Members of the Michigan State University Department of Physics and Astronomy are major players in the new High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma-Ray Observatory in Puebla, Mexico, which will observe very high-energy gamma rays and cosmic rays coming from extreme sources in the universe, such as black holes, dark matter and exploding stars. HAWC is a collaborative effort between the United States and Mexico. The site was chosen for its high altitude (13,500 feet) and proximity to the LMT Alfonso Serano, a large radio telescope.
The majority of the hundreds of millions of galaxies in the universe are members of giant clusters of galaxies, ranging from small groupings of 50 or so (such as the Local Cluster that our own Milky Way galaxy is part of) to larger collections of over 1000 galaxies. Observations over the years of the rates of star formation in the central bright galaxies in these clusters have shown a wide variation. It has not been clear why these galaxies in some clusters have formed millions of stars in the past million years (and seem to have done so at similar rate for a good part of their lifetimes), while similar, central galaxies in other clusters appear to have formed no new stars for a substantial fraction of their lifetimes. There are some clusters whose brightest galaxy lies between these extremes as well, showing evidence of ample star formation during some periods of time and little star formation at other times.
In September 2014, MSU officially joined the ICECUBE collaboration, which runs a high energy neutrino observatory located at the South Pole. Particle Astrophysics is an emerging area in the PA department with strong representation in ICECUBE, as well as involvement in the HAWC experiment, which is a high energy gamma ray detector in the mountains of Mexico. Professor Jim Linnemann has played a key role in promoting particle astrophysics at MSU, and the arrival of Ty DeYoung and Kendall Mahn, who are members of ICECUBE, is a very significant expansion of effort in this area.
This year the planetarium marks its 50th anniversary with the installation of a new star projector and the arrival of a new director, Shannon Schmoll. The planetarium’s new projector – the Digistar 5 – was installed in August, just in time for a series of new shows in the fall.
For more information about Abrams Planetarium's programs, see http://www.abramsplanetarium.org/.
On 30 June 2014, Professor Hendrik Schatz, director of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA), a NSF physics frontiers center, received news that it would be continued for another five years. In this phase of the program, JINA will strive to understand the evolution of the elements in the universe. The lead organization in this renewal is MSU, with Notre Dame and U. Chicago as participating units. These centers are amongst the most prized and prestigious centers funded by the NSF and accolades should go to Hendrik Schatz and his team for this success.
The DOE Office of Science Office of Project Assessment concluded its June 24-26 review of the FRIB project and will recommend to the DOE Office of Science Acquisition Executive that FRIB is ready for technical construction (CD-3b). The review committee was organized into eight subcommittees and FRIB staff gave 45 presentations. MSU President Simon and Executive Vice President Udpa represented MSU at the review.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy has welcomed six new faculty members in 2014.
The MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy will be visited by internationally noted climatologist Dr. Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), on Thursday, September 18th, 2014.
At 4:10 pm, Dr. Trenberth will give the weekly departmental colloquium talk on the topic "Earth's Energy Balance Revisited". See this for more details.
Physics & Astronomy Professor Lisa Lapidus's research deals with the physical properties of proteins and how they behave under various conditions. This research has recently yielded promising results about a protein common in brain tissue which lead to the possibility that the protein's aggregation in cases of Parkinson's Disease and other brain disorders may be influenced by other molecules in such a way as to prevent this aggregation and thus short-circuit the development of the disorder.
On a clear but cold 17th of March 2014, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) was held near the FRIB construction worksite on the MSU campus.