News Center

Is Interstellar’s Science So Stellar?

InterstellarAstronaut thumbnail

Interstellar features astronauts who take a wormhole ride to another galaxy to explore planets around a massive black hole. In a conversation last week, Berkeley Lab’s David Schlegel discussed the science in the movie and what Hollywood could learn from scientists about fantastic settings in outer space.

Berkeley Lab Scientists Recipients of 2015 Breakthrough Prizes

Doudna Breakthrough Feature

Berkeley Lab astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter and biochemist Jennifer Doudna were among the featured recipients of the 2015 Breakthrough Prizes in Fundamental Physics and Life Sciences.

Dark Energy Survey Opens Second Season with Catalog of Stunning Deep-Space Images

DESGalaxyThumbnail

The Dark Energy Survey has just kicked off its second season of snapping shots of deep space with its 570-megapixel camera mounted on the Victor M. Blanco Telescope in Chile.

Not Much Force: Berkeley Researchers Detect Smallest Force Ever Measured

Mechanical oscillators translate an applied force into measureable mechanical motion. The Standard Quantum Limit is imposed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, in which the measurement itself perturbs the motion of the oscillator, a phenomenon known as “quantum back-action.” (Image by Kevin Gutowski)

Berkeley Lab researchers have detected the smallest force ever measured – approximately 42 yoctonewtons – using a unique optical trapping system that provides ultracold atoms. A yoctonewton is one septillionth of a newton.

Surprisingly Strong Magnetic Fields Challenge Black Holes’ Pull

A computer simulation of gas (in yellow) falling into a black hole (too small to be seen). Twin jets are also shown with magnetic field lines. Image credit: Alexander Tchekhovskoy, LBL

A new study of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies has found magnetic fields play an impressive role in the systems’ dynamics. In fact, in dozens of black holes surveyed, the magnetic field strength matched the force produced by the black holes’ powerful gravitational pull, says a team of scientists from Berkeley Lab and Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany.

Confirmed: Stellar Behemoth Self-Destructs in a Type IIb Supernova

The Palomar 48 inch telescope. (Photo by: Iair Arcavi, Weizmann Instiute of Science)

Wolf-Rayet stars, more than 20 times as massive as the Sun and at least five times as hot, are relatively rare and often obscured. Scientists don’t know much about how they form, live and die.

BOSS Quasars Track the Expanding Universe – the Most Precise Measurement Yet

The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) pioneered the use of quasars to chart the universe’s expansion and investigate the properties of dark energy through studies of large-scale structure. New techniques of analysis led by Berkeley Lab scientists, combined with other new BOSS quasar measures of the young universe’s structure, have produced the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies formed.

Setting a Trap for Gravity Waves

In 1996 Uros Seljak was a postdoc at Harvard, contemplating ways to extract information from the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The distribution of anisotropies, slight temperature differences, in the CMB had much to say about the large-scale structure of the universe. If it were also possible to detect the polarization of the CMB itself, however,

Standard-Candle Supernovae are Still Standard, but Why?

Until recently, scientists thought they knew why Type Ia supernovae – the best cosmological “standard candles” – are all so much alike. But their favorite scenario was wrong. White dwarfs don’t all reach the Chandrasekhar limit, 1.4 times the mass of our sun, before they detonate in a massive thermonuclear explosion. Most Type Ia progenitors are less massive, and a few are even more massive. New work by the Berkeley Lab-based Nearby Supernova Factory can identify which theories of the strange circumstances that lead to a Type Ia explosion actually work and which don’t.

Searching for Cosmic Accelerators Via IceCube

New results from IceCube, the neutrino observatory buried at the South Pole, may show the way to locating and identifying cosmic accelerators in our galaxy that are 40 million times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.