HEAD High Energy Astrophysics Division



Newsletter No. 95, November 2009
  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 and Steve Sturner
  8. Swift Mission News - Stefan Immler , Lynn Cominsky, & Neil Gehrels
  9. RXTE Mission News - Jean Swank, Craig Markwardt, Frank Marshall & Tod Strohmayer
  10. Suzaku Mission News - Koji Mukai
  11. Fermi Mission News - Julie McEnery et al.
  12. NuSTAR Mission News - Daniel Stern and Fiona Harrison
  13. IXO Mission News - Michael Garcia
  14. LISA Mission News - Michele Vallisneri
  15. Astro-H Mission News - Richard Kelley
  16. Meetings Calendar


from the Editor - Ann Hornschemeier, HEAD Secretary-Treasurer, headsec@xraydeep.org, 301-204-2653

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.nov09.html.

Contact information for all current HEAD Executive Committee members may be found at the end of this newsletter.

2009 HEAD Election: Deadline December 28!

Don't forget to vote! All HEAD members received an email ballot with the subject line "AAS HIGH ENERGY ASTROPHYSICS DIVISION (HEAD) 2009 BALLOT : RETURN BY DECEMBER 28, 2009" that was sent on November 5, 2009 by the secretary-treasurer. Please reply to this email before December 28, 2009. At the time of distribution of this newsletter, approximately 23 percent of HEAD members have voted.

HEAD 2010 IN HAWAII, MARCH 1-4, 2010

The next HEAD meeting will be March 1-4, 2010 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii's Big Island. We have received more than 500 abstracts and anticipate having the program available by approximately January 15, which is the deadline for early registration. The late abstract deadline is January 25. Invited speakers will be posted once the full slate is confirmed (some invitations are still in process). Please remember to book your hotel room ASAP as the conference rate room block will likely run out. Please visit http://www.confcon.com/head2010/for more information.


A grant application is pending for funds to help with travel costs for early-career scientists (less than 3 years after PhD) and graduate students. We expect to hear about this very soon and will alert the membership. If you are a student or early-career postdoc and are not sure if you can afford the full cost of the trip, please do go ahead and book your hotel room and make arrangements as we likely will be able to offer some assistance. There will be an application process (a brief justification must be provided).


A grant application is pending for a limited amount of child care support at the HEAD meeting in Hawaii (up to $500 per family, to offset the costs of caring for young children). Once we have confirmation that the funding is approved, we will alert the membership regarding applications for this funding.


As a reminder from last time, we anticipate having a special election in January regarding three proposed by-law changes. These include lengthening the terms of HEAD EC members from 2 years to 3 years, a change from email voting to a more secure web-based voting scheme and removal of some out-dated language concerning 'transferral of abstracts' that is currently present in the bylaws. The AAS council unanimously approved these changes in Pasadena during the Summer 2009 AAS meeting. We will present the bylaw changes at the HEAD business meeting Tuesday, January 5th in Washington, D.C. The special election will occur sometime in late January/early February. Please see the May 2009 newsletter for details concerning the bylaw changes.


It has been several years since the last increase in dues from $8 to $10 and the HEAD EC is considering an increase from $10 to $20 while retaining the dues for junior AAS members at $10. We have received some feedback concerning also maintaining $10 dues for emeritus members. At this time, the HEAD EC has not changed the dues and will continue to consider our options. Any changes would occur during the 2011 membership year or later. Please see the May 2009 newsletter for a detailed description of HEAD finances.


The times and locations for HEAD events at the January 2010 AAS meeting in Washington, D.C. are given below. Please double-check the program updates for any last-minute room changes.

This year's Rossi prize lecture will be given by Jeffrey McClintock, Ron Remillard and Charles Bailyn on the topic of "Strong Gravity and the Masses of Stellar Black Holes." It will occur on Wednesday, January 6, 4:30 PM - 5:20 PM (Session 113) in the Marriot Ballroom.

There are two special HEAD sessions at the January 2010 AAS meeting in Washington, D.C. These are as follows:

  • Monday, January 4, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM - Session 207. HEAD I, Gamma Ray Bursts, Location: Marriott Ballroom Salon 3
  • Tuesday, January 5, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - Session 209. HEAD II, Gamma Ray Pulsars, Location: Thurgood Marshall West

The HEAD business meeting will occur on Tuesday, January 5 from 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM, session 212, in Thurgood Marshall West. Please join us to discuss items such as bylaw changes, plans for future meetings, etc.

Reminder about HEAD Email Addresses:

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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View from the Chair - Mitch Begelman (Colorado)

Those of us who have served on prize selection committees know that the pool of nominees can be surprisingly small, even for prestigious prizes. But this was emphatically NOT the case for the first HEAD Dissertation Prize, which is being awarded to Dr. Brian Metzger for his thesis on "Theoretical Models of Gamma-ray Burst Central Engines." Brian is currently an Einstein Fellow at Princeton and did his Ph.D. at Berkeley under the supervision of Eliot Quataert. Competition for the prize was stiff - not at all an easy decision for the Executive Committee, which serves as the selection committee. Not only did we receive more nominations than we ever imagined, but also we were impressed by the diverse themes of the research and its extremely high quality.

The establishment of a HEAD dissertation prize was my "campaign promise" four years ago when I stood for election. The idea was not only to recognize specific examples of cutting-edge research in high-energy astrophysics, but also to remind the community of the importance of "new blood" to the continued vitality of our field. To these ends, Brian will deliver an invited talk at the 2010 HEAD meeting on the Kona coast of Hawaii (March 1-4, 2010), which I hope many of you are planning to attend. In addition to the 12 "regular" sessions, each anchored by an invited talk followed by several contributed talks selected by the SOC, there will be 9 "special" sessions proposed and organized by members of the community. And of course there will be ample opportunities to network in beautiful surroundings. To accommodate the avalanche (or lava flow?) of exciting new results, we've extended to meeting to four days - we hope you won't mind spending an extra half-day in Hawaii!

Generous sponsorship from NASA and NSF, as well as partners in the aerospace industry, should help to make the meeting more affordable, particularly for early-career scientists. In addition to subsidizing the registration fee for all participants (with a discount for students), we hope to be able to waive registration fees for some grad students and early-career postdocs (see the conference website for details). We are also trying to secure funding for grants to offset the costs of childcare during the meeting - this would be a first for a HEAD meeting!

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3. News from NASA Headquarters - Ilana Harrus and Jaya Bajpayee

Report from NASA HQ Astrophysics Division

The Astrophysics Division is preparing for the Senior Review for its operating missions that will be held in March 2010. NASA will use the findings from the Senior Review to 1) Prioritize the operating missions and projects; 2) Define an implementation approach to achieve astrophysics strategic objectives; 3) Provide programmatic direction to the missions and projects concerned for 2011 and 2012; and 4) Issue initial funding guidelines for 2013 and 2014 (to be revisited in the 2012 Senior Review). The Senior Review complements the standing working groups and other peer reviews by conducting an independent, comparative evaluation of missions in extended operations. The review evaluates proposals for additional funding to continue operations of missions in extended operations phase.

The 2010 Senior Review will assess the scientific merits of eleven astrophysics missions - Chandra, GALEX, RXTE, Spitzer, Swift, WISE and WMAP , and the U.S. components of participation in INTEGRAL, Planck, Suzaku, and XMM-Newton. Performance factors are to include scientific productivity, technical status, data dissemination, future plans and expectations, and budget.

The deadline for proposals is Feb 8, 2010.

For more information on the process, please visit:


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4. HEAD in the News - Megan Watzke (w/input from Lynn Cominsky)

If there was a common theme in news coverage of high-energy astrophysics in the past six months, it was enormous distance. More specifically, the fleet of telescopes -- including Chandra, Fermi, and Swift - all made remarkable and newsworthy discoveries at some of the earliest epochs of the Universe.

In June, a Chandra press conference featured results on the "coming of age" of galaxies and black holes in Lyman-alpha blobs ( http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/press/09_releases/press_062409.html ). This story was picked up by the New York Times, Associated Press, and a myriad of online sources. A few months later, researchers using Chandra data along with ground-based infrared observations announced the discovery of the most distant galaxy cluster. This cluster, JKCS041, is thought to be some 10.2 billion light years away ( http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/press/09_releases/press_102209.html ).

This fall, both Fermi and Swift received coverage for discoveries in the distant Universe. As part of the press conference covering Fermi's first year of operations ( http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/first_year.html ), scientists announced finding a gamma-ray burst at a distance of 7.3 billion light years. Fermi showed that two photons of different energies from the burst arrived at a mere 0.9 seconds apart, thus providing another victory for Einstein and his theory of relativity. This result was also picked up in the New York Times and elsewhere.

Swift researchers also got into the act with the announcement of another gamma-ray burst that broke all sorts of distance records ( http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/cosmic_record.html ). This GRB, initially discovered on April 23, 2009, was found at a distance of 13 billion light years away, a mere 600 million years after the Big Bang. NPR, Voice of America, and other outlets carried the story.

Also during this time period, Chandra celebrated its 10th anniversary ( http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/press/09_releases/press_072309.html ). XMM-Newton weighed in the case for intermediate-mass black holes ( http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMZGM1P0WF_index_0.html ). Integral provided detailed observations of the first new soft gamma-ray repeater in ten years ( http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=45022 ). And, Suzaku detected X-ray emitting gas at a galaxy cluster's outskirts ( http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/astro-e2/news/xray_cluster.html ).

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

Chandra passed 10-years of successful science operations in July with with continued excellent mirror and instrument performance. The milestone was celebrated with a wide-ranging series of papers at "Chandra's First Decade of Discovery" Symposium held in Boston, September 22-25. The Symposium was attended by over three hundred scientists. In addition all five astronauts that supported the launch including the Commander Eileen Collins also took part in a very fascinating historical session.

Chandra experienced one anomaly during this period due to an unexpected drop in the pressure reading of the momentum unloading propulsion system (MUPS) tank. After a detailed analysis, the MUPS thrusters were fired and the test showed that the pressure drop was entirely due to a faulty pressure transducer and not the more serious possibility of a leak in the tank.

We turned off a heater located on the Science Instrument Module to create additional margin in control of the ACIS focal plane temperature. All long-term spacecraft subsystem trends continue as projected. Since May, Chandra's overall observing efficiency has remained close to optimal. During this reporting period, the mission planning team responded to one fast-turnaround target of opportunity. The science-data processing, archiving, and distribution proceeded smoothly, with time from observation to data release remaining at about a day.

The CXC hosted the first Einstein Fellows Symposium in October with excellent presentations by 23 current Fellows covering a wide range of topics in observational and theoretical astrophysics research. These are on-line and well worth perusing.

The Cycle-11 peer review was held in June and the Cycle-12 call for proposals is scheduled for 15 December, 2009. As part of this call the correction for the contamination build-up on the ACIS filters has been updated.

Finally, the Chandra Press Office issued 9 press releases and 15 image releases since May. For a full listing, please see http://chandra.harvard.edu/press/ .`

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

The Ninth Call for Proposals for XMM-Newton closed in October 2009; successful submissions will be announced in December or January. As a result of the last Senior Review, no funds for successful proposals are available, though a positive result from the Review this spring may allow for some funding. For more information, please contact the Chair of the XMM-Newton Users' Group, Craig Sarazin, or the U.S. Project Scientist, Steve Snowden.

The number of publications using XMM-Newton data continues to increase, as does the rate at which they are published. As of the end of October, 2009, over 2500 refereed papers have been published making use of XMM-Newton. The publication rate continues to be over 1 paper per day.

The implementation of SAS in Hera continues to progess; those who are interested in processing their XMM-Newton data via the internet are encouraged to try Hera and provide feedback to the GOF. More information about Hera can be found at http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/hera/

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) and Steve Sturner (NASA GSFC)

The AO-7 observing cycle has begun on 16 October 2009 and will last until 31 December 2010. The AO-7 observing programme will be based on a total of 50 approved open time observing proposals. They include 19 key programmes with exposure times above 1 Ms, a maximum of 19 ToO observations (if trigger criteria are met) and 5 programmes related to GRB research. As always, the community can also request ToO observations on new phenomena, i.e. not covered by existing AO-7 ToO programmes. In addition, 62 data right proposals have been selected to obtain data rights on sources or sky areas contained in the very large FOV of the accepted 26 non-ToO observations. See http://integral.esac.esa.int for more information. The Call for AO-8 observations will be released in March 2010.

As with previous INTEGRAL AO cycles, NASA has funded US scientists with successful AO-7 observing proposals via the NASA INTEGRAL Guest Investigator Program. Thus far in AO-7, 8 US scientists have been funded with additional funding planned for ToO observations and successful data rights proposals.

On 1st October 2009, ESA's Science Programme Committee has re- confirmed the extension of the INTEGRAL mission science operations until 31 December 2012, subject to a review in one year from now.

Some recent scientific highlights since the last report in May 2009 include:

Some of the recent scientific highlights include:

  • The 4th IBIS/ISGRI soft gamma-ray survey catalogue containing 331 new sources compared to the 3rd catalogue (A. Bird et al., ApJS accepted, 2009, arXiv:0910.1704
  • The fraction of compton-thick sources in an INTEGRAL complete AGN sample is estimated to > 24% at low redshifts. (A. Malizia et al., MNRAS, accepted, 2009, arXiv:0906.5544
  • Detailed high resolution spectroscopy of Al26 emission throughout the Galaxy (W. Wang et al., A&A 496, 713 (2009), P. Martin et al., A&A accepted, 2009)
  • The peculiar nature of the hard X-ray eclipse in SS433 from INTEGRAL observations (A. Cherepashchuk et al., MNRAS 397, 479, 2009) The total number of refereed publications using INTEGRAL scientific data is 478, with 70 papers in 2009 (up to end of August). The nature of the Galactic annihilation radiation (R. E. Lingenfelter et al., Phys. Rev. Let., 103, 031301, 2009), J. C. Higdon et al. ApJ, 698, 350, 2009).

Planning has started to organize the 8th INTEGRAL workshop, 27-30 Sep 2010 in Dublin/Ireland.

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

Swift Celebrates Five Years

There was a very successful workshop on Swift science at The Pennsylvania State University on November. 18-20, 2009, in celebration of the fifth anniversary of Swift's 2004 launch . All instruments aboard Swift continue to operate in good health. As of early November, Swift has observed 526 Gamma-Ray Bursts, 476 of which were discovered by  the mission. Other highlights of the past year include a press conference at AAS on the nature of dark GRBs and a large-scale ultraviolet image mosaic of M31 which was chosen for APOD (See HEAD in the News).

Swift Guest Investigator Program

The deadline for submitting scientific/technical proposals for the Swift Cycle 6 Guest Investigator (GI) program was September. 30. NASA received 169 proposals for Swift Cycle 6 (a 10% increase compared to the previous Cycle 5), requesting a total observing time of 16.7 Ms and $4.8M in funds for 1,244 targets. About 79% of all proposals are non-GRB proposals, 21% of which are Target of Opportunity proposals. About 25% of all targets are part of a monitoring campaign, requesting two or more observations of the same target.

The Peer Review will be held in December to evaluate the merits of all submitted proposals and choose those that are recommended for funding and observing time. The accepted targets will shape the science program for Swift's seventh year. Cycle 6 observations and funding will commence on or around April 1, 2010, and will last approximately 12 months.

The Swift GI program will continue to solicit proposals in GRB and non-GRB research during Cycle 7. Among the changes for Cycle 7 are fewer observing constraints and new opportunities to allow GRB ToOs and (limited) changes to Swift operations. Details of the Cycle 7 program elements will be given in NASA's Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2010, to be released in February 2010. The deadline for submitting Cycle 7 proposals will be September 29, 2010.

10,000 GCN Circulars

The GCN (Gamma-ray bursts Coordinates Network; http://gcn.gsfc.nasa.gov/) serves the GRB community with automatic Notices, human-generated Circulars and, since 2006, more in-depth Reports. These communications disseminate information to about 1,000 subscribers worldwide. On October 8, the GCN system logged its 10,000th Circular.

Swift E/PO News

The popular Newtons Laws poster sets featuring Swift continue to fly off the shelves at Sonoma State University. Standing-room-only workshops featuring these posters have been conducted by the Swift Educator Ambassadors at national and regional science conferences and by SSU E/PO staff. One new venue this year was the Satellites in Education conference, held in Los Angeles on August 13–15, 2009. Over 100 pre- and in-service teachers attended, and the Newtons Laws workshop was very well received. For the first time in the 22-year history of the conference, astrophysics content was included, courtesy of the SSU E/PO group representing the Swift, Fermi and XMM-Newton missions. http://www.sated.org.

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9. RXTE Mission News - Jean Swank, Craig Markwardt, Frank Marshall & Tod Strohmayer (NASA/GSFC)

The Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) will celebrate its 14th launch anniversary on December 30, 2009. The spacecraft and detectors continue to perform well, and to produce important scientific results. RXTE has been carrying out Cycle 13 observations since January 2009, and Cycle 14 observations will commence at the start of the new year. Beginning with Cycle 13, RXTE's observing program includes a "Core Program" of long standing monitoring and target of opportunity programs and an "Open-time Program" selected by peer review. All RXTE data from Cycle 13 on now immediately become public, there is no longer a proprietary program. In August, 82 proposals for the Open-time Program were received with requests for more than twice the available observing time. The Cycle 14 review was completed in late October, and the results will be released in late November.

An RXTE workshop was held as a splinter session following the Fermi Symposium in Washington, D.C. on November 5, 2009. Short talks from community members about exciting RXTE science were given. The program can be seen at http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/xte/workshop.html . The RXTE Users Group also gathered at this time to discuss the progress of RXTE's programs, the value of continuing RXTE observations, and plans to propose to NASA's Senior Review for operating missions.

Recent months have seen RXTE studies of three new black hole transients;
the identification of two new accreting ms pulsars;
RXTE has also been timing the new magnetar, SGR 0418+5729: http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=2076 , as well as observing several new and recurring high-field X-ray pulsars, including;
RXTE has also been making simultaneous observations with Fermi of the recent flaring activity in Mrk 421: http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=2292 .

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

On June 23, 2009, one of the three operating XIS instruments (XIS0) was damaged, probably due to a micrometeorite hit. The damage is limited to about 1/8th of the total imaging area of the CCD near the edge of the field of view, so the majority of observations (those of point sources and of small extended sources) are unaffected. Otherwise, both the spacecraft and the scientific instruments continue to function well. We are pleased to note that the rate of publication of Suzaku results, particularly by the US users, has increased markedly. As of this writing, we count 38 papers dated 2009 in Astrophysical Journal alone that are based on Suzaku data. This number is comparable to the number of US Suzaku proposals that are carried out annually. While this is encouraging, particularly in view of the upcoming NASA Senior Review of its operating astrophysics missions, we ask Suzaku users the following:
  1. If you are the PI of a Suzaku proposal or are analyzing archival data, please complete your data analysis and submit your results to a refereed journal as quickly as possible (preferably before the end of March 2010), and notify the US Suzaku GOF when you've done so. Critical measures of the productivity of a mission include the fraction of data that has led to publications and the number of publications.
  2. If you have a Suzaku result that you believe is newsworthy, please bring it to our attention. GSFC and NASA Headquarters both have capable press offices eager to publicize exciting scientific findings. Members of the GOF staff can serve as the interface with the press offices.

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11. Fermi Mission News - Julie McEnery (GSFC), Chris Shrader (GSFC), Dave Thompson (GSFC), Francis Reddy (GSFC) & Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State)

Fermi's Fabulous First Year

Fermi capped its first year of observations with a showcase of results shared with over 400 attendees at the 2009 Fermi Science Symposium., held Nov. 2 – 5 in Washington.

The conference program is online at http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/science/symposium/2009. During the Symposium, conference attendees were treated to a special night at the Kennedy Center featuring the premiere of "Cosmic Reflection," a new symphony from composer Nolan Gasser. With accompanying narration written by Lawrence Krauss and concert sponsor Pierre Schwob and a video produced by GSFC's Rich Melnick, this multimedia event was a truly unique and inspiring experience.

Scientific highlights of the first year include the discovery of two new classes of gamma-ray pulsars – millisecond pulsars and gamma-ray only pulsars, spatially resolved studies of supernova remnants at GeV energies, discovery of high energy gamma-ray emission from starburst galaxies, detection of over 250 gamma-ray bursts with 9 observed above 100 MeV, and important limits on violations of Lorentz invariance through observations of GRB 090510. Some of these results were featured in a press conference held at NASA Headquarters on Oct. 28, 2009. (See HEAD in the News for more information.)

Fermi Guest Investigator Program

The deadline for submitting scientific/technical proposals for the Fermi Cycle 3 Guest Investigator (GI) program is rapidly approaching.  Proposals are being accepted for investigations starting in mid- August 2010 for the third year of Fermi's science observations. Letters of Intent are due November 16, 2009, and proposals are due February 5, 2010.

Cycle 3 includes two proposal classes:  (1) Regular proposals with research plans that can be completed in one year and (2) Large proposals whose more expansive research plans are may take up to three years to complete.

Fermi GIs can propose to:

  • Analyze GBM or LAT event data from the beginning of science operations;
  • Carry out pointed LAT observations. However, proposers should be aware that the probable low additional scientific benefit of such observations will require very strong science justifications.
  • Support correlated observations of gamma-ray sources at other wavelengths that are directly relevant to Fermi;
  • Perform theoretical studies of gamma-ray sources;
  • Obtain and analyze data from NRAO and NOAO facilities in support of Fermi-relevant science through cooperative agreements between NASA and the national observatories.

For more details, see fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/proposals/

Data Releases and Data Analysis Workshops

The LAT gamma-ray event data from were made public on August 25, 2009.  All data from both LAT and GBM are made available from the Fermi Science Support Center within 72 hours (and usually much more quickly).  Delivery of  higher level data products: LAT light curves for selected sources, GBM occultation lightcurves etc continue as before. For more details see: http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/data/access/

The Science Support Center is planning a sequence of regional data analysis workshops. Each workshop consists of a one-day hands-on tutorial session covering basic analysis methods for data obtained by the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. Further information on dates and locations for these workshops will be announced on the Fermi-news mailing list ( http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/resources/newsletter/ )

Fermi E/PO News

The Fermi first-year skymap was showcased in Science on a Sphere as part of an educator?s workshop held in conjunction with the 2009 Fermi Science Symposium. A new video ?Einstein?s Cosmic Speed Limit? explaining the Lorentz invariance results, and produced by NASA Goddard, can be seen at the Fermi portal (www.nasa.gov/Fermi) and even YouTube ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mkKhn53L68).

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12. 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 in Phase C/D, or the mission design and development phase, and preparing for the Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) in early February.

Fabrication of the science instrument subsystems is underway, with instrument integration starting in April 2010. Specifically, on the optics, Goddard is more than halfway done with flight glass production. The multilayer coating recipe has been finalized and flight optics coating is on schedule at the Danish Technical University, DTU-Space in Copenhagen, Denmark. Columbia University, where the optics assembly will take place, is currently finishing the final test modules to evaluate the flight assembly protocols and will shortly begin the first flight unit assembly.

For more information about the NuSTAR mission, including details about the mast, launch vehicle, and detectors, visit http://www.nustar.caltech.edu .

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13. The International X-ray Observatory (IXO) - Michael Garcia (CfA)

The IXO team has been largely occupied with the Decadal (Astro2010) process since our last report in the HEAD newsletter. We have responded to two separate 'Requests for Information', and were invited to make a presentation to the sub-committee on Electromagnetic Observations from Space at the June 2009 AAS meeting. You can find this presentation, along with our other presentations and submissions to the Decadal, on the IXO web site at http://ixo.gsfc.nasa.gov , under the 'resources' link. One item developed for the Decadal which you might find particularly useful is the 'IXO Quick Reference Guide', which you can find at: http://ixo.gsfc.nasa.gov/technology/spacecraftQG.html

A hearty THANK YOU to all of those (including many from Europe and Japan) who helped prepare these important inputs to the Decadal panels. It truly was a team effort. The equivalent process (the Cosmic Visions 2015) has begun in Europe, with presentations in Oct and Dec by European industry partners on the design of the mission. A concerted science writing effort as part of the input to that process is expected to start next spring.

As well as supporting the Decadal (and CV) processes, the technology teams have been hard at work making progress on the technologies need for IXO! Tests on a limited section of a stack of silicon pore optics show an improvement in the angular resolution to ~10 arc sec, from the earlier 17 arc sec. Mandrels used to form the slumped glass mirror segments have been polished to the ~2 arcsec level, and the best mirror segments now being made are at the ~10 arcsec level. The calorimeter team has manufactured the first sets flight-sized 'inner' (=32x32 pixel, 2 arcmin FOV) arrays and measured 2.7eV resolution on them, and is investigating several designs to populate the 'outer' array which will bring the FOV to 5x5 arcmin. Future calorimeter activities include making refinements to the fabrication process in order to meet the design goals and increasing the MUX bandwidth to handle the degree of multiplexing assumed for XMS.

Please visit http://ixo.gsfc.nasa.gov for more information.

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14. LISA News - Michele Vallisneri (JPL)

Last summer saw more conferences and workshops of relevance to LISA and LISA-related astrophysics. The 8th Edoardo Amaldi Conference on Gravitational Waves, held in New York City on June 21-26, covered the entire field of gravitational-wave astronomy, current and future detectors, data analysis, astrophysical sources, and opportunities for multimessenger astronomy. There were many contributions on LISA and LISA Pathfinder, including a plenary session with eight talks, ~20 parallel-session talks, and ~20 posters on topics ranging from the astrophysics of LISA sources to LISA Pathfinder technology. Talk slides and posters can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/amaldi8project

The 12th Marcel Grossmann Meeting on theoretical and experimental general relativity was held in Paris on July 12-18. It included several parallel sessions on gravitational-wave sources as well as space- and ground-based detectors. The program and talk slides are at http://www.icra.it/MG/mg12/en

The astro-gr@LISA workshop, held in Barcelona on September 7-11, was the fifth in a successful series that aims at bringing together astrophysicists, cosmologists, relativists, and data analysts to build new collaborations focused on the interpretation of gravitational-wave observations for astronomy and fundamental physics. These workshops have an open format with ample time for interaction; this year the discussion centered on extreme--mass-ratio inspirals and on the possibility of observing intermediate-mass black holes with LISA. Talk slides and streaming video can be found at http://www.aei.mpg.de/~pau/programme_LISA_Astro-GR@BCN.html

For a long time, removing laser frequency noise from the gravitational-wave signal readout was seen as one of the greatest challenges to the LISA measurement. Earlier this year, an international team of experts released a white paper summarizing the significant progress made in this area (ESA document LISA-JPL-TN-823, 2009; e-mail daniel.shaddock@jpl.nasa.gov for a copy). The main conclusion of the white paper is that the LISA requirements on laser frequency noise can be met with orders of magnitude to spare. To achieve this noise reduction, the baseline plan adopts a combination of three suppression techniques: the prestabilization of the laser, its further stabilization by locking it to the LISA arm lengths, and a post-processing technique known as Time Delay Interferometry (TDI).

The LISA interferometry group at JPL has built a testbed to demonstrate TDI experimentally and to develop the LISA phasemeter, the primary LISA science instrument. TDI involves forming linear combinations of phase measurements recorded at specific times, which are determined by the light travel time between the LISA spacecraft. When TDI is implemented correctly, the resulting combinations are free from both laser and clock frequency fluctuations, yet they preserve the gravitational wave signal. In 2008, the group performed the first experimental demonstration of TDI; recently the testbed reached a sensitivity similar to the total noise budget, and it has demonstrated the suppression of laser frequency noise by a factor of 10^9, and of clock noise by a factor of 5x10^4.

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

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science (JAXA/ISAS) is developing a major new high-energy astrophysics observatory.  Astro-H will build on the Suzaku observatory to provide broadband, high-resolution spectroscopy and imaging over the 0.3-600 keV band utilizing four co-aligned instrument operated simultaneously.  The mission will have major participation from NASA and contributions from Canada and Europe.  The combination of new sensors and larger x-ray optics will provide very high sensitivity.  For high-resolution x-ray spectroscopy, the soft x-ray spectrometer (SXS) will feature an x-ray calorimeter spectrometer and x-ray mirror.  The instrument will cover the energy range 0.3-12 keV and is expected to have an energy resolution better than 5 eV (FWHM) with a collecting area of over 200 cm2 at 6 keV.  The cooling system will have both cryogenic and mechanical coolers for maximum lifetime (up to five years).

The SXS is a joint collaboration between NASA/GSFC and ISAS/JAXA, and the NASA participation was selected as an Explorers Mission of Opportunity in June 2008.  The mission is in Phase B now and the NASA portion of the SXS would enter Phase C/D in the spring of 2010 after a confirmation review.  As part of this investigation, a fully supported guest observer program was also proposed and is under review by NASA.  It is anticipated that the GO program will be similar to Suzaku wherein the US community will be able to propose for a large share of the observing time from all of the instruments.

Other instruments on Astro-H include a soft x-ray imager (SXI) consisting of a large area CCD camera with 35 arcmin field-of-view.  Both the SXS and SXI will have ~ 1 arcmin imaging obtained using high-throughput, low mass x-ray mirrors.  A hard x-ray imager (HXI) features focusing x-ray optics coupled with both double-sided silicon strip 
detectors and CdTe array.  The 12-m focal length optical system will provide an effective area of ~ 300 cm2 at 30 keV, and high sensitivity from 10-80 keV using multilayer x-ray mirrors with ~ 2-4 arcmin imaging.

The soft gamma detector (SGD) is a non-focusing soft gamma-ray detector with a 10-600 keV energy range and sensitivity at 300 keV that is more than 10 times higher than the Suzaku HXD (Hard X-ray Detector).  It outperforms previous soft-gamma-ray instruments in background rejection capability by adopting a new, narrow-field-of-view Compton telescope.

Astro-H is planned for launch in 2014 aboard a JAXA HII-A rocket.  More information about Astro-H can be found at:


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16. Meetings Calendar

The X-Ray Astronomy Revolution:
The Ongoing Impact of XMM-Newton and Chandra
Royal Astronomical Society, Geological Society Lecture
Theatre, Burlington House, London, UK
8th Jan 2010

Organisers: Mike Watson (Leicester), Dave Alexander (Durham), & Mat Page (MSSL)

an international workshop
Durham, England 19-22 April 2010

Description: This workshop will explore the processes that drive accretion onto supermassive black holes, from the most luminous distant quasars to more quiescent local systems. Currently there are conflicting discussions in the literature over which processes are most important, with different observations or theoretical studies often providing apparently contradictory results, as well as theorists often disagreeing with the observers.

One cause of these disagreements may be that we are exploring systems with a very wide range in black hole mass, Eddington ratio, redshift, and environment. The workshop aims to clarify the ranges of parameter space that are probed by different studies, and help understand how the key physical processes may vary with these parameters.

Pre-registration is now open; those selected for presentations will be notified by 15 January 2010, when full registration will begin. Please submit your title/abstract early!

Aspen Summer Workshop on "GeV and TeV Sources in the Milky Way"
Aspen Center for Physics
June 13 - 27, 2010
Organizers: Alice Harding, Stefan Funk, Liz Hays, Roger Romani

The purpose of the workshop is to bring together observers and theorists working in the area of GeV and TeV Galactic sources, an area that has attracted much interest following the launch of the Fermi and AGILE space missions and new results from ground-based gamma-ray telescopes. The focus will be on understanding the physics of the newly discovered properties of high-energy sources, including pulsars, pulsar wind nebulae,supernova remnants, and accreting compact objects. We hope to explore Galactic sources with this new energy window in astrophysics and to synthesize the different but complementary GeV and TeV views , to form a more complete physical picture of these objects . An additionally important topic is how to establish signals of new physics in the galaxy, disentangling the high energy astrophysical processes that must first be understood.

Electronic applications and more information about the Aspen Summer 2010 Program are on the website, www.aspenphys.org . The deadline to apply is January 31, 2010.

38th COSPAR Scientific Assembly
Bremen (Germany), 18-25 July 2010

Description: This is a 2-day event held during the week of the COSPAR Scientific Assembly, which will be held in Bremen, Germany, from 18 to 25 July 2010. This session brings together researchers who use GRBs, quasars, and LAEs as tools for probing the epoch of reionization. The session will also gauge direction of future research with coming and proposed facilities, such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), International X-ray Observatory (IXO), Joint Astrophysics Nascent Universe Satellite (JANUS), Xenia, and Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope (EXIST).

A preliminary list of solicited speakers includes: Xavier Barcons (Inst de Física de Cantabria, Spain), Andrew Blain (Caltech, USA), Josh Bloom (UC Berkeley, USA), Volker Bromm (UTA, USA), Sergio Campana (OAB, Italy), Xiaohui Fan (UA, USA), Andrea Ferrara (SISSA, Italy), Masanori Iye (NAOJ, Japan), Simon Lilly (ETH Hoenggerberg, Switzerland), Sangeeta Malhotra (ASU, USA), Nial Tanvir (Univ Leicester, UK), Stuart Wyithe (Univ of Melbourne, Australia), Naoki Yoshida (Nagoya Univ, Japan)

Information concerning this event can be found on the web at: http://www.cospar-assembly.org/admin/congress_overview.php?sessionid=167

Registrations, abstract submission and other logistic information can be found at: http://www.cospar-assembly.org/ and http://www.cospar2010.org/index.html


8th INTEGRAL Workshop
27 - 30 September 2010
Dublin, Ireland

Description: The 8th INTEGRAL workshop " THE RESTLESS GAMMA-RAY UNIVERSE " will take place at the Dublin Castle, Dublin, Ireland from 27 to 30 September 2010. The main goal of this workshop is to present and to discuss (via invited and contributed talks and posters) latest results obtained in the field of high energy astrophysics using the International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory INTEGRAL, as well as results from related observations from other ground- and space-based high energy observatories.

Contributions to the workshop shall cover the following scientific topics:

* X-ray binaries (IGR sources, black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs)
* Isolated neutron stars (gamma-ray pulsars, magnetars)
* Nucleosynthesis (SNe and SNRs), gamma-ray lines, diffuse line and
continuum emission
* Massive black holes in AGNs, elliptical galaxies, nucleus of the Galaxy
* Surveys, source populations and unidentified sources
* Cosmic background radiation
* Gamma-ray bursts
* Coordinated observations with other ground- and space-based
observatories (e.g. XMM, Chandra, RXTE, SWIFT, Suzaku, AGILE, FERMI,
* Science data processing and analysis (posters only)
* Future instruments and missions (posters only)

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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