UC Davis Physicist Will Illuminate Black Holes In Inaugural Ko Lecture

Update May 4: This event is now free of charge for all. RSVPs are requested.

By Becky Oskin

The first lecture in new Winston Ko Frontiers in Mathematical and Physical Sciences Public Lecture series will take place May 9. Veronika Hubeny will discuss modern understanding of black holes, and the remaining mysteries. Her talk, “Illuminating Black Holes,” begins at 5 p.m. on Monday, May 9, in the UC Davis Conference Center.Public lecture on black holes, May 9, UC Davis Conference Center

New results from LUX dark matter detector

Contributed by the LUX Collaboration

The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter experiment, which operates nearly a mile underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in the Black Hills of South Dakota, has already proven itself to be the most sensitive dark matter detector in the world. Now, a new set of calibration techniques employed by LUX scientists has again dramatically improved its sensitivity.

Researchers with LUX are looking for WIMPs, weakly interacting massive particles, which are among the leading candidates for dark matter.

UC Davis physicist praises 2015 Nobel prize for neutrinos

The sun, as seen in neutrinos captured by the Super-K experiment in Japan (R. Svoboda and K. Gordan).

The sun, as seen in neutrinos captured by the Super-K experiment in Japan (R. Svoboda and K. Gordan).

Robert Svoboda contributed to Nobel-winning neutrino experiments

By Becky Oskin

Billions of mysterious particles called neutrinos bombard your body every day. But catching even one neutrino is a huge effort. Nearly all neutrinos pass through people — and even our planet Earth — without a trace.

“There are 65 million neutrinos going through your thumbnail every second,” said Robert Svoboda, a UC Davis physics professor who has studied neutrinos for more than 25 years. “Only one will stop in your body during your lifetime.”

Galaxy cluster collision revives “radio phoenix”

The collision of two massive galaxy clusters 1.6 billion light years from Earth revived a radio source in a fading cloud of electrons, creating a “radio phoenix.” The phenomenon was recorded by a team of astronomers including William Dawson of the UC Davis physics department and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Composite image of colliding galaxy cluster Abell 1033 combines X-ray data from Chandra (pink) along with radio data (green) and optical data that reveals the density of the galaxies (blue). (NASA)

Composite image of colliding galaxy cluster Abell 1033 combines X-ray data from Chandra (pink) along with radio data (green) and optical data that reveals the density of the galaxies (blue). (Chandra X-ray Observatory)

According to a news release from the Chandra X-ray observatory,

Neutrinos leave mark on early universe

Much of the time, popular stories about science emphasize the broader impact, the implications for the field, what it might mean for our lives. But in reality, science is often about finding that some detail of the universe works the way we had already predicted, and for scientists that’s pretty cool too.

In one such discovery, UC Davis physicists have for the first time seen the signature of neutrinos spreading through the hot plasma of the early universe, at a time when light itself was still trapped in the plasma. The work is published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Warm winters can help wildfire recovery, as long as there’s enough rain

By Kat Kerlin

Using more than a decade’s worth of daily satellite images, researchers have determined ecosystems of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region bounce back from wildfires much more quickly in warmer winter weather.

However, there is an important caveat for other areas with Mediterranean climates at high risk of fires, such as drought-stricken California: The rate of recovery also depends on sufficient rainfall, especially in summer.

Data from South Africa shows how climate influences recovery from wildfire and could be generally applied to similar regions in California and Australia. (Andrew Latimer/UC Davis)

Data from South Africa shows how climate influences recovery from wildfire and could be generally applied to similar regions in California and Australia. (Andrew Latimer/UC Davis)

NSF funds NetSage to analyze, improve international data networks

Every day, thousands of researchers rely on robust data networks to share petabytes of data with their colleagues around the world. A new $5 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant, awarded to Indiana University, the University of California, Davis and the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, seeks to bolster these networks by enabling unprecedented measurement and analysis.

The grant will fund NetSage, a network measurement, analysis and visualization service designed to address the needs of today’s international networks. The principal investigators are: Jennifer Schopf at Indiana University; Sean Peisert, assistant professor of computer science at UC Davis; and Jason Leigh at the University of Hawaii.

Cosmic collisions wake up snoozing galaxies

Galaxies are often found grouped into clusters, which contain many ‘red and dead’ members that stopped forming stars in the distant past. Now astronomers have found that when galaxy clusters collide, the resulting shockwave can “wake up” these dormant galaxies and drive a new generation of star formation.

The international team that made the discovery is led by Andra Stroe of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands and David Sobral of Leiden and the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and researchers Will Dawson and James Jee from UC Davis and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and David Wittman, associate professor of physics at UC Davis. The work is published April 24 in two papers in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

First stone laid for Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)

A new map of the heavens took a big step forward last week as scientists and dignitaries, including Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, laid the first stone for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope on the 8900-foot summit of Cerro Pachón in northern Chile.

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, speaking at the first stone ceremony for the LSST. NSF photo

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, speaking at the first stone ceremony for the LSST. NSF photo

Among those present was UC Davis physicist J. Anthony (Tony) Tyson, who originally conceived the LSST system (which includes a giant camera, novel telescope design and supercomputer) and lead the project from the 1990s to 2013. He now serves as Chief Scientist for the telescope.

Cosmic lens splits supernova into four images

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time spotted four images of the same distant exploding star, arranged in an “Einstein’s Cross,” a cross-shape pattern created by the powerful gravity of a foreground galaxy embedded in a massive cluster of galaxies.

Distant supernova split into four images by massive galaxy cluster in the four ground. Because light is taking different paths through the cluster, other images of the supernova may appear later.

Distant supernova split into four images by massive galaxy cluster in the four ground. Because light is taking different paths through the cluster, other images of the supernova may appear later.

First predicted by Albert Einstein, gravitational lensing is similar to a glass lens bending light to magnify and distort the image of an object behind it.