Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

X-ray laser takes aim at cosmic mystery

13.12.2012
An international collaboration including researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has refined a key process in understanding extreme plasmas such as those found in the sun, stars, at the rims of black holes and galaxy clusters.

In short, the team identified a new solution to an astrophysical phenomenon through a series of laser experiments.


A photograph of the instrument setup for an astrophysics experiment at the SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a powerful X-ray laser. The experiment was conducted in the Soft X-ray hutch using this electron beam ion trap, or EBIT, built at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany. Photo by Jose R. Crespo Lopez-Urrutia, Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics

In the new research, appearing in the Dec. 13 edition of the journal Nature, scientists looked at highly charged iron using the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) free-electron laser. Highly charged iron produces some of the brightest X-ray emission lines from hot astrophysical objects, including galaxy clusters, stellar cornea and the emission of the sun.

The experiment helped scientists understand why observations from orbiting X-ray telescopes do not match theoretical predictions, and paves the way for future X-ray astrophysics research using free-electron lasers such as LCLS. LCLS allows scientists to use an X-ray laser to measure atomic processes in extreme plasmas in a fully controlled way for the first time.

The highly charged iron spectrum doesn't fit into even the best astrophysical models. The intensity of the strongest iron line is generally weaker than predicted. Hence, an ongoing controversy has emerged whether this discrepancy is caused by incomplete modeling of the plasma environment or by shortcomings in the treatment of the underlying atomic physics.

"Our measurements suggest that the poor agreement is rooted in the quality of the underlying atomic wave functions rather than in insufficient modeling of collision processes," said Peter Beiersdorfer, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore and one of the initiators of the project.

Greg Brown, a team member from Livermore, said: "Measurements conducted at the LCLS will be important for interpreting X-ray emissions from a plethora of sources, including black holes, binary stars, stellar coronae and supernova remnants, to name a few."

Many astrophysical objects emit X-rays, produced by highly charged particles in superhot gases or other extreme environments. To model and analyze the intense forces and conditions that cause those emissions, scientists use a combination of computer simulations and observations from space telescopes, such as NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton. But direct measurements of those conditions are hard to come by.

In the LCLS experiments, the focus was on plus-16 iron ions, a supercharged form of iron. The iron ions were created and captured using a device known as an electron beam ion trap, or EBIT. Once captured, their properties were probed and measured using the high-precision, ultra brilliant LCLS X-ray laser.

Some collaborators in the experiments have already begun working on new calculations to improve the atomic-scale astrophysical models, while others analyze data from followup experiments conducted at LCLS in April. If they succeed, LCLS may see an increase in experiments related to astrophysics.

"Almost everything we know in astrophysics comes from spectroscopy," said team member Maurice Leutenegger, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who participated in the study. Spectroscopy is used to measure and study X-rays and other energy signatures, and the LCLS results are valuable in a "wide variety of astrophysical contexts," he said.

The EBIT instrument used in the experiments was developed at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics and will be available to the entire community of scientists doing research at the LCLS. Livermore has been a pioneer in EBITs. Various EBIT devices have been operational at LLNL for more than 25 years. This was the first time that an EBIT was coupled to an X-ray laser, opening up an entirely new venue for astrophysics research, according to Beiersdorfer.

Researchers from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science; GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research; and Giessen, Bochum, Erlangen-Nuremberg and Heidelberg universities in Germany; Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at SLAC; and TRIUMF in Canada also collaborated in the LCLS experiments.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides solutions to our nation's most important national security challenges through innovative science, engineering and technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Anne Stark | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.llnl.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht One-way roads for spin currents
23.05.2018 | Singapore University of Technology and Design

nachricht Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory
23.05.2018 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

NIST puts the optical microscope under the microscope to achieve atomic accuracy

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>