Newsletter No. 97, November 2010

  1. Notes from the Editor- Ann Hornschemeier
  2. New HEAD Webmaster Sought! – Ann Hornschemeier
  3. News from NASA Headquarters - Ilana Harrus
  4. HEAD in the News -Megan Watzke
  5. Chandra X-ray Observatory Operations Report - Roger Brissenden and Martin Weisskopf
  6. XMM-Newton Mission News - Lynne Valencic and Lynn Cominsky
  7. RHESSI Mission News – David Smith
  8. INTEGRAL Mission News- Christoph Winkler and Steve Sturner
  1. Swift Mission News - Stefan Immler, Lynn Cominsky, & Neil Gehrels
  2. RXTE Mission News -  Padi Boyd, Tod Strohmayer, Craig Markwardt and Gail Rohrbach
  1. Suzaku Mission News - Koji Mukai
  2. Fermi Mission News - Julie McEnery et al.
  3. NuSTAR Mission News - Daniel Stern and Fiona Harrison
  4. Astro-H Mission News – Richard Kelley
  5. GEMS Mission News – Jean Swank
  1. IXO Mission News - Michael Garcia
  1. LISA Mission News - Michele Vallisneri
  2. Meetings Calendar




1. Notes from the Editor – Ann Hornschemeier


HEAD only delivers the table-of-contents for HEADNEWS and notes from the editor into your mailbox. The newsletter itself can be found online at http://www.aas.org/head/headnews/headnews.nov10.html.


As you will see, your executive committee has made some changes this year.  Please join us for our new, hopefully more enjoyable, way of doing things!




We are in the midst of our first-ever electronic website-based election.  At the time of newsletter distribution, approximately 36% of HEAD members have voted.   This breaks all previous records, but don’t stop now! Spare yourself from the reminder emails and visit www.aas.org/vote today.  The last day to vote is December 2, 2010.  


We would like to acknowledge several very thoughtful responses on why some people do not vote in HEAD elections and pledge to include an option to abstain in the future.    As ever, your constructive feedback is welcome (headsec@xraydeep.org).  We changed away from email voting in the first place due to a well-written objection by a HEAD member concerning confidentiality. We agreed and we made the changes!




Free Margaritas Tuesday night!  That’s right, we are trying an experiment this year with the HEAD business meeting, which will be held on Tuesday evening (session 237, HEAD Business Meeting, 5:30PM room 6A).  We will have margaritas and nachos for a HEAD happy hour.  The first ~40 or so HEAD members will get a free drink ticket.  The rest of you can purchase a margarita (there will be free non-alcoholic drinks).   Please join us for our new, hopefully more enjoyable, way to do things like announce the next Rossi prize winner.


High Energy Processes in Star Formation, Monday:  Please join us in Ballroom 6A at 10AM on Monday for Session 104 to learn about X-ray irradiation of protoplanetary disks, simulations of accretion and outflows in young stars, and other topics.


New Radio Insights into High Energy Phenomena, Tuesday:  Join us in rooms 611/612 on Tuesday at 2PM to learn about radio afterglows from GRBs, using the VLBA to image blazars and other topics.


Rossi Prize (Wednesday), Exploring the Very High Energy Sky with H.E.S.S.:  The Rossi lecture this year will be session #330 on Wednesday at 4:30PM in Ballroom 6AB delivered by our prize winners Werner Hofmann, Heinz Voelk, and Felix Aharonian.




We are now less than a year away from our next HEAD meeting, September 7-10, 2011 in Newport, RI.  Nominations for the dissertation prize are due February 15, 2011 (the winner will give an invited lecture in Newport).  Special session proposals are also due February 15, 2011.  Both should be submitted to headsec@xraydeep.org  See recent emails and the website for more details.




It is renewal season for the American Astronomical Society. Please remember to get your renewal in as soon as possible. Your HEAD dues (currently $15 for full members and $10 for junior and emeritus members) support the Rossi, Schramm and dissertation prizes. As a reminder we are on a path to achieving $120K in reserves for our prizes within approximately five years. Your dues help ensure the funds are there for our prizes! We thank you for your support and please do renew now.


Reminder about HEAD Email Addresses:

All HEAD members must maintain an up-to-date email address with the AAS to ensure that society email (including ballots for elections) reaches them. To change your email address with the AAS please visit http://www.aas.org and follow the member log-in links.

Back to Top



2. New HEAD Webmaster Sought! – Ann Hornschemeier


Can you help maintain the HEAD Web pages?  HEAD is seeking a new volunteer Webmaster to look after the content of the HEAD Web pages. The AAS is moving to a new content management system (Drupal) and the AAS IT staff will be doing more of the technical work. The HEAD Webmaster will mostly need to work within the system managing the pages via the content management portal and will be able to be trained (for free!) by the AAS staff in using Drupal.   Thus the new HEAD Webmaster should not have to worry so much about the machinery of the HEAD webpage.  If you have questions about volunteering to be the next HEAD Webmaster, send an e-mail to Ann Hornschemeier (Ann.Hornschemeier@xraydeep.org)



Back to Top



3. News from NASA Headquarters - Ilana Harrus



The division keeps changing and evolving. Here are the latest personnel changes:


J. D. (Dan) Blackwood, JWST Program Executive, has left HQ and is now the Assistant Director of the Flight Projects Directorate at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).  The newly appointed JWST Program Executive is John Gagosian. Mr. Gagosian was the Associate Chief of the Mission Engineering & Systems Analysis Division at GSFC.  


Dr. Rita Sambruna is the new Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) program scientist. She is replacing Dr. Michael Salomon who left NASA to join DOE. Dr. Sambruna is an expert in high-energy observations and interpretation of Active Galactic Nuclei (jets and radio-loud sources). She was, until her appointment at HQ, acting Chief of the Science Proposal Support Office at GSFC.  


Dr. David Leisawitz is returning to GSFC following a detail assignment as the Division's Acting Assistant Director for Policy and Planning. He will resume his responsibilities as WISE Mission Scientist, Chief of the Science Proposal Support Office, and PI of the Wide-field Imaging Interferometry APRA project.


Back to Top

4. HEAD in the News - Megan Watzke (HEAD Press Secretary) and Lynn Cominsky


June 2010-November 2010 


High-energy astrophysics was well represented in media coverage during the past six months.  Chandra, Fermi, and Swift all had significant stories that captured journalists’ – and the public’s – attention.  Swift witnessed the brightest blast of X-rays ever detected outside the Milky Way on June 21st.  Researchers later announced that a Swift survey had helped astronomers solve a decades-old mystery about why a small percentage of black holes emit vast amounts of energy.  Chandra made news with stories about what black holes do (4C+00.58) and what they are like (M82), along with interesting behavior by normal stars (BP Piscium) and those on the extreme end (SGR 0418+5729).  Fermi had several interesting results including those gamma rays detected from a nova (V407 Cyg).  And, just before this newsletter was sent out, a press conference was held to announce the discovery of huge bubble-like structures above and below the Galactic Center that received coverage in the New York Times and other prestigious outlets.  Links to all of these stories and others can be found below in chronological order. 


May 26: Object: BAT Hard X-ray Survey Headline: “NASA’s Swift Finds ‘Smoking Gun’ of Black Hole Activation” http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/may/HQ_10-119_Smokin_Swift.html  


July 14: Object: GRB 100621A Headline: “Record-Breaking X-ray Blast Briefly Blinds Space Observatory” http://www.science.psu.edu/news-and-events/2010-news/Burrows7-2010 


July 21: Object: 4C+00.58 Headline: “Black Hole Jerked Around Twice” http://chandra.harvard.edu/press/10_releases/press_072110.html  


August 5: Object: Antennae Headline: “A Galactic Spectacle” http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2010/antennae/  


August 12: Object: V407 Cyg Headline: “Fermi Detects ‘Shocking’ Surprise from Supernova’s Little Cousin” http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/shocking-nova.html  


August 18: Object: M82 Headline: “Galactic Volcano in Action” http://chandra.harvard.edu/press/10_releases/press_081810.html 


September 14: Object: BP Piscium Headline: “Chandra Finds Evidence for Stellar Cannibalism” http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2010/bppsc/ 


October 14: Object: SGR 0418+5729 Headline: “What Lies Beneath? Magnetar Enigma Deepens” http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2010/sgr0418/ 


November 9: Object: Milky Way Headline: “NASA’s Fermi Telescope Finds Giant Structure in our Galaxy” http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/new-structure.html   


Back to Top

5. Chandra X-ray Observatory Report - Roger Brissenden (SAO) and Martin Weisskopf (MSFC)


Chandra has now carried out more than 11 years of successful science operations.  Moreover, Chandra's overall observing efficiency has remained close to optimal and the amount of available observing time is gradually increasing.  This increase is determined largely by the need to put the instruments in safe-hold while Chandra passes through Earth's radiation belts, is gradually increasing as the orbit evolves and reduces the time in the belts. Science data processing, archiving, and distribution proceeded smoothly, with time from observation to data release remaining at about a day.

We are modifying on-board and ground-based procedures to adapt to increasing operational constraints and heightened solar activity. These actions will increase spacecraft safety margins while continuing to ensure instrument safing during periods of elevated solar radiation. In addition, in many cases, it will speed up the return to observing following periods of solar activity and hence add to the available observing time. 

The annual Einstein Fellowship Symposium was held at the Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, on October 19-20. 27 Fellows presented their research results to an enthusiastic audience.

The Peer Review of Chandra observing and research proposals, held in June, selected 232 proposals from 681 submitted.

The Chandra X-Ray Center held the workshop "Accretion Processes in X-rays: From White Dwarfs to Quasars" on 13-15 July in Cambridge, MA. Over 100 scientists attended, with 45 talks on an unusually wide range of topics, from newly-forming stars to X-ray binaries and supermassive black holes, all linked by the intriguing physics of accretion.

The Chandra Press Office issued 6 press releases and 8 image releases in the period May through October. A complete listing is available at http://chandra.harvard.edu/press/.



Back to Top

6. XMM-Newton Mission News - Lynne Valencic and Lynn Cominsky


The Tenth Call for Proposals for XMM-Newton closed in October 2010; successful

submissions will be announced in December. As a result of the last Senior Review,

some funds will be available for successful proposals. For more information, please

contact the U.S. Project Scientist, Dr. Steve Snowden.

The implementation of SAS in Hera continues to progress. Over the summer, the

NASA servers where Hera resides were virtualized, resulting in numerous tasks being

temporarily broken. These problems have been fixed for EPIC tasks, and users

interested in processing their XMM-Newton data over the internet are encouraged to try

Hera and provide feedback to the GOF. More information about Hera can be found at



The XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre held a workshop for May 24-26 on Ultra-

Luminous X-ray Sources and Middle Weight Black Holes in Madrid, Spain. The goal of

the workshop was to explore the physical nature of ultra-luminous X-ray sources and

models for their formation, accretion, and evolution. Posters and lecture slides may be

viewed online at



Back to Top

7. RHESSI Mission News – David Smith (UCSC)


The Reuven Ramaty High Energy Spectroscopic Imager continues in good form after a detector anneal earlier this year.  All nine germanium detectors are working well as the solar cycle picks up and belatedly approaches the new maximum.  Those wishing to use RHESSI's detectors, which are unshielded and can see the whole sky above ~100 keV, for non-solar science should contact David Smith (dsmith@scipp.ucsc.edu) for help in optimizing their analysis.  All RHESSI data are publicly available within about 3 days of acquisition, with no proprietary period.  New RHESSI science topics, mostly solar, are presented periodically at the RHESSI Science Nuggets page at a level suitable for non-specialists to enjoy:  http://sprg.ssl.berkeley.edu/~tohban/wiki/index.php/RHESSI_Science_Nuggets 



Back to Top

8. INTEGRAL Mission News - Christoph Winkler (ESA-ESTEC) and Steve Sturner (NASA GSFC)


The INTEGRAL mission is currently approved by ESA for science operations until 31 December 2012. A request for the extension of mission operations until 31 December 2014 is currently being evaluated by ESA's advisory structure. A decision will be announced in November 2010.


INTEGRAL participated in the Mission Extension Operations Review, held in ESOC/Darmstadt (Germany) on 01 July 2010. The Board concluded that the technical and performance status and prospects for INTEGRAL are very good and that all mission elements are stable and trouble free with sufficient consumables and life-limiting items to allow operations beyond 31 December 2014, i.e., beyond the end of the requested extension. The Board noted the combined operational concept for XMM-Newton and INTEGRAL that has allowed a significant cost reduction without impacting the science performance.


The AO-7 observing cycle will continue until 31 December 2010. The 2nd Call for AO-8 cycle observations  - this time for Data Rights proposals for targets associated with approved AO-8 observing programs - was released on 30 August. By the deadline of 08 October, 60 proposals were received, asking for more than 450 targets and/or extended regions in the field of view of AO-8 observations, starting 01 Jan 2011.


The 8th INTEGRAL workshop in Dublin (27-30 Sep 2010) attracted more than 190 scientists including many young PhD students. Proceedings will be available on-line via the web-sites of "Proceedings of Science" http://pos.sissa.it/ towards the end of 2010.


The US INTEGRAL Guest Observer Facility has been transferred to the HEASARC.  It will continue to aid US scientists and maintain the US mirror to the INTEGRAL public data archive.  No guest investigator funds will be available from NASA for US scientists for AO-8 and beyond.  The HEASARC archive has recently been updated to include the recently reprocessed revision 3 data.


Some recent scientific highlights since the last report (May 2010) include:


o        Rodriguez, J. et al. Swift follow-up of 13 INTEGRAL sources, arXiv:1003.3741

o        Coe, M.J. et al. INTEGRAL deep observations of the Small Magellanic Cloud, arXiv:1004.2219

o        Terrier, R. et al. Fading hard X-ray emission from the Galactic Centre molecular cloud Sgr B2, ApJ 719, 143, 2010, arXiv:1005.4807

o        Krivonos, R. et al. INTEGRAL/IBIS 7-year All-Sky Hard X-Ray Survey. Part I: Image Reconstruction, arXiv:1006.2463

o        Leyder, J.C. et al. Hard X-ray identification of Eta Carinae and steadiness close to periastron, arXiv:1008.5366

o        Diehl, R. et al. Radioactive 26Al from the Scorpius-Centaurus Association,         arXiv:1007.4462

o        Wilson-Hodge, C. et al. When A Standard Candle Flickers, arXiv:1010.2679




Back to Top

9. Swift Mission News - Stefan Immler (UMd/GSFC), Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State), & Neil Gehrels (GSFC)


Record-Breaking X-Ray Blast


Swift discovered the brightest Gamma-Ray Burst ever seen in X-rays on June 21, 2010. At its peak brightness, 143,000 X-ray photons were recorded per second with the X-Ray Telescope on board Swift, which is more that 14 times brighter than the brightest persistent X-ray source in the sky.


Swift Survey finds 'Smoking Gun' of Black Hole Activation


Data from an ongoing hard X-ray survey by Swift have helped astronomers solve a decades-long mystery about why a small percentage of black holes emit vast amounts of energy. The Swift Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) Hard X-ray Survey is the largest, most sensitive and complete census of the sky at these energies. The survey, which is sensitive to AGN as far as 650 million light-years away, uncovered dozens of previously unrecognized systems. About a quarter of the BAT galaxies are in mergers or close galaxy pairs, leading to merger-triggered AGN formation.


Swift Guest Investigator Program


The deadline for submitting scientific/technical proposals for the Swift Cycle 7 Guest Investigator (GI) program was September 29. NASA received 182 proposals for Swift Cycle 7 (an 8% increase compared to the previous Cycle 6), requesting a total observing time of 17.3 Ms and $4.9M in funds for 1,111 targets. About 78% of all proposals are non-GRB proposals, 22% of which are Target of Opportunity proposals. About 37% of all targets are part of a monitoring campaign, requesting two or more observations of the same target.


The Swift Cycle 7 Peer Review will be held in December to evaluate the merits of all submitted proposals and choose those that are recommended for funding and observing time. The accepted targets will shape the science program for Swift's eighth year. Cycle 7 observations and funding will commence on or around April 1, 2011, and will last approximately 12 months.


Swift E/PO News


Swift Educator Ambassadors learned about particle physics, as well as trying out new Swift-related educational activities, and shared their work at the bi-annual Educator Ambassador (EA) training, July 26-30, 2010 at Sonoma State University. Now in its tenth year, the Astrophysics EA program has directly trained over 50,000 teachers nationwide. Materials presented at the training can be downloaded through: http://epo.sonoma.edu/ea/training.php.  A presentation about the EA program was given by SSU Global Telescope Network Director Dr. Kevin McLin, at the 122nd Annual Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, “Earth and Space Science: Making Connections In Education and Public Outreach: A Symposium for Those Working in EPO."


Back to Top



10. RXTE Mission News -  Padi Boyd, Tod Strohmayer, Craig Markwardt and Gail Rohrbach


Now in its fifteenth year, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) continues to produce unique and exciting science results in spite of substantial reduction of resources. Its ability to probe accretion processes near compact objects on timescales from milliseconds to decades results in a nearly constant scientific output of three papers in refereed journals each week.
 RXTE now operates through a combination of a fixed "Core Program" that monitors objects of broad interest, and an "Open Time Program" chosen from proposals submitted by the international community. The proposal deadline for Cycle 15 was September 16th.  We were delighted to receive 100 proposals--- a 16% increase over Cycle 14, and a strong signal that RXTE data continues to be relevant in this era of numerous operating missions, and even with no analysis funding nor exclusive data rights. Four panels are currently reviewing the proposals to choose the strongest possible program for the next year. The results should be made public by the end of the year under Timelines & Status at the RXTE homepage http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/xte/xtegof.html.


 Recent Science Highlights:
On October 10th, INTEGRAL detected a hard X-ray transient burster near the unusual globular cluster Terzan 5. RXTE, Chandra and Swift quickly joined in observing this new system. RXTE observations showed strong coherent pulsations with a frequency of 11 Hz, and an orbital period of 21.25 hours. The system is still being observed, with current results finding unique behavior for a pulsar. See the Astronomer's Telegram at http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=2958 and other earlier telegrams referenced within.

In April, RXTE observations of the new accreting ~518 Hz millisecond pulsar SwiftJ1749.4-2807 revealed three eclipses by the companion---the first detection of X-ray eclipses in such a system. Pulse period variations also revealed the orbit. This system should allow a precise neutron star mass measurement once the companion star is identified. The "Shapiro" delay due to general relativity yields a companion mass no greater than 2.2 solar masses. See the Astrophysical Journal letter from June 23, 2010 for more details at http://iopscience.iop.org/2041-8205/717/2/L149/fulltext

 The press release is available at

 RXTE observations are elucidating the energetics of relativistic jet production in the black hole binary XTE J1550-564. Multiwavelength observations have recently revealed that, at times, most of the X-rays observed from the system arise from the jet emanating from the black hole. This work is discussed in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society's July 2010 issue, available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.16547.x/full

 The press release can be seen at http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/black-hole-jets.html

 RXTE Data Analysis News:  The PCA team is developing a new version of the background models.
 In the future, the PCA team plans to recommend using the "VLE" model for most applications, even for faint sources.  Internal versions of a new model have been created, which update the coverage through 2010.  Observers wishing to help test these may contact xtehelp@athena.gsfc.nasa.gov.
Download and install the latest software release, HEASOFT 6.10 (Sept. 28, 2010), to make sure your software is up to date.


Back to Top

11. Suzaku Mission News - Koji Mukai (NASA GSFC)


The Suzaku satellite and its instruments continue to perform well in general. One notable exception is the stability of attitude control.  Since 2009 Dec 18, the attitude stability in the detector X direction deteriorated by a factor of 2 on average, and the difference from observation to observation also increased.  For observations taken between 2009 Dec 18 and 2010 Jun 15, the attitude file does not (and cannot) reflect this increased level of wobble.  The operations team took countermeasures so that, while the wobble persists, the attitude solution for observations taken since 2010 Jun 15 is once again accurate. 


The impact of this issue on the data quality depends on several factors, including the actual degree of wobble for the particular observation, and the location of the source on the detector plane.  The count rates of point sources observed at the "HXD nominal" pointing position would exhibit an artificial variability due to differential vignetting, while this is expected to be negligible for sources observed at the XIS nominal pointing position. The cross-normalization factors among the XIS instruments may also deviate more from 1.0 for HXD nominal observations taken since 2009 Dec 18.  HXD nominal observations with a window option are the worst affected, since the fraction of the flux falling on the window varies significantly for XIS1. 


Given this, we no longer recommend the use of the HXD nominal pointing position.  HXD nominal pointing will be used only if a user understands the above drawbacks but presents a compelling reason to disregard these risks. 


For further details, please consult Suzaku memos 2010-04, 2010-05, and 2010-06 available at: http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/suzaku/analysis/suzakumemos.html  


Back to Top

12. Fermi Mission News - Julie McEnery (GSFC), Chris Shrader (GSFC), Dave Thompson (GSFC), Liz Hays (GSFC) & Lynn Cominsky (Sonoma State)


The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is now in its third year of science operations, with all systems operating nominally.


Some science highlights from recent months:


1.      Fermi detected high-energy gamma rays from the nova V407 Cyg, after its discovery by Japanese amateur astronomers Koichi Nishiyama and Fujio Kabashima. Swift also followed up on this discovery. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/shocking-nova.html

2.      Fermi's Large Area Telescope resolved high-energy gamma rays from an extended region around the active galaxy Centaurus A http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/smokestack-plumes.html

3.      Analysis of the Fermi LAT data has revealed huge bubble-like structures of diffuse radiation above and below the Galactic Center region. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/new-structure.html


Multiwavelength campaigns and monitoring programs continue to be an important part of Fermi science activity.  Information about support programs can be found at http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/observations/multi/programs.html


Information about planned campaigns can be reported to the Fermi Project at http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/observations/multi/reporting/



Fermi Guest Investigator Program


The Fermi Cycle 4 Guest Investigator (GI) proposals will be due on January 21, 2011. Several changes to the program are planned for Cycle 4. A joint Fermi-Suzaku program has been implemented through an agreement  with the Suzaku project. Through this program Suzaku observing time can be awarded to successful proposers to the Fermi  Guest Investigator Program. Another change is the possibility to propose for projects of two years duration. Please refer to the Fermi amendment to the 2010 ROSES NRA for details on these opportunities.


Data and Software Releases


A new version of the Fermi Science Tools can be found at http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ssc/data/analysis/software/

Flaring activity from LAT sources has been announced through more than 100 Astronomer's Telegrams (ATels) since the beginning of the mission. Weekly (http://fermisky.blogspot.com/) and daily (http://fermisky-daily.blogspot.com/) blogs describe current activity in the gamma-ray sky.


GRB 2010 Meeting


Together with Swift, Fermi co-sponsored the 2010 meeting on Gamma-ray Bursts, held in Annapolis, MD from Nov. 1-4. A press briefing on 11/3 at the meeting included reports of observational evidence for magnetars in GRB-systems, and studies of hyperenergetic GRB events.


The Third Fermi Symposium


This symposium will be held in Rome, Italy, from May 9-12. Further information can be found at the symposium webpage: http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/science/symposium/2011/


Fermi Summer School


A summer school focused on Fermi science and data analysis is planned for 2011. http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/summerschool/2011/   


Fermi E/PO News


Fermi sponsored a booth at the USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo, held in Washington, DC on October 23-24, 2010. The booth featured Fermi scientists explaining parts of the Large Area Telescope, as well as educators from Sonoma State University, who did interactive activities about black holes and active galaxies. Alkina, the space creature from Epo’s Chronicles (a weekly webcomic, http://eposchronicles.com) also made an appearance at the booth, and posed for photos, including one with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.



Back to Top

13. NuSTAR Mission News - Daniel Stern (JPL) & Fiona Harrison (Caltech)


NuSTAR, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, is a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission which will provide the first focused observations in the 5 to 80 keV hard X-ray window.  NuSTAR is on track for its scheduled Pegasus launch from Kwajalein Atoll in February 2012.  All primary flight hardware has either been built or will be completed in the next three months.  The spacecraft structure is built and spacecraft integration and testing are underway.  The first optics module was completed at Columbia University's Nevis Laboratory on August 5th and is currently undergoing testing.  The focal plane and electronics will be delivered in December 2010, and the final optic modules will be completed in early 2011.  The instrument will then undergo integration and testing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, followed by integration of the instrument with the spacecraft in Spring 2011 at Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia.  On the science front, a draft mission plan has been prepared for scheduling, and the science team is currently refining and optimizing the observation plan for the baseline two years of NuSTAR operations.  For more information about the NuSTAR mission, visit http://www.nustar.caltech.edu. 





Back to Top

14. Astro-H – Richard Kelley (NASA GSFC)


The Astro-H Mission has completed several important milestones this year. The Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (SXS), being developed jointly by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science (JAXA/ISAS), completed its preliminary design review (PDR) and was subsequently confirmed by NASA Headquarters.  In addition, NASA Headquarters has approved a joint GSFC/MSFC proposal to provide the mirror for the Soft X-ray Imager instrument, as well as funding for a US guest investigator program.  National observing time allocations are still to be finalized with JAXA and will be reported at a later time.

The full Astro-H mission has also passed a PDR in Japan and is now in the engineering model development phase.  Engineering model components are under development in the US (x-ray calorimeter focal plane, components of the cooling system, and x-ray optics) and will be delivered to JAXA in 2011.   The launch of Astro-H is planned for February 2014.

Several comprehensive papers on Astro-H covering the scientific goals and instrument capabilities were presented at the SPIE Conference "Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2010: Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray",  held June 2010, San Diego, California, USA. Proc. SPIE, Vol. 7732, (2010).

More information about Astro-H can be found at:
and http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/astroh/


Back to Top

15. GEMS Mission News – Jean Swank (NASA GSFC) 


The Gravity and Extreme Magnetism SMEX  (GEMS) was selected in June 2009 to be launched no earlier than April 2014.  GEMS has been in an early development phase for the past year, building engineering models of the polarimeters to be at the foci of the foil mirrors and of the boom that would deploy the mirrors of the telescopes to reduce the risk of development. Models of the polarimeters are being used to explore possible variations in their design. During this initial phase the GEMS core team has been developing requirements  and putting agreements in  place for partners on the mission, including Orbital Sciences for the spacecraft bus and the mission operations, ATK for the telescope boom,  and the University of Iowa for a student collaboration and polarimeter calibration.



Back to Top



16. The International X-ray Observatory (IXO) - Michael Garcia (CfA)


The Astro2010/Decadal report specifically recognizes "IXO’s high scientific importance" as a "powerful X-ray telescope that will transform our understanding of hot gas associated with stars and galaxies in all evolutionary stages" and also states that IXO is "central to many of the science questions identified by this survey." The report recommends IXO for robust technology development funding this decade and also states that NASA should "determine an appropriate path forward to realize IXO as soon as possible" if IXO is selected by ESA as the first L-class mission.


The team has been continuing work on the input for the ESA CV2015 process.  The IXO science and technologies are described in the Yellow Book, which will be in final form by mid-November.  The team made initial presentations to the CV2015 technical review teams in early October, and will make a science presentation along with the other candidate L-class missions (EJSM/Laplace and LISA) in early Feb 2011.  The selection of which L-class missions will be carried forward is expected in June 2011.


Significant progress has been made with both the XMS calorimeter and the mirrors, the enabling technologies identified by the IXO team to the Decadal.  The XMS team has fabricated and tested some of the first 4-pixel ‘hydra’ devices that would populate the outer 2 arcmin to 5 arcmin of the XMS array.  These devices use one thermister to read out 4 X-ray absorbers, and have been built to the size required for IXO.  These first devices are within a factor of two of the required energy resolution, and changes to the manufacturing procedure have been identified that should yield improved resolution. 


The mirror teams also continue to make progress on both the silicon pore optics (SPO) in Europe and the segmented glass optics (SGO) in the US.  Since last newsletter the SPO team has now measured 7.5 arcsec HPD in an x-ray test of a stack of 4 plates.  This compares to 9 arcsec at last report.  SGOs are now being produced using newly polished slumping mandrels that reduce the error contribution from the mandrels to 2 arcsec (from 7 arsec for the original Con-X mandrels), so the optics are expected to be amongst the best yet produced.  Optical metrology of these SGO predicts an x-ray HPD of ~5.5 arcsec (down from 6.5 arcsec) and the best segments should yield 4.5 arcsec HPD (for two reflections). These are the contributions only from the segments themselves and do not include the mounting and alignment errors, but a pair of these SGO were recently aligned and mounted in a test fixture and then tested in the GSFC x-ray beam line.  Analysis to determine the actual x-ray HPD is underway. 



Back to Top

17. LISA News - Michele Vallisneri (JPL)


The U.S. National Research Council "astro2010" decadal report, released on August 13, 2010, gave LISA a high priority among large space projects, after the wide-field near-infrared telescope WFIRST, and after the ongoing Explorer program of small and medium-sized missions. The report praised LISA as "a gravity wave observatory that would open an entirely new window in the universe", whose "recommendation and prioritization reflect its compelling science case and the relative level of technical readiness" compared to other opportunities. According to the panel, LISA's observations of signals from massive black-hole binaries will directly contribute to two of the three key science objectives outlined in the report: "Cosmic Dawn" (searching for the first stars, galaxies, and black holes), and "Physics of the Universe" (understanding scientific principles, and specifically testing the current understanding of general relativity). The report further emphasizes LISA's potential for discovery, stating that "it would be unprecedented in the history of astronomy if the gravitational radiation window being opened up by LISA does not reveal new, enigmatic sources." The report can be accessed at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/BPA/BPA_049810. 


The European Space Agency is currently evaluating three "Large" mission concepts (the Jupiter orbiter EJSM/Laplace, the X-ray observatory IXO/XEUS, and LISA) as candidates for a 2020 launch opportunity within ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 plan. These missions are all nearing completion of their Assessment Phase. The first evaluation activities focused on technological and programmatic maturity; scientific evaluations will begin in early 2011. In May 2011, the Advisory Structure to the ESA Science Program will issue a recommendation on which of the three should move on to Definition Phase activities; ESA's Science Program Committee will then decide on the matter in June 2011. For more information see http://sci.esa.int/cosmicvision. 


The 8th International LISA Symposium was held on the SLAC campus of Stanford University from June 28 to July 2, 2010, and was attended by 301 participants from 16 countries, more than half of them students and young researchers. The scientific program included 50 invited talks, 37 contributed talks, and 83 posters. LISA-related sessions focused on the mission, science objectives and perspectives, on demonstrated LISA technology and possible enhancements, on data-analysis development, and more. Several sessions emphasized the depth and breadth of technology and data-analysis efforts for the upcoming LISA Pathfinder, the LISA technology demonstrator scheduled to launch by 2013. Other sessions covered galactic astrophysics, numerical relativity, and cosmology, as well as status reports from ground detectors, and the history, prospects, and technology of other space missions to measure gravitational waves and test gravitation. Complete information can be found on the Symposium website, http://www.stanford.edu/group/lisasymposium.


Back to Top

18. Meetings Calendar (Chronological Order)




25th Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics

Heidelberg, Germany, 6-10 December 2010

Website: www.mpi-hd.mpg.de/texas2010


A mix of plenary talks, parallel workshops, and posters will cover a wide range of topics from high energy astrophysics and cosmology, including recent X, gamma, and cosmic ray results; active galaxies; weak and strong lensing; gravitational radiation and neutrino sources and detectors; and particle astrophysics.  The prize talks of the 2009 and 2010 winners of the Young Astrophysicist's Prize of IUPAP (Thomas Schweizer and Poonam Chandra) will receive their medals and speak.  There is still time to submit abstracts, and proceedings will be published.



26-29 January 2011

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA



Early registration: Monday, 20 December 2010
Abstract submission: Friday, 7 January 2011
Hotel special workshop rate: Tuesday, 9 January 2011
Registration: Sunday, 16 January 2011


PURPOSE:  To bring together experts in gravitational waves, astronomy and
computational astrophysics to address open questions in gravitational-wave astronomy.



Indirect and Direct Detection of Dark Matter

6-12 February 2011

Aspen Center for Physics

Aspen, Colorado


It is an exciting time for dark matter. Direct and indirect searches have yielded very interesting constraints on the nature of dark matter. In addition, tantalizing signals from both space- and ground-based experiments (e.g. PAMELA, WMAP, Integral, Fermi, DAMA/LIBRA, and CoGeNT) could be interpreted as a signal of dark matter annihilation/decay or interaction. While these results might provide crucial information about the nature of dark matter, the resolution of these claims requires better understanding of the astrophysical and instrumental backgrounds. Improved results from current and upcoming direct and indirect searches will continue to shed light on these puzzles.

The aim of this workshop is to bring together experimentalists and theorists to share knowledge on astrophysical backgrounds, the most recent experimental results, and the latest theoretical work at a time of great opportunity and change in the field of dark matter."



IAU Symposium 279

Death of Massive Stars: Supernovae & Gamma-Ray Bursts
18 April 2011- 22 April 2011

Nikko, Japan


Contact:           Pete Roming
Phone:             +1-210-522-3410
E-Mail Address:    proming@swri.edu



Third International Fermi Symposium
9-12 May 2011
Rome, Italy


The 2011 Fermi Symposium is dedicated to results and prospects for scientific exploration of the Universe with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and related studies. Topics include: blazars and other active galactic nuclei, pulsars, gamma-ray bursts, supernova remnants, diffuse gamma radiation, unidentified gamma-ray sources, and searches for dark matter.



Twelve Years of Science with Chandra:

a Meeting in a Meeting at the May 2011 AAS

May 22-26, 2011

Boston, MA




Next year the Chandra Community plans to hold a Meeting "Twelve Years of Science with Chandra" as a Meeting (MiM) in conjunction with the AAS's summer meeting in Boston at the end of May, 2011. This MiM will be a continuation of a series of independent and highly successful Chandra Symposia that have been held every two years since the launch of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. These were organized by the Chandra X-Ray Center in Collaboration with the Chandra Project at Marshall Space Flight Center. This meeting will be accessible to the broad AAS membership, which may not be able to attend more specialized X-ray astronomy related conferences.   The MiM will be comprised of six sessions with two overview talks each and approximately two contributed oral talks selected by the MiM Science Organizing Committee from submitted abstracts.



Fermi gamma-ray summer school

May 31 - June 10, 2010 (2 weeks)

Lewes, Delaware



• Small scale: 25-30 students
• University of Delaware Conference Center in Lewes, Delaware
– Housing, 2/3 meals, and meeting rooms onsite
– Keep cost affordable for students
• Cover a range of Fermi-related topics
– Support from FSSC, LAT, and GBM
– Small core of instructors to lead projects in key science areas
throughout the school
– Additional speakers giving lectures on science and analysis




Structure in Clusters and Groups of Galaxies in the Chandra Era
July 12-14, 2011

Hosted by the Chandra X-ray Center
    at the
DoubleTree Guest Suites, Boston, MA
400 Soldier's Field Road





32nd International Cosmic Ray Conference,

August 11-18, 2011,

Beijing China


The 32nd International Cosmic Ray Conference(ICRC2011) hosted and organized by the Institute of High Energy Physics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences will be held in Beijing from August 11 to August 18, 2011.

"The 32nd ICRC will be conducted in accordance with IUPAP principles as stated in the IUPAP resolution passed by the General Assembly in 2008. In particular, no bona fide scientist will be excluded from participation on the grounds of national origin, nationality, or political considerations unrelated to science."

Following the tradition of past International Cosmic Ray Conferences, the ICRC2011 will deal with a broad range of topics, covering cosmic ray physics, neutrino and gamma-ray astronomy , solar physics and so on.



 SANTORINI meeting on Magnetars

 August 22-25, 2011


The University of Crete in Heraklion is organizing a meeting in the Greek island of Santorini in August 22 – 25, 2011 on the “Magnetar Family”. The focus of the meeting is magnetars and their common properties or links with Gamma-Ray Bursts, in particular the short variety, and with rotationally powered pulsars. Given the latest observational results associating magnetars with low-magnetic field pulsars, we feel that the magnetar family has possibly expanded to include many more members!


POLL:  However, there are many meetings on associated subjects already announced in 2011, so we would like to poll the community on whether they plan to attend, so that we can set up (reasonable) registration fees and accommodation. Please respond to the email address below stating (1) your name and (2) whether or not you are going to attend [(A)= I definitely plan to attend and (B)=I may attend] at your earliest convenience and no later than November 29, 2010. Please send your emails to







Cosmology with X-ray and Sunyaev-Zeldovich Effect Observations of Galaxy Clusters

Huntsville, AL

SEPT. 19 - 22, 2011


List of Topics:

  • Advances in ground-based and space-borne observations of the SZE
  • Cosmology with galaxy clusters (evolution of mass function, power spectrum, baryons fraction)
  • Theoretical/numerical progress of modeling of galaxy clusters and their impact on cosmology
  • The unique contributions to cosmology of joint X-ray/SZE (scaling relations, gas fraction, mass measurements and agreement with lensing measurements, ICM thermal properties in cluster outskirts)
  • The future of X-ray and SZE surveys


Inquiries can be made to Max Bonamente at bonamem@uah.edu.


Note: Students and recent graduates will have their registration fee waived.




Back to Top



HEADNEWS, the electronic newsletter of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, is issued twice yearly by the HEAD Secretary-Treasurer. The HEAD Executive Committee Members are: