HEAD High Energy Astrophysics Division

HEADNEWS: THE ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTER OF THE HIGH ENERGY ASTROPHYSICS DIVISION OF THE AAS



    IN THIS ISSUE:

Newsletter No. 93, November 2008
  1. Notes from the Editor- Ann Hornschemeier
  2. View from the Chair - Mitch Begelman
  3. News from NASA Headquarters - Ilana Harrus
  4. HEAD in the News -Megan Watzke
  5. Chandra X-ray Observatory Operations Report - Roger Brissenden and Martin Weisskopf
  6. XMM-Newton Mission News - Lynne Valencic, Lynn Cominsky and Chip McAuley
  7. INTEGRAL Mission News- Christoph Winkler
  8. RHESSI Mission News - David Smith
  9. Swift Mission News - Stefan Immler , Lynn Cominsky, & Neil Gehrels
  10. RXTE Mission News - Tod Strohmayer
  11. Suzaku Mission News - Koji Mukai
  12. Fermi (formerly GLAST) Mission News - Francis Reddy et al.
  13. NuSTAR Mission News - Daniel Stern and Fiona Harrison
  14. Astro-H Mission News - Richard Kelley
  15. IXO (formerly Con-X & XEUS) Mission News - Michael Garcia
  16. LISA Mission News - Tuck Stebbins
  17. Meetings Calendar
Notes

 

from the Editor - Ann Hornschemeier, HEAD Secretary-Treasurer, headsec@xraydeep.org, 301-286-7632

HEAD only delivers the table-of-contents for HEADNEWS and notes from the editor into your mailbox. The newsletter itself can be found online at http://www.aas.org/head/headnews/headnews.nov08.html.

Please remember to vote for the three new HEAD executive committee members. Ballots were sent out via email on 11/27/08 (Thanksgiving Day!) from Ann.Hornschemeier@xraydeep.org. Voting is open until December 30, 2008. As of 11/30/08 (mailing date for the newsletter), approximately 12% of the eligible membership has already voted. Thank you to those of you who voted so promptly! To the rest, please do not delay in sending in your vote!

There are several HEAD sessions at the January 2009 AAS in Long Beach. Please make sure to attend our HEAD business meeting on Wednesday, January 7 from 12:45pm - 1:45pm. We will announce the 2009 winners of the Rossi prize, the results of the HEAD election and discuss the HEAD budget at this meeting. On the same day (Wednesday, January 7) from 2PM-3:30PM there will be a HEAD session on "Signatures of Super Massive Black Holes" including black hole mergers and their electromagnetic signatures. Wednesday will wrap-up with this year's Rossi prize lecture by Steve Allen, Patrick Henry, Maxim Markevitch and Alexey Vikhlinin on "Galaxy Clusters in X-rays: Physics and Cosmology." The following day (Thursday, January 8) there will be a HEAD session from 10AM-11:30AM on TeV Astronomy covering results from Veritas, constraints on high-energy emission from pulsar wind nebulae and recent results on Mrk 421.

The next HEAD meeting will be March 1-4, 2010 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii's Big Island. Details will become available at the Conference Connection website: http://www.confcon.com/head2010/ Please start sending suggestions for keynote speakers to HEAD executive committee members and start considering special session proposal ideas. We will send out a solicitation for HEAD 2010 special session proposals sometime in early fall 2009. Please remember that there is a new HEAD dissertation prize which will be awarded for the first time at the 2010 HEAD meeting. Those who have received their degrees within 3 years prior to the HEAD meeting date, in this case since March 1, 2007, are eligible for the prize. A detailed announcement with instructions will be sent out during Fall 2009. The deadline will likely be in EARLY January 2010 , 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.

All HEAD members 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.

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2. View from the Chair - Mitch Begelman

The membership of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey Committee (ASTRO2010) has just been announced, and careful readers may have noticed that HEAD is well-represented. Five of the 23 members are former officers of HEAD, including the Committee Chair, Roger Blandford (HEAD Chair 2004-05, Vice-Chair 2002-03, Exec Committee 1982-83), Lars Bildsten (EC 2000-01), Fiona Harrison (EC 2004-05), Claire Max (EC 1975-76), and Dan McCammon (EC 1997-98). Fermi (formerly GLAST) Project Scientist Steve Ritz brings yet more high-energy astrophysics expertise to the panel.

We still do not know the organization or membership of the sub-committees, but this will undoubtedly be a major topic for discussion (and perhaps decision) at the committee's first meeting on December 5-6. So we may know more at the January AAS meeting, where the "launch" of the Survey will take place. This will essentially be the first of many "town hall" meetings held by the Survey.

I hope that many of you will make it to the January meeting, which is co-sponsored by HEAD. In addition to the customary HEAD sessions, Rossi Prize lecture and HEAD business meeting (see the Editor's notes from the Secretary-Treasurer above ), there will be many other events that should be of special interest to the high-energy community. To mention just a few: Steve Ritz will report on the first 6 months of Fermi; Heinemann Prize winner Andy Fabian will discuss "Black Holes at Work"; there will be a LISA "talent show"; and special sessions will focus on the Galactic Center and future X-ray observatories. See you in Long Beach!

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3. News from NASA Headquarters - Ilana Harrus

Report from NASA HQ Astrophysics Division

A. New Appointments at HQ

The last several months saw a large flux in the scientists serving under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) in the Astrophysics Division. Alan Smale returned to NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center as the HEASARC new director, Frank (Rick) Harnden retired after several years as a Discipline and Program Scientist working on both the Fermi (formerly known as GLAST) and the SWIFT missions. Pamela Marcum returned to her position at Texas Christian University (TCU). To fill this void, there are a lot of new faces in the Division. Patricia (Padi) Boyd from NASA/GSFC is now the Program Scientist for the Kepler mission due to be launched soon, Richard Griffith from Carnegie Mellon is the new program scientist for JDEM, and Ilana Harrus (Johns Hopkins University) is the new Program Scientist for Fermi, and the new Program scientist and Program executive for both Swift and RXTE. She is also the new Press Point of Contact for the Division. Thierry Lanz (University of Maryland) and Mario Perez (Los Alamos National Laboratory) have also begun assignments in the Division, and will be working primarily on projects in the longer wavelength disciplines.

B. Continuing Resolution to March 06, 2009

We are operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) extending to March 6 of next year. In consequence, we have received a little more than 43% of our total budget. This will require us to selectively provide funding on a case-by-case basis starting with those efforts that have a time criticality associated with them (e.g., pending balloon flight).

C.Update on the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences

A new edition of the ROSES will be released in February 2009. It will contain all the information relevant to the upcoming proposals deadlines. Up-to-date information on proposals deadline can be accessed at: http://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/

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4. HEAD in the News - Megan Watzke

During this period, the big newsmakers for high-energy astrophysics came from two (different) supernovas and one new telescope. On May 14th, NASA held a phone-in press conference, known as a "media teleconference," to discuss G1.9+0.3. This discovery of the youngest supernova in the Milky Way got widespread coverage including the New York Times, Washington Post, and the national NBC evening news. Just a week later, another NASA media teleconference was held on supernova 2008D, the first supernova astronomers were able to observe as it exploded. Once again, this story was picked up by media across the world in print, broadcast and web-based outlets. Another major story in high-energy astrophysics was, of course, the successful launch and start of science operations for GLAST, now Fermi. After generating news prior to launch, Fermi got much-deserved attention for its new name and first science results that were announced during a NASA media teleconference on August 26th. If any HEAD members are interested in the specific details of this coverage, please contact Megan Watzke.

While those were the biggest high-energy stories of the past half-year, they were by no means the only ones. Here's a sample of some of the other HEAD stories making news:

October 30, 2008 (Chandra), "Searching for Primordial Antimatter"
http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/press/08_releases/press_103008.html

October 15, 2008 (RXTE), "Two Black Holes Teach Astronomers a Lesson"
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/blackhole_lesson.html

September 23, 2008 (WMAP), "Scientists Detect Cosmic 'Dark Flow' Across Billions of Light Years"
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2008/dark_flow.html

September 22, 2008 (Swift), "NASA Satellite Sees the Oldest-Ever Gamma-ray Burst from the Edge of the Visible Universe"
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2008/farthest_grb.html

August 26, 2008 (Fermi), "NASA Renames Observatory for Fermi, Reveals Entire Gamma-Ray Sky"
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2008/glast_renamed.html

July 26, 2008 (Chandra), "A New Way to Weigh Black Holes"
http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/press/08_releases/press_071608.html

May 21, 2008 (Swift), "NASA's Swift Satellite Catches First Supernova in the Act of Exploding"
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2008/swift_supernova.html

May 14, 2008 (Chandra), "Discovery of Most Recent Supernova in Our Galaxy"
http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/press/08_releases/press_051408.html

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5. Chandra X-ray Observatory Operations Report - Roger Brissenden (SAO) and Martin Weisskopf (MSFC)

Chandra successfully completed 9 years of science operations in July and the spacecraft and science instruments continue to operate well. The spacecraft passed through the 2008 summer eclipse season in June/July with expected power and thermal performance. Chandra did experience two anomalies during the last 6 months when different electronics units reset in August and October, apparently due to single event upsets. The spacecraft transitioned to normal sun mode in both cases and there was no indication of a hardware problem. The Flight Operations Team recovered the spacecraft to normal operations rapidly in both cases and only one orbit (2 days) of observations was lost due to each anomaly.

The ACIS flight software was updated on Oct 1 but ACIS also experienced an anomalous reset on Oct 5 during a continuous clocking mode observation. While there is no indication that the reset was related to the new software, the team decided to revert to the prior version and try to reproduce the reset on the ACIS engineering unit.

Chandra's overall observing efficiency has remained close to optimal since May and the mission planning team responded to four fast-turnaround targets of opportunity during the period.

The science processing, archiving and distribution of data continued smoothly with the time from observation to release of data to observers remaining at about a day. The processing of data for the Chandra Source Catalog began on September 15; the initial data are available at http://cxc.harvard.edu/csc/ . The first complete release of the catalog is expected in January.

The Chandra Cycle 10 Peer Review was held in June and the results released shortly thereafter. The Cycle 11 Call for Proposals will be released on December 15, 2008 with proposals due in March.

As announced by NASA HQ, the Chandra Fellows program has been combined with the Fermi Fellows program and a number of new fellowships to form the Einstein Fellows Program. The CXC will be administering the program and issued the first call for the proposals in August for proposals due on November 7 ( http://cxc.harvard.edu/fellows/ )). Over 150 proposals were received for this first Einstein call.

The Chandra Press Office has been very productive with 8 press releases and 17 image releases issued since May. For a full listing, see http://chandra.harvard.edu/press/ .

The Ten Years of Science with Chandra symposium is being planned for September 2009. This very special symposium will be held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA from Tuesday, 22 September through Friday, 25 September 2009. Although clearly emphasizing Chandra results, research results from all the observatories are welcomed. Please plan on joining us for an exciting celebration of 10 years of science with this remarkable Great Observatory. We plan on publishing a proceedings for the symposium. Finally, the Chandra Calibration Workshop will also be held in this time frame, probably on Monday September 21, 2009

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6. XMM-Newton Mission News - Lynne Valencic, Lynn Cominsky and Chip McAuley

After losing contact for several days in October, XMM-Newton is talking once again, and observations have resumed. The failure of an onboard radio frequency switch during routine operations is believed to be the cause, and ground teams re- established contact after sending a command that allowed the switch to return to its last working position. Since this occurred near XMM-Newton's closest approach with Earth, all of the instruments had been stowed, per standard procedure. All instruments are working properly, and communication with ground stations has returned to normal.

The latest version of the Science Analysis System (SAS), v. 8.0.0, was released in July 2008; its patch, v. 8.0.1, was released in October. These fix several minor bugs from previous versions, as well as allow the merging of spectra from different RGS instruments, something that no other spectral analysis package does to date. Also, there are now new tasks to extract point sources, and to extract and fit a source's radial profile. (These tasks are experimental, and users are asked to inform the XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre if they find bugs or have suggestions for improvement.)

The Eighth Call for Proposals for XMM-Newton was made on August 26; the final day to submit a proposal was October 10. Results from the first round of reviews are expected in December 2008/January 2009, and successful proposals will enter the Budget Process in early spring 2009. Accepted proposals can be found online at http://xmm.esac.esa.int/external/xmm_news/otac_results/index.shtml .

The XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre is organizing a workshop for May 18- 20, 2009, in Madrid, Spain, entitled "Supersoft X-ray Sources - New Developments". The goal of the workshop will be to review the current status of observational and theoretical research on supersoft X-ray sources and identify the most important unresolved problems.

The E/PO group at Sonoma State University developed the Supernova Educator Guide ( http://xmm.sonoma.edu/edu/supernova/ ). This 50-page NASA-approved booklet contains four activities that are aimed at middle and secondary school students and documents the science and math standards that each activity covers. The activities range from a card game using multi-wavelength images of supernova to determining the age of the Crab Nebula by analyzing data separated by fifty years.

For more information about XMM-Newton, please visit the US Guest Observer Facility pages at http://xmm.gsfc.nasa.gov/ .

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7. INTEGRAL Mission News - Christoph Winkler (ESA-ESTEC)

The spacecraft and payload continue to operate nominally.

The INTEGRAL Users Group recommended a new scheme for the distribution of the open time for scientific observations, implying important changes for the next AO cycle (AO-7), which will be released on 12 January 2009. More information can be found in the 20th issue of the INTEGRAL/ISOC newsletter ( http://integral.esac.esa.int/newsletters/ISOC_newsletter_20.pdf ).

The cycle of AO-6 observations started in August 2008 and continues as scheduled, with a number of TOO follow-up observations including the reaction to the first flaring Blazar as triggered by GLAST (PKS 1502+106). This TOO notification was implemented by the Science Operations and Mission Operations Centres quickly, so that INTEGRAL started to observe this source only 4 hours after the TOO notification had been received. Other TOO follow-up observations included: Mrk 421, SGR 0501+4516, H1743-322, 1E1547.0-5408. In addition about a handful of GRB were localised in the FOV.

A major scientific highlight has been published in Science on 29 Aug by A.J. Dean and collaborators (vol 321, p. 1183) describing the detection of polarised gamma-ray emission from the Crab pulsar using 100 keV to 1 MeV data from the Spectrometer SPI onboard INTEGRAL. Independent analysis using the ISGRI and PICSIT detector arrays of the IBIS telescope on INTEGRAL confirm the results (M. Forot et al., astro-ph 0809.1292, ApJ accepted).

The total number of refereed publications using INTEGRAL scientific data is 376,with 52 papers during 2008.

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8. RHESSI Mission News - David Smith

The Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) continues to gather new data on solar flares, cosmic gamma-ray bursts, and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, with reduced efficiency due to radiation damage of its germanium detectors. Another annealing of the detectors to reduce the effects of this damage is planned for the coming year. Brief summaries of current RHESSI science topics are available on the newly migrated RHESSI "Nuggets" page: http://sprg.ssl.berkeley.edu/~tohban/wiki/index.php/RHESSI_Science_Nuggets

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9. Swift Mission News - Stefan Immler (UMd/GSFC), Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State), & Neil Gehrels (GSFC)

As of November 16, 2008, Swift has observed 378 gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), 128 of which have measured redshifts. In 2008 alone, Swift has detected 79 long-duration and 12 short-duration GRBs. The number of observed Target of Opportunities (ToOs) has seen a dramatic increase in 2008 (339) and Swift is currently receiving 2-3 ToO requests per day.

In many aspects, 2008 was a record-breaking year for Swift. In March, Swift has shattered the record for the most distant object that could be seen with the naked eye. With an intrinsic magnitude of -38, GRB 030819B was 2.5 million times more luminous than the most luminous supernova, about 1000 times more luminous than the most luminous QSO ever observed.

In April, Swift picked up a record-setting flare from the star EV Lacertae. Peaking at 600 mCrab, the flare was thousands of times more powerful than the strongest observed solar flare, making it the brightest flare ever seen from a star other than the sun.

In September, the Burst Alert Telescope on board Swift triggered on the most distant GRB ever detected. The blast, designated GRB 080913, arose from an exploding star 12.8 billion light years away, near the edge of the visible universe. At a redshift of 6.7, GRB 080913 is among the most distant objects known.

The deadline for submitting science proposals for the Swift Cycle 5 Guest Investigator (GI) program was October 15. NASA received 154 proposals for Swift Cycle 5, requesting a total observing time of 16 Ms and $4.4M in funds for 1,123 targets. About 67% of all proposals are non-GRB proposals and 26% of all proposals are ToO proposals. Cycle 5 observations and funding will commence on or around April 1, 2009, and will last approximately 12 months.

The Swift GI program will continue to solicit proposals in GRB and non-GRB research in Cycle 6. In response to the request by the community, we expect that a larger number of monitoring programs will be accepted during Cycle 6. Notice of Intents for Cycle 6 proposals will be due in September 2009 and the deadline for submitting Cycle 6 proposals will be in mid-October 2009.

In July, the E/PO group at Sonoma State University hosted their biannual NASA Astrophysics Educator Ambassador (EA) Training. Each a master teacher, the 16 EAs spent a week in hands-on workshops and lectures about high energy astronomy, cosmology and the missions used to observe high energy sources and events, such as Swift. Using this knowledge, the EAs then disseminate what they have learned to other teachers in their regions throughout the United States and Canada.

In addition, the E/PO group continues to maintain the Gamma-Ray Burst website at http://grb.sonoma.edu , where Swift data (and data from GRBs detected by other satellites) are displayed for the public.

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10. RXTE Mission News - Tod Strohmayer (NASA/GSFC)

The Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) will celebrate its 13th launch anniversary on December 26, 2008. The spacecraft and detectors continue to perform reliably, and to produce important scientific results. Based on guidance from NASA HQ in the wake of the 2008 NASA Senior Review of Operating Missions, RXTE will be able to continue to operate through September 2009. Planning is currently ongoing to determine if RXTE will be able to extend operations beyond this date.

RXTE Cycle 13 (see http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/xte/cycle13/ ) will be scheduled from December 26, 2008 to September 30, 2009 and includes a pre-determined "Core Program," comprising observations uniquely suited to RXTE, and a competed "Open-Time" program. New for Cycle 13 is that all data will be made public immediately. That is, there will be no proprietary period for RXTE Cycle 13 data. The deadline for Open-Time proposals was October 30, 2008, and we received a total of 46 proposals requesting almost 30 Msec of observing time. This is a factor of 4-5 more than can be approved for the Open-Time program, demonstrating a continued strong interest in RXTE data by the observing community. The Cycle 13 proposal review will take place in early December, and we expect to announce the approved program shortly thereafter.

RXTE has had a very scientifically productive Summer and Fall, and although the stock market may tumble, RXTE remains bullish on TOOs in the X-ray sky. Recent sources in outburst that have been covered extensively by RXTE include two accreting millisecond pulsars; SAX J1808.4-3658 (see http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=1728 ) and IGR J00291-5934 (see http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=1660 ), the recurrent black hole transient H1743-322 (see http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=1780 ), the new Soft Gamma-ray Repeater SGR 0501+4516 (see http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=1677 ), and a new accreting neutron star binary with kilohertz QPOs, XTE J1701-407 (see http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=1635 ). In addition to these campaigns, RXTE has tracked the decay to quiescence of EXO 0748-676 (see http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=1812 ), and RXTE/HEXTE hard X-ray continuum measurements have been very important in the recent detection and measurement of a relativistic Fe line in the LMXB 4U 1636-53 by Pandel et al. (see http://arxiv.org/abs/0808.2214 ).

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11. Suzaku Mission News - Koji Mukai (NASA GSFC)

There has been no significant changes in the Suzaku spacecraft and the scientific instruments since the last newsletter. Routine observations of Cycle 3 targets continue, interrupted by occasional TOO observations (both pre-proposed and real-time), particularly during a ~few week interval in Sep/Oct.

Suzaku Cycle 4 proposals are due on December 5, 2008. In addition to the regular proposals, there is now a new category of "Key Project" proposals.

Key Projects are defined as comprehensive observing programs sampling a number of objects of a particular class, or surveying a large region of the sky, in order to take maximal advantage of the unique attributes of Suzaku to address important astrophysical problems. The Suzaku project (both pre-proposed and real-time), particularly during a ~few week interval in Sep/Oct.

Suzaku Cycle 4 proposals are due on December 5, 2008. In addition to the regular proposals, there is now a new category of "Key Project" proposals.

Key Projects are defined as comprehensive observing programs sampling a number of objects of a particular class, or surveying a large region of the sky, in order to take maximal advantage of the unique attributes of Suzaku to address important astrophysical problems. The Suzaku project plans to reserve up to 2 Ms annually for the Key Projects. It is expected that at least 2 Key Projects will be underway at any time. If a Key Project requires more than the time available in a year it will be extended until complete.

Selected Suzaku data are now available for student analysis using HEASARC's Student Hera. This system allows high school students to analyze data using the same tools as astronomers by following a web-based tutorial that explains the science background and the analysis steps. Previously, Student Hera provided turtorials for examining RXTE ASM light curves for binary periods, and ROSAT and CGRO images of supernova remnants. Through a NASA ROSES supplemental E/PO grant, Drs. Tim Kallman (NASA/GSFC) and Jim Lochner (CRESST/USRA & NASA/GSFC) teamed together to develop a new tutorial to examine Suzaku spectra of the supernova remnant E0102-72. Using XSPEC, students determine the continuum and fit for the emission lines to identify the composition of the remnant. The Student Hera tutorials are available via the Imagine the Universe! web site at http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/teachers/hera/ . Another tutorial using Suzaku data of a black hole transient is in preparation.

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12. Fermi (formerly GLAST) Mission News - Francis Reddy (GSFC), Steve Ritz (GSFC), Chris Shrader (GSFC), Dave Thompson (GSFC), Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State), and Logan Hill (Sonoma State)

The Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) was launched on June 11. Following a remarkably smooth 60-day checkout period the observatory was re- named the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, honoring Enrico Fermi's studies of particle acceleration in astrophysical settings.

At the same time as the announcement of the new name, both Fermi instruments released "first light" results. The presentations can be seen at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/glast_findings_media.html . Fermi is operated in a scanning mode, allowing both its instruments to view the entire sky every three hours. The Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) views the entire unocculted sky. GBM is detecting gamma-ray bursts at nearly one per day, and its broad energy range complements studies with lower-energy telescopes like Swift. The Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT), with its 2.4 steradian field of view, is monitoring the high-energy gamma-ray sky. Early reports include gamma-ray bursts (reported in GCN Circulars), flaring blazars and other transients (reports in Astronomer's Telegrams, ATels), and pulsars.

The first LAT scientific paper (Science, in press) announced the resolution of a long- standing mystery. The CTA 1 supernova remnant contains an X-ray and gamma-ray source with all indications of being a pulsar, but no pulsations had been found at any wavelength. Early data from LAT uncovered a 316 ms pulsar, the first discovered with gamma rays.

Fermi public data are available through the Fermi Science Support Center (FSSC), http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/ or through the HEASARC. These currently include all GBM data products as well as summary information on LAT-detected gamma-ray bursts and weekly flux histories for a set of sources (mostly blazars) monitored by the LAT. The FSSC Web site at http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/resources/observations/too.html provides information about requesting a LAT Target of Opportunity pointing (although a very strong justification is required).

To optimize mission planning, FSSC maintains a web page ( http://fermi.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 deputies.

The Sixth Huntsville Gamma-ray Burst Symposium ( http://grbhuntsville2008.cspar.uah.edu/ ) was held October 20-23. This meeting highlighted some early results from the Fermi telescopes as well as the ongoing studies with Swift and other missions. The NASA Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) group at Sonoma State University began adding burst detections from Fermi to the Gamma-ray Burst Real-time Sky Map page ( http://grb.sonoma.edu/ ) as soon as data began to come in through the GCN.

The group conducted Fermi-science based workshops for teachers at: Kennedy Space Center in connection with the launch; a week-long summer training with a special focus on the Dark Universe for the Astrophysics Educator Ambassadors during July, and at the California Science Teacher's Association conference in October.

Important upcoming Fermi mission activities (exact dates to be announced):

  • February, 2009 : release of the first LAT Bright Source List. Although not a full catalog, this list will include information about many of the sources seen during the first six months of operation. The purpose of this list is to support Guest Investigator proposals for Cycle 2.
  • February, 2009 : FSSC release of software for analyzing Fermi data
  • March, 2009 : proposals due for Fermi Cycle 2 Guest Investigator Program
  • August, 2009 : start of Fermi Cycle 2
  • August - September 2009 : public release of Fermi LAT data
  • November 2009 : First Fermi Symposium, Washington, D.C., currently being planned for 2-5 November. Please watch for more details soon about exact dates and location.

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13. NuSTAR Mission News - Daniel Stern (JPL) & Fiona Harrison (Caltech)

NuSTAR, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, is a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission which will do targeted observations in the 6 to 79 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 continues to be on track for launch in August 2011. The project is now fully staffed and making rapid progress; we are currently in Phase B and instrument teams are completing their preliminary designs.

The NuSTAR grazing incidence optics, composed of 130 nested shells, have an optical prescription and multilayer coatings which extend reflectance to high energy relative to previous focusing X-ray telescopes on orbit. The segmented formed-glass optics are making rapid progress. The segments are formed on quartz mandrels at Goddard Space Flight Center. The precisely figured mandrels have been received and are undergoing treatment in preparation for production of flight optics in a newly-completed facility at GSFC. The segments will be coated with multilayers at the Danish Technical University, DTU-Space in Copenhagen, and shipped to Columbia University for assembly and calibration of the flight optics.

ATK-Goleta is providing NuSTAR's 10-meter extensible mast with 57 sections, or bays. They have recently completed a 3-bay engineering model, built to validate the basic mast design, manufacturing processes and tooling. Lessons learned from this 3-bay mast have been incorporated into the flight mast design, fabrication of which which is slated to begin in December 2008.

Most of the instrument subsystem Preliminary Design Reviews (PDRs) are now complete and the project PDR will be in early June 2009, with the Key Decision Point C (KDP-C) review scheduled in August 2009.

Preliminary response files for simulating NuSTAR observations will be available to the community through the HEASARC by January 2009.

For more information about the NuSTAR mission, visit http://www.nustar.caltech.edu.

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14. Astro-H Mission News - Richard Kelley (NASA GSFC)

NASA and JAXA have agreed to participate in a joint mission to investigate the physics of the high-energy universe utilizing an advanced x-ray observatory capable of high-resolution, high-throughput spectroscopy with moderate spatial resolution over the 0.3 - 600 keV energy band. The Astro-H mission will be the sixth in a series of successful x-ray missions initiated by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) beginning with the launch of the Hakucho mission in 1979 through the currently operating Suzaku mission. In response to the 2007 NASA Announcement of Opportunity soliciting investigations for Small Explorer (SMEX) missions and Missions of Opportunity (MO), a group headed by Richard Kelley of the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) was selected to provide key components of a high-resolution x-ray calorimeter spectrometer (Soft X-ray Spectrometer [SXS]) that will constitute one of the observatory's primary science instruments.

Astro-H will feature a combination of wide band x-ray spectroscopy (3 - 80 keV) using multi-layer coating, focusing x-ray mirrors with hard x-ray imaging detectors, and high energy-resolution soft x-ray spectroscopy (0.3-10 keV) provided by thin- foil x-ray optics and an x-ray calorimeter array. The mission will also carry an x-ray CCD camera as a focal plane detector for a soft x-ray telescope and a non-focusing soft gamma-ray detector. With these instruments, provided by ISAS/JAXA, Astro-H will cover a very wide simultaneous energy range of 0.3 keV to 600 keV. The x-ray calorimeter spectrometer will be developed jointly by international collaboration between ISAS/JAXA and NASA/GSFC. The energy resolution of the x-ray calorimeter array will be will be better than 7 eV and perhaps as good as 4 eV (FWHM), while the x-ray mirror will provide an effective area of more than 200 square centimeters at 6 keV.

The Goddard proposal was selected for design/development of the U.S. portion of the SXS instrument and its operation on Astro-H during the in-orbit checkout phase (~ 1 month) and initial six months of nominal science operations ("baseline mission"). An option for participation in an extended science operations phase for a period of 2.5 years beyond the baseline mission period (science enhancement option, [SEO]) was also proposed and its potential implementation will be decided upon at a later date. If approved, the SEO would be comprised of a fully open and competitive U.S. Guest Observer program with no guaranteed time for the PI team. Further, NASA is expected to announce a call for membership to the Astro-H International Science Working Group to provide scientific guidance to the Astro-H Project relative to the design/development and operations phases of the mission. It will include individuals from both the instrument teams and the broader astrophysics community.

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15. The International X-ray Observatory (IXO, formerly Con-X & XEUS) - Michael Garcia

In July 2008, the International X-ray Observatory (IXO) was announced to the astronomical community. IXO is a joint X-ray observatory with participation from ESA, NASA and JAXA. This mission supersedes the Constellation-X mission concept that has been the subject of previous HEAD newsletters and the XEUS concept that has been under study by ESA..

There will be a meeting of the International X-ray Observatory (IXO) Science Team January 28-29, 2009 in Cambridge, MA at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on the Charles River. Participation by all members of the IXO science team is encouraged, as well as members of the scientific community interested in IXO. Members of the previous Con-X and XEUS teams are particularly encouraged to attend.

This IXO science team meeting will focus on preparing for the upcoming U.S. Decadal Survey. The meeting will feature presentations by the IXO Science Definition Team, the Instrument Working Group, the Telescope Working Group, and the ESA, JAXA and NASA projects. There will be updates on the mission configuration from the recent ESA Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) and NASA Mission Design Lab (MDL) efforts.

Registration closes on Jan 14 and details are available at http://ixo.gsfc.nasa.gov Please direct inquiries about local logistics to Michael Garcia at garcia (at) head.cfa.harvard.edu

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16. LISA News - Tuck Stebbins (NASA GSFC)

TThe Seventh International LISA Symposium was held at the CosmoCaixa, a modern science museum in Barcelona, Spain 16-20 June 2008. The meeting was organized by the Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (IEEC) and the Instituto de Ciencias del Espacio (ICE-CSIC). There were 30 plenary talks, 78 talks in 8 parallel sessions, 75 posters, 226 attendees, and a public lecture by Cliff Will (Washington University). The proceedings will be published jointly in Classical and Quantum Gravity and the Journal of Physics Conference Series.

LISA Pathfinder, the ESA-led flight demonstration of LISA technology, is progressing well through its implementation phase. Flight hardware is accumulating at the integration sites. The spacecraft and propulsion module structures, the proof masses and their housings, the gyros, the sun sensors, solar array, the caging mechanisms are among those subsystems that have been delivered. NASA's contribution, known as ST-7, completed integration and testing in August, and is ready for shipment to Europe. About 70% of the flight hardware should be delivered by the end of 2008. Early static-load, shock, and thermo-vac testing has begun. The mission-level Critical Design Review (CDR) is underway, and the official launch date remains late 2010. You can see flight hardware photos and testing videos at ESA Sci-Tech Portal. European researchers have also been building up the Pathfinder data analysis software and running mock data exercises.

The LISA science community has formed a Parameter Estimation Task Force to compare different software tools that predict the uncertainty with which LISA can determine the astrophysical parameters of gravitational wave sources. Several research groups in the U.S. and Europe have developed such tools and applied them to the job of assessing LISA's scientific performance under various assumptions about the instrument and the underlying astrophysics. For example, these 'parameter estimation' codes predict how precisely and how often LISA can determine mass, spin and luminosity distance of massive black holes at some redshift, say z~10, or how well LISA can localize an impending massive black hole merger on the sky at z~1. The task force found that the various codes checked give essentially the same results under the same assumptions for massive black hole inspirals. They are continuing to look at other sources, to investigate promising improvements in parameter estimation, and to increase the realism of the predictions.

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17. Meetings Calendar


The Future of X-ray Timing After RXTE
Splinter meeting at AAS Long Beach
Monday, January 5, 2009, 5:30pm-8:00pm
http://xte.mit.edu/AXTAR/AAS_Jan09_XrayTiming.html

After over 13 years of tremendously productive operation, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) is scheduled for termination in 2009/2010. RXTE revealed a wealth of rapid variability phenomena at the natural time scales of neutron star surfaces and black hole event horizons, all of which probe the physics of ultradense matter, strongly curved spacetimes, and intense magnetic fields. However, it lacks the sensitivity to fully exploit these phenomena for fundamental physics. This splinter meeting will explore near-term prospects for X-ray timing after RXTE and will examine the longer-term science and technical case for proposed follow-on mission and instrument concepts including AXTAR, NICE, and IXO/HTRS. Confirmed speakers include: Deepto Chakrabarty (MIT), Paul Ray (NRL), Tod Strohmayer (GSFC), Ron Remillard (MIT), Feryal Ozel (Arizona), Colleen Wilson-Hodge (MSFC), John Tomsick (Berkeley), Jeroen Homan (MIT), Slavko Bogdanov (McGill), Randall Cooper (UCSB).


Wild Stars in the Old West II
The 14th North American Workshop on Cataclysmic Variables and Related Objects
15-19 March 2009, Tucson, Arizona

It has been nearly five years since the last international meeting on cataclysmic variables and their kin. Significant advances have occured in this field since the last meeting, including those based on GALEX, Chandra, XMM-Newton, INTEGRAL and Swift/BAT data that are of interest to HEAD members. In this workshop, we plan to cover all topics within the area of CVs and related objects (observational and theoretical). Full details can be found at the conference web site:

http://www.noao.edu/meetings/wildstars2/


New Eyes on the Universe: May 2 - 5, 2009 APS Meeting in Denver

The theme of this year's "April APS" meeting will be "New Eyes on the Universe: 400 years since Galileo's Telescope". The April Meeting, which brings together nuclear, particle, gravitational, accelerator, plasma, and astrophysicists, will have a strong focus on astrophysics this year, featuring 4 astrophysics plenary talks (of the 9 total), 19 invited sessions on astrophysical topics (of the 64 total), and two town meetings (JDEM and the Decadal Survey). The deadline for contributed papers is January 9th; see the APS website ( http://www.aps.org ) for more information.


TeV Particle Astrophysics 2009
KIPAC, SLAC-Stanford University, Menlo Park, CA USA,
July 13-17, 2009

In 2009 the Large Hadron Collider is scheduled to start exploring the TeV frontier searching for signals of Physics beyond the Standard Model. Meanwhile satellite experiments exploring high energy, Fermi GLAST and Pamela, and a number of ground based TeV telescopes have been in operation for some time. In addition, underground direct detection experiments contiunue to make considerable progress in exploring limits on dark matter. This Meeting will focus on the contributions of astrophysical observations, direct detection experiments, and TeV accelerator results, that are probing fundamental physics at the TeV scale of particle physics. The aim of the meeting is to enable understanding of what we have and can learn from recent and upcoming experiments exploring the TeV scale and above.

A web link will be announced soon.

Elliott Bloom, Igor Moskalenko
Co-Chairs
KIPAC, SLAC-Stanford University


JOINT DISCUSSION #3 AT THE XXVII IAU GENERAL ASSEMBLY,
NEUTRON STARS: TIMING IN EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL,
3-5 AUGUST 2009

Web site: http://www.brera.inaf.it/IAU2009extreme/index.html
For information: IAU2009extreme@brera.inaf.it

Astronomical systems harboring a neutron star constitute a unique tool for the study of matter under extreme conditions. Testing General Relativity in the strong-field regime and the determination of the equation of state of neutron matter are major goals which appear more and more within reach. This Joint Discussion aims at getting together experts in these fields for an analysis of the current situation and a view toward future prospects.


IAU Joint Discussion 8,
Hot Interstellar Matter in Elliptical Galaxies
August, 6-7 2009,
Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Conference web site: http://hea-www.harvard.edu/IAU/index.html
Contact: Dong-Woo Kim (kim@cfa.harvard.edu)

The physical properties of the hot interstellar matter in elliptical galaxies are directly related with the formation and evolution of elliptical galaxies via star formation episodes, environmental effects such as stripping, infall, and mergers, and growth of super-massiveblack holes. While the recent successful Chandra and XMM-Newton X-ray space missions have provided a large amount of high quality observational data on the hot ISM in elliptical galaxies, a number of important issues are still poorly understood, including the metal abundance discrepancy in some X-ray faint galaxies, the deviation from the solar abundance ratio of alpha elements, the wide range of hot gas contents for a given stellar mass, the effects of AGN-feedback on the dynamics and energetics of the hot ISM. This conference is intended to review the observational constraints available on the physical properties of the hot ISM and to confront the predictions of the latest simulations and analytical models of the dynamical/chemical evolution with observations.


Ten Years of Science with Chandra Symposium
September 22-25 2009
Boston, Massachussetts

The symposium "Ten Years of Science with Chandra: Chandra's First Decade of Discovery" will be held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA from Tuesday, 22 September through Friday, 25 September 2009. The meeting will highlight key science results from the first ten years of operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

More details are available at http://cxc.harvard.edu/symposium_2009

The SOC chairs
Antonella Fruscione, Douglas Swartz, Scott Wolk


Annual HEAD Schedule

January 20

Treasurer's report due to AAS office (Kevin Marvel marvel@aas.org)

June 15

Chair requests rooms for HEAD sessions, Rossi Prize lecture, and business meeting for January AAS meeting from AAS conference coordinator (Kelli Gilmore: gilmore@aas.org)

July 1

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 tinch@aas.org)

August 1

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).

September 15

Secretary-Treasurer sends email to division members requesting nominations for Rossi prize.

October 15

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 division members.

October 15

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.

November 10

Chair sends annual report to AAS Secretary for discussion at January AAS council meeting. Also to Secretary-Treasurer for next HEAD newsletter.

December 1

Chair prepares agenda for January HEAD business meeting and sends to Executive Committee.

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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:




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