Aiming for the stars

Early in September, the X-Calibur mission, preparing for launch at the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, N.M., put its pointing system through its paces to make sure all of its parts were working in programmed harmony.
Balloon rise over Fort Sumner

Balloon rise over Fort Sumner

In a few days, a balloon-borne telescope sensitive to the polarization of high-energy “hard” X rays will ascend to the edge of the atmosphere above Fort Sumner, N.M., to stare fixedly at black holes and other exotic astronomical objects. It will be carried aloft by a stratospheric balloon that will expand to a sphere large enough to hold a 747 jetliner the float height of 120,000 feet, three times the height at which commercial aircraft fly and on the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. Launching the balloon is not child’s play.

Krawczynski group receives NASA grant to spy on black holes

NASA has just funded Henri Krawczynski and his colleague Matthias Beilicke,  to launch a balloon-borne telescope sensitive to the polarization of light that will float at an altitude of 130,000 feet for a day. During that time, the balloon will stare fixedly at two black holes in our galaxy, an accreting neutron star, the Crab nebula, an extragalactic black hole and other targets yet to be chosen. One of the first instruments of its type, it should be able to make the first direct measurements of the spin rate of black holes, among other advancements.

Gravitational physics focus of weekend events honoring Einstein expert

In conjunction with Einstein expert Clifford Will’s 60th birthday, the Gravity Group in Arts & Sciences’ physics department at Washington University in St. Louis is hosting the 16th Midwest Relativity Meeting (MWRM-16) Nov. 17-18 as well as the CliffFest Dinner Nov. 18 and the Cliff Will Birthday Symposium on Gravitational Theory and Experiment Nov. 19. The three events are expected to bring more than 200 physicists from around the country and the world to campus.

Washington University names Clifford Will its McDonnell Professor of Physics

WillClifford M. Will, Ph.D., has been named the James S. McDonnell Professor of Physics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, announced Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. Will is known worldwide as one of the leading experts in using experimental and observational data to explain Einstein’s general theory of relativity.