The Univesity of Virginia's Center for Global Inquiry has awarded a grant to support the Virginia/Chilean Universtiy Network for Astronomy, or VICUNAS. The program leverages UVA’s 20 years of collaboration in Chile with a new, state-of-the-art infrared spectrograph – called APOGEE-2 – that will soon yield an unprecedented survey of the southern half of the Milky Way. Astronomy professor Steve Majewski and senior research scientist John Wilson are working with seven Chilean universities to operate the instrument, sharing time, knowledge and expertise and exchanging students.
UVA graduate student Thankful Cromartie used the Arecibo Observatory to observe unidentified gamma-ray sources in the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope source catalog and discovered six new millisecond pulsars! Five of the six pulsars are in interacting compact binaries (with periods < 8.1 hr), while the sixth is a more typical neutron star-white dwarf binary with an 83-day orbital period.
Newly formed dwarf galaxies were likely the reason that the universe heated up about 13 billion years ago, according to new work by an international team of scientists that included University of Virginia astronomer Trinh Thuan. The finding opens an avenue for better understanding the early period of the universe’s 14 billion year history.
We are excited to announce that Dark Skies Bright Kids has been given a generous grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for the next three years to run week long summer astronomy programs designed at reaching more rural communities in southern Virginia. We are very grateful for their support and look forward to the opportunity to bring astronomy education and outreach to more communities across Virginia!
This program will allow us to take full advantage of the wonderfully dark skies southern Virginia has to offer. In fact they are some of the darkest skies on the east coast! Watch this space for more updates about specific details for this summer's programs.
Wonderful UVA Virginia Magazine video and article about our friend, Caroyl Beddow Gooch, recalling her work her in the 1940s. Thanks to Molly Minturn for capturing Caroyl's delightful character in this piece.
Two UVA planetary scientists, Dr. Anne Verbiscer (Astronomy) and Dr. Alan Howard (Environmental Sciences), are members of the science team for the New Horizons mission to Pluto. In this UVAToday article, they discuss early results from the mission, including some of the spectacular images returned so far.
UVA astronomer Michael Skrutskie and colleagues have taken advantage of a chance alignment of Jupiter's moons to study Io's Loki Patera volcano and its huge lava lake with 40 times better resolution than any past Earth-based observations.
Professor Steve Majewski discusses the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE) and the plans for the new Southern hemisphere extension of APOGEE, APOGEE-2, in this recent UVA Magazine Spotlight. Check it out!
Professors Anne Verbiscer and Michael Skrutskie are co-authors on the recent Nature paper announcing the discovery of the true extent of Saturn's outermost ring. Prof. Verbiscer and Prof. Skrutskie discovered this ring, the so-called Pheobe ring, in 2009 using the Spitzer Space Telescope. In the Nature article published earlier this month, they used data from the NASA Wide-field Infrared Space Explorer to find that the Pheobe ring extends out to a remarkable distance of 270 Saturn-radii from Saturn, making it the largest known planetary ring in the Solar System.
University of Virginia astronomer Dr. Mike Skrutskie and former UVA Ph.D. student Dr. Jarron Leisenring used the Large Binocular Telescope to make landmark observations of a giant lava lake on Jupiter's moon Io. Details on the observations and what they found are in this UVAToday article.
Graduate Student Sandra Liss was the Departmental Award Winner in this year's Graduate Teaching Awards Competition for her dedication to teaching in the Department of Astronomy. This award, from the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, in collaboration with the University's Teaching Resource Center, recognizes the university's best graduate student teachers and carries an honorarium.
Professor Kelsey Johnson's research on the ALMA detection of birthplaces of soon-to-be globular clusters was featured in a press release article in the Washington Post. Check out the article, "This cosmic 'dinosaur egg' is about to hatch" on the Washington Post website.
Undergraduate Tracy Esman is the recipient of the department's Limber Award, which recognizes the most outstanding Astrophysics graduate each year in terms of research and academics. She did her thesis with Anne Verbiscer on the Martian atmosphere, and will be attending the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab for graduate school.
Undergraduate Avery Bailey is the recipient of the department's Vyssotsky Prize, which recognizes an outstanding third year Astrophysics major. It comes with $1000 for research-related travel. Avery has been working with Craig Sarazin on analyzing XMM-Newton X-ray data on the merging cluster Abell 2061.