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Publication archive

Published online 14 October 2010.

Soft gamma repeaters (SGRs) and anomalous x-ray pulsars form a rapidly increasing group of x-ray sources exhibiting sporadic emission of short bursts. They are believed to be magnetars, that is, neutron stars powered by extreme magnetic fields, B ~ 1014 to 1015 gauss. We report on a soft gamma repeater with low magnetic field, SGR 0418+5729, recently detected after it emitted bursts similar to those of magnetars. X-ray observations show that its dipolar magnetic field cannot be greater than 7.5 × 1012 gauss, well in the range of ordinary radio pulsars, implying that a high surface dipolar magnetic field is not necessarily required for magnetar-like activity. The magnetar population may thus include objects with a wider range of B-field strengths, ages, and evolutionary stages than observed so far.

Published: 12 November 2010
Most of the high-altitude auroral electric fields observed by CLUSTER can be classified into monopolar and bipolar structures. The observations associate monopolar electric fields with polar cap boundary arcs, while bipolar fields tend to be linked to discrete arcs within the auroral oval and to polar cap arcs. The present paper proposes an explanation for this association based on a simple model of the magnetotail configuration and kinetic model computations. The paper introduces a quasi-electrostatic model to describe the auroral current system associated with monopolar and bipolar high-altitude fields. Analytic solutions are presented. The model gives indications about the location of the up- and downward field-aligned current regions, the ionospheric and magnetospheric convection along the arc, the acceleration or deceleration of precipitating particles, and the behaviour of escaping ionospheric ions.
Published: 09 November 2010
Gravitational lensing is a powerful astrophysical and cosmological probe and is particularly valuable at submillimeter wavelengths for the study of the statistical and individual properties of dusty star-forming galaxies. However, the identification of gravitational lenses is often time-intensive, involving the sifting of large volumes of imaging or spectroscopic data to find few candidates. We used early data from the Herschel Astrophysical Terahertz Large Area Survey to demonstrate that wide-area submillimeter surveys can simply and easily detect strong gravitational lensing events, with close to 100% efficiency.
Published: 05 November 2010
Star-forming galaxies trace cosmic history. Recent observational progress with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope has led to the discovery and study of the earliest known galaxies, which correspond to a period when the Universe was only ~800 million years old. Intense ultraviolet radiation from these early galaxies probably induced a major event in cosmic history: the reionization of intergalactic hydrogen.
Published: 04 November 2010
There have been many significant advances in understanding magnetic field reconnection as a result of improved space measurements and two-dimensional computer simulations. While reviews of recent work have tended to focus on symmetric reconnection on ion and larger spatial scales, the present review will focus on asymmetric reconnection and on electron scale physics involving the reconnection site, parallel electric fields, and electron acceleration.
Published: 03 November 2010
The sulphur cycle plays fundamental roles in the chemistry and climate of Venus. Thermodynamic equilibrium chemistry at the surface of Venus favours the production of carbonyl sulphide and to a lesser extent sulphur dioxide. These gases are transported to the middle atmosphere by the Hadley circulation cell. Above the cloud top, a sulphur oxidation cycle involves conversion of carbonyl sulphide into sulphur dioxide, which is then transported further upwards. A significant fraction of this sulphur dioxide is subsequently oxidized to sulphur trioxide and eventually reacts with water to form sulphuric acid. Because the vapour pressure of sulphuric acid is low, it readily condenses and forms an upper cloud layer at altitudes of 60-70 km, and an upper haze layer above 70 km (ref. 9), which effectively sequesters sulphur oxides from photochemical reactions. Here we present simulations of the fate of sulphuric acid in the Venusian mesosphere based on the Caltech/JPL kinetics model, but including the photolysis of sulphuric acid. Our model suggests that the mixing ratios of sulphur oxides are at least five times higher above 90 km when the photolysis of sulphuric acid is included. Our results are inconsistent with the previous model results but in agreement with the recent observations using ground-based microwave spectroscopy and by Venus Express.
Published: 01 November 2010
The objective of this review article is to critically analyze turbulence and its role in the solar atmosphere and solar wind, as well as to provide a tutorial overview of topics worth clarification. Although turbulence is a ubiquitous phenomenon in the sun and its heliosphere, many open questions exist concerning the physical mechanisms of turbulence generation in solar environment. Also, the spatial and temporal evolution of the turbulence in the solar atmosphere and solar wind are still poorly understood. We limit the scope of this paper (leaving out the solar interior and convection zone) to the magnetized plasma that reaches from the photosphere and chromosphere upwards to the corona and inner heliosphere, and place particular emphasis on the magnetic field structures and fluctuations and their role in the dynamics and radiation of the coronal plasma. To attract the attention of scientists from both the fluid-dynamics and space-science communities we give in the first two sections a phenomenological overview of turbulence-related processes, in the context of solar and heliospheric physics and with emphasis on the photosphere-corona connection and the coupling between the solar corona and solar wind. We also discuss the basic tools and standard concepts for the empirical analysis and theoretical description of turbulence. The last two sections of this paper give a concise review of selected aspects of oscillations and waves in the solar atmosphere and related fluctuations in the solar wind. We conclude with some recommendations and suggest topics for future research.
Published: 27 October 2010
Context: Blue-shifted Fe K absorption lines have been detected in recent years between 7 and 10 keV in the X-ray spectra of several radio-quiet AGNs. The derived blue-shifted velocities of the lines can often reach mildly relativistic values, up to 0.2-0.4c. These findings are important because they suggest the presence of a previously unknown massive and highly ionized absorbing material outflowing from their nuclei, possibly connected with accretion disk winds/outflows.
Aims: The scope of the present work is to statistically quantify the parameters and incidence of the blue-shifted Fe K absorption lines through a uniform analysis on a large sample of radio-quiet AGNs. This allows us to assess their global detection significance and to overcome any possible publication bias.
Methods: We performed a blind search for narrow absorption features at energies greater than 6.4 keV in a sample of 42 radio-quiet AGNs observed with XMM-Newton. A simple uniform model composed by an absorbed power-law plus Gaussian emission and absorption lines provided a good fit for all the data sets. We derived the absorption lines parameters and calculated their detailed detection significance making use of the classical F-test and extensive Monte Carlo simulations.
Results: We detect 36 narrow absorption lines on a total of 101 XMM-Newton EPIC pn observations. The number of absorption lines at rest-frame energies higher than 7 keV is 22.
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Published: 21 October 2010
The Exoplanet Roadmap Advisory Team (EPR-AT) was appointed by ESA with the purpose of advising the Agency on the best scientific and technological roadmap to pursue in order to address one of the most exciting goals in modern astrophysics: the characterization of terrestrial exoplanets.
Published: 12 October 2010
Most inner main-belt asteroids are primitive rock and metal bodies in orbit about the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Disruption, through high-velocity collisions or rotational spin-up, is believed to be the primary mechanism for the production and destruction of small asteroids and a contributor to dust in the Sun's zodiacal cloud, while analogous collisions around other stars feed dust to their debris disks. Unfortunately, direct evidence about the mechanism or rate of disruption is lacking, owing to the rarity of the events. Here we report observations of P/2010 A2, a previously unknown inner-belt asteroid with a peculiar, comet-like morphology. The data reveal a nucleus of diameter approximately 120 metres with an associated tail of millimetre-sized dust particles. We conclude that it is most probably the remnant of a recent asteroidal disruption in February/March 2009, evolving slowly under the action of solar radiation pressure, in agreement with independent work.
Published: 14 October 2010
The peculiar object P/2010 A2 was discovered in January 2010 and given a cometary designation because of the presence of a trail of material, although there was no central condensation or coma. The appearance of this object, in an asteroidal orbit (small eccentricity and inclination) in the inner main asteroid belt attracted attention as a potential new member of the recently recognized class of main-belt comets. If confirmed, this new object would expand the range in heliocentric distance over which main-belt comets are found. Here we report observations of P/2010 A2 by the Rosetta spacecraft. We conclude that the trail arose from a single event, rather than a period of cometary activity, in agreement with independent results. The trail is made up of relatively large particles of millimetre to centimetre size that remain close to the parent asteroid. The shape of the trail can be explained by an initial impact ejecting large clumps of debris that disintegrated and dispersed almost immediately. We determine that this was an asteroid collision that occurred around 10 February 2009.
Published: 14 October 2010
We report in situ observations of high-frequency electrostatic waves in the vicinity of a reconnection site in the Earth's magnetotail. Two different types of waves are observed inside an ion-scale magnetic flux rope embedded in a reconnecting current sheet. Electron holes (weak double layers) produced by the Buneman instability are observed in the density minimum in the center of the flux rope. Higher frequency broadband electrostatic waves with frequencies extending up to fpe are driven by the electron beam and are observed in the denser part of the rope. Our observations demonstrate multiscale coupling during the reconnection: Electron-scale physics is induced by the dynamics of an ion-scale flux rope embedded in a yet larger-scale magnetic reconnection process.
Published: 13 October 2010
Flares are powerful bursts of energy released by relatively poorly understood processes that take place in the atmospheres of stars. However, although solar flares, from our own Sun, are the most energetic events in the solar system, in comparison to the total output of the Sun they are barely noticeable. Consequently, the total amount of radiant energy they generate is not precisely known, and their potential contribution to variations in the total solar irradiance incident on the Earth has so far been overlooked. In this work, we identify a measurable signal from relatively moderate solar flares in total solar irradiance data. We find that the total energy radiated by flares exceeds by two orders of magnitude the flare energy radiated in the soft-X-ray domain only, indicating a major contribution in the visible domain. These results have implications for our understanding of solar-flare activity and the variability of our star.
Published: 13 October 2010
Cluster observations at the Earth's high-latitude magnetopause are combined with magnetic field models to demonstrate that antiparallel reconnection was occurring at the magnetopause for an event on 3 December 2001. Over a 20 min period, the reconnection line passed over the spacecraft on two occasions. In between the encounters with the reconnection line, velocity cutoffs in the ion distributions are used to determine the distance to the reconnection site. These observations are consistent with an antiparallel reconnection line whose location relative to the spacecraft depends on the orientation of the interplanetary magnetic field. Using this knowledge of the reconnection site location and a previously developed, two-spacecraft method for computing the inflow velocity into the reconnection site, the reconnection rate (Vn/VA) is determined to be <0.08. The rate is consistent with fast reconnection and considerably higher than the reconnection rate for a component reconnection event that was determined using the same two-spacecraft method.
Published: 03 October 2010
CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) near-IR spectroscopic imaging of the Mars atmospheric limb supports vertical profiling of aerosol (ice and dust) and gas [H2O, CO, CO2, O2(1_Delta_g)] constituents versus season (Ls), latitude, and (to a limited degree) longitude. These CRISM limb observations are obtained approximately every two months (15° Ls), over a full range of sunlighted latitudes for two MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) orbits centered on equatorial longitudes of 100W and 300W. Daylight limb spectra indicate strong 1.27 µm atmospheric emission from the excited singlet delta of molecular oxygen, associated with photolysis of Mars atmospheric ozone. Limb observations extending to un-illuminated, polar night latitudes present a new source of O2(1_Delta_g) emission at higher altitudes (40-55 km), associated with three body recombination of atomic oxygen [O+O+CO2 -> O2(1_Delta_g) +CO2]. This nightglow requires strong poleward supply of atomic oxygen, produced from photolysis of CO2 at sunlighted latitudes and transported at high altitudes (above 70 km) into polar night altitudes of 40-60 km. CRISM limb observations indicate distinctive latitudinal and longitudinal distributions of this polar nightglow that evolve over the Feb-Aug 2010 (Ls=50-140°) period of observations for the southern winter. New observations include planned full orbit mapping (12 orbits) in August 2010 to characterize these spatial variations in more detail. Key comparisons with co-located MCS (Mars Climate Sounder) temperature and aerosol profile retrievals and LMD (Laboratoire Météoroligie Dynamique) GCM photochemical simulations provide new insights into poorly constrained meridional transport into polar winter latitudes on Mars.
Published: 02 September 2010
We show the first three dimensional (3D) dispersion relations and k spectra of magnetic turbulence in the solar wind at subproton scales. We used the Cluster data with short separations and applied the k-filtering technique to the frequency range where the transition to subproton scales occurs. We show that the cascade is carried by highly oblique kinetic Alfvén waves with wplas below 0.1wci down to kperpRhoi ~ 2. Each k spectrum in the direction perpendicular to Bo shows two scaling ranges separated by a breakpoint (in the interval [0.4, 1]kperpRhoi): a Kolmogorov scaling kperp-1.7 followed by a steeper scaling kperp-4.5. We conjecture that the turbulence undergoes a transition range, where part of the energy is dissipated into proton heating via Landau damping and the remaining energy cascades down to electron scales where electron Landau damping may predominate.
Published: 28 September 2010
Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), conducted since 1990, now offer an unprecedented glimpse into fast astrophysical shocks in the young remnant of supernova 1987A. Comparing observations taken in 2010 with the use of the refurbished instruments on HST with data taken in 2004, just before the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph failed, we find that the Ly-a and H-a lines from shock emission continue to brighten, whereas their maximum velocities continue to decrease. We observe broad, blueshifted Ly-a, which we attribute to resonant scattering of photons emitted from hot spots on the equatorial ring. We also detect N v ll1239, 1243 angstrom line emission, but only to the red of Ly-a. The profiles of the N v lines differ markedly from that of H-a, suggesting that the N4+ ions are scattered and accelerated by turbulent electromagnetic fields that isotropize the ions in the collisionless shock.
Published: 25 September 2010

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Published: 01 November 2010
Presented at the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Science Targeting Meeting, 9-11 June 2009

We propose number of targets observed with SMART-1 for follow-up studies with LRO. We shall also discuss SMART-1 lunar highlights relevant for science and exploration, in relation with LRO/LCROSS and future lander missions.

Published: 13 June 2009
The demonstration of a compact imaging X-ray spectrometer (D-CIXS), which flew on ESA's SMART-1 mission to the Moon (Racca et al., 2001; Foing et al., 2006), was designed to test innovative new technologies for orbital X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy. D-CIXS conducted observations of the lunar surface from January 2005 until SMART-1 impacted the Moon in September 2006. Here, we present scientific observations made during two solar flare events and show the first detection of Titanium K-alpha from the lunar surface. We discuss the geological implications of these results. We also discuss how experience from D-CIXS has aided the design of a similar instrument (Chandrayaan-1 X-ray Spectrometer [C1XS]) that was launched on the 22nd October 2008 on India's Chandrayaan-1 mission to the Moon.
Published: 16 June 2009
14-Jun-2024 05:18 UT

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