Thomas A. Prince
|Education|| Villanova University |
University of Chicago
|Occupation|| Director of the W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies |
Allen V. C. Davis and Lenabelle Davis Leadership Chair, W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies
Ira S. Bowen Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology
Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist
Dr. Thomas A. Prince is the Ira S. Bowen Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology and holds a joint appointment with Caltech’s NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as a Senior Research Scientist. Between May 2001 and June 2006, Prince was the Chief Scientist at JPL. He is currently the Director and Allen V.C. Davis and Lenabelle Davis Leadership Chair for the W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech.
Ira Sprague Bowen was an American physicist and astronomer. In 1927 he discovered that nebulium was not really a chemical element but instead doubly ionized oxygen.
The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private doctorate-granting research university in Pasadena, California. Known for its strength in natural science and engineering, Caltech is often ranked as one of the world's top-ten universities.
The Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) is a joint institute of the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory established in January 2008 with a $24 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation. It is a privately funded think tank focused on space mission concepts and technology.
Prince began his research career in experimental cosmic ray astrophysics before coming to the Caltech campus to work in the area of experimental gamma ray astronomy, collaborating with the high-energy astrophysics group at JPL. Prince became a Millikan Fellow in 1980 and joined the Caltech professorial faculty in 1983. Detection and study of neutron stars and black holes has been a continuing theme in Prince's research, starting with his gamma ray observations of compact objects in the galactic center region. He participated in several expeditions to the Australian outback in the late 1980s to make balloon observations of the radioactive decay energy from Supernova 1987a.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, Prince became interested in the evolving field of parallel computing which he applied to several areas of astronomy including radio, x-ray and gamma-ray pulsar detection, imaging infrared surveys, optical interferometric imaging, and development of virtual observatory capabilities. Prince chaired the consortium that developed the Intel Touchstone Delta, one of the early large-scale general-purpose parallel computers. He was also one of the initiators of the US National Virtual Observatory.
The Intel Paragon is a discontinued series of massively parallel supercomputers that was produced by Intel in the 1990s. The Paragon XP/S is a productized version of the experimental Touchstone Delta system that was built at Caltech, launched in 1992. The Paragon superseded Intel's earlier iPSC/860 system, to which it is closely related.
The US National Virtual Observatory'-NVO- was conceived to allow scientists to access data from multiple astronomical observatories, including ground and space-based facilities, through a single portal. Originally, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the information technology research that created the basic NVO infrastructure through a multi-organization collaborative effort. The NVO was more than a “digital library”; it was a vibrant, growing online research facility akin to a bricks-and-mortar observatory for professional astronomers.
Starting in the late 1990s, Prince began to work on development of techniques for detection of gravitational waves from neutron star and black hole systems. He was NASA Mission Scientist and chair of the US science team for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) and was earlier a member of the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).
The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) is a European Space Agency mission designed to detect and accurately measure gravitational waves—tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time—from astronomical sources. LISA would be the first dedicated space-based gravitational wave detector. It aims to measure gravitational waves directly by using laser interferometry. The LISA concept has a constellation of three spacecraft, arranged in an equilateral triangle with sides 2.5 million km long, flying along an Earth-like heliocentric orbit. The distance between the satellites is precisely monitored to detect a passing gravitational wave.
Most recently, Prince has been using the Palomar Transient Factory to carry out time-domain studies of astronomical sources, including ultra-compact binaries.
The Palomar Transient Factory, was an astronomical survey using a wide-field survey camera designed to search for optical transient and variable sources such as variable stars, supernovae, asteroids and comets. The project completed commissioning in summer 2009, and continued until December 2012. It has since been succeeded by the Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF), which itself transitioned to the Zwicky Transient Facility in 2017/18. All three surveys are registered at the MPC under the same observatory code for their astrometric observations.
Among the positions that Prince has held are: Associate Director, Caltech Center for Advanced Computing Research (CACR); member of the National Research Council Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and applications; co-chair of the National Research Council Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics; and chair of the NASA Gamma Ray Observatory Users' Committee.
The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) was a space observatory detecting photons with energies from 20 keV to 30 GeV, in Earth orbit from 1991 to 2000. It featured four main telescopes in one spacecraft, covering X-rays and gamma rays, including various specialized sub-instruments and detectors. Following 14 years of effort, the observatory was launched from Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-37 on April 5, 1991, and operated until its deorbit on June 4, 2000. It was deployed in low earth orbit at 450 km (280 mi) to avoid the Van Allen radiation belt. It was the heaviest astrophysical payload ever flown at that time at 17,000 kilograms (37,000 lb).
He is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society and has received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
Prince is an avid amateur photographer, working in the near-infrared region of the spectrum.
Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It applies mathematics, physics, and chemistry in an effort to explain the origin of those objects and phenomena and their evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and comets; the phenomena also includes supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, all phenomena that originate outside Earth's atmosphere are within the purview of astronomy. A related but distinct subject is physical cosmology, which is the study of the Universe as a whole.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a large-scale physics experiment and observatory to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to develop gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool. Two large observatories were built in the United States with the aim of detecting gravitational waves by laser interferometry. These can detect a change in the 4 km mirror spacing of less than a ten-thousandth the charge diameter of a proton.
NASA's series of Great Observatories satellites are four large, powerful space-based astronomical telescopes. Each of the four missions was designed to examine a specific wavelength/energy region of the electromagnetic spectrum using very different technologies. Charles Pellerin implemented the program. The four Great Observatories were launched between 1990 and 2003 and three remain operational as of 2018.
A gravitational-wave observatory is any device designed to measure gravitational waves, tiny distortions of spacetime that were first predicted by Einstein in 1916. Gravitational waves are perturbations in the theoretical curvature of spacetime caused by accelerated masses. The existence of gravitational radiation is a specific prediction of general relativity, but is a feature of all theories of gravity that obey special relativity. Since the 1960s, gravitational-wave detectors have been built and constantly improved. The present-day generation of resonant mass antennas and laser interferometers has reached the necessary sensitivity to detect gravitational waves from sources in the Milky Way. Gravitational-wave observatories are the primary tool of gravitational-wave astronomy.
Gravitational-wave astronomy is an emerging branch of observational astronomy which aims to use gravitational waves to collect observational data about objects such as neutron stars and black holes, events such as supernovae, and processes including those of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang.
Cornelis A. "Neil" Gehrels was an American astrophysicist specializing in the field of gamma-ray astronomy. He was Chief of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center from 1995 until his death, and was best known for his work developing the field from early balloon instruments to today's space observatories such as the NASA Swift mission, for which he was the Principal Investigator. He was leading the WFIRST wide-field infrared telescope forward toward a launch in the mid-2020s. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) is part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) and is on the campus of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA. NExScI was formerly known as the Michelson Science Center and before that as the Interferometry Science Center. It was renamed NExScI in the Fall of 2008 to reflect NASA's growing interest in the search for planets outside of our solar system, also known as exoplanets. The executive director of NExScI is Charles A. Beichman.
Gerald Jay (Jerry) Fishman is an American research astrophysicist, specializing in gamma-ray astronomy. His research interests also include space and nuclear instrumentation and radiation in space. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Fishman obtained a B.S. with Honors degree in Physics from the University of Missouri in 1965, followed by M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Space Science from Rice University in 1968 and 1970, respectively.
A neutron star merger is a type of stellar collision. It occurs in a fashion similar to the rare brand of type Ia supernovae resulting from merging white dwarfs. When two neutron stars orbit each other closely, they spiral inward as time passes due to gravitational radiation. When the two neutron stars meet, their merger leads to the formation of either a more massive neutron star, or a black hole. The merger can also create a magnetic field that is trillions of times stronger than that of Earth in a matter of one or two milliseconds. These events are believed to create short gamma-ray bursts. The mergers are also believed to produce kilonovae, which are transient sources of fairly isotropic longer wave electromagnetic radiation due to the radioactive decay of heavy r-process nuclei that are produced and ejected during the merger process.
Multi-messenger astronomy is astronomy based on the coordinated observation and interpretation of disparate "messenger" signals. Interplanetary probes can visit objects within the Solar System, but beyond that, information must rely on "extrasolar messengers". The four extrasolar messengers are electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves, neutrinos, and cosmic rays. They are created by different astrophysical processes, and thus reveal different information about their sources.
The first direct observation of gravitational waves was made on 14 September 2015 and was announced by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations on 11 February 2016. Previously, gravitational waves had only been inferred indirectly, via their effect on the timing of pulsars in binary star systems. The waveform, detected by both LIGO observatories, matched the predictions of general relativity for a gravitational wave emanating from the inward spiral and merger of a pair of black holes of around 36 and 29 solar masses and the subsequent "ringdown" of the single resulting black hole. The signal was named GW150914. It was also the first observation of a binary black hole merger, demonstrating both the existence of binary stellar-mass black hole systems and the fact that such mergers could occur within the current age of the universe.
Ann Hornschemeier is an American astronomer specializing in X-ray emission from X-ray binary populations. She is the Chief Scientist for the Physics of the Cosmos program at NASA.
GW170817 was a gravitational wave (GW) signal observed by the LIGO and Virgo detectors on 17 August 2017. The GW was produced by the last minutes of two neutron stars spiralling closer to each other and finally merging, and is the first GW observation which has been confirmed by non-gravitational means. Unlike the five previous GW detections, which were of merging black holes not expected to produce a detectable electromagnetic signal, the aftermath of this merger was also seen by 70 observatories on seven continents and in space, across the electromagnetic spectrum, marking a significant breakthrough for multi-messenger astronomy. The discovery and subsequent observations of GW170817 were given the Breakthrough of the Year award for 2017 by the journal Science.
PyCBC is an open source software package primarily written in the Python programming language which is designed for use in gravitational-wave astronomy and gravitational-wave data analysis. PyCBC contains modules for signal processing, FFT, matched filtering, gravitational waveform generation, among other tasks common in gravitational-wave data analysis.
Samaya Michiko Nissanke is an astrophysicist at the GRAPPA Institute in the University of Amsterdam. She works on gravitational wave astrophysics and has played a founding role in the emerging field of multi-messenger astronomy. She was a leading figure in the discovery paper of the first binary neutron star merger, GW170817, seen in gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation.
GRB 150101B is a gamma-ray burst (GRB) that was detected on 1 January 2015 at 15:23 UT by the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) on-board the Swift Observatory Satellite, and at 15:23:35 UT by the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) on-board the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The GRB was determined to be 1.7 billion light-years (0.52 Gpc) from Earth near the 2MASX J12320498-1056010 host galaxy in the Virgo constellation. Observations of the GRB 150101B event demonstrates remarkable similarities to the historic GW170817 event, that involved the merger of neutron stars, according to astronomers.