take place from 8 to 11 September in Copenhagen, Denmark ( http://www.space.dtu.dk/integral08/
Back to Top
7. RHESSI Mission News - David Smith (UCSC)
The Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) annealed its germanium gamma-ray detectors for the first time in November 2007. The effective area and spectroscopic resolution of the detectors were significantly improved, although they are far from "good as new." New data on solar flares, cosmic gamma-ray bursts, and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes continue to arrive and bring new insights. Details of the anneal results can be found at the RHESSI "Nuggets" page:
Readers interested in recent developments and ideas in high-energy solar physics are encouraged to tour the other Nuggets.
Back to Top
8. Swift Mission News - by Robert Naeye (GSFC), Padi Boyd (GSFC), Neil Gehrels (GSFC), Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma), and Chip McAuley (Sonoma)
The NASA Senior Review Committee (SRC) rated Swift as the number 1 mission in its ranking (science per dollar) of 10 space missions devoted to physics and astronomy (the survey did not include HST). The SRC concluded, "Swift has been an extraordinarily successful mission covering a wide variety of scientific topics and promised to be a central component of NASA's high energy astrophysics program for a number of years."
As of April 30, 2008, Swift has observed 317 gamma-ray bursts, including 27 short GRBs. It has performed 537 slews for non-GRB targets of opportunity.
On March 19, Swift detected four GRBs in one day, a mission record. One of these bursts, GRB 080319B, grabbed headlines around the world as the first "naked-eye" GRB. Ground-based telescopes recorded the rise of the optical emission to about magnitude 5.5, a remarkable feat given the object's measured redshift of 0.937.
Brad Cenko of Caltech and Derek Fox of Penn State, with their collaborators, analyzed a GRB that flared up on January 25, 2007. Follow-up observations with the 8-meter Gemini Telescope and 10-meter Keck Telescope revealed no hint of a host galaxy. Cenko and Fox suggest that this intergalactic "shot in the dark" may have occurred in the tidal tail of two interacting galaxies.
An important finding about supernovae came from a serendipitous X-ray Telescope observation of SN 2008D. Alicia Soderberg of Princeton and her collaborators detected a bright X-ray outburst on January 9, 2008, prior to the supernova optical display. The team interprets this X-ray outburst as shock breakout emission. It may be that all or most core-collapse supernovae have such an X-ray pulse.
In late October 2007, Swift began a new BAT Slew Survey. This new mode, developed by Josh Grindlay and Antonio Copete, enables the BAT to observe GRBs, transients, and known sources as the spacecraft slews from one object to another.
The first 9 months of the Swift BAT hard X-ray Survey has been published in ApJ. A paper with the 22-month results is in the final stages of preparation. The 9-month survey sources are now easily accessible to the public on GoogleSky and complete information is available at http://swift.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/swift/results/bs9mon/ . The all-sky hard X-ray images can be accessed from SkyView.
Guest Investigator Program Update
Cycle 4 of the Swift Guest Investigator (GI) program is underway. In late January, a committee reviewed the 145 proposals submitted in response to the ROSES-2007 AO. In addition to the GRB-related proposals that have been solicited since Cycle 1, the Swift project awarded limited observatory time for non-GRB targets. The non-GRB observatory time was oversubscribed by greater than a factor of four.
The Swift GI program will continue to solicit proposals in GRB and non-GRB research in Cycle 5. We expect that a greater fraction of observatory time will be available for non-GRB observations, based on the successful scheduling and science operations put in place for Cycle 4. The Cycle 5 deadline will be in mid-October 2008.
A November 5-9 GRB meeting in Santa Fe featured many papers devoted to Swift. A special session on non-GRB Swift science was held March 31 at the HEAD meeting in Los Angeles.
Supernova Toolkit: We recently completed another major product that supports Swift, XMM-Newton, GLAST, and Suzaku. The SUPERNOVA! Toolkit is a collection of hands-on exercises and demonstrations produced by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The toolkits will be used outside the classroom in informal venues such as astronomy clubs that are members of the Night Sky Network. Simple activities in the toolkit will help participants learn about supernovae, the origin of heavy elements, and how supernovae produce X-rays and gamma rays. The Supernova Toolkit aims to give nonscientists the tools they need to become educated astrophysics enthusiasts.
During the past six months we distributed the Swift Newton's Law posters at many educational venues, including the Santa Fe Gamma-ray Burst Meeting, the California Science Teacher's Association annual meeting, and the National Science Teacher's Association regional and national meetings.
Back to Top
9. RXTE News - Padi Boyd (GSFC), Gail Rohrbach (GSFC), Tod Strohmayer(GSFC) and Jean Swank (GSFC)
The Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) celebrated its 12th launch
anniversary this past December, it continues to ably serve the
astrophysics community, and to produce important scientific results,
some of the most recent of which are highlighted below. Cycle 12
observations have been underway since June 29, 2007.
The RXTE proposal to the Astrophysics Division 2008 Senior Review of
Operating Missions hoped to maintain access to RXTE's unique
capabilities of large collecting area, broad bandpass and high time
resolution for an additional two years to overlap with anticipated new
missions (especially GLAST), to follow up recent discoveries, and to
continue productive joint observing programs with currently operating
missions such as Chandra, Swift, INTEGRAL, XMM-Newton and Suzaku and
ground observatories accross the spectrum from radio to TeV. However,
it has been announced that the Division does not have the funds to
support such an extension. In the current guidelines, RXTE observations
must be completed for a turn off February 27, 2009.
The RXTE team is working on whether a more modest extension of
operations would be possible. If you are interested in helping with
this, please contact project scientist Jean Swank
, deputy project scientist Tod Strohmayer
John Tomsick , who recently
replaced Fred Lamb as the chair of the RXTE User's Group
Several recent RXTE results have been featured prominently in the
news. Nikolai Shaposhnikov (CRESST/GSFC) and Lev Titarchuk (GMU/NRL)
have recently used RXTE measurements of quasi-periodic oscillations
(QPO) and X-ray spectral index to determine the masses of several
Galactic black holes. They have calibrated the method using the
dynamically determined masses of GRO J1655-40 and GRS
1915+105. Applied to XTE J1650-500, they obtained a mass estimate of
3.8 +- 0.5 Solar masses, within the system's dynamically determined range, and
indicating that XTE J1650-500 may be the smallest black hole
known. This result was a featured press event at the recent HEAD
meeting in Los Angeles, and became a media sensation, appearing in USA
Today and on websites spanning the globe. The NASA press release
can be found at:
Fotis Gavriil (UMBC/CRESST/GSFC) and collaborators recently shed new
light on the behavior of highly magnetized neutron stars, "magnetars,"
by finding the first example of magnetar-like behavior in a
rotation-powered pulsar. They found magnetar-like X-ray bursts and a
pulsed flux flare lasting weeks from PSR J1846-0258, the young pulsar
in the supernova remnant Kes 75. This pulsar has a relatively high
inferred magnetic field but in all other respects had appeared as a
"normal" pulsar. This is the first time such as object has ever been
seen to "morph" into a magnetar, and suggests J1846-0258 may be a kind
of "missing link" between different types of pulsars. The press
release and link to their Science paper can be found at:
Most recently, Diego Altamirano (University of Amsterdam) and
colleagues have identifed a new way of predicting the occurrence of
thermonuclear X-ray bursts on some accreting neutron stars. They
observed mHz QPOs from the low mass X-ray binary 4U 1636-53.
These QPOs occur in a narrow range of accretion rates where nuclear
burning is "marginally stable." Each time the mHz QPO frequency
drifted down from about 10 mHz to 8 mHz an X-ray burst followed, and
the mHz QPOs switched off. This is the first time that the separation
between unstable and marginally stable nuclear burning has been seen
directly. The press release and results, which appeared in ApJ and in
Diego's recent PhD thesis, are available at:
Guest Observer Facility (GOF) Update: New RXTE "Mission-Long" Data Products
The RXTE GOF has begun generating Mission-Long Data Products based on
the standard data products (StdProds) from the PCA and HEXTE, for over
200 sources that have been observed many times with RXTE during its
mission. These products combine all "good" RXTE observations for a
given source, over the lifetime of the RXTE mission.
The mission-long data products are intended to give a researcher an idea
of how much, and what quality of, data are available in the RXTE public
archive for their sources of interest. For more information, see
Back to Top
10. Suzaku Mission News - Koji Mukai (GSFC)
Suzaku Cycle 2 Guest Observer (GO) observations are now complete, including
over 60% of approved priority C targets, as well as A and B targets. With
the exception of a couple of brief episodes when XIS data were affected by
on-board processing problems, both the XIS and the HXD continue to function
well. We have been routinely processing Suzaku data using Version 2 pipeline.
We recommend all users to refer to the fully revised "ABC Guide" (released
in December 2007), because of several significant differences in Version 2
and earlier processing of data.
Suzaku is now observing Cycle 3 GO targets, selected from among 120 proposals
submitted to NASA (3.5 oversubscription on time) and similarly competitive
reviews in Japan and in Europe. We introduced a new category of "Long Program"
(LP) proposals for which 1 Ms each was reserved in Japan and in the US. NASA
received 9 LP proposals, from which repeated observations of NGC 3227, a long
observation of NGC 4051, and a deep observation of Tycho supernova remnant
Suzaku calibration continues to improve. Most importantly, the HXD team has
released the GSO background files for V2 processed data, with an estimated
systematic uncertainty of ~1%. The calibration of the time-dependent gain
and resolution of the XIS have also been updated. Additional releases are
planned in the near future, so please consult the Suzaku web pages at
NASA/GSFC or at ISAS/JAXA for the most up-to-date details.
The Suzaku X-ray Universe conference, held in San Diego was a big success.
Most of the oral presentations are available in PDF format at:
A third conference focusing on Suzaku results is in early planning stage,
probably to be held in Spring 2009, in Japan.
The Publications of Astronomical Society of Japan (PASJ) published a second
special issue dedicated to Suzaku results in February, 2008, containing 35
papers and is available free of charge at http://pasj.asj.or.jp/ . Suzaku
papers are also appearing in other refereed journals at an increased rate.
PASJ is planning another special issue in late 2008 or early 2009. All
Suzaku-based papers are welcome, regardless of the nationality of the lead
author. Papers must be accepted by the end of October to be included, so
they should be submitted (with a note saying it is intended for the Suzaku
special issue) by the end of July. These special issues are benefitial to
the mission and to individual authors by raising the visibility of both.
In addition, the publication fees are 50% off for all papers submitted to
PASJ during calendar 2008.
Suzaku received a favorable rating in the recent senior review (4th
among 10 missions reviewed). As of this writing, the full budgetary
implications are not known.
The Suzaku EPO Team has collaborated with the Astronomical Society of the
Pacific and the NASA EPO team at Sonoma State University, has produced
the latest Night Sky Network Toolkit, Supernova! It is filled with
activities about stellar explosions and production of the elements,
and will be distributed to more than 200 amateur astronomy clubs across
the country, to be used in their education and outreach efforts.
We also continue to publish the Suzaku News You Can Use, a newsletter for
Back to Top
11. GLAST Mission News - Robert Naeye (GSFC), Steve Ritz (GSFC), Chris Shrader (GSFC), Dave Thompson (GSFC), Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State), and Chip McAuley (Sonoma State)
In late February the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) completed its final round of environmental testing at the Naval Research Laboratory. It arrived via truck at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on March 4. As this issue went to press, the Delta 2 rocket was in final preparations for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station, with the GLAST observatory mated and undergoing final checks. Launch and operations rehearsals are ongoing. The current launch readiness date is June 3, but please check http://www.nasa.gov/glast for launch status updates. The timeline for the first year of operations is shown at http://glast.gsfc.nasa.gov/science/GLAST_Yr1_Timeline.pdf .
The GLAST Science Support Center recently organized the second beta test of the GLAST science analysis software. Participants include the GLAST Users Group and a targeted a group of radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray astronomers from outside the GLAST project. The objective of the test is to assess the usability, functionality, and performance of the science tools, The first full software release will be mid-way through mission Cycle 1, well in advance of when they are needed in Cycle 2. The Users Group web page is http://glast.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/resources/gug/ .
The Guest Investigator Cycle 1 Program is nearly implemented. The scientific peer review, leading to the selection of 43 Guest Investigations, was completed in December 2007. The stage-II (budget) Peer Review is almost complete, and the funding of the selected Guest Investigations is expected to start a few months after launch.
We are pleased to announce that three scientists have been selected as the first GLAST Fellows: Nat Butler, who will work at the University of California, Berkeley; Uri Keshet, who will work at Harvard University; and Vasiliki Pavlidou, who will work at Caltech.
To optimize mission planning, the GLAST Science Support Center (GSSC) maintains a web page ( http://glast.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/resources/multi/reporting/ ) on which observers in other wavelengths can report planned observations of potential gamma-ray sources. This information can help the Project Scientist manage various demands on the observatory. A calibration or Target of Opportunity might be postponed, for example, if such an operation would conflict with a planned multiwavelength campaign. Entries on this page can be marked as proprietary, so that the information would be available only to the Project Scientist and his deputies.
There was a special GLAST users workshop at the recent HEAD meeting in Los Angeles. The team thanks everyone who participated.
GLAST Launch Materials: The Sonoma State University NASA E/PO group is actively preparing materials to support the GLAST launch. The upcoming launch has mobilized our group to create an array of engaging and fun education materials. Team members have contributed to the following related projects: the GLAST Litho (one page, describing mission science and student activities), a GLAST Fact Sheet (a four-page color brochure to be distributed at the launch), and an updated GLAST Science Writer's Guide (the ultimate media guide to GLAST and gamma-ray astronomy), which can be found at: at http://www.nasa.gov/glast . We also distributed many GLAST-related items at the recent HEAD meeting.
The GLAST Satellite Renaming Suggestion Box attracted 12,000 entries. Members of the Sonoma State E/PO Group put their heads together and suggested the best names to the NASA naming committee. NASA will announce the spacecraft's new name once it has been successfully deployed in orbit.
The GLAST mission is featured as the cover story in the June 2008 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine. Robert Naeye of NASA Goddard authored the article. A feature article about GLAST, written by William Atwood, Peter Michelson, and Steve Ritz, appears in the December 2007 issue of Scientific American.
Back to Top
12. NUSTAR - Daniel Stern (JPL) and Fiona Harrison (Caltech)
Our last Mission Update (November 2007) announced the revival of NuSTAR,
the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX)
mission which will do targeted observations in the 6 to 80 keV hard
X-ray window. As the first focusing hard X-ray telescope on-orbit, NuSTAR
will have more than 100 times the sensitivity of any previous
mission at these energies. NuSTAR will provide capabilities for
uncovering obscured black holes, studying the physics of active galaxies,
tracing the birth of metals in supernova explosions, and studying stellar
remnants in the Galaxy. NuSTAR is scheduled for launch in August 2011.
As of January 30, 2008, NuSTAR has been approved to proceed to Phase B.
Though typically this phase is Mission Definition, the accelerated pace
of a SMEX mission means that we are also currently prototyping hardware.
The current NuSTAR payload has been configured with two telescopes. Each telescope
will consist of a 130-shell multilayer coated mirror focusing on shielded solid state focal
plane detector. The current best estimate for the image resolution is
40" half power diameter. Response files updated to reflect the current configuration
will be made available on PIMMS in the next few months.
NuSTAR had a special session during the recent HEAD meeting in Los
Angeles, during which science plans for the two year baseline mission
For more information about the NuSTAR mission, visit
Back to Top
13. Constellation-X News - Michael Garcia (SAO)
Since the last Con-X Update the team has continued to focus upon the upcoming astrophysics decadal survey. A major part of our preparation has been to restructure the Facility Science Team (FST) Science Panels, and to update the membership of the FST itself. The chair of each panel is a member of the FST, and each panel gives input on overall mission science focus, technical approaches, and trades. There are now 14 panels, with more than 120 members from more than 55 separate institutions and 14 countries (see http://conx.gsfc.nasa.gov/mission/fst/panels.html ). The large number of members, institutions, and countries testifies to the breath and depth of science that Con-X will enable.
The FST meeting held in Boulder CO this February was the first meeting attended by these restructured panels. The project and instrument development teams reported status and progress, and then each of the 14 panels presented the cutting edge science that Con-X will enable in their particular area. These presentations are on the web on the main
http://constellation.gsfc.nasa.gov page - look under 'announcements'. A very wide range of astrophysics is covered in these presentations, and the subject of your next lunch talk or symposium presentation may be included
The President's budget request for FY09 continues Con-X at approximately same level as FY08. This is sufficient to support some technology development, which is being focused on 'tall poles' of the mission - mainly the optics. Recently optics team had a very
successful x-ray test of an aligned paraboloid/hyperboloid pair in the x-ray beam at GSFC. The pair was measured to have a half-power diameter PSF of 14.7 arc-sec at 8 keV. See the on-line 'Con-X Observer' for a nice image of the x-ray test, and additional details (click the RESOURCES button). This result makes it all but certain that directly slumped glass segments will meet the 15'' requirement without having to undergo an additional 'epoxy replication' step, therefore reducing both the time and cost required to build the telescope.
The GSFC mirror fabrication lab has been undergoing a major renovation in order to gear up for production of the NuSTAR mirrors segments and for an improved environment for Con-X optics development.. This should serve as a test-bed for the production of Con-X mirrors, as the basic design - a series of mirror segments which are assembled into a full annular mirror.
Good progress has been made on the detector front as well. The calorimeter group has achieved 2.3 eV resolution on an array which has the baseline Con-X pixel size. The resolution was uniformly good in all in the pixels checked, indicating that flight devices can be made with very uniform (and good) resolution. This resolution exceeds the energy resolution requirements for the mission, but does not include the small amount (~0.1 eV) will be introduced by the flight multiplexing readout. Great progress has been made on the multiplexing front as well. A 2x8 array of pixels with a flight-like decay time constant of 280 usec has been read out with an average energy resolution of 3 eV. It is encouraging that the noise characteristics match the model for the intrinsic pixel and readout contributions. This indicates we are on the right path to meeting the requirements to multiplex 32 pixels per column with 2.5 eV resolution.
Devices which use a single thermistor to read out 4 pixels ('hydras')
have been manufactured and tested to yield 6 eV energy resolution. These devices offer a very promising path to extending the FOV to 5' and beyond.
We invite you to the next meeting of the Con-X FST, which will be at GSFC on Aug 20/21/22. The 14 Science Panels will be presenting their updates of the science case for the decadal at this meeting. There will be a BBQ, beer and wine included, on Thursday night. Please see the Con-X web site for meeting details. Note that it takes 1+ month
for non-US citizens to obtain a pass to get into GSFC, so please sign up early if you would like to attend.
Back to Top
14. LISA News - Bonny Schumaker (JPL)
Some of the areas in which LISA has seen significant recent progress include science data analysis, technology, cost estimation, and understanding of the trades among mission design, science return, cost, and ESA/NASA roles and responsibilities.
Improved techniques have been implemented for estimating parameters of LISA sources - both intrinsic (mass, spin) and extrinsic (luminosity distance, sky position). The accuracy of extrinsic parameters is very sensitive to features of mission design - instrument noise levels, lifetime, number of operational inter-spacecraft links; while intrinsic parameters are more robust (see, e.g., R. N. Lang and S. A. Hughes, Phys. Rev D 74, 122001 ). This has clarified quantitatively the science return for the primary source categories - massive black hole binaries (MBHBs), extreme-mass-ratio inspirals (EMRIs), and ultra-compact Galactic binaries. For example, the baseline LISA mission can expect to estimate luminosity distance to better than 10% for ~50 MBHB mergers and ~3,000 compact binaries, determine sky location to better than 10 square degrees for ~15 MBHB mergers and ~3,000 compact binaries, and observe more than 250 EMRI events with signal-to-noise greater than 30.
Three "mock LISA data challenges" have now been completed, and a fourth has just been issued to the general science community. The first three have succeeded in demonstrating ability to deal with the Galactic foreground, as well as the first accurate recovery and parameter estimation of EMRI signals (albeit bright ones). The fourth challenge, calling for solutions by December 2008, uses more realistic source and noise models, including new sources such as cosmic string cusps, and it requires distinguishing source from noise signals in the presence of unknown source waveforms such as various cosmological backgrounds. Full details and references can be found at the MLDC official site, "http://astrogravs.nasa.gov/docs/mldc
Flight hardware for the ESA/NASA LISA Pathfinder mission, which will demonstrate key LISA technologies, is being assembled for launch in 2010. Life tests of the microNewton thrusters are underway in Europe and the US and have yielded important insights into possible failure mechanisms and their avoidance.
Significant advances have been made in the validation of LISA's phase measurement system. Successful cancellation of laser frequency noise and clock noise have now been demonstrated, in a laboratory interferometer designed to create representative electrical signals. A spaceflight representative implementation of the phasemeter is being developed. Optical detectors have been demonstrated that meet LISA's performance specifications for both noise and bandwidth. The end-to-end impact of laser frequency noise on LISA's interferometric measurements has been tested with a hardware-in-the-loop simulation using the phasemeter, models of the LISA orbits, and post-processing of signals, in addition to stand-alone simulations of "arm-locking," a technique that uses the constellation arms as a reference to relax requirements on the degree of laser frequency stabilization. The fidelity of the LISA optical bench and telescope designs has advanced considerably in the last eighteen months, with full optical prescriptions and detailed mechanical implementation concepts. These designs have allowed better estimates of scattered light impacts and manufacturing tolerances.
The LISA Project undertook a detailed bottoms-up cost estimate of the mission, both for ESA and NASA contributions, which it completed in January of this year. In support of these costing efforts, a schedule was agreed on between NASA and ESA which gave synchronized critical review dates and work in the later pre-launch phases, with an assumed launch in Dec 2018. Several different possible scenarios for the division of roles and responsibilities between ESA and NASA were also considered and costed.
Information from these cost estimates, combined with the higher-fidelity assessments of science return as a function of mission design and operating scenarios, is being used to define a trade space among science return, mission cost, and mission design. Potential cost savings are being identified, and candidate changes to the baseline design evaluated for their effects on science return
Back to Top
Meetings of potential interest to HEAD members are listed here.
To have a meeting listed here, please send relevant information to
the HEAD Secretary-Treasurer.
Also listed on this page is the annual HEAD
schedule. This is of interest to current and potential HEAD officers.
Seventh International LISA symposium, Barcelona, Spain
June 16-20, 2008.
Merging black holes in galaxies
Medlow Bath, Australia,
June 15-20, 2008.
"2008 Nanjing GRB Conference", Nanjing, China, 23-27 June, 2008
More than three years of intense observational campaigns led
by the Swift mission have greatly advanced our understanding
of the origin of Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs). On the other hand,
these observations bring more puzzles that challenge the
traditional theorical frameworks. This meeting intends to bring
together observers and theorists in the GRB field, to
summarize the current multi-wavelength observational constraints
and to discuss various theoretical models to interpret the data.
There will be a special session discussing the latest
"naked-eye" burst GRB 080319B. The meeting will take place
in Nanjing, China.
Meeting website: http://grb2008.nju.edu.cn/
37th COSPAR Scientific Assembly
Montreal, Canada , 13-20 July 2008
Two-day Session: Probing Strong Gravity and Dense Matter with X-rays
The X-ray/hard X-ray emission from matter accreting onto compact stars (neutron stars, stellar-mass black holes, supermassive black holes) varies on the dynamical timescales of the strong field region and shows imprints of the relativistic nature of the central object, e.g. relativistically smeared iron line, high-frequency quasi-periodic X-ray oscillations. Thus accretion powered X-rays offer a unique tool to study strong gravity. Similarly, the X-rays generated at the surface of cooling and/or rapidly rotating neutron stars constrain their masses and radii, offering a tool to investigate the physical state of matter at supra-nuclear density. The scope of the two day COSPAR session is to review the recent breakthroughs in strong gravity and dense matter achieved with X-ray data from operating satellites (e.g. Rossi, Newton, Chandra, Suzaku), and discuss innovative ideas for follow-up instruments beyond existing ones.
Astrophysical Studies of Neutron Stars from Multiwavelengths Observations, COSPAR Scientific Event E11
July 17-19, 2009
Main Scientific Organizer: Victoria Kaspi, McGill U.
Deputy Organizer: Biswajit Paul, Raman Research Institute
Recently, we have seen tremendous progress in neutron star research, primarily enabled by multi-wavelength observations. Along with ground-based radio, optical and infra-red telescopes, an array of X-ray and Gamma ray observatories -- such as RXTE, INTEGRAL, Chandra, XMM-Newton and SWIFT -- has opened a new era of multi-wavelength investigations, which offer the opportunity to investigate a wide range of astrophysical problems including the extremes of gravity, density and magnetic field. At the COSPAR assembly in Montreal, we will bring together researchers from
diverse fields and gauge the direction of future neutron star research with existing and coming observatories, such as GLAST and ASTROSAT.
The Onassis Foundation Science Lecture Series 2008 in physics
COSMOLOGY: AN ASTROPHYSICAL PERSPECTIVE
June 30 - July 4, 2008
I would like to inform you that this year's Onassis Summer School in Physics is devoted to: ‚úCOSMOLOGY: AN ASTROPHYSICAL PERSPECTIVE‚Ě. Lecturers are: John Mather (NASA, Nobel Prize 2006 in Physics), Tom Abel (Stanford University), Wayne Hu (University of Chicago), Robert Kirshner (Harvard University), Jim Peebles (Princeton University), Paul Steinhardt (Princeton University), J. Craig Wheeler (University of Texas). I would also like to inform you that the Onassis Foundation provides financial support for up to 50 Greek and 30 International qualified students (postgraduate and advanced undergraduate) for their travel and local expenses. I would like to ask you to encourage excellent students and young scientists from your institution to apply.
Online application through our website http://www.forth.gr/onassis/lectures/2008-06-30/
7th INTEGRAL workshop: An INTEGRAL View of Compact Objects
8 - 11 September 2008,
Solar Activity During the Onset of Solar Cycle 24
This is the first announcement of an international conference
entitled "Solar Activity During the Onset of Solar Cycle 24," a
workshop-style meeting in Napa Valley, California, the week of
December 7-12, 2008. The main goals are to assess our current
knowledge of solar activity and to prepare for observations during
the onset of Carrington Cycle 24. There will be special emphasis
on coordinating ACE, Hinode, RHESSI, SOHO, STEREO TRACE/SDO,
and Wind data, among other space- and ground-based observatories.
The conference will have a mixture of invited and contributed talks
in plenary sessions, plus significant time devoted to focused
Please mark your calendars now and see the conference Web pages at
The 6th Huntsville Gamma-Ray Burst Symposium
October 20-23, 2008
The Symposium is jointly sponsored by the GLAST and Swift communities. The GLAST Burst Monitor team, located in Huntsville, will host the meeting, thus continuing the tradition of GRB Symposia initiated during the GRO/BATSE era. Abstracts are due on July 15; details on abstracts, registration and other information on the meeting can be found at the symposium website
24th Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics
Vancouver, December 7 - 14, 2008
Treasurer's report due to AAS office (Kevin Marvel email@example.com
Chair requests rooms for HEAD sessions, Rossi Prize lecture, and
business meeting for January AAS meeting from AAS conference coordinator
(Kelli Gilmore: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chair sends call for nominations of candidates for officers and call for
Rossi Prize nominations to AAS newsletter editor for inclusion in AAS
newsletter (Crystal Tinch email@example.com
Deadline for vice-chair to provide details of HEAD sessions for January
meeting to AAS conference coordinator (Kelli Gilmore). Needed - names
of speakers; preliminary titles of talks; names for sessions or
descriptions. Suggest names of session chairs to AAS Secretary (John Graham).
Secretary-Treasurer sends email to division members requesting nominations
for Rossi prize.
Deadline for nominations of new officers from Nominating Committee (and
nominations presented by petitions from members) to be sent by chair to
Secretary-Treasurer for including in November newsletter and voting by
Deadline for nominations for Rossi Prize. Chair sends all nominating
letters and selected supporting material to Executive Committee members
and begins collecting and recirculating comments
November - December
Election of new officers. Secretary-Treasurer conveys results to all
candidates and AAS Executive Officer.
Chair sends annual report to AAS Secretary for discussion at
January AAS council meeting. Also to Secretary-Treasurer for
next HEAD newsletter.
Chair prepares agenda for January HEAD business meeting and sends
to Executive Committee.
Back to Top
HEADNEWS, the electronic newsletter of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, is issued twice yearly by the HEAD Secretary-Treasurer. The HEAD Executive Committee Members are: