News and Events

In how many ways does the center of our Galaxy glow? This enigmatic region, about 26,000 light years away toward the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius), glows in every type of light that we can see. In the featured image, high-energy X-ray emission captured by NASA's orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory appears in green and blue, while low-energy radio emission captured by SARAO's ground-based MeerKAT telescope array is colored red. Just on the right of the colorful central region lies Sagittarius A (Sag A), a strong radio source that coincides with Sag A*, our Galaxy's central supermassive black hole. Hot gas surrounds Sag A, as well as a series of parallel radio filaments known as the Arc, seen just left of the image center. Numerous unusual single radio filaments are visible around the image. Many stars orbit in and around Sag A, as well as numerous small black holes and dense stellar cores known as neutron stars and white dwarfs. The Milky Way's central supermassive black hole is currently being imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope. Activities: NASA Science at Home
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New telescope installed in the campus dome on February 22, 2020
A new study from researchers at Brigham Young University and Pennsylvania State University provides the most accurate estimate of the number of Earth-like planets in the universe. The team looked at the frequency of planets that are similar to Earth in size and in distance from their host star, stars similar to our Sun. Knowing the rate that these potentially habitable planets occur will be important for designing future astronomical missions to characterize nearby rocky planets around Sun-like stars that could support life.
Students of the Physics 106 afternoon section participated in an extra credit opportunity that took hands-on learning to a new level. Inspired by a classic MIT challenge, Professor Della Corte gave each student a small kit containing two thumb tacks, two paper clips, six feet of copper wire, two neodymium magnets, and a block of wood. He then sent his students on their way with limited instructions: Design your own motors, only using materials from the kits. Any drop of glue or strip of tape would disqualify them.
Airplane toilets are loud. For some, they are downright terrifying. But chin up, frequent flyers, because a group of BYU physicists have figured out how to make them quieter. After two years of trial and error, three academic publications and thousands of flushes, the BYU researchers have invented a vacuum-assisted toilet that is about half as loud as the regular airplane commode.

Publications

BYU Authors: J. Ward Moody, published in Galaxies

We report on seven nights of optical observation taken over a two-week period, and the resultant analysis of the intermediate-frequency peaked BL Lac object (IBL), BL Lac itself, at redshift z = 0.069. The microvariable behavior can be confirmed over the course of minutes for each night. A relativistic beaming model was used in our analysis, to infer changes to the line of sight angles for the motion of the different relativistic components. This model has very few free parameters. The light curves we generated show both high and moderate frequency cadence to the variable behavior of BL Lac itself, in addition to the well documented long-term variability.

BYU Authors: Parker D. Schnepf, Aaron Davis, Brian D. Iverson, Richard Vanfleet, Robert C. Davis, and Brian D. Jensen, published in J. Microelectromech. Syst.

Combining the resolution of conventional gas chromatography systems with the size factor of microGC systems is important for improving the affordability and portability of high performance gas analysis. Recent work has demonstrated the feasibility of high resolution separation of gases in a benchtop-scale short column system by controlling thermal gradients through the column. This work reports a microfabricated thermally controllable gas chromatographic column with a small footprint (approximately 6.25 cm²). The design of the 20 cm column utilizes 21 individually controllable thin film heaters and conduction cooling to produce a desired temperature profile. The reported device is capable of heating and cooling rates exceeding 8000 °C/min and can reach temperatures of 350 °C. The control methods allow for excellent disturbance rejection and precision to within +/- 1 °ree C. Each length of the column between heaters was demonstrated to be individually controllable and displayed quadratic temperature profiles. This paper focuses on the fabrication process and implementation of the thermal control strategy.

BYU Authors: Manuel Berrondo, published in Phys. Scr.

We present an approximate Lie algebraic method to deal with a forced optomechanical Hamiltonian. We show that the approximations made in order to linearize the interaction Hamiltonian are fully justified by means of a comparison between a purely numerical calculation of the number of photons, phonons and linear entropy using the full Hamiltonian and the results obtained by means of our approximate time evolution operator.