All aboard the Gravity train

All aboard the constant Gravity gravy train. Unfalsifiable funding, Constant careers, peer reviewed pensions, accepted awards.

Scientists have subsequently devoted considerable resources to identifying dark matter in space, on the ground and at CERN, but without success. In 1998, a team of Australian and U.S. astrophysicists discovered the acceleration of the expansion of the universe, earning the Nobel Prize for physics in 2011.

However, in spite of enormous science resources, no theory or observation has been able to define this energy that is allegedly stronger than Newton’s gravitational attraction. In short, dark matter and dark energy are mysteries that have stumped astronomers for decades.
Do dark matter and dark energy exist? |

“The results of the first 59.5 days of COSINE-100 failed to confirm the data from DAMA/LIBRA. The results obtained don’t correspond to a signature of WIMPs …”

To check the discrepancy between DAMA/LIBRA’s data and the data from other experiments and to look for robust evidence of dark matter, COSINE-100 was built 700 meters underground at the Yangyang Underground Laboratory – Y2L in South Korea.

“We’re not saying the researchers at DAMA/LIBRA were wrong. They may have captured a periodic modulation in actual signals. However, unless the dark matter model is significantly modified, the signals are highly unlikely to be attributed to interactions with WIMPs. In any event, our work is only just beginning. Several years of data will be needed before the annual modulation claimed by DAMA/LIBRA can be totally confirmed or refuted.”
New detector fails to confirm would-be evidence of dark matter |

Cern has published its ideas for a £20bn successor to the Large Hadron Collider, given the working name of Future Circular Collider.

The Geneva based particle physics research centre is proposing an accelerator that is almost four times longer and ten times more powerful. The aim is to have the FCC hunting for new sub-atomic particles by 2050.

Critics say that the money could be better spent on other research areas such as combating climate change. But Cern’s Director-General, Prof Fabiola Gianotti described the proposal as “a remarkable accomplishment”.
Cern plans even larger hadron collider for physics search | BBC

NASA’s Explorer program, managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the agency’s oldest continuous program, designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the Astrophysics and Heliophysics programs in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

The program has launched more than 90 missions, beginning in 1958 with Explorer 1, which discovered the Earth’s radiation belts. Another Explorer mission, theCosmic Background Explorer, which launched in 1989, led to a Nobel Prize.
NASA Selects New Mission to Explore Origins of Universe| NASA

Tabby’s KickSTARter? Astronomers have even managed to get more funding from the public by launching a KickStarter fund for the academically mysterious and peer reviewed unexplainable Tabby’s Star.

However, it has been inexplicably dimming and brightening sporadically like no other. Several theories abound to explain the star’s unusual light patterns, including that an alien megastructure is orbiting the star.

The mystery of Tabby’s Star is so compelling that more than 1,700 people donated over $100,000 through a Kickstarter campaign in support of dedicated ground-based telescope time to observe and gather more data on the star through a network of telescopes around the world. As a result, a body of data collected by Boyajian and colleagues in partnership with the Las Cumbres Observatory is now available in a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

… Supporters from the crowdfunding campaign nominated and voted to name these episodes. The first two dips were named Elsie and Celeste. The last two were named after ancient lost cities – Scotland’s Scara Brae and Cambodia’s Angkor.
Alien megastructure not the cause of dimming of the ‘most mysterious star in the universe’

Funding down the Gravity well

Newton’s constant Gravity and Einstein’s relative gravity missions and not mind or mindful of the cost experiments.

A+ credit rating for Advanced Ligo Plus

The UK and US governments have announced a £25m upgrade to the machines that detected gravitational waves three and a half years ago.

Unimaginatively, it will be called Advanced Ligo Plus, but that does mean it can be given the acronym of A+, which the marketing people are sure to like.

Much of the plussing will be carried out by a UK team led by researchers at the Institute for Gravitational Research at Glasgow University, which has the expertise to build the high precision instruments needed to measure the miniscule distortions gravitational waves create.
Gravitational waves: Black hole detector to get upgrade


The trio founded LIGO in 1984, and, after building prototypes and collaborating with a growing team, banked more than $100 million in NSF funding in the early 1990s.
Gravitational Waves Discovered at Long Last | Quanta Magazine

LIGO is the largest single enterprise undertaken by NSF, with capital investments of nearly $300 million and operating costs of more than $30 million/year.
LIGO | National Science Foundation

More than 1,000 scientists work on the $1-billion LIGO experiment, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Gravitational Waves Discovered from Colliding Black Holes | National Geographic


The ESA (European Space Agency) LISA Mission Consortium is looking for funding to help pay for new space based gravitational wave experiments and a lot of scientists wages, pension contributions and all the companies and technicians that will provide and build all the material and systems.

It is set to be one of the major science projects of the 2030s. The European Space Agency has just given the green light to the LISA mission to detect gravitational waves. This will see lasers bounced between three identical satellites separated by 2.5 million km.

… One of the outstanding questions that needs to be resolved soon is the role and contribution of international partners. There was a time when LISA was going to be a 50-50 endeavour between Europe and the US. Then, in 2011, the Americans walked away from the concept, citing financial worries.

… The earlier painful divorce had prompted Esa to put a 20% ceiling on any future international contribution, to avoid being left high and dry again. “The 20% is not so hard and fast; whether it’s 15% or 30% is not important. What’s important is that Esa leads … This is one of our Large-Class missions, one of our flagships. And you have to lead your flagships.”
Europe selects grand gravity mission | BBC

The long-planned LISA space mission to detect gravitational waves looks as though it will be green lit shortly. Scientists working on a demonstration of its key measurement technologies say they have just beaten the sensitivity performance that will be required.

The European Space Agency (Esa), which will operate the billion-euro mission, is now expected to “select” the project, perhaps as early as June.

The LISA venture intends to emulate the success of ground-based detectors. These have already witnessed the warping of space-time that occurs when black holes 10-20 times the mass of the Sun collide about a billion light-years from Earth … Agreement will also be sought with the Americans to bring them onboard. They are likely to contribute about $300-400m of the overall cost in the form of components, such as the lasers that will be fired between LISA’s trio of spacecraft.
Gravity probe exceeds performance goals | BBC

The earmarked launch date for LISA is 2034. Efforts will be made, though, to bring this forward because of the excitement that currently surrounds gravitational wave science.

“It won’t be much earlier – even if we had all the money in the world,” Prof Giménez said. “It’s a question of the technology readiness. It takes time to build a mission as complex as this. 2030 is the earliest we could do it, assuming we get the money we need and have no problems.”
Europe selects grand gravity mission | BBC

USA’s National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
National Science Foundation budget | NSF

The discovery is a great triumph for three physicists — Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology, Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ronald Drever, formerly of Caltech and now retired in Scotland — who bet their careers on the dream of measuring the most ineffable of Einstein’s notions.

The chirp is also sweet vindication for the National Science Foundation, which spent about $1.1 billion over more than 40 years to build a new hotline to nature
Gravitational Waves Detected, Confirming Einstein’s Theory | The New York Times


black hole

After arguing his case for 20 years, Prof Falcke persuaded the European Research Council to fund the project. The National Science Foundation and agencies in East Asia then joined in to bankroll the project to the tune of more than £40m.

It is an investment that has been vindicated with the publication of the image. Prof Falcke told me that he felt that “it’s mission accomplished”.

No single telescope is powerful enough to image the black hole. So, in the biggest experiment of its kind, Prof Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is director of a project that set up a network of eight linked telescopes. Together, they form the Event Horizon Telescope and can be thought of as a planet-sized array of dishes.

Each is located high up at a variety of exotic sites, including on volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, in the Atacama Desert of Chile, and in Antarctica.

A team of 200 scientists pointed the networked telescopes towards M87 and scanned its heart over a period of 10 days.
First ever black hole image released | BBC

The $1.4bn project will enable experts to study the early Universe and peer into the atmospheres of exoplanets.
Biggest telescope may swap continents | BBC

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a cooperative venture between Nasa and its European and Canadian counterparts. When the contributions from all the parties are included, the value of this next-generation science facility is close to $10bn.

Webb will carry technologies capable of detecting the light from the first stars to shine in the Universe. It will also reveal in unprecedented detail the chemistry and behaviour of planets far beyond our Solar System.
James Webb: Two years to Hubble successor’s launch | BBC

Satellites and spacecraft missions

The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is a planned two-year mission funded at $242 million (not including launch costs) and targeted to launch in 2023.

“I’m really excited about this new mission,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Not only does it expand the United States’ powerful fleet of space-based missions dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of the universe, it is a critical part of a balanced science program that includes missions of various sizes.”
NASA Selects New Mission to Explore Origins of Universe| NASA

European Space Agency’s Cosmic Vision

ESA’s PLATO space telescope mission.

PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) is the third medium-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme. Its objective is to find and study a large number of extrasolar planetary systems, with emphasis on the properties of terrestrial planets in the habitable zone around solar-like stars. PLATO has also been designed to investigate seismic activity in stars, enabling the precise characterisation of the planet host star, including its age.

This means it can move from a blueprint into construction. In the coming months industry will be asked to make bids to supply the spacecraft platform. Following its launch in 2026
Gravitational wave mission selected, planet-hunting mission moves forward | European Space Agency

NASA’s Explorer program

NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program requested proposals for new missions in September 2016. Nine proposals were submitted, and two mission concepts were selected for further study in August 2017. After a detailed review by a panel of NASA and external scientists and engineers, NASA determined that the SPHEREx concept study offered the best science potential and most feasible development plan.

The mission’s principal investigator is James Bock of Caltech in Pasadena, California. Caltech will work with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop the mission payload. JPL will also manage the mission.

Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado, will provide the SPHEREx spacecraft and mission integration. The Korea Astronomy & Space Science Institute in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, will contribute test equipment and science analysis.

NASA’s Explorer program, managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the agency’s oldest continuous program, designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the Astrophysics and Heliophysics programs in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

The program has launched more than 90 missions, beginning in 1958 with Explorer 1, which discovered the Earth’s radiation belts. Another Explorer mission, theCosmic Background Explorer, which launched in 1989, led to a Nobel Prize.
NASA Selects New Mission to Explore Origins of Universe| NASA