‘Heartbeat Stars’ Unlocked in New Study

NASA press release

Heartbeat Star
The overlaid curve in depicts the inferred cyclic change in velocities in one such system, called KIC 9965691, looking something like the graph of an electrocardiogram. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Matters of the heart can be puzzling and mysterious — so too with unusual astronomical objects called heartbeat stars.

Heartbeat stars, discovered in large numbers by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, are binary stars (systems of two stars orbiting each other) that got their name because if you were to map out their brightness over time, the result would look like an electrocardiogram, a graph of the electrical activity of the heart. Scientists are interested in them because they are binary systems in elongated elliptical orbits. This makes them natural laboratories for studying the gravitational effects of stars on each other.

In a heartbeat star system, the distance between the two stars varies drastically as they orbit each other. Heartbeat stars can get as close as a few stellar radii to each other, and as far as 10 times that distance during the course of one orbit.

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Long-term, hi-res tracking of eruptions on Jupiter’s moon Io

UC Berkeley press release

NIRC2 image of Io
A NIRC2 image of Jupiter’s Moon Io
Jupiter’s moon Io continues to be the most volcanically active body in the solar system, as documented by the longest series of frequent, high-resolution observations of the moon’s thermal emission ever obtained.

Using near-infrared adaptive optics on two of the world’s largest telescopes — the 10-meter Keck II and the 8-meter Gemini North, both located near the summit of the dormant volcano Maunakea in Hawaii — UC Berkeley astronomers tracked 48 volcanic hot spots on the surface over a period of 29 months from August 2013 through the end of 2015.

“On a given night, we may see half a dozen or more different hot spots,” said Katherine de Kleer, a UC Berkeley graduate student who led the observations. “Of Io’s hundreds of active volcanoes, we have been able to track the 50 that were the most powerful over the past few years.”

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Broken, Now Fixed

It is always a good day when I drive up the mountain to a broken telescope, then drive down leaving a working telescope. Easy to say, not always easy to accomplish, the simple statement obscuring a day of struggle to solve the problem and fix it.

Smoked Relay
A relay with a blown out coil from the Keck 2 telescope drive
Such a day was Monday.

The Keck 2 telescope drive is a complex beast of dozens of relays, miles of cabling, servo amplifiers and power supplies, plus several circuit boards designed and built in the 1980’s holding a bewildering array of arcane logic.

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Keck Staff

Almost the entire Keck Observatory staff forming the hexagonal outline of one of the primary mirrors. Seeing the size of one of the mirrors like this really puts things in scale.

Our director, Dr. Hilton Lewis, is center front. Do not look for me… I am standing on the ladder taking the photo.

Keck Staff
Nearly the entire Keck staff forming the outline of one of the primary telescope mirrors

Employment Opportunity at Keck – Machinist

W. M. Keck Observatory position announcement…

Senior Machinist-Infrastructure Technician

The W.M. Keck Observatory operates two of the world’s largest and most scientifically productive optical/infrared telescopes located on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. A highly capable and motivated staff operates, maintains and develops the complex telescope systems and infrastructure on the summit. We seek a Senior Machinist-Infrastructure Technician to join this high-caliber team.

This position is responsible for conventional and CNC machining of mechanical parts; interpreting complex mechanical fabrication drawings; and performing mechanical fabrication, assembly, adjustment and troubleshooting of precision mechanisms. In addition, this position will participate in maintenance of the summit infrastructure, including repairs of mechanical systems and preventative maintenance.

Minimum requirements are: Knowledge of materials, their properties, and suitability in different mechanical applications; five years of experience in an industrial environment with proven capability for installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of mechanical systems; and eight years of experience as an industrial machinist building high precision parts.

Commitment to WMKO’s core values, working well with others, and the ability to handle multiple tasks and priorities within a fast paced environment are all essential. Additional information about WMKO and this position may be found on our website at www.keckobservatory.org/about/employment

This position requires you to submit your resume on-line at: http://keckobservatory.iapplicants.com/ViewJob-319065.html with your cover letter that states why you are uniquely qualified for the position.

EEO Employer