Archive for BLAST

Terra Nova

Posted in Art, History, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by telescoper

We’re currently enduring a spell of cold weather here in Cardiff, although I think it might be rather milder here then elsewhere in the UK. My garden thermometer showed a mere -5 C when I looked at it at 7.15 this morning. The other day we had a meeting of half-a-dozen people in one of our large teaching rooms and it was absolutely freezing. I don’t know what was wrong with the heating. Yesterday I actually did a lecture in the same room, but with 80-odd “warm bodies” (or “students” as they are sometimes known) in there, it was bearable.

The cold here of course is nothing compared with that endured by Captain Scott‘s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, but I mention it here for a number of reasons. First, the centenary of the death of Scott and his companions is coming up next month; the tragedy unfolded in March 1912. There’s actually a very special concert coming up next week, featuring Vaughan Williams’ wonderful music written for the classic film Scott of the Antarctic (which, incidentally, you can actually watch in full on Youtube). I’m definitely going along, and will probably review the performance next week, but quite a number of my colleagues are also going, for reasons which will become obvious..

The concert is special because of the very strong connections between the Scott Expedition and the City of Cardiff. Much of the financial support needed to fund the trek to the South Pole was raised from Cardiff businessmen and Scott’s ship, the Terra Nova, actually set sail from Cardiff (in June 1910) on its journey, first to New Zealand and thence to Antarctica.

Incidentally, an article in this morning’s Western Mail relates to a historic painting of the departure of the Terra Nova which is about to be auctioned:

Cardiff Bay has certainly changed a great deal since 1910, but quite a lot is recognizable, especially the Pierhead Building, which can be seen to the right. The actual docks, the locations of which are revealed by the lines of masts of tall ships, are now mainly filled in. But there is at least one other reminder of this occasion to be found at Cardiff Bay, a large waterfront bar itself called Terra Nova

There’s also a deep connection with the South Pole, and the Antarctic generally, for many members of the Astronomy Instrumentation Group here in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University, quite a few of whom have actually been to the South Pole in connection with various experiments, including Quad,  Boomerang and BLAST, because of the unique observing conditions there.

Another Day at the ArXiv..

Posted in Cosmic Anomalies, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on October 8, 2009 by telescoper

Every now and again I remember that this is supposed to be some sort of science blog. This happened again this morning after three hours of meetings with my undergraduate project students. Dealing with questions about simulating the cosmic microwave background, measuring the bending of light during an eclipse, and how to do QCD calculations on a lattice reminded me that I’m supposed to know something about stuff like that.

Anyway, looking for something to post about while I eat my lunchtime sandwich, I turned to the estimable arXiv and turned to the section marked astro-ph, and to the new submissions category, for inspiration.

I’m one of the old-fashioned types who still gets an email every day of the new submissions. In the old days there were only a few, but today’s new submissions were 77 in number, only about half-a-dozen of which seemed directly relevant to things I’m interested in. It’s always a bit of a struggle keeping up and I often miss important things. There’s no way I can read as widely around my own field as I would like to, or as I used to in the past, but that’s the information revolution for you…

Anyway, the thing that leapt out at me first was an interesting paper by Dikarev et al (accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal) that speculates about the possibility that dust grains in the solar system might be producing emission that messes up measurements of the cosmic microwave background, thus possibly causing the curious cosmic anomalies seen by WMAP I’ve blogged about on more than one previous occasion.

Their abstract reads:

Analyses of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation maps made by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) have revealed anomalies not predicted by the standard inflationary cosmology. In particular, the power of the quadrupole moment of the CMB fluctuations is remarkably low, and the quadrupole and octopole moments are aligned mutually and with the geometry of the Solar system. It has been suggested in the literature that microwave sky pollution by an unidentified dust cloud in the vicinity of the Solar system may be the cause for these anomalies. In this paper, we simulate the thermal emission by clouds of spherical homogeneous particles of several materials. Spectral constraints from the WMAP multi-wavelength data and earlier infrared observations on the hypothetical dust cloud are used to determine the dust cloud’s physical characteristics. In order for its emissivity to demonstrate a flat, CMB-like wavelength dependence over the WMAP wavelengths (3 through 14 mm), and to be invisible in the infrared light, its particles must be macroscopic. Silicate spheres from several millimetres in size and carbonaceous particles an order of magnitude smaller will suffice. According to our estimates of the abundance of such particles in the Zodiacal cloud and trans-neptunian belt, yielding the optical depths of the order of 1E-7 for each cloud, the Solar-system dust can well contribute 10 microKelvin (within an order of magnitude) in the microwaves. This is not only intriguingly close to the magnitude of the anomalies (about 30 microKelvin), but also alarmingly above the presently believed magnitude of systematic biases of the WMAP results (below 5 microKelvin) and, to an even greater degree, of the future missions with higher sensitivities, e.g. PLANCK.

I haven’t read the paper in detail yet, but will definitely do so. In the meantime I’d be interested to hear the reaction to this claim from dusty experts!

Of course we know there is dust in the solar system, and were reminded of this in spectacular style earlier this week by the discovery (by the Spitzer telescope) of an enormous new ring around Saturn.

That tenuous link gives me an excuse to include a gratuitous pretty picture:

It may look impressive, but I hope things like that are not messing up the CMB. Has anyone got a vacuum cleaner?

Full Blast

Posted in Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on April 9, 2009 by telescoper

Yesterday, Paolo Calisse and I were paid a visit by a reporter (Martin Shipton) and a photographer from Welsh newspaper The Western Mail who wanted to cover the sad story of Clover.

Paolo is heavily involved with Clover, but I was a bit hesitant about doing this because I’m not really part of the Clover team. Paolo suggested it might be an advantage that I wasn’t so directly involved as I might be able to give a more balanced view of the importance of the experiment than him. Anyway, the story came out today in the newspaper and is available online too.

DrThis is the picture they took of me and Paolo in the Clover lab, fiddling with the cryostat. I’ve already had my leg pulled enough about pretending to be an instrumentalist for the photograph so no jokes please…

 

 

 

 

In the same issue of the paper there is another feature about Cardiff’s astronomy research, concerning BLAST (Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimetre Telescope). This is a much happier story, as it marks the release of results from a highly successful science run from 2006. In the print version of the Western Mail the two stories were run on the same page, one above the other, making very effectively the point that cutting the funding of the Astronomy Instrumentation Group jeopardizes a great deal of world-leading research besides Clover itself. And when I say “world-leading” I mean it, whatever the RAE panel might have thought.

A deluge of articles about BLAST appeared on the arXiv today, one of which is now published in Nature. I thought I’d put up the abstracts here in order to draw attention to these results. The author lists contain many Cardiff authors and, as you’ll see, the results are both fascinating and wide-ranging. I’ve put links to the arXiv after each abstract:

Title: BLAST: Correlations in the Cosmic Far-Infrared Background at 250, 350, and 500 microns Reveal Clustering of Star-Forming Galaxies

Authors: Marco P. Viero, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Carrie J. MacTavish, Gaelen Marsden, Peter G. Martin, Philip Mauskopf, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Mattia Negrello, Calvin B. Netterfield, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Donald V. Wiebe

We detect correlations in the cosmic far-infrared background due to the clustering of star-forming galaxies, in observations made with the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST), at 250, 350, and 500 microns. Since the star-forming galaxies which make up the far-infrared background are expected to trace the underlying dark matter in a biased way, measuring clustering in the far infrared background provides a way to relate star formation directly to structure formation. We test the plausibility of the result by fitting a simple halo model to the data. We derive an effective bias b_eff = 2.2 +/- 0.2, effective mass log(M_eff/M_sun) = 13.2 (+0.3/-0.8), and minimum mass log(M_min/M_sun) = 9.9 (+1.5/-1.7). This is the first robust clustering measurement at submillimeter wavelengths.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1200

Title: Over half of the far-infrared background light comes from galaxies at z >= 1.2

Authors: Mark J. Devlin, Peter A. R. Ade, Itziar Aretxaga, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Gaelen Marsden, Peter G. Martin, Philip Mauskopf, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Calvin B. Netterfield, Henry Ngo, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

Journal-ref: Nature, vol. 458, 737-739 (2009) DOI: 10.1038/nature07918

Submillimetre surveys during the past decade have discovered a population of luminous, high-redshift, dusty starburst galaxies. In the redshift range 1 <= z <= 4, these massive submillimetre galaxies go through a phase characterized by optically obscured star formation at rates several hundred times that in the local Universe. Half of the starlight from this highly energetic process is absorbed and thermally re-radiated by clouds of dust at temperatures near 30 K with spectral energy distributions peaking at 100 microns in the rest frame. At 1 <= z <= 4, the peak is redshifted to wavelengths between 200 and 500 microns. The cumulative effect of these galaxies is to yield extragalactic optical and far-infrared backgrounds with approximately equal energy densities. Since the initial detection of the far-infrared background (FIRB), higher-resolution experiments have sought to decompose this integrated radiation into the contributions from individual galaxies. Here we report the results of an extragalactic survey at 250, 350 and 500 microns. Combining our results at 500 microns with those at 24 microns, we determine that all of the FIRB comes from individual galaxies, with galaxies at z >= 1.2 accounting for 70 per cent of it. As expected, at the longest wavelengths the signal is dominated by ultraluminous galaxies at z > 1.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1201

Title: The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) 2006:
Calibration and Flight Performance

Authors: Matthew D. P. Truch, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Simon R. Dicker, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Gaelen Marsden, Peter G. Martin, Philip Mauskopf, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Calvin B. Netterfield, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas E. Thomas, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) operated successfully during a 250-hour flight over Antarctica in December 2006 (BLAST06). As part of the calibration and pointing procedures, the red hypergiant star VY CMa was observed and used as the primary calibrator. Details of the overall BLAST06 calibration procedure are discussed. The 1-sigma absolute calibration is accurate to 10, 12, and 13% at the 250, 350, and 500 micron bands, respectively. The errors are highly correlated between bands
resulting in much lower error for the derived shape of the 250-500 micron continuum. The overall pointing error is <5″ rms for the 36, 42, and 60″ beams. The performance of the optics and pointing systems is discussed.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1202

Title: A Bright Submillimeter Source in the Bullet Cluster (1E0657–56) Field Detected with BLAST

Authors: Marie Rex, Peter A. R. Ade, Itziar Aretxaga, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Simon R. Dicker, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Gaelen Marsden, Peter G. Martin, Philip Mauskopf, Calvin B. Netterfield, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

We present the 250, 350, and 500 micron detection of bright submillimeter emission in the direction of the Bullet Cluster measured by the Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST). The 500 micron centroid is coincident with an AzTEC 1.1 millimeter detection at a position close to the peak lensing magnification produced by the cluster. However, the 250 micron and 350 micron emission is resolved and elongated, with centroid positions shifted toward the south of the AzTEC source and a differential shift between bands that cannot be explained by pointing uncertainties. We therefore conclude that the BLAST detection is contaminated by emission from foreground galaxies associated with the Bullet Cluster. The submillimeter redshift estimate based on 250-1100 micron photometry at the position of the AzTEC source is z_phot = 2.9 (+0.6/-0.3), consistent with the infrared color redshift estimation of the most likely Spitzer IRAC counterpart. These flux densities indicate an apparent far-infrared luminosity of L_FIR = 2E13 L_sun. When the amplification due to the gravitational lensing of the cluster is removed, the intrinsic far-infrared luminosity of the source is found to be L_FIR <= 1E12 L_sun, consistent with typical luminous infrared galaxies.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1203

Title: Radio and mid-infrared identification of BLAST source counterparts in the Chandra Deep Field South

Authors: Simon Dye, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, James S. Dunlop, Stephen A. Eales, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Gaelen Marsden, Philip Mauskopf, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Calvin B. Netterfield, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

We have identified radio and/or mid-infrared counterparts to 198 out of 351 sources detected at >= 5 sigma over ~ 9 sq. degrees centered on the Chandra Deep Field South (CDFS) by the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) at 250, 350, and 500 microns. We have matched 92 of these counterparts to optical sources with previously derived photometric redshifts and fitted SEDs to the BLAST fluxes and fluxes at 70 and 160 microns acquired with the Spitzer Space Telescope. In this way, we have constrained dust temperatures, total far-infrared/submillimeter luminosities and star formation rates for each source. Our findings show that the BLAST sources lie at significantly lower redshifts and have significantly lower rest-frame dust temperatures compared to submm sources detected in surveys conducted at 850 microns. We demonstrate that an apparent increase in dust temperature with redshift in our sample arises as a result of selection effects. This paper
constitutes the public release of the multi-wavelength catalog of >= 5 sigma BLAST sources contained within the full ~ 9 sq. degree survey area.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1204

Title: BLAST: Resolving the Cosmic Submillimeter Background

Authors: Gaelen Marsden, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Simon R. Dicker, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Philip Mauskopf, Benjamin Magnelli, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Calvin B. Netterfield, Henry Ngo, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) has made one square-degree, deep, confusion-limited maps at three different bands, centered on the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey South field. By calculating the covariance of these maps with catalogs of 24 micron sources from the Far-Infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (FIDEL), we have determined that the total submillimeter intensities are 8.60 +/- 0.59, 4.93 +/- 0.34, and 2.27 +/- 0.20 nW m^-2 sr^-1 at 250, 350, and 500 microns, respectively. These numbers are more precise than previous estimates of the cosmic infrared background (CIB) and are consistent with 24 micron-selected galaxies generating the full intensity of the CIB. We find that more than half of the CIB originates from sources at z >= 1.2. At all BLAST wavelengths, the relative intensity of high-z sources is higher for 24 micron-faint sources than it is for 24 micron-bright sources. Galaxies identified very broadly as AGN by their Spitzer Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) colors contribute 32-48% of the CIB, although X-ray-selected AGN contribute only 7%. BzK-selected galaxies are found to be brighter than typical 24 micron-selected galaxies in the BLAST bands, and contribute 32-42% of the CIB. These data provide high-precision constraints for models of the evolution of the number density and intensity of star-forming galaxies at high redshift.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1205

Title: BLAST: A Far-Infrared Measurement of the History of Star Formation

Authors: Enzo Pascale, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Simon Dye, Steve A. Eales, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Gaelen Marsden, Philip Mauskopf, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Calvin B. Netterfield, Luca Olmi, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

We use measurements from the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope (BLAST) at wavelengths spanning 250 to 500 microns, combined with data from the Spitzer Infrared telescope and ground-based optical surveys in GOODS-S, to determine the average star formation rate of the galaxies that comprise the cosmic infrared background (CIB) radiation from 70 to 500 microns, at redshifts 0 < z < 3. We find that different redshifts are preferentially probed at different wavelengths within this range, with most of the 70 micron background generated at z < ~1 and the 500 micron background generated at z >~1. The spectral coverage of BLAST and Spitzer in the region of the peak of the background at ~200 microns allows us to directly estimate the mean physical properties (temperature, bolometric luminosity and mass) of the dust in the galaxies responsible for contributing more than 80% of the CIB. By utilizing available redshift information we directly measure the evolution of the far infrared luminosity density and therefore the optically obscured star formation history up to redshift z ~3.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1206

Title: BLAST: The Mass Function, Lifetimes, and Properties of Intermediate Mass Cores from a 50 Square Degree Submillimeter Galactic Survey in Vela (l = ~265)

Authors: Calvin. B. Netterfield, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Gaelen Marsden, Peter G. Martin, Phillip Mauskopf, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Arabindo Roy, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

We present first results from an unbiased, 50 square degree submillimeter Galactic survey at 250, 350, and 500 microns from the 2006 flight of the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST). The map has resolution ranging from 36″ to 60″ in the three submillimeter bands spanning the thermal emission peak of cold starless cores. We determine the temperature, luminosity, and mass of more than a thousand compact sources in a range of evolutionary stages and an unbiased statistical characterization of the population. From comparison with C^18 O data, we find the dust opacity per gas mass, kappa/R = 0.16 cm^2/g at 250 microns, for cold clumps. We find that 2% of the mass of the molecular gas over this diverse region is in cores colder than 14 K, and that the mass function for these cold cores is consistent with a power law with index alpha = -3.22 +/- 0.14 over the mass range 14 M_sun < M < 80 M_sun, steeper than the Salpeter alpha = -2.35 initial massfunction for stars. Additionally, we infer a mass dependent cold core lifetime of tau(M) = 4E6 (M/20 M_sun)^-0.9 years — longer than what has been found in previous surveys of either low or high mass cores, and significantly longer than free fall or turbulent decay time scales. This implies some form of non-thermal support for cold cores during this early stage of star formation.

http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.1207

You can find a lot more detailed information on the dedicated BLAST website.

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