News & Press releases

Number of entries: 120

05
May 2021

ICE initiates a project funded by the European Research Council: ERC IMAGINE


ICE initiates a project funded by the European Research Council: ERC IMAGINE
ICE researcher Daniele Viganò
Last year, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) obtained seven Starting Grants awarded annually by the European Research Council (ERC). These projects are included in the Excellent Science pillar of the Horizon 2020 program of the European Union (EU).

Daniele Viganò, researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), obtained an ERC Starting Grant for the IMAGINE project, which aims to study magnetic fields on exoplanets. IMAGINE started officially last Saturday, May 1.

This ongoing project "focuses on magnetic fields as a key factor for the habitability of rocky planets, just like on Earth, and as a messenger of the internal composition and dynamics of exoplanets in general”, explains scientist Daniele Viganò.

“Combining a novel formulation, detectable radio wave emission studies, and partially imported advanced numerical techniques adapted from the magnetised neutron star scenario, IMAGINE will predict magnetic field values ​​for different exoplanets, comparing the associated observable properties of gas giants and contributing to identify the best candidates for rocky worlds for their habitability”, says researcher Viganò.

You can learn more here.
07
April 2021

Greenlight to HydroGNSS, ESA’s second Scout mission


Greenlight to HydroGNSS, ESA’s second Scout mission
Artist's impression of HydroGNSS satellite in orbit. (Credit: SSTL)
Credit: SSTL
  • Researchers in the Earth Observation Group at the Institute of Space Sciences participate in the mission consortium
  • Led by Surrey Satellite Technology, HydroGNSS will measure key hydrological climate variables

A group of researchers in the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC) participate in HydroGNSS, the second Scout mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). These missions are a new element in ESA's Earth Observation FutureEO Programme, and seek to demonstrate the capability of small satellites to deliver value-added science. Following the selection of the first Scout satellite mission last December, ESA has now approved the negotiations for the development of a second one, called HydroGNSS.
 
The mission, led by the British company Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, will provide measurements of key hydrological climate variables including soil moisture, freeze–thaw state over permafrost, inundation and wetlands, and above-ground biomass. These variables help scientists understand climate change and contribute towards weather modelling, ecology mapping, agricultural planning and flood preparedness.

In order to obtain these measurements, scientists will use a technique called ‘Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) reflectometry’. Researchers in the Earth Observation Group at the Institute of Space Sciences have more than 20 years of experience in this technique, and are involved in HydroGNSS as part of the mission consortium. The consortium also includes teams at La Sapienza University, Tor Vergata University and IFAC-CNR in Italy, FMI in Finland, NOC and University of Nottingham in the UK.   

“This mission presents several novelties with respect to other reflectometry missions” explains Dr. Estel Cardellach, ICE-CSIC researcher and member of the consortium: “For the first time, the signals will be received at two polarizations, and large amounts of data at high sampling rate will be acquired in a nearly continuous mode to enable new science and improved products”. 

ESA Scout missions aim to demonstrate how small satellites on a budget of less than €30m and a three-year schedule can play an important role in Earth Observation, and be scaled up for future missions. Scalability is an important aspect of this mission, as pointed out by Dr. Weiqiang Li, team member in this research group in the Institute of Space Sciences: “The concept behind HydroGNSS is scalable to larger constellations of satellites, which would represent an effective and sustainable way to densify these ECV measurements”.
 
Future applications
HydroGNSS paves the way for an affordable future constellation that can offer measurements with a temporal-spatial resolution not accessible to traditional remote sensing satellites, thus offering new capacity to monitor very dynamic phenomena and helping to fill the gaps in our monitoring of the Earth’s vital signs for the future.
 
More information
Read the press releases of the European Space Agency and Surrey Satellite Technology.
Images are available for download at the bottom of the SSTL press release.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30pemNtyBVA&t=1s

Contacts
ICE Communication Office
Bellaterra, Spain
Paula Talero & Alba Calejero
E-mail: outreach@ice.csic.es
 
Lead researchers at ICE
Bellaterra, Spain
Estel Cardellach: estel@ice.csic.es
Weiqiang Li: weiqiang@ice.csic.es
22
March 2021

ICE researcher participates in the largest catalogue of galaxy morphological classification to date


ICE researcher participates in the largest catalogue of galaxy morphological classification to date
Original images of a spiral galaxy and an elliptical galaxy and their degraded versions, used to train the neural network.
  • ICE researcher Helena Domínguez Sánchez is the second author of this galaxy morphological classification, including 27 million galaxies.
  • The scientific team used artificial intelligence –specifically a machine learning algorithm with 97% accuracy–  to separate galaxies in two morphological types, even faint and distant galaxies.
  A scientific research led by the Department of Physics and Astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania and the Institute of Physics of Cantabria (UC-CSIC) has produced the largest catalogue of galaxy morphological classification to date, including 27 million galaxies. The researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) Helena Domínguez is the second author of this research, recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS) magazine.

The researchers used data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES) –a dataset cataloguing hundreds of millions distant galaxies over six years– and artificial intelligence, specifically, a machine learning algorithm with up to 97% accuracy to learn how to separate galaxies in morphological types, even faint and distant galaxies.

The morphology of galaxies is closely related to the kind of stars they are built of and their formation mechanisms. This catalogue includes two main morphological types: spiral galaxies, with a rotating disk where new stars are born; and elliptical galaxies, the most massive galaxies in the Universe, composed of old stars and dominated by random motions.

It is easy to distinguish these two galaxy types at a glance, but there are two important problems: on the one hand, the huge number of galaxies to be classified compels to use automated classifications, and on the other hand, the fact that distant galaxies look fainter and smaller, which usually made images very noisy.

The scientific team degraded high-quality images of local galaxies to the appearance they would have if they were more distant, and used the correct labels to train a convolutional neural network. In this way, it has been possible to learn to classify even the most difficult examples. According to the study, the algorithm guessing the galaxies morphology is correct 97% of the times, regardless of the of noise and the spatial resolution of the images.

This study proves that machines are able to recover features which remain hidden to the human eye and that they are able to separate useful signals from noise when trained with the correct labels. Therefore, machines can reliably classify images of fainter galaxies.

The use of convolutional neural networks (CNN) has proven to be extremely successful for analysing and classifying galaxy images. This type of neural network is a deep learning algorithm able to take in an input image and assign a label to different features of that image to distinguish them from each other.

Future applications
 
This automated method has made it possible to assign a classification to 27 million galaxies and produce the largest morphological galaxy catalogue published to date.

Some of the galaxies included in the catalogue are as far away as 8 gigayears (Gyr), meaning 8 billion years. This catalogue allows to have an approximate picture of how the galaxies looked like when the Universe was half the age it is today, to study the changes in the shape of galaxies in the last 8 Gyr and how these structural changes are linked to the evolutionary paths of galaxies.
 
The fact that machines can learn to recognize patterns in noisy data can have direct applications in other fields, such as security (i.e. facial recognition), industrial image recognition, clinical diagnosis or climate change.

More information
This research is presented in the paper “Pushing automated morphological classifications to their limits with the Dark Energy Survey”, published in the magazine Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).

Contacts

ICE Communication Office
Bellaterra, Spain
Paula Talero & Alba Calejero
E-mail: outreach@ice.csic.es

Lead researcher at ICE
Bellaterra, Spain
Helena Domínguez Sánchez (ICE, CSIC): dominguez@ice.csic.es
12
March 2021

ICE women will meet at an online event to better know female researchers


International Women's Day online talks
Female staff at ICE.
Today, the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) wants to join the celebration of the International Women's Day.

Therefore, we have planned an online event for all the women working at ICE on March 12th (Friday). The female researchers and the female administration and communication staff will meet online to create a space for debate, so that women working in non-academic positions get to know better the work and research lines of the female scientists at our center. Our goal is to foster a virtual space where we can reach out each other and be more in sync.

In this way, we intend to increase visibility to female scientists at an internal level and promote sisterhood.

The event will be available in the near future on ICE's YouTube channel.
05
March 2021

A nearby rocky, hot exoplanet discovered


ICE researchers have contributed to the discovery within the CARMENES Consortium
​Artistic impression of the surface of the newly discovered hot super-Earth Gliese 486b
RenderArea
  • The surface of this Super-Earth exoplanet might display a hot and dry landscape scattered with glowing lava rivers.
  • Discovered in our cosmic neighborhood, the exoplanet promises to be a suitable candidate to test rocky planet atmosphere models.
  • Members of the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) have contributed to the discovery within the CARMENES Consortium, as part of an international team led by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA).
Astronomers of the CARMENES Consortium have published a new study which reports the discovery of a hot rocky Super-Earth orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 486. Despite the fact that the planet—designated Gliese 486 b— orbits close to its parent star, it has possibly retained a part of its original atmosphere. This makes Gliese 486 b a uniquely suited candidate for astronomers to take the challenge of examining its atmosphere and interior with the next generation of space-borne and ground-based telescopes. The results are being published in the journal Science today, 5 March 2021. 

Several researchers from the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC) have contributed to the study, which was led by Trifon Trifonov, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg. "From the very first moment, we realized that this planet is a jewel: orbiting a nearby bright star and passing in front of it from our viewpoint here on Earth. We have put our best efforts into precisely determining its properties and are getting ready for further characterisation. This planet may become a stepping stone to understand the structure and evolution of exoplanet atmospheres", says Juan Carlos Morales, one of the authors from ICE and researcher at the Institute of Space Sciences of Catalonia (IEEC).

With the advent of more and more exoplanet discoveries, astronomers have combined various observing techniques to determine planetary masses, sizes, and even densities, allowing them to estimate their internal composition. The next goal—to fully characterise those exoplanets similar to Earth by studying their atmospheres— is much more challenging. 

In the specific case of rocky planets like the Earth, any such atmosphere only consists of a thin layer, if it exists at all. As a result, many current atmospheric models of rocky planets remain untested. At a distance of only 26 light-years, the newly discovered rocky planet perfectly satisfies certain specifications that will allow the next generation of observatories to study them, believe the CARMENES Consortium scientists. “The proximity of this exoplanet is exciting because it will be possible to study it in more detail with the upcoming powerful telescopes,” Trifonov explains, a planetary scientist and the leading author of the article that features this discovery. And he adds: “The results will help us to understand how well rocky planets can hold their atmospheres, what they are made of and how they influence the energy distribution on the planets.”

The scientists employed both transit photometry and radial velocity spectroscopy to obtain their results. After the first spot of the signal was done by spectroscopy using the CARMENES (Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths with Near-infrared and optical Échelle Spectrographs) instrument, the Joan Oró Telescope (TJO) at the Montsec Observatory (OAdM-IEEC) was set to search for transits. However, before TJO observations could be completed, the star was observed by NASA's exoplanet mission TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) and the planet was found to transit, making this one the first case where TESS was used to "follow-up" on a discovery made from the ground.  
Gliese 486 b has a mass 2.8 times that of our home planet. It is also 30% bigger than Earth. Astronomers have determined that the composition of the exoplanet appears similar to that of Venus and Earth, including having a metallic core. Anyone standing on Gliese 486 b would feel a gravitational pull that is 70% stronger than what we experience in our world.

Gliese 486 b revolves around its host star on a circular trajectory within 1.5 days and at a distance of 2.5 million kilometres. One rotation takes the same amount of time, so one side always faces the star. Although its parent star is much fainter and cooler than the Sun, the irradiation is so intense that the planet’s surface heats up to at least 430 °C. From this perspective, Gliese 486 b’s surface probably looks more like Venus than Earth, with a hot and dry landscape scattered with glowing lava rivers. However, unlike Venus, Gliese 486 b possibly only has a tenuous atmosphere, if any. Model calculations may be consistent with both scenarios because stellar irradiation tends to evaporate atmospheres. At the same time, the planet’s gravity helps to retain it. Figuring out the balance of those contributions is difficult.

The future measurements that the CARMENES team have in mind exploit the fact that Gliese 486 b crosses the surface of its host star from our point of view. Whenever this happens, a tiny fraction of the stellar light shines through the thin atmospheric layer before it reaches Earth. The various atmospheric compounds absorb light at specific wavelengths, leaving their footprint in the signal. By using spectrographs, the astronomers look for these footprints to derive the atmospheric composition and dynamics. This method is also known as transit spectroscopy.

A second spectroscopic measurement, called emission spectroscopy, is planned during Gliese 486 b “lunar-like” phases, when parts of the illuminated hemisphere become visible until the planet goes behind the star. The spectrum contains information on the bright, hot planetary surface. “We are looking forward to these follow-up observations and what they will tell us about this exciting exoplanet”, says ICE researcher and co-author of the study Ignasi Ribas. “More news could be on the horizon once telescopes such as the space-based James Webb Telescope and the ground-based Extremely Large Telescopes become available,” he adds.

Observatories and Instruments
The CARMENES Project Consortium comprises eleven research institutions in Spain and Germany. Its purpose is to monitor some 350 red dwarf stars for signs of low-mass planets using the CARMENES instrument, mounted at the 3.5 m Calar Alto telescope (Spain). The instrument is a high-resolution optical and near infrared spectrograph operated by the Calar Alto observatory (Spain).

This study includes additional spectroscopic measurements to infer Gliese 486 b’s mass. The scientists obtained observations with the MAROON-X instrument at the 8.1 m Gemini North telescope (USA) and retrieved archival data from the 10 m Keck telescope (USA) and the ESO 3.6 m telescope (Chile).

Photometric observations to derive the planet’s size stem from the TESS spacecraft (NASA, USA), the MuSCAT2 (Multicolour Simultaneous Camera for studying Atmospheres of Transiting exoplanets 2) instrument mounted at the 1.52 m Telescopio Carlos Sánchez at Observatorio del Teide (Spain), and the LCOGT (Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope), among others.

More information
This research is presented in the paper “A nearby transiting rocky exoplanet that is suitable for atmospheric investigation”, by T. Trifonov, J.A. Caballero, J.C. Morales et al., published in the journal Science on 5 March 2021.

Press release by the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) in collaboration with CSIC Communication.

Contacts
ICE Communication Office
Bellaterra, Spain
Paula Talero and Alba Calejero
E-mail: outreach@ice.csic.es

Lead Researcher
Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC)
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC)
Barcelona, Spain
Juan Carlos Morales
E-mail: morales@ieec.cat 
 
22
February 2021

ICE RESEARCHERS OBSERVE AN UV AND OPTICAL SIGNAL THAT CHALLENGES PULSAR MODELS


Francesco Coti Zelati and Diego F. Torres have participated in the discovery
Artist's impression of an X-ray bright pulsar in a binary system.
ESA
Scientists present the first-ever detection of pulsations at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths from a millisecond pulsar in an X-ray binary system during an accretion phase. ICE's Francesco Coti Zelati and Diego F. Torres have participated in the discovery, led by researchers from the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics and based on observations made with the Galileo National Telescope in La Palma and with the Hubble Space Telescope.

February 22, 2021
 
The system is called SAX J1808.4-3658. It is formed by a neutron star (a rapidly gyrating, dense object) and a small star. The neutron star rotates very rapidly, causing the emission to appear pulsating, like the light of a lighthouse. In fact, the neutron star rotates faster than most pulsars.
 
The pulsar is in a binary system, that is, it orbits alongside another star from which it regularly removes matter.  Moreover, it is an unstable celestial object, since it alternates phases of "quiescence" with periods of "activity" every 3 or 4 years. The most recent explosion, the ninth since its discovery in 1996, was recorded between August and September 2019. ICE researchers assert that, at the time of the observations at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths during this last explosion, the pulsar was surrounded by an accretion disc, displayed pulsations in the X-rays and had a high brightness, suggesting that mass accretion onto the neutron star was ongoing.
 
To date, about twenty systems similar to SAX J1808.4-3658 are known. Until this observation, no pulses in the UV band had been observed from pulsars in binary systems. As per the optical band, the pulses had only been seen in 5 isolated pulsars and in a single binary system.
 
The discovery has been published in the journal Nature Astronomy under the title “Optical and ultraviolet pulsed emission from an accreting millisecond pulsar”, and tests the theoretical models that describe the behavior of pulsars in binary systems. According to Coti Zelati and Torres, current accretion models fail to account for the luminosity of both the optical and ultraviolet pulsations that they detected, which are instead more likely driven by processes taking place in the magnetosphere of the neutron star or just outside of it.
 
In this context, this discovery demonstrates that acceleration of charged particles up to extremely high speeds can take place in the magnetosphere of a neutron star even when the latter is engulfed with accreting matter. Therefore, the results of the study shed new light on the properties of the magnetosphere and its interaction with accreting matter and, more in general, on the physics of millisecond pulsars in binary systems.
 
This study provides a novel approach to investigate accreting neutron stars in binary systems: it opens up a new perspective in searches for fast pulsations at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths from many other weakly-magnetic, accreting neutron stars in binary systems from which pulsations have never been detected at other wavelengths, despite very extensive studies. In fact, thanks to the very large photon rates and the possibility to exploit the throughput of large optical telescopes, it will be possible to attain a much higher sensitivity at optical and UV wavelengths than in the X-ray band. In this sense, neutron stars accreting at very high rates are especially important, since the detection of pulsations from them and the precise determination of their orbit would permit to increase drastically the sensitivity of searches for gravitational waves, which are expected from these systems. This would turn these neutron stars into unrivalled laboratories to study the physics of matter at supra-nuclear density and in the presence of ultra-strong magnetic fields.

The detection of optical pulsations was achieved in observations with the Silicon Fast Astronomical Photometer (SiFAP2) mounted at the Galileo National Telescope (TNG) at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma (Canary Islands). This detection was possible thanks to the unique capabilities of this instrument, which is able to tag the time of arrival of individual photons at optical wavelengths with an accuracy of a few microseconds up to count rates as large as a few million counts every second.
 
The study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, is entitled “Optical and ultraviolet pulsed emission from an accreting millisecond pulsar”, by F. Ambrosino, A. Miraval Zanon, A. Papitto, F. Coti Zelati, S. Campana, P. D'Avanzo , L. Stella, T. Di Salvo, L. Burderi, P. Casella, A. Sanna, D. de Martino, M. Cadelano, A. Ghedina, F. Leone, F. Meddi, P. Cretaro, MC Baglio, E. Poretti, RP Mignani, DF Torres, GL Israel, M. Cecconi, DM Russell, MD Gonzalez Gomez, AL Riverol Rodriguez, H. Perez Ventura, M. Hernandez Diaz, JJ San Juan, DM Bramich, and F. Lewis. The article is available here.
 
 
Contacts
 
ICE Communication Office
Bellaterra, Spain
Paula Talero & Alba Calejero
E-mail: outreach@ice.csic.es
 
INAF Press
Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica
Marco Galliani, 335 1778428
ufficiostampa@inaf.it
 
Lead researchers at ICE
Bellaterra, Spain
 
Francesco Coti Zelati: cotizelati@ice.csic.es
Diego F. Torres: dtorres@ice.csic.es
 
Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC)
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC)
 
Press Release created by the ICE Communication Office in collaboration with INAF.
11
February 2021

Female researchers give online talks to students on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science


International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Female researchers give online talks to students on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science
To commemorate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, five female researchers from the Institute of Space Sciences will be part of the 100tífiques initiative organised by the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation (FCRi) and the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST). They will give online talks to primary and secondary school students in Catalonia about the work of a scientist and their experience as women in the field of science and research.
 
The female researchers who will participate in this initiative on February 11th are:
 
Cristina Manuel Hidalgo, a theoretical physicist. She is especially interested in the “condensed matter of the strong (or quantum chomodynamics) interactions” and she focuses on finding their signatures in astrophysical and cosmological scenarios. Her research lines are: quantum chromodynamics under extreme conditions; quark matter, and signatures in compact stars; quark-gluon plasma; and astroparticle.
 
Nanda Rea has a PhD in Astrophysics on neutron stars and black holes. She comes from Italy and has recently collaborated with Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation (FCRi) in the initiative #Path2Integrity toward an ethical innovation path in research. She is the main researcher of a Horizon 2020 COST action on neutron stars. She has focused on magnetars, neutron stars with high speed of rotation and extremely strong magnetic fields and she discovered the first magnetar with a weak magnetic field. Last year she received an award in Science and Engineering from Banco Sabadell Foundation and an award from the Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain Foundation for Young Female Scientific Talent in 2019, among other awards.
 
Vanessa Graber, originally from Germany, is a theoretical astrophysicist and a senior postdoctoral researcher. She is a member of the European COST Action network PHAROS, which focuses on the multi-messenger physics and astrophysics of neutron stars. Her work is mainly focused on two research areas: the interface between astrophysics and condensed matter physics and the population synthesis of isolated neutron stars.
She currently works with Nanda Rea on the newly funded ERC project Magnesia, that focuses on providing a census of galactic magnetars: “Census of magnetars: the impact of highly magnetic neutron stars in the explosive and transitory universe”.
 
Helena Domínguez Sánchez is a research astronomer and post-doctoral fellow at ICE. Her work focuses on galaxy formation and evolution from an observational point of view. Her aim is to understand how and why the properties of galaxies have changed across the history of the Universe. During the last few years, she developed expertise in machine learning and she is pioneering the use of deep learning techniques in astronomy.

Laura Tolós is a physicist and researcher focused on the theoretical study of matter under conditions of extreme temperatura or density, such as those that can be observed in stellar objects, such as neutron stars. She is involved in the scientific design of the eXTP X-ray satellite, together with Nanda Rea, among other researchers.

In addition, next February 18th researcher Mar Mezcua will be one of the 75 astrophysicists available to talk about her research and her experience as a woman in science within the initiative "Chat with an astronomer" organised by the Women and Astronomy commission of the Spanish Astronomical Society (SEA) and sponsored by the Varela López Family in memory of Angelines and Arturo, and by the PureChat platform. Mar Mezcua is a postdoctoral researcher who studies how supermassive black holes form and grow and how this growth affects the galaxy itself.
 
15
January 2021

ICE researchers collaborate in the Dark Energy Survey, a public catalog of nearly 700 million astronomical objects


DR2 is the second data release in the survey’s seven-year history
Elliptical galaxy NGC 474 with star shells.
DES/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA. Acknowledgments: Image processing: DES, Jen Miller (Gemini Observatory/NSF's NOIRLab), Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Mahdi Zamani & Davide de Martin. Image curation: Erin Sheldon, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Francisco J. Castander, Martin Crocce, Pablo Fosalba, Enrique Gaztañaga and Santiago Serrano participate in this international collaboration, that involves Fermilab, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, NOIRLab and others. The initiative releases a massive, public collection of astronomical data and calibrated images from six years of surveys. This data release is one of the largest astronomical catalogs issued to date.

The Dark Energy Survey, a global collaboration including the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, has released DR2, the second data release in the survey’s seven-year history. DR2 is the topic of sessions today and tomorrow at the 237th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which is being held virtually. 

ICE researchers Castander, Crocce, Fosalba, Gaztañaga and Serrano have been involved in the development of DR2 , the second release of images and object catalogs from the Dark Energy Survey, or DES: The catalog is the culmination of over a half-decade of astronomical data collection and analysis with the ultimate goal of understanding the accelerating expansion of the universe and the phenomenon of dark energy, which is thought to be responsible for this accelerated expansion. It is one of the largest astronomical catalogs released to date.

Including a catalog of nearly 700 million astronomical objects, DR2 builds on the 400 million objects cataloged with the survey’s prior data release, or DR1, and also improves on it by refining calibration techniques, which, with the deeper combined images of DR2, lead to improved estimates of the amount and distribution of matter in the universe.

Astronomical researchers around the world can access these unprecedented data and mine them to make new discoveries about the universe, complementary to the studies being carried out by the Dark Energy Survey collaboration. The full data release is online and available to the public to explore and gain their own insights as well.

DES was designed to map hundreds of millions of galaxies and to discover thousands of supernovae in order to measure the history of cosmic expansion and the growth of large-scale structure in the universe, both of which reflect the nature and amount of dark energy in the universe. DES has produced the largest and most accurate dark matter map from galaxy weak lensing to date, as well as a new map, three times larger, that will be released in the near future. 

One early result relates to the construction of a catalog of a type of pulsating star known as "RR Lyrae," which tells scientists about the region of outer space beyond the edge of our Milky Way. In this area nearly devoid of stars, the motion of the RR Lyrae hint at the presence of an enormous “halo” of invisible dark matter, which may provide clues on how our galaxy was assembled over the last 12 billion years. In another result, DES scientists used the extensive DR2 galaxy catalog, along with data from the LIGO experiment, to estimate the location of a black hole merger and, independent of other techniques, infer the value of the Hubble constant, a key cosmological parameter. Combining their data with other surveys, DES scientists have also been able to generate a complete map of Milky Way’s dwarf satellites, giving researchers insight into how our own galaxy was assembled and how it compares with cosmologists’ predictions.

Covering 5,000 square degrees of the southern sky (one-eighth of the entire sky) and spanning billions of light-years, the survey data enables many other investigations in addition to those targeting dark energy, covering a vast range of cosmic distances — from discovering new nearby solar system objects to investigating the nature of the first star-forming galaxies in the early universe. 

"This is a momentous milestone. For six years, the Dark Energy Survey collaboration took pictures of distant celestial objects in the night sky. Now, after carefully checking the quality and calibration of the images captured by the Dark Energy Camera, we are releasing this second batch of data to the public," said DES Director Rich Kron of Fermilab and the University of Chicago. "We invite professional and amateur scientists alike to dig into what we consider a rich mine of gems waiting to be discovered."

The primary tool in collecting these images, the DOE-built Dark Energy Camera, is mounted to the NSF-funded Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope, part of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in the Chilean Andes, part of NSF’s NOIRLab. Each week, the survey collected thousands of pictures of the southern sky, unlocking a trove of potential cosmological insights.

Once captured, these images (and the large amount of data surrounding them) are transferred to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications for processing via the DES Data Management project. Using the Blue Waters supercomputer at NCSA, the Illinois Campus Cluster, and compute systems at Fermilab, NCSA prepares calibrated data products for public and research consumption. It takes approximately four months to process one year’s worth of data into a searchable, usable catalog.

The detailed precision cosmology constraints based on the full six-year DES data set will come out over the next two years.

The DES DR2 is hosted at the Community Science and Data Center, a program of the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab. CSDC provides software systems, user services and development initiatives to connect and support the scientific missions of NOIRLab’s telescopes, including the Blanco Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.

NCSA, NOIRLab and the LIneA Science Server collectively provide the tools and interfaces that enable access to DR2.

“Because astronomical data sets today are so vast, the cost to handle them is prohibitive for individual researchers or most organizations. CSDC provides open access to big astronomical data sets like DES DR2 and the necessary tools to explore and exploit them — then all it takes is someone from the community with a clever idea to discover new and exciting science,” said Robert Nikutta, project scientist for Astro Data Lab at CSDC.

"With information on the positions, shapes, sizes, colors and brightnesses of over 690 million stars, galaxies and quasars, the release promises to be a valuable source for astronomers and scientists worldwide to continue their explorations of the universe, including studies of matter (light and dark) surrounding our home Milky Way Galaxy, as well as pushing further to examine groups and clusters of distant galaxies, which hold precise evidence about how the size of the expanding universe changes over time," said Dark Energy Survey Data Management Project Scientist Brian Yanny of Fermilab. 

About DES
This work is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.
The Dark Energy Survey is a collaboration of more than 400 scientists from 26 institutions in seven countries. Funding for the DES Projects has been provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Science and Education of Spain, the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, Funding Authority for Studies and Projects in Brazil, Carlos Chagas Filho Foundation for Research Support of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the German Research Foundation and the collaborating institutions in the Dark Energy Survey, the list of which can be found at www.darkenergysurvey.org/collaboration. 

About NSF’s NOIRLab
NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory), the US center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the international Gemini Observatory (a facility of NSF, NRC–Canada, ANID–Chile, MCTIC–Brazil, MINCyT–Argentina, and KASI–Republic of Korea), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and Vera C. Rubin Observatory. It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawaiʻi, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the Native Hawaiian community, and to the local communities in Chile, respectively.

About NCSA
NCSA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation’s science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing one third of the Fortune 50® for more than 30 years by bringing industry, researchers, and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale. For more information, please visit www.ncsa.illinois.edu.

About Fermilab
Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC, a joint partnership between the University of Chicago and the Universities Research Association, Inc. Visit Fermilab’s website at www.fnal.gov and follow us on Twitter at @Fermilab.

The DOE Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

Editor’s note: The DES second data release will be featured at a session of the meeting of the American Astronomical Society. The session, “NOIRLab’s Data Services: A Practical Demo Built on Science with DES DR2”, takes place on Thursday, Jan. 14, 3:10-4:40 p.m. CT.
 
25
November 2020

Disk, planet and star of the same system seen growing together


Disk, planet and star of the same system seen growing together
Filaments of accretion falling into the protoplanetary disk
MPE.
  • A research team led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) revealed a planetary disk taking shape before its star has completed its formation
  • The study has an important contribution from an Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) researcher at Institute of Space Science (ICE, CSIC)
Stellar systems, like our own, form inside interstellar clouds of gas and dust that collapse producing young stars surrounded by protoplanetary disks. For the first time, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has observed a protoplanetary disk with a large gap being fed by the surrounding cloud via large accretion filaments, suggesting that a planet may be forming in tandem with the parent star while the disk around them is still growing. 

The team of astronomers led by Dr. Felipe Alves, from the Center for Astrochemical Studies (CAS) at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) and former doctoral student at the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC — Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya), used ALMA to study the accretion process in the stellar object  [BHB2007] 1. This system is located at the tip of the Pipe Molecular Cloud. The ALMA data reveal a disk of dust and gas around the protostar, and large filaments of gas around this disk. 

The scientists, which include the researcher Josep Miquel Girart from IEEC at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), interpret these filaments as accretion streamers feeding the disk with material extracted from the ambient cloud. The disk reprocesses the accreted material, delivering it to the protostar. 

The structure observed is very unusual for stellar objects at this stage of evolution — with an estimated age of 1,000,000 years — when circumstellar disks are already formed and matured for planet formation. “We were quite surprised to observe such prominent accretion filaments falling into the disk”, said Dr. Alves. “The accretion filament activity demonstrates that the disk is still growing while simultaneously nurturing the protostar.”

The team also reports the presence of an enormous cavity within the disk, suggesting a young giant planet or a brown dwarf being formed. The cavity has a width of 70 astronomical units, and it encompasses a compact zone of hot molecular gas. In addition, supplementary data at radio frequencies by the Very Large Array (VLA) point to the existence of non-thermal emission in the same spot where the hot gas was detected. These two lines of evidence indicate that an astronomical object is present within the cavity. As this stellar companion, possibly a planet, accretes material from the disk, it heats up the gas and possibly powers strong ionized winds and/or jets. The team estimates that an object with a mass between 4 and 70 Jupiter masses is needed to produce the observed gap in the disk.

These observations also put new time constraints for planet formation and disk evolution, shedding light on how stellar systems like our own are sculpted from the original cloud.

Links
- IEEC
- MPE
- ALMA
- VLA

More information

This research is presented in the paper “A case of simultaneous star and planet formation”, by Felipe O. Alves et al., published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on 19 November 2020.
The Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC  — Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya) promotes and coordinates space research and technology development in Catalonia for the benefit of society. IEEC fosters collaborations both locally and worldwide and is an efficient agent of knowledge, innovation and technology transfer. As a result of over 20 years of high-quality research, done in collaboration with major international organisations, IEEC ranks among the best international research centers, focusing on areas such as: astrophysics, cosmology, planetary science, and Earth Observation. IEEC’s engineering division develops instrumentation for ground- and space-based projects, and has extensive experience in working with private or public organisations from the aerospace and other innovation sectors.  

IEEC is a private non-profit foundation, governed by a Board of Trustees composed of Generalitat de Catalunya and four other institutions that each have a research unit, which together constitute the core of IEEC R&D activity: the University of Barcelona (UB) with the research unit ICCUB — Institute of Cosmos Sciences; the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) with the research unit CERES — Center of Space Studies and Research; the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) with the research unit CTE — Research Group in Space Sciences and Technologies; the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) with the research unit ICE — Institute of Space Sciences. IEEC is integrated in the CERCA network (Centres de Recerca de Catalunya).

Contacts

IEEC Communication Office
Barcelona, Spain

Ana Montaner and Rosa Rodríguez
E-mail: comunicacio@ieec.cat 

Lead Researcher at IEEC
Barcelona, Spain

Josep Miquel Girart
Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC)
Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC)
E-mail: girart@ieec.cat 

Press Release created by the IEEC Comunication Office with the collaboration of Science Wave.
19
October 2020

A technologically viable model for a Mars city, as imagined by a Catalan-led team


A technologically viable model for a Mars city, as imagined by a Catalan-led team
Nuwa Cliff and Valley Cover
ABIBOO Studio (Sebastián Rodríguez) and SONet
  • A proposal for a city on planet Mars by a Catalan-led team was presented on Saturday, 17 October 2020, in the final of the Mars Society competition.
  • The team is led by researchers from the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), the School of Industrial, Aerospace and Audiovisual Engineering of Terrassa (ESEIAAT- UPC) and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona (ICCUB), together with the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM, CSIC).
  • Using the available scientific knowledge about the environment on Mars, the proposal touches on all aspects of human life: from settling, architecture and life support to arts, economics and political systems.
  • The project team will now look for industry, academic and private partners to make further steps in making the martian city a feasible option for future human settling on the Red Planet.
Welcome to Nüwa, capital city on Mars. Human settlers would live here and in four other vertical cities on the cliffs of the Red Planet, which provide protection from radiation, but also exposure to sunlight. The buildings inside the cliffs would be mix-use, able to hold 200,000 to 250,000 people, and comprising areas for living and working, lush gardens in the so-called Green-Domes, “public squares” at the bottom of the cliff, underground sports arenas and music halls, as well as areas to lodge art displays. Settlers would eat a diet based 50% on agriculture, 20% microalgae, and 30% coming from animal meat, insects, mushrooms and cellular meat.

The work per person should be eight times higher than for the average human on Earth, but this can be sorted by imposing automation, standardisation and the use of Artificial Intelligence methods at the design level. Water would be mainly extracted from clays and the oxygen mainly produced by crops and microalgae. After death, the biomass of animals, humans and plants would be incorporated back into the system, but loved ones would be able to keep a small, compressed sample. Mars would eventually become a democracy, with its own constitution and body of law. Each citizen would be a shareholder of Mars’ cities. Society would evolve to a model based on community and sustainability.

This is how a city on Mars would look like and function according to a team of international professionals led by catalan researchers. Using knowledge about the geology, geography and atmosphere of the Red Planet, as well as complex human sociological and psychological research, they have imagined a sustainable evidence-based and technologically viable model for life on Mars.

Their proposal was presented in the Mars City State Design competition of the Mars Society, the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organisation dedicated to the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars. The team presented the project on Saturday, 17 October 2020, during the Mars Society Convention after being selected among the 10 finalists from over 175 submitted proposals. Even though they did not win the award, the team stands convinced that the sustainable and human centered approach to the exploration of space is the right way to go. Therefore, they will continue to pursue industry and academic partnerships to bring to life some of the core concepts for humanity’s next habitat on Mars.

This design proposal was initiated and promoted by SONet (the Sustainable Off-world Network), which is a community of mainly European professionals interested in multidisciplinary approaches to sustainable exploration of space. The project is led by researchers from the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC — Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya) at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), the School of Industrial, Aerospace and Audiovisual Engineering of Terrassa (ESEIAAT - UPC), and its core architectural & urban planning has been led by the ABIBOO studio. It also has important contributions from members of the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM, CSIC) and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona (ICCUB). Participants from other countries include researchers and professionals from the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, USA and Argentina.

“The challenge for the team was to design a settlement with all the welfare of a modern city that was also capable of obtaining all resources locally, and rapidly gaining its financial and logistic independence from Earth”, declared Guillem Anglada-Escudé, Ramón y Cajal researcher of ICE and coordinator of the team. The project touches on all aspects of human life: from the materials used to build settlements and the mechanisms for ensuring oxygen and other life support systems to money, art, childcare, education, political system, workload, death and even inheritance on Mars.

“From a real world architect point of view, designing a functional urban development, while working with the constraints of an alien world was both a mind-boggling and an extremely enriching experience”, declared Alfredo Muñoz, cofounder of ABIBOO studio and leader of the urban and architectural development team. “We cannot wait to keep evolving this first design, and also identify radical new solutions that shall work on Earth as well”.

“The project team will now look for industry, academic and private partners to make further steps in making the martian city a feasible option for future human settling on the Red Planet. “In such a big endeavour, cooperation between experts in many different areas is needed,” explained Miquel Sureda, lecturer of aeronautical engineering at ESEIAAT- UPC. “The success of Nüwa’s project in the Mars Society competition can help SONet gain visibility and attract members and resources.”

"The world has changed radically since we started in March, and will continue to change at forced rates”, concludes Anglada-Escudé. “Meanwhile —he adds— the problems of Earth's sustainability have not disappeared. Although we won't be coming to Mars next year or in twenty years, if after all it serves to inspire Catalan or all-over-the-world professionals and young people working together for a more sustainable world, we have already won."

The next immediate step is seek funding to perform a new design iteration and begin conversations to develop an Earth demonstrator, which should also be used to develop sustainability technologies and as an inspirational element to promote sciences among young and not so young people.

COLLABORATION LIST:
Project Coordination, Economic model & High-level concepts: Guillem Anglada-Escudé, Ph.D.; RyC fellow in Astrophysics; Institute for Space Science/ CSIC & Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (EU)

Co-coordination. Space, Earth-Mars transportation & Socio-economics: Miquel Sureda, Ph.D.; Space Science and Technology Research Group, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya & Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (EU)

Life Support, Biosystems & Human factors: Gisela Detrell, Ph.D; Institute for Space Systems, Universität Stuttgart (EU)

Design. Architecture & Urbanism: Design Strategy & Coordination: ABIBOO Studio (USA) Preliminary Analysis & Urban Configuration: Alfredo Muñoz (USA); Owen Hughes Pearce (UK)

Detailed Architecture & Urban Design: Alfredo Muñoz (USA); Gonzalo Rojas (Argentina); Engeland Apostol (UK); Sebastián Rodríguez (Argentina); Verónica Florido (UK)

Identity & Graphic Design: Verónica Florido (UK); Engeland Apostol (UK)
Video Direction & CGI: Sebastián Rodríguez (Argentina); Gonzalo Rojas (Argentina)

Mars Materials & Location: Ignasi Casanova, Ph.D.; Prof. Civil and Environmental Engineering; Institute of Energy Technologies (INTE), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (EU)

Manufacturing, Advanced Biosystems & Materials: David Cullen; Prof. of Astrobiology and Space Biotechnology; Space Group, University of Cranfield (UK)

Energy & Sustainability: Miquel Banchs i Piqué; School of Civil Engineering & Surveying, University of Portsmouth (UK)

Mining & Excavation systems: Philipp Hartlieb; Prof. in Excavation Engineering, Montan Universitaet Leoben (EU)

Social Services & Life Support Systems: Laia Ribas, Ph.D.; RyC fellow in Biology, Institut de Ciències del Mar/CSIC, (EU)

Mars Climate modeling & Environment: David de la Torre; Dept. of Physics, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (EU)

CONTRIBUTORS:
Jordi Miralda Escudé (ICREA Prof. in Astrophysics - Ground Transport, UB, EU); Rafael Harillo Gomez-Pastrana (Lawyer, - Political Organization & Space law, EU); Lluis Soler (Ph.D. in Chemistry - Chemical processes, UPC, EU); Paula Betriu (Topographical analysis, - UPC, EU); Uygar Atalay (Location, temperature & Radiation analysis, UPC, EU); Pau Cardona (Earth-Mars Transportation, UPC, EU); Oscar Macia (Earth-Mars Transportation, UPC, EU); Eric Fimbinger (Resource Extraction & Conveyance, Montanuniversität Leoben, EU); Stephanie Hensley (Art Strategy in Mars, USA); Carlos Sierra (Electronic Engineering, ICE/CSIC, EU); Elena Montero (Psychologist, EU); Robert Myhill (Mars science – U. Bristol, UK); Rory Beard (Artificial Intelligence, UK)

SUPPORTING INSTITUTIONS :
CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas); ABIBOO Studio; UPC (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya); Cranfield University; University of Stuttgart; IEEC (Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya); Montan University Leoben; Institut de Ciencies del Mar; University of Portsmouth.

Links
More information
The Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC — Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya) promotes and coordinates space research and technology development in Catalonia for the benefit of society. IEEC fosters collaborations both locally and worldwide and is an efficient agent of knowledge, innovation and technology transfer. As a result of over 20 years of high-quality research, done in collaboration with major international organisations, IEEC ranks among the best international research centers, focusing on areas such as: astrophysics, cosmology, planetary science, and Earth Observation. IEEC’s engineering division develops instrumentation for ground- and space-based projects, and has extensive experience in working with private or public organisations from the aerospace and other innovation sectors.

IEEC is a private non-profit foundation, governed by a Board of Trustees composed of Generalitat de Catalunya and four other institutions that each have a research unit, which together constitute the core of IEEC R&D activity: the University of Barcelona (UB) with the research unit ICCUB — Institute of Cosmos Sciences; the Autonomous University of Barcelona

(UAB) with the research unit CERES — Center of Space Studies and Research; the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) with the research unit CTE — Research Group in Space Sciences and Technologies; the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) with the research unit ICE — Institute of Space Sciences. IEEC is integrated in the CERCA network (Centres de Recerca de Catalunya).

Contacts
IEEC Communication Office Barcelona, Spain
Ana Montaner Pizà
E-mail: comunicacio@ieec.cat

Institute of Space Sciences (ICE - CSIC) Barcelona, Spain
Guillem Anglada-Escudé
E-mail: anglada@ice.csic.es

Technical University of Catalonia (UPC) Barcelona, Spain
Miquel Sureda Anfres
E-mail: miquel.sureda@upc.edu
Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CSIC)

Campus UAB, Carrer de Can Magrans, s/n
08193 Barcelona.
Phone: +34 93 737 9788
Email: ice@ice.csic.es
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An institute of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas

An institute of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Affiliated with the Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya

Affiliated with the Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya