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August 2015


  CIERA's 2015 Summer Student Researchers

For the summer of 2015, 35 summer stundents worked closely with researchers at CIERA. Several of these students were funded through an educational grant awarded by NASA to Northwestern University through the Illinois Space Grant Consortium.

NASA Undergraduate Research Fellows

2nd Row - Jessie Duncan, Seth Krantzler, Eric Scott, CJ Hansen
1st Row - Leah Perri, Amanda Newmark, Daniela Deleon, David Rice

2015 Summer Students

5th Row - Jason Parks, Tim Sanders
4th Row - Seth Krantzler, Han Setiawan, Jessie Duncan, Eric Scott
3rd Row - Amanda Newmark, David Rice, Paul Williams, Justin Scaife, CJ Hansen
2nd Row - Harris Khan, Cesar Bustos, Kayla Leonard, Casey Chu, Andrew Loach
1st Row - Tessa Thorsen, Sheila Dunne, Eryn Cangi, Larissa Markwardt, Leah Perri, Daniela Deleon


CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera Speaks to Office for Research Staff

On Tuesday, August 18th CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera spoke to nearly 40 Office for Research staff members at NU Knowledge at Noon, a faculty research presentation series. The series is designed to allow staff to learn directly from Northwestern faculty about the exciting research that takes place at our institution. The series also aims to foster connections across Office for Research staff by providing the opportunity for them to meet in person.

In her talk, "NU Astronomy: Big Data, Telescope Innovation, and the Cosmos," Dr. Kalogera covered a brief history of astronomy, but she focused mainly on the very near future: the importance of big data and the value of two large, related initiatives, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

Learn more: LSST and LIGO

Pictured: CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera and Vice President for Research Jay Walsh.


July 2015



CIERA Study Predicts Detection of More Merging Black Holes Than Previously Thought

CIERA's Professor Fred Rasio, pictured far left, and Carl Rodriguez, Ph.D. student, are senior author and lead author, respectively, of an important new paper. Highlights include:
--New observatories poised to directly detect -- for the first time -- gravitational waves predicted by Einstein.
--Merging black holes can’t be seen but they can be ‘heard’ through gravitational waves.
--Detecting gravitational waves will open a new window into the universe.

Continue to Northwestern News for story.
Read a two-paragraph synopsis of the paper.
Go to the full paper.
See coverage in "I Love Science" blog.


Immediate Opening for Graduate Student: CIERA Keck Foundation Grant

We have an immediate opening for a graduate student ready to work full time on a newly awarded W. M. Keck Foundation grant. For this grant, we aim to develop a high-speed Near Infrared (0.9-17 micron) camera especially designed to help image planets around other stars. Our goal is to make working cameras and deliver them to the Subaru telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii; we will build those cameras in collaboration with Professor Hooman Mohseni’s group in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The Physics and Astronomy graduate student will be primarily involved in the electronic, mechanical, and cryogenic interfaces to the Subaru Camera for Extreme Adaptive Optics (SCExAO) system.  Some idea of the complexity of the SCExAO can be seen in this photo.

The project is both extremely exciting and challenging: the Keck Foundation funds no other types of projects. This is a “win or go home” effort. We make working cameras and deliver them to the Subaru telescope in the Big Island of Hawaii, or we stay home in Evanston. Please contact Prof. Mel Ulmer if you are interested in working on this project.


CIERA Undergraduate Researcher Accepted to Ph.D. Programs

ISP undergraduate student Shyam Bharadwaj, who did research on cosmological simulations of galaxy formation in the CIERA research group of Claude-André Faucher-Giguère, was accepted to several prestigious Ph.D. programs including Stanford University, the University of Washington, and Cornell University. Shyam received an Illinois Space Grant award in summer 2014.

Shyam is starting his Ph.D. in electric and computer engineering at Cornell in fall 2015.

Stay in touch Shyam!

CIERA Research Group Receives Time with Hubble Space Telescope

The research group of Claude-André Faucher-Giguère (GalForm @ NU) is part of a multi-institution team that has been awarded a large amount of time to use the Hubble Space Telescope to map the gas flows around the Andromeda galaxy. It will be the first time ever that they will be able to produce a spatially-resolved map of the gas around a galaxy other than the Milky Way. This work is very important because these gas flows regulate how galaxies grow.

The observations will be led by collaborators at the University of Notre Dame and the group at Northwestern will develop the theoretical tools needed for the interpretation of the Hubble observations. This ambitious project, called Project AMIGA (Absorption Maps In the Gas of Andromeda), will require an enormous 150 hours of Hubble Space Telescope time.

This new award of a large amount of time to use the Hubble Space Telescope builds on a recent pilot study led by the Notre Dame collaborators which has recently garnered much media attention. Find full story on Hubble Site Newscenter.

Astronomy Club of the College of DuPage Visits CIERA

Postdoctoral Fellow Aaron Geller hosted a group of students from the Astronomy Club of the College of DuPage on July 10. The group is led by Ray Schlosser. The students are very interested in CIERA's research and many of them hope to go on to four-year universities and graduate school.

The College of DuPage students enjoyed a campus tour, followed by a meet-and-greet and dinner with CIERA faculty, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students. In the evening, Dr. Geller presented his research to the students, and then led them to Dearborn for a night of observing.

W.M. Keck Foundation Grant to NU Team Led by CIERA's Hooman Mohseni and Melville P. Ulmer

Two members of CIERA, Hooman Mohseni and Mel Ulmer have, along with external collaborator Olivier Guyon of the Subaru Telescope, been awarded a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation.

Continue to Northwestern News for story.

Continue to Subaru Telescope site for story.



June 2015



CIERA Shares with Local Children: Solar Observing and Careers in Astrophysics

CIERA graduate students hosted two groups of gifted young people as part of the 2015 Opportunities for the Future conference offered by Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development on June 27, 2015. Mike Zevin, Josh Fixelle, Cody Dirks, and Kevin Kelly led the sessions, one for 7th and 8th graders, the other for high school students. They viewed the sun through three different telescopes at Dearborn Observatory and then listened to a presentation on What it Means to be an Astrophysicist.

Get to know the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University.

Illinois Congressman Visits CIERA

Congressman Randy Hultgren, who represents the 14th district of Illinois, visited Northwestern University on June 22, 2015. Accompanied by Vice President for Research Jay Walsh, the congressman met with CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera and a diverse group of CIERA students, postdocs, and faculty. They discussed CIERA’s mission with the congressman and shared about their research in astrophysics and astronomy.

Congressman Hultgren next ventured down to the ground floor of the Technological Institute, where he stepped into the laboratory of CIERA Professor Giles Novak, who spoke about his group’s instrument development for balloons over Antarctica. Finally, the congressman visited Northwestern's Visualization Wall, where he experienced movies of colliding black holes, gravitational waves, and the formation of galaxies, all drawn from CIERA research.

Learn about Northwestern's Visualization Wall

Pictured: Vice President for Research Jay Walsh, Congressman Holtgren, and CIERA Professor Giles Novak

CIERA Helps the Adler Planetarium Celebrate the Summer of Science!

On Sunday, June 7th the Adler Planetarium kicked off its Summer of Science celebration, in honor of its 85th birthday. Northwestern University CIERA graduate students Katie Breivik and Peter Ashton teamed up with Mehak Serang, a Wesleyan undergraduate student, to lead a series of fun, hands-on activities as part of the celebration. The activities were from Northwestern’s FUSE group. Laura Trouille, a CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow jointly appointed at the Adler, helped set up the event.

NASA Fellowship Awarded to CIERA Graduate Student Sam Hadden

Sam Hadden has been awarded the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship for 2015-2016. Hadden has been a grad student at Northwestern for the past four years, working with CIERA faculty member Yoram Lithwick on exoplanets.

Hadden’s successful proposal is titled, “Accurate TTV Characterization of of Kepler planetary Systems, and Implications for Their Dynamics and Formation”. The aim of the research is to better characterize the masses and orbits of exoplanets discovered by the Kepler telescope and use these characterizations to investigate how the planets may have formed.

CIERA’s Doug Roberts Creates First Video Abstract for an Astrophysical Journal Letters Article

CIERA faculty Doug Roberts has blazed a trail in the integration of visualization and astronomical publishing with the creation of the first video abstract of a paper published by the American Astronomical Society. Roberts was co-author and worked closely with CIERA faculty and lead author Farhad Yusef-Zadeh on a paper published in Astrophysical Journal Letters entitled “Radio Continuum Observations of the Galactic Center: Photoevaporative Proplyd-like Objects near Sgr A*,” F. Yusef-Zadeh, D. A. Roberts, M. Wardle, W. Cotton, R. Schodel & M.J. Royster, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 801, Issue 2, article id. L26, 7 pp. (2015).

The video abstract is published with the online version of the paper at the publisher's website. It was created entirely using WorldWide Telescope and represents initial steps of bringing visual representations of data and science results to people in interactive and video formats. This video abstract is available here on YouTube. If you have a copy of WorldWide Telescope, you can download, run, and edit the tour used to create the video here. (Right-click, download.)

CIERA’s Melville P. Ulmer Receives Funding from NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)

Professor Ulmer is now a two times over NIAC Fellow. His most recent NIAC award came in June 2015. As a NIAC Fellow, he will serve as Principal Investigator for a project dubbed “Aperture,” short for “A Precise Extremely-large Reflective Telescope Using Re-configurable Elements.” The project goal is to develop a viable concept for large deployable space mirrors with post-deployment correction. The plan is that these mirrors will used for next generation UV-Visible space telescope, such as ATLAST: a 16-m diameter telescope follow on to Hubble. The basic deployment and post-deployment correction concept will also enable high-resolution Earth observing satellites to be located in geosynchronous orbits.

Professor Ulmer has worked on various aspects of both deformable X-ray optics for a beyond Chandra X-ray observatory. Besides his own experience in optics design, his group includes coating experts, material scientists, mechanical engineers and aeronautical engineers.

This innovative concept would enable a paradigm shift in the way space observatories are built. The potential to create paradigm shift in the way some aspect of space exploration is carried out is a key requirement of successful NIAC proposals.

Collaboration and education are also key benefits of “APERTURE”: the project will keep a critical mass of technical expertise together, will serve as a platform for educating students, and it will build collaboration between Illinois Space Grant Members Northwestern and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC). The proposal preparation greatly benefited from the UIUC Aeronautical Engineering graduate students, Marie-Caroline Corbineau, Chris Lorenz, and Guanyan Luo all under the supervision of Professor Victoria Coverstone.

Collaborators with Prof. Ulmer:
Jian Cao (Northwestern, Mechanical Engineering)
Yip-Wah Chung (Northwestern, Material Science)
Victoria Coverstone (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Aeronautical Engineering)


May 2015



CIERA Students Awarded Funding for Summer Research and Illinois Space Grant Projects

CIERA is pleased to announce the following awards:

Summer Undergraduate Research Grant Recipients
Funded by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences:
Jessie Duncan, Anya Kogan, and Ben Sandeen (Advisor: Vicky Kalogera)
Daniel Kinch and Remy Millman (Advisor: Jason Steffen)

Funded by the Office of Undergraduate Research:
C.J. Hansen (Advisor: Giles Novak)
Chase Kimball (Advisor: Vicky Kalogera)
David Rice (Advisor: Jason Steffen)

NASA Illinois Space Grant Consortium Recipients
Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Project Winners:

Daniela Deleon (Advisor: Mel Ulmer)
C.J. Hansen, Amanda Newmark, Paul Williams* (Advisor: Giles Novak)
*Paul Williams will join Northwestern’s Physics and Astronomy department as a graduate student, Fall 2015
Seth Krantzler (Advisor: Fred Rasio)
Leah Perri (Advisor: Vicky Kalogera)
David Rice (Advisor: Jason Steffen)

Academic Year Grant Winners:

Graduate fellowships, Peter Ashton and Carl Rodriguez
Undergraduate scholarships, Mohammad Khan and Leah Perri

Congratulations all!


Neil deGrasse Tyson Ignites CIERA Annual Public Lecture

Students, faculty, staff, and a range of Northwestern University community members gathered May 14, 2015 for an exceptional evening with celebrated astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Dr. Tyson presented This Just In: Latest Discoveries in the Universe, a lively talk which blended his personal and professional spheres of astronomy, socio-politics, and popular culture. Students, encouraged by Dr. Tyson’s open approach and invitation to dialog, lined the aisles to ask questions after the talk.

Find full coverage of this event by The Daily Northwestern and HELIX.

Special thanks to the sponsors who made this talk possible:
Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics
Northwestern University’s Contemporary Thought Speaker Series
The Alumnae of Northwestern University
Northwestern University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy
Northwestern University’s RSG Communication Program

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April 2015



Professor Meyer Highlights Hubble's Contributions to Astronomy Education in CIERA Spring Interdisciplinary Colloquium

Professor Dave Meyer has found Hubble Space Telescope data to be productive in two different ways: not only does he use Hubble data for his research, to examine the Interstellar Medium of our Galaxy, but he has found Hubble images to be unparalleled in their ability to excite students and the public about astronomy, and to bring astronomy discoveries to everyone. He presented both the astronomical and educational contributions of the Hubble Space Telescope in the 2015 CIERA Spring Interdisciplinary Colloquium, entitled "Experiencing the Hubble Space Telescope in the Classroom and Beyond"; the talk was also given as a Colloquium in the Department of Physics & Astronomy.

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CIERA Fellow Geller Wins First Prize in Data Visualization Challenge

CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow Aaron Geller won first place in the proposals division of the 2015 Northwestern Data Visualization Challenge, with his interactive visualization exploring stellar evolution. This work-in-progress will allow students and other astronomy enthusiasts to investigate the changes that occur in stars over cosmic time. When finished, the visualization will provide an interface to explore data from state-of-the art stellar evolution models, and will be used within inquiry-based classroom lesson plans.


CIERA Co-Sponsors Computational Research Day Poster Session

Nothwestern University's Research Computing Services celebrated the role of computation in research at Northwestern with their Second Annual Computational Research Day on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015; as part of the vast number of talks and other events at Computational Research Day, CIERA and the Center for Life Processes Institute hosted an interdisciplinary poster session. Nineteen posters from undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdocs were presented as part of the session; poster titles ranged from "How does community income affect the transition to adulthood?" and "Longitudinal Analysis of School Shootings in the United States" to "Fast Computation of Fully Resolved Neuromechanically Controlled Locomotion". CIERA Graduate Student Sam Hadden presented a poster entitled "Properties of Kepler Planets from Transit Timing Variations", while CIERA graduate student Zach Hafen showed his work on galaxy evolution in a poster entitled "In and Out: Using Simulated Galaxies to Discern the Nature of Gas Flows". The posters were reviewed by eight judges; thanks also to all of the participants for all of their work, and thanks to our judges for their time!

Northwestern University IT also published a news story about this event.


Professor Yusef-Zadeh and Colleagues See Evidence of Star Formation Near Galaxy's Supermassive Black Hole

CIERA-affiliated Professor Farhad Yusef-Zadeh has uncovered new evidence of star formation at the center of the Milky Way. In a paper published in April, Yusef-Zadeh and colleagues observed low-mass stars forming near the galactic center, where the Galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole. Yusef-Zadeh and his team used the Very Large Array telescope in New Mexico to spot these forming stars, thanks to the bright disks of dust and gas surrounding them. This research helps disprove the theory that the gravitational force of a black hole is too great for stars to form nearby.

The published paper is available at The Astrophysical Journal Letters, with a video abstract. This discovery has been covered in news stories by Sky & Telescope, Discovery News, and Physics World.


Two NSF Graduate Fellowships Awarded to NU Astronomy Students

The National Science Foundation has awarded two prestigious Graduate Fellowships to students affiliated with CIERA. One Fellowship was awarded to Josh Fixelle, who works with Professor Fred Rasio on the dynamics of extrasolar planets. A second Fellowship was awarded to Kyle Kremer; Kyle worked with Professor Vicky Kalogera as an undergraduate student at Northwestern, and will be rejoin CIERA and the Department of Physics & Astronomy in the Fall as a graduate student. Congratulations to Josh & Kyle!

CIERA-based Team Awarded 5-year NSF "Research Traineeship" Grant

A Northwestern team led by CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera has been awarded a 5-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help train graduate students in the interdisciplinary fields of data analytics and Big Data. The program, entitled "From the Earth and the Universe to the Successful Careers of the Future", was one of only eight proposals funded across the country, out of approximately 240 proposals that were received by the NSF. Professor Kalogera and her team designed a two-year graduate certificate program that includes, for example, the Big Data challenges of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, and the EarthScope seismic observatory project. The program will also give graduate students the chance to improve their communication skills, learn about parallel programming and visualization, and take part in summer internships at national labs and in industry. Over the 5-year duration, the program with provide graduate fellowships for 35 students selected from a wide range of existing PhD programs.

The NSF highlighted this and other Research Traineeship awards in a press release.
Northwestern University also released a news story summarizing this new grant.



March 2015



Middle School Girls on a Mission to Space!

CIERA Postdoctoral Fellows Laura Trouille and Laura Fissel led a new ‘Mission to Space’ workshop during Expanding your Horizons on March 28th, 2015. Expanding your Horizons is a day-long STEM event for 6th-8th grade girls. Most of the over 200 participants were Chicago Public School students. Throughout the day the girls participated in hands-on STEM activities with women in STEM mentors. In the CIERA workshop, the girls designed their own Mission to Europa, Io, or Mars using WorldWide Telescope, including designing their own rover to best address their science questions. Northwestern undergraduate student Casey Norlin collaborated with Laura Trouille on creating the workshop materials. They had a blast!

Dave Meyer to speak at "A Day With Northwestern 2015"

A Day With Northwestern in Evanston annually attracts more than 400 alumni, students, parents, and friends for a full-day series of presentations and lectures. For more than 40 years, this Springtime event has featured prominent Northwestern faculty and alumni speakers on a variety of timely topics. Attendees choose from 14 different lectures — on the arts, science, business, journalism, medicine, and more — to personalize their class schedule, and enjoy engaging discussions with fellow alumni and friends.

Saturday, April 18th
9:00 am to 4:00pm
Norris University Center, 1999 University Drive
Evanston, IL

Open to the Northwestern community and the general public.
Register Online

Professor David Meyer (Director of the Dearborn Observatory and Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence) will present a talk in the Mid-Morning session, at 10:15am. His talk title and abstract are listed below:

Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe both near and far. Its stunning images of star-forming nebulae and distant galaxies have captivated public attention and inspired students of all ages. David Meyer oversees Northwestern’s Dearborn Observatory and has spent years exploring space using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. Meyer will explain why the Hubble Telescope is unique and outline the science behind several of its most famous images, including the iconic image of the “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula.


CIERA to Welcome Four New Postdocs in Fall 2015

We are happy to announce that four new postdocs will join CIERA in the Fall of 2015. Ben Nelson will be the first Data Science Scholar at Northwestern, as part of a new University-wide Data Science initiative, overseen by the Northwestern Institute of Complex Systems (NICO); his background is in exoplanets research, and he will be based in CIERA. Chris Pankow, now a Research Associate at the University of Wisconson--Milwaukee, will join CIERA as a Postdoctoral Associate; Chris will join Professor Kalogera's group, contributing his expertise in a wide range of methods for gravitational-wave signal searches from both burst and binary coalescence events. Alex Richings, now finishing up his graduate studies at Leiden Observatory, will join CIERA as the Lindheimer Fellow; Alex will work with Claude-André Faucher-Giguère's group on simulations of galaxy formation and evolution. Finally, Laura Sampson, who is currently a Postdoc at Montana State University, will join Professor Kalogera's LIGO group as a Postdoctoral Fellow; Laura is an expert in Bayesian statistics, parameter estimation and model selection for gravitational-wave sources in connection to both interferometric detectors and pulsar-timing arrays.

Summer Undergraduate Student Success Stories: CIERA Alumni

We're always on the lookout for news from students who have spent time at CIERA. Here are some updates for students who worked at CIERA during the Summer of 2014:

Joon Park, a sophomore in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was awarded a Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI). This 10 week program is hosted by Fermilab where Joon hopes to work on the development of a new camera technology. The new camera uses Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors (MKIDs) where each pixel of the camera can simultaneously measure the arrival time of each photon and its energy. Such a technology has the potential to revolutionize many fields of astrophysics.

Physics and Astronomy sophomore Lauren Barmore received a Research Internship in Science and Engineering (RISE) through the German Academic Exchange Service. She will spend her summer in Dortmund Germany at the Technische Universität Dortmund. While there, Lauren will work on B meson identification with flavor tagging at LHCb---using data from the world's most powerful particle accelerator.


February 2015



CIERA Professors Lithwick and Motter Recognized in NU Research Annual Report

Two CIERA-affiliated professors were recognized in Northwestern University’s 2014 Research Report, released last week. Both Assistant Professor Yoram Lithwick and Professor Adilson Motter were featured in one-page profiles that highlighted their 2014 excellence in research. Lithwick was recognized for measuring the masses and ascertaining the composition of 56 exoplanets, while Motter was recognized for the computational modeling of biological and chemical systems using network-based understanding. Congratulations to both!
Photo of Adilson Motter (left) by Eileen Molony; photo of Yoram Lithwick (right) is by Veronica Hinojosa.


LSST Project Accepts New Mirror Surfaces

The M3/M1 mirror surfaces were accepted as a critical component of the LSST or Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project, this past week, according to the LSST project office. These mirror surfaces represent cutting edge technology in improving the reflective surface of telescope mirrors, and were accepted to the project without qualification after an intensive testing period. Led by researchers at CIERA, Northwestern is an institution member of the LSST, which is effort to build a next-generation ground-based telescope. Congratulations to all!


From Chemistry Labs to Star Forming Regions in the Galaxy: Astrochemistry at the CIERA Winter Interdisciplinary Colloquium

Professor Ben McCall (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) visited CIERA on Tuesday, February 10th. We were thankful that he was able to give the 2015 CIERA Winter Interdisciplinary Colloquium: Ben is an expert in connecting chemistry and astronomy. His talk was entitled: "Astrochemistry: From H_3^+ to C_60"; the talk focused on how laboratory studies of complex molecules help astronomers investigate such diverse regions as diffuse interstellar clouds, dense molecular clouds, and outflows from stars.


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Don Geci, CIERA High-School Summer Student, Accepted to Princeton

Don Geci, a senior from Lake View High School in Chicago, participated this summer in a research project with CIERA Graduate Student Sam Hadden. He worked with data on Kepler multi-planet systems, searching for underlying patterns in their orbital architectures; he also ran computer simulations of planetary systems. We are glad to hear that Don will continue in the field: he was recently accepted to Princeton University, where he aims to study astrophysics. Congratulations, Don!
Read Full Story


CIERA Fellow Chatterjee helps show `Vulcan’ planets follow predictions of new theory

CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow Sourav Chatterjee and Jonathan C. Tan from University of Florida have published a study in the Astrophysical Journal Letters that show that the properties of the innermost planets of the short-period, compact multi-planet systems, christened "Vulcans" by the authors, are well matched by the predictions of a radically new formation mechanism for these planetary systems, proposed earlier by the same authors in the Astrophysical Journal. A major challenge for traditional planet formation theories is to explain the delivery of the required high mass of solid, planet forming material so close to the star from which these compact systems can form. The "Inside-Out Planet Formation" theory proposed by Chatterjee and Tan explains how delivery of material can happen quickly from much further out. In addition, it explains how, upon delivery, cm- to m-size pebbles could quickly grow to planets, the most uncertain step of planet formation.
Press coverage on this work can be found on the Smithsonian Magazine Website, and Space REF.
Sourav Chatterjee's papers:
Vulcan Planets: Inside-out Formation of the Innermost Super-Earths
Inside-out Planet Formation


LIGO Generations: New Documentary on Gravitational Wave Astronomy

LIGO Generations, a new film documenting the history of gravitational wave astronomy and the dramatic next phase about to unfold with Advanced LIGO, was released just last week. It can be watched online.
Accompanying the film, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration will host a web AMA ("Ask me anything") session on the reddit r/science channel starting Friday February 13th at 12:00 pm CST.


CIERA Graduate Student Meagan Morscher Wins Martin and Beate Block Award

CIERA graduate student Meagan Morscher won the Martin and Beate Block Award for her presentation at the Aspen Center for Physics' winter conference on Black Holes in Dense Star Clusters. The Block award is given to one promising young physicist at each winter conference, in honor of the founder of the winter conference series, Martin Block. Meagan received training in science communication through Northwestern University's Ready, Set, Go program, which started within CIERA and has now been adopted by The Graduate School as a flagship graduate student communication training program.



January 2015



Join Einstein Evenings throughout 2015

We are happy to announce a Public Outreach activity we are launching within CIERA for the duration of 2015. These events are inspired by the 100 year anniversary of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Guests will have the opportunity to meet CIERA postdoctoral associates, graduate and undergraduate students on the last Friday of every month at Dearborn Observatory on the Northwestern campus. They will discuss their research, share some exciting visualizations, and answer questions.
You can find further details here. We look forward to seeing you there!
Read Full story from Northwestern News


Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Project Celebrates Successful Completion of its Unique Mirror

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is the #1 priority for the astronomical community and supported for construction by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. At the heart of LSST is a unique mirror more than 27 feet across, providing the widest sky view ever achieved through a unique science and engineering design. The LSST Corporation celebrated the completion of that mirror, after six years of painstaking and exacting work, on January 10th in Tucson, Arizona. CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera attended the celebration as a representative of Northwestern University, an institutional member of the LSST Corporation. Vicky was joined by Judith Pierpont who was thrilled by the opportunity to visit the Mirror Lab and take “selfies" with the LSST mirror. The excitement around LSST was palpable; you can hear and see this excitement expressed by Charles Simonyi and Bill Gates, who are major LSST supporters who made the construction of this unique mirror possible.

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December 2014



Annual Jamboree Summarizes CIERA's Diverse Research with Postdoc & Graduate Student Talks

Every year, before our annual Holiday Party, CIERA faculty, postdocs, graduate students and guests come together to hear brief presentations on the diverse research done by Postdoctoral Fellows and Graduate Students. This year, presentations included up-to-the-minute results on, for instance: coating next-generation X-ray mirrors, simulating the formation of galaxies, building new detectors that will fly above Antarctica, and mapping the mysteries at the center of the Milky Way (just to name a few of the 23 talks). All of the presenters did an excellent job; not only were they able to communicate their work, but all of the talks were done in about an hour and a half. Thanks to all of our postdocs and graduate students for participating!

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November 2014



CIERA Astronomers Provide Strong Support for The Adler Planetarium Girls do Hack Event Saturday, November 15th

On Saturday, November 15th the Adler Planetarium will run its 2nd annual Girls Do Hack event. Dr. Laura Trouille, CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow jointly appointed at the Adler Planetarium, is one of the event organizers.
Over 80 Chicago Public high school girls will gather at the Adler Planetarium for a day of hands-on STEM activities. CIERA graduate students Niharika Sravan and Katie Breivik are running the FUSE workshop. Matthew Rickert is helping with the WorldWide Telescope workshop led by Dr. Trouille.
Throughout the day the girls will be partnered with Chicago women in STEM mentors, including CIERA’s very own Francesca Valsecchi and Sara Rastegar.


CIERA Staff, Faculty, and Students Speak at 6th Annual Statewide OSEP STEM Summit

On Wednesday November 5th, the Office of STEM Education Partnerships held a day-long Summit on STEM Education at Northwestern University. Both high school science teachers and school administrators were interested in learning more about this program and the ways research communication is at the intersection of the English and Language Arts and Mathematics Common Core State Standards as well as the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 education.
There were a variety of ways in which CIERA staff, faculty, and students participated. Michelle Paulsen (Program Director for CIERA's Reach for the Stars) was on the organizing committee and shared the science communication training that Ready, Set, Go has brought to graduate students and post docs at Northwestern.Assistant Professors Yoram Lithwick and Claude-André Faucher-Giguère presented at a joint session for high-school math and science teachers interested in bringing their research into the classrooms. Many teachers signed up, expressing an interest in summer professional development opportunities for themselves that would better prepare them to help their students with independent research opportunities in astronomy. In addition, Meagan Morscher and Peter Ashton served on a panel that answered questions for high school students about research, undergraduate, and graduate school opportunities.
This event was also covered by The Daily Northwestern
STEM Summit Final Report


`Kits and Cats' Celebrates Community Connections; "Reach for the Stars" Plays Key Role

Northwestern University and Evanston Township High School (ETHS) share more than just the Evanston community; they also work together on a variety of education programs to help inspire students. A `Kits and Cats' celebration, to be held on Northwestern's campus on Thursday night, November 13th, will highlight and further strengthen those connections. A great example of collaboration between Northwestern (the "Cats") and ETHS (the "Kits") is CIERA's NSF/NU "Reach for the Stars" program. This program connects graduate students to high-school teachers at ETHS and throughout Chicago; it is led by CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera, and managed by Program Director Michelle Paulsen with help from OSEP Director Kemi Jona and Assistant Professor Darren Gergle.
"Kits and Cats" Program



October 2014



CIERA Fall Interdisciplinary Talk Highlights Computation in Plasma Astrophysics

CIERA faculty, postdocs, and students welcomed Princeton Professor Jim Stone for the start of our 5th year of Quarterly Interdisciplinary Colloquia on Tuesday, October 28th. Professor Stone outlined a broad range of numerical methods for addressing problems in plasma astrophysics, and especially for addressing questions related to the magnetohydrodynamics of accretion disks and jets. In the process, he showed numerical simulations that strikingly showed the recent progress in the field, including a simulation of time-dependent emission from an accretion disk, as well as models of jet formation above accretion disks. His talk was even more impressive for having been given after a very full day of discussions with a wide range of CIERA members.

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Attendees Cheer at Partial Solar Eclipse Event on October 23rd, 2014

People from all over northern Chicago joined Northwestern students, staff, and professors to persevere through an hour of cool, cloudy weather, waiting for October 23rd's partial solar eclipse. Watching from the top floor of Northwestern's new Visitors Center Parking Garage, the weather initially looked grim, as the Sun ducked behind heavy clouds well before the start of the eclipse. However, at about 5:30pm, the Sun reached an open patch of the sky, and was greeted by eager eclipse watchers, donning glasses with dark filters. Thankfully, we were able to see nearly the maximum obscuration, where approximately 40% of the Sun blocked by the Moon. While our view of the event only lasted approximately three minutes, by the time the Sun was again covered by clouds, the attendees cheered at having been able to get a clear view for a few minutes. As Michael Smutko, (associate professor of instruction in physics and astronomy at Northwestern) said, "It left everyone eager for the next solar eclipse in 2017."

This event was initially advertised by Northwestern's News page group.
The Chicago Tribune's website.
With a wrap-up story and slideshow posted on Northwestern's website.

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Prof. Dave Meyer Delivers New Video Course on Space Astronomy

The Teaching Company (also known as The Great Courses) has just released an 18-lecture video course by CIERA Prof. Dave Meyer entitled "A Visual Guide to the Universe". In this course, produced in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, Meyer discusses the scientific stories behind some of the most spectacular cosmic images obtained by NASA space probes and observatories over the past 20 years. The lecture topics range from Cassini's close-up view of Saturn's rings to Spitzer's infrared panorama of star formation in the Swan Nebula to Hubble's detailed view of the most peculiar galaxies. A key emphasis throughout the course is how such images have made it possible to visualize and understand a universe that is mostly invisible to the Earth-bound human eye.


CIERA Professor Fred Rasio Appointed to KITP Advisory Board

Professor Fred Rasio has been appointed to the Advisory Board of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. On that advisory board, he joins a group of researchers who work in fields spanning from quantum physics, chemistry, and biophysics to Earth & planetary physics and astronomy. Together, they will help direct the scientific programs held at KITP, which is regarded as an international center for facilitating collaborations and advancing theory. Congratulations, Fred!



September 2014



CIERA Postdoctoral Fellows Geller & Hicks Win Awards for “Capturing the Beauty of Science”

Every year, Northwestern University's Science in Society holds a competition to find the most beautiful science images from researchers all over campus. This year, that contest was named “Capturing the Beauty of Science”, and attracted entries from scientists in physics and astronomy, biomedical engineering, chemistry, and plant biology. CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow Aaron Geller won Fourth Place in the competition for his 3D stereo image of the evolution of a star cluster; CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow Elizabeth Hicks won an Honorable Mention for an image from her simulation of a flame, like those found in an exploding star, or “supernova”, showing how that flame is stretched and deformed by a gravitational instability. You can see all of the winners at Helix magazine, the online publication of Science in Society.

If you’d like to learn more, Elizabeth and Aaron will be giving a joint “Science Café” at the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday, October 25th, at 1pm.


CIERA Helps Host Boy Scouts and Families for "NU STEM & Sports" Event

Every year, Northwestern University's Athletics group helps to organize an "NU STEM and Sports Event", where Boy Scouts and their families come to campus before a Northwestern Wildcats football game, tour labs and other facilities, and learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research in Evanston. As part of that program, about 80 participants (Boy Scouts and their families) visited Dearborn Observatory, where graduate student Matthew Rickert and Assistant Director of Operations John Everett showed them the Dearborn telescope, helped them learn about the nature of light and black holes, and answered questions about everything from why telescopes are built on mountains, to spaceships the size of Illinois, to implanting brains in robots. (Ok, we couldn't actually answer that last one.)


CIERA Postdoc Francesca Valsecchi and Colleagues Link Hot Super-Earths to Hot Jupiters

When astronomers started discovering planets around other stars, one of the biggest surprises was the discovery of many Jupiter-sized gas-giant planets orbiting extremely close to their parent stars. Later, as instruments got better, we started to discover massive rocky planets that were also very close -- in fact, even more of them than the "close-in" gas giants! Sky & Telescope magazine recently summarized work by CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow Francesca Valsecchi, Professor Fred Rasio, and Lindheimer Fellow Jason Steffen, which examines these close-in rocky planets and connects them to their gas-giant cousins. They show that such close-in rocky planets could be the aftermath of gas-giant planets losing mass to their central star.


Professor Meyer Named to 2014 Faculty Honor Roll

Congratulations to Professor David Meyer for being named to the 2013-2014 Associated Student Government Faculty & Administration Honor Roll! To be named, professors must be first nominated by Northwestern undergraduate students; students are asked to recognize those teachers who have "gone above and beyond" in their teaching.

Past News and Announcements