Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Photos of the Day: Snapshots from My New DSLR Camera...

A photo of a black phoebe bird taking off from a tree branch in my seen with 500mm super-zoom lens attached to my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took with my new Nikon D3300 DSLR camera...which I got via UPS delivery two weeks ago today. All of these images have been posted to my portfolio. My Nikon D3300 is awesome! Though I haven't had time to drive around and take some really cool photos due to the fact that I spent the last two weeks moving to a new house. Hopefully things will return to normal by next week—and I'll be able to take a road trip to Malibu, Orange County or something to take nice, crisp pics at the beach. I also want to head back to Joshua Tree (photos from my first and only trip to that national park should be on Page 1 of my portfolio linked to above)...but that won't happen anytime soon since it's now 100-plus degrees in the SoCal desert. Friggin' summer...

The spider shown at the very bottom of this entry is about the size of a nickel. Carry on.

A photo of a black phoebe bird as it created a silhouette against the evening seen with 500mm super-zoom lens attached to my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera.

The Half Moon as seen with 500mm super-zoom lens attached to my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera.

A close-up photo of a housefly resting atop plastic kitchenware at my seen with a macro lens attached to my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera.

A close-up photo of the housefly resting on a window blind in my seen with a macro lens attached to my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera.

A close-up photo of a spider crawling along the bathroom counter at seen with a macro lens attached to my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A God's-Eye View of Curiosity Traversing the Red Planet's Landscape...

An image of the Curiosity rover (small blue dot at center) taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter soaring high above the Red Planet...on June 5, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Univ. of Arizona

NASA Mars Orbiter Views Rover Climbing Mount Sharp (News Release - June 20)

Using the most powerful telescope ever sent to Mars, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a view of the Curiosity rover this month amid rocky mountainside terrain.

The car-size rover, climbing up lower Mount Sharp toward its next destination, appears as a blue dab against a background of tan rocks and dark sand in the enhanced-color image from the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. The exaggerated color, showing differences in Mars surface materials, makes Curiosity appear bluer than it really looks.

The image was taken on June 5, 2017, two months before the fifth anniversary of Curiosity's landing near Mount Sharp on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6, 2017, EDT and Universal Time).

When the image was taken, Curiosity was partway between its investigation of active sand dunes lower on Mount Sharp, and "Vera Rubin Ridge," a destination uphill where the rover team intends to examine outcrops where hematite has been identified from Mars orbit.

The rover's location that day is shown at as the point labeled 1717. Images taken that day by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) are at

HiRISE obtains images of Curiosity a few times each year. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project and Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory


A cropped image of the Curiosity rover (small blue dot at center) taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter soaring high above the Red Planet...on June 5, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Univ. of Arizona

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Photos of the Day: Hubble's Successor Will Undergo Thermal Testing This Summer...

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is about to be placed inside Chamber A at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas...on June 21, 2017.
NASA / Chris Gunn

NASA's Webb Telescope Gets Freezing Summertime Lodging in Houston (News Release)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was placed in Johnson Space Center’s historic Chamber A on June 20, 2017, to prepare for its final three months of testing in a cryogenic vacuum that mimics temperatures in space.

Engineers will perform the test to prove that the telescope can operate in space at these temperatures. Chamber A will simulate an environment where the telescope will experience extreme cold -- around 37 Kelvin (minus 236 degrees Celsius or minus 393 degrees Fahrenheit).

In space, the telescope must be kept extremely cold, in order to be able to detect the infrared light from very faint, distant objects. To protect the telescope from external sources of light and heat (like the Sun, Earth, and Moon), as well as from heat emitted by the observatory, a five-layer, tennis court-sized sunshield acts like a parasol that provides shade. The sunshield separates the observatory into a warm, sun-facing side (reaching temperatures close to 185 degrees Fahrenheit) and a cold side (400 degrees below zero). The sunshield blocks sunlight from interfering with the sensitive telescope instruments.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

Source: NASA.Gov


NASA's James Webb Space Telescope sits inside Chamber A at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
NASA / Chris Gunn

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Setting Up Plans to Explore Neptune and Uranus Once More...

A New Horizons-type spacecraft flies past Neptune and its moon Triton, which may be a captured Kuiper Belt Object.
NASA / APL & JPL / R. Par

NASA Completes Study of Future ‘Ice Giant’ Mission Concepts (News Release)

A NASA-led and NASA-sponsored study of potential future missions to the mysterious “ice giant” planets Uranus and Neptune has been released—the first in a series of mission studies NASA will conduct in support of the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey. The results of this and future studies will be used as the Decadal Survey deliberates on NASA’s planetary science priorities from 2022-2032. The study identifies the scientific questions an ice giant mission should address, and discusses various instruments, spacecraft, flight-paths and technologies that could be used.

"This study argues the importance of exploring at least one of these planets and its entire environment, which includes surprisingly dynamic icy moons, rings, and bizarre magnetic fields," said Mark Hofstadter of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, one of the two co-chairs of the science team that produced the report. The European Space Agency (ESA) also participated in the study.

To date, Uranus and Neptune have been visited briefly by one spacecraft, Voyager 2. Voyager rapidly flew by Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989, as part of its grand tour of discovery that previously took it by Jupiter and Saturn.

Said co-chair Amy Simon of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, "We do not know how these planets formed and why they and their moons look the way they do. There are fundamental clues as to how our solar system formed and evolved that can only be found by a detailed study of one, or preferably both, of these planets."

A variety of potential mission concepts are discussed in the study, including orbiters, flybys, and probes that would dive into Uranus’ atmosphere to study its composition. A narrow-angle camera would send data back to Earth about the ice giants and their moons. Uranus has 27 known moons, while Neptune has 14.

Collectively, Uranus and Neptune are referred to as ice giant planets. In spite of that name, relatively little solid ice is thought to be in them today, but it is believed there is a massive liquid ocean beneath their clouds, which accounts for about two-thirds of their total mass. This makes them fundamentally different from the gas giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn (which are approximately 85 percent gas by mass), and terrestrial planets like Earth or Mars, which are basically 100 percent rock. It’s not clear how or where ice giant planets form, why their magnetic fields are strangely oriented, and what drives geologic activity on some of their moons. These mysteries make them scientifically important, and this importance is enhanced by the discovery that many planets around other stars appear to be similar to our own ice giants.

It is now up to the next decadal survey to recommend science priorities for NASA for the next decade. NASA will then determine if and when to fly a mission that is responsive to those priorities.

The full study (529 pages), as well as a short summary are available at:

Source: NASA.Gov

Monday, June 19, 2017

Kepler Update: 10 New Earth-like Exoplanets May Have Been Found...

An artist's concept of three exoplanets orbiting their parent star.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

NASA Releases Kepler Survey Catalog with Hundreds of New Planet Candidates (Press Release)

NASA’s Kepler space telescope team has released a mission catalog of planet candidates that introduces 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star's habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

This is the most comprehensive and detailed catalog release of candidate exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, from Kepler’s first four years of data. It’s also the final catalog from the spacecraft’s view of the patch of sky in the Cygnus constellation.

With the release of this catalog, derived from data publicly available on the NASA Exoplanet Archive, there are now 4,034 planet candidates identified by Kepler. Of which, 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified.

Additionally, results using Kepler data suggest two distinct size groupings of small planets. Both results have significant implications for the search for life. The final Kepler catalog will serve as the foundation for more study to determine the prevalence and demographics of planets in the galaxy, while the discovery of the two distinct planetary populations shows that about half the planets we know of in the galaxy either have no surface, or lie beneath a deep, crushing atmosphere – an environment unlikely to host life.

The findings were presented at a news conference Monday at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

“The Kepler data set is unique, as it is the only one containing a population of these near Earth-analogs – planets with roughly the same size and orbit as Earth,” said Mario Perez, Kepler program scientist in the Astrophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Understanding their frequency in the galaxy will help inform the design of future NASA missions to directly image another Earth.”

The Kepler space telescope hunts for planets by detecting the minuscule drop in a star’s brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it, called a transit.

This is the eighth release of the Kepler candidate catalog, gathered by reprocessing the entire set of data from Kepler’s observations during the first four years of its primary mission. This data will enable scientists to determine what planetary populations – from rocky bodies the size of Earth, to gas giants the size of Jupiter – make up the galaxy’s planetary demographics.

To ensure a lot of planets weren't missed, the team introduced their own simulated planet transit signals into the data set and determined how many were correctly identified as planets. Then, they added data that appear to come from a planet, but were actually false signals, and checked how often the analysis mistook these for planet candidates. This work told them which types of planets were overcounted and which were undercounted by the Kepler team’s data processing methods.

“This carefully-measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions – how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?” said Susan Thompson, Kepler research scientist for the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and lead author of the catalog study.

One research group took advantage of the Kepler data to make precise measurements of thousands of planets, revealing two distinct groups of small planets. The team found a clean division in the sizes of rocky, Earth-size planets and gaseous planets smaller than Neptune. Few planets were found between those groupings.

Using the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the group measured the sizes of 1,300 stars in the Kepler field of view to determine the radii of 2,000 Kepler planets with exquisite precision.

“We like to think of this study as classifying planets in the same way that biologists identify new species of animals,” said Benjamin Fulton, doctoral candidate at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, and lead author of the second study. “Finding two distinct groups of exoplanets is like discovering mammals and lizards make up distinct branches of a family tree.”

It seems that nature commonly makes rocky planets up to about 75 percent bigger than Earth. For reasons scientists don't yet understand, about half of those planets take on a small amount of hydrogen and helium that dramatically swells their size, allowing them to "jump the gap" and join the population closer to Neptune’s size.

The Kepler spacecraft continues to make observations in new patches of sky in its extended mission, searching for planets and studying a variety of interesting astronomical objects, from distant star clusters to objects such as the TRAPPIST-1 system of seven Earth-size planets, closer to home.

Ames manages the Kepler missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Source: NASA.Gov

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Juno Update: Another Beautiful Photo of a Jovian World...

An image of Jupiter that was taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft from a distance of 29,100 miles (46,900 kilometers)...on May 19, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran

Jupiter's Clouds Of Many Colors (News Release)

NASA’s Juno spacecraft was racing away from Jupiter following its seventh close pass of the planet when JunoCam snapped this image on May 19, 2017, from about 29,100 miles (46,900 kilometers) above the cloud tops. The spacecraft was over 65.9 degrees south latitude, with a lovely view of the south polar region of the planet.

This image was processed to enhance color differences, showing the amazing variety in Jupiter’s stormy atmosphere. The result is a surreal world of vibrant color, clarity and contrast. Four of the white oval storms known as the “String of Pearls” are visible near the top of the image. Interestingly, one orange-colored storm can be seen at the belt-zone boundary, while other storms are more of a cream color.

JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products in the image processing gallery.

Source: Juno Mission Website

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Photo of the Day: Saturn's Biggest Moon As Seen From High Above...

An image of Titan's northern seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft from 315,000 miles (507,000 kilometers) away, on June 9, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Space Science Institute

Northern Summer on Titan (News Release)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft sees bright methane clouds drifting in the summer skies of Saturn's moon Titan, along with dark hydrocarbon lakes and seas clustered around the north pole.

Compared to earlier in Cassini's mission, most of the surface in the moon's northern high latitudes is now illuminated by the sun. (See here for a view of the northern hemisphere from 2007.) Summer solstice in the Saturn system occurred on May 24, 2017.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 9, 2017, using a spectral filter that preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers. Cassini obtained the view at a distance of about 315,000 miles (507,000 kilometers) from Titan.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Friday, June 09, 2017

The GOP: America's Traitors Do It Again...

In a deceptive move that took place while the nation was focused on the Comey hearing held in the Senate yesterday, the House, under the leadership of this Wisconsin-born prick below, just killed the Dodd-Frank Act...which protected the American public from Wall Street's stupidity following the Great Recession that started nearly a decade ago. As I said in this previous journal entry: FUCK YOU, REPUBLICANS.

House-speaking cocksucker Paul Ryan is proud that a law protecting Americans from Wall Street's dumbassery following the Great Recession was struck down by the House GOP.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Photo of the Day: The Comey Hearing...

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the nature of his firing due to Mike Flynn and the Trump-Russia scandal...on June 8, 2017.

What a fascinating photo. Of course, this pic would be even more interesting, and historic, if today's testimony by former FBI Director James Comey eventually leads to the ouster of The Orange One from the White House due to the ongoing Trump-Russia election the fall of fellow traitorous Trump associates like Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence (and maybe House Speaker piece of crap Paul Ryan as well). Carry on.

Monday, June 05, 2017

A Red-Hot World Is Found Beyond Our Solar System...

An artist's concept of the exoplanet KELT-9b orbiting its star KELT-9.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Astronomers Find Planet Hotter Than Most Stars (Press Release)

A newly discovered Jupiter-like world is so hot, it's being vaporized by its own star.

With a dayside temperature of more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,600 Kelvin), KELT-9b is a planet that is hotter than most stars. But its blue A-type star, called KELT-9, is even hotter -- in fact, it is probably unraveling the planet through evaporation.

"This is the hottest gas giant planet that has ever been discovered," said Scott Gaudi, astronomy professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus, who led a study on the topic. He worked on this study while on sabbatical at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The unusual planet is described in the journal Nature and at a presentation at the American Astronomical Society summer meeting this week in Austin, Texas.

KELT-9b is 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter, but only half as dense. Scientists would expect the planet to have a smaller radius, but the extreme radiation from its host star has caused the planet's atmosphere to puff up like a balloon.

Because the planet is tidally locked to its star -- as the Moon is to Earth -- one side of the planet is always facing toward the star, and one side is in perpetual darkness. Molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane can't form on the dayside because it is bombarded by too much ultraviolet radiation. The properties of the nightside are still mysterious -- molecules may be able to form there, but probably only temporarily.

"It's a planet by any of the typical definitions of mass, but its atmosphere is almost certainly unlike any other planet we've ever seen just because of the temperature of its dayside," Gaudi said.

The KELT-9 star is only 300 million years old, which is young in star time. It is more than twice as large, and nearly twice as hot, as our Sun. Given that the planet's atmosphere is constantly blasted with high levels of ultraviolet radiation, the planet may even be shedding a tail of evaporated planetary material like a comet.

"KELT-9 radiates so much ultraviolet radiation that it may completely evaporate the planet," said Keivan Stassun, a professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, who directed the study with Gaudi.

But this scenario assumes the star doesn't grow to engulf the planet first.

"KELT-9 will swell to become a red giant star in a few hundred million years," said Stassun. "The long-term prospects for life, or real estate for that matter, on KELT-9b are not looking good."

The planet is also unusual in that it orbits perpendicular to the spin axis of the star. That would be analogous to the planet orbiting perpendicular to the plane of our solar system. One "year" on this planet is less than two days.

KELT-9b is nowhere close to habitable, but Gaudi said there's a good reason to study worlds that are unlivable in the extreme.

"As has been highlighted by the recent discoveries from the MEarth collaboration, the planet around Proxima Centauri, and the astonishing system discovered around TRAPPIST-1, the astronomical community is clearly focused on finding Earthlike planets around small, cooler stars like our Sun. They are easy targets and there's a lot that can be learned about potentially habitable planets orbiting very low-mass stars in general. On the other hand, because KELT-9b's host star is bigger and hotter than the Sun, it complements those efforts and provides a kind of touchstone for understanding how planetary systems form around hot, massive stars," Gaudi said.

The KELT-9b planet was found using one of the two telescopes called KELT, or Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope. In late May and early June 2016, astronomers using the KELT-North telescope at Winer Observatory in Arizona noticed a tiny drop in the star's brightness -- only about half of one percent -- which indicated that a planet may have passed in front of the star. The brightness dipped once every 1.5 days, which means the planet completes a "yearly" circuit around its star every 1.5 days.

Subsequent observations confirmed the signal to be due to a planet, and revealed it to be what astronomers call a "hot Jupiter" -- the kind of planet the KELT telescopes are designed to spot.

Astronomers at Ohio State, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt jointly operate two KELTs (one each in the northern and southern hemispheres) to fill a large gap in the available technologies for finding exoplanets. Other telescopes are designed to look at very faint stars in much smaller sections of the sky, and at very high resolution. The KELTs, in contrast, look at millions of very bright stars at once, over broad sections of sky, and at low resolution.

"This discovery is a testament to the discovery power of small telescopes, and the ability of citizen scientists to directly contribute to cutting-edge scientific research," said Joshua Pepper, astronomer and assistant professor of physics at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who built the two KELT telescopes.

The astronomers hope to take a closer look at KELT-9b with other telescopes -- including NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, and eventually the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018. Observations with Hubble would enable them to see if the planet really does have a cometary tail, and allow them to determine how much longer that planet will survive its current hellish condition.

"Thanks to this planet's star-like heat, it is an exceptional target to observe at all wavelengths, from ultraviolet to infrared, in both transit and eclipse. Such observations will allow us to get as complete a view of its atmosphere as is possible for a planet outside our solar system," said Knicole Colon, paper co-author who was based at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley during the time of this study.

The study was largely funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through an NSF CAREER Grant, NSF PAARE Grant and an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Additional support came from NASA via the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Exoplanet Exploration Program; the Harvard Future Faculty Leaders Postdoctoral Fellowship; Theodore Dunham, Jr., Grant from the Fund for Astronomical Research; and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, June 01, 2017

An Amazing Discovery in Astrophysics...

An artist's concept of two black holes about to merge together in the universe.

NASA Scientists Assist LIGO in Third Gravitational Wave Observation (Press Release)

About 3 billion years ago, a pair of orbiting black holes collided to form a single object with 49 times the mass of our Sun. The event unleashed powerful gravitational waves—ripples in the very fabric of space and time—that reached Earth seconds before 5:12 a.m. EST on Jan. 4, 2017. That's when they were detected by the National Science Foundation's ground-based twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana.

The event, known as GW170104, after the date, is the third detection of gravitational waves by LIGO. Located at a distance of about 3 billion light-years, the coalesced black hole is twice as far away as both of the two mergers previously detected.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), an international group of researchers that includes NASA scientists, reported the findings in a paper published online June 1 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

"We have further confirmation of the existence of stellar-mass black holes that are larger than 20 solar masses—these are objects we didn't know existed before LIGO detected them," said LSC spokesperson David Shoemaker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "It is remarkable that humans can put together a story, and test it, for such strange and extreme events that took place billions of years ago and billions of light-years distant from us."

LIGO detected the first black hole mergers in September and December 2015. In the instant before the black holes merged, all three of these events produced more power as gravitational waves than is radiated as light by all the stars in the observable universe at any given time.

"Up until the success of LIGO, almost everything we knew about the universe came from light," said Tyson Littenberg, principal investigator of the LIGO research group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "Gravitational wave observations are now firmly part of the toolbox for understanding some of the most exotic objects and violent events in the universe."

Littenberg's contributions to the project have helped push the extremes of signal-processing techniques. He is on the team that developed sophisticated algorithms needed to accurately parse out signals that are barely measureable—disturbances 10,000 times smaller than an atomic nucleus. He also helped develop and run large-scale simulations to determine how sensitive LIGO is to different gravitational wave signals.

"LIGO could not succeed without the effort and continued support of more than a thousand scientists and engineers from all corners of the globe," Littenberg said. "Gravitational wave detection is an incredibly challenging endeavor, both scientifically and technologically, and we have only just begun to reap the benefits."

NASA researchers are also deeply interested in detecting high-energy light from mergers using orbiting observatories. Having both the gravitational and X-ray or gamma-ray signals from a merger would provide scientists with the greatest amount of information about these events. While mergers of binary black holes are not generally expected to produce electromagnetic signals, theorists have proposed exotic systems that possibly could. And mergers between black holes and other types of objects, such as neutron stars, are expected to produce high-energy flares.

"We're refining techniques to narrow down the amount of sky we'll need spacecraft to search in order to find a flare associated with a gravitational wave event," said Tito Dal Canton, a post-doctoral researcher in the LIGO group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who contributed to the detection algorithm used to identify the gravitational signal from this event.

Astronomers will need both ground-based and space-based observatories to take full advantage of this new observational window on the universe. NASA is working closely with ESA (the European Space Agency) to develop a concept for a space-based gravitational wave observatory and contributed to ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission, which demonstrated critical technologies needed for such an undertaking.

"LIGO is unveiling a population of stellar-mass black holes far more massive than those that have been detected through previous observations," said Jordan Camp, principal investigator for the Goddard LIGO team. "The mystery now is how these larger black holes form, and how they end up close enough to one another that we observe them merging so frequently."

LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and operated by MIT and Caltech, which conceived and built the project. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project. More than 1,000 scientists from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration. LIGO partners with the Virgo Collaboration, a consortium including 280 additional scientists throughout Europe supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) and Nikhef, as well as Virgo's host institution, the European Gravitational Observatory.

Source: NASA.Gov