Four ECE Engineers, Three Receiver Sites, Two Days, and One Eclipse Expedition

While hundreds of Georgia Tech students gathered on Tech Green on April 8 to witness the first eclipse in the United States in close to a decade, three Ph.D. students in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) began preparing for the eclipse days before. Roderick Gray, Matthew Strong, and Varun Rajput, along with ECE research engineer Kevin Whitmore, traveled early Saturday morning to Houston, Texas.

New Multidisciplinary Initiative Marks Golden Age for Space Research

The Georgia Institute of Technology has a long history in space research and exploration, from educating astronauts to developing and controlling spacecraft that can travel across the solar system.

Some Georgia Tech researchers solve cosmic mysteries such as how supermassive black holes were born — and others now are getting a better, sharper look at those black holes. There are investigators searching for the origins of life, and some leading multi-institutional projects exploring questions of  how life evolved and about the presence of water in the lunar environment to enable the return of human explorers for a sustained period.

And that barely gets us into orbit — there’s a lot of Georgia Tech in space. Much of the work is supported by longtime Georgia Tech partners like NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense. But as space becomes more accessible, affordable, and necessary for commercial activity — and therefore more crowded — Tech is also developing expertise in space policy and business.

And now, plans are underway for the next big phase of Georgia Tech’s outer space mission with the launch of the Space Research Initiative (SRI) on campus. The SRI team will work to strengthen interdisciplinary relationships in space research at Georgia Tech, which will lead to creation of an Interdisciplinary Research Institute (IRI) by 2025.

Ramblin’ Wreck Orbits the Sun

Georgia Tech now owns an interplanetary “Ramblin’ Wreck”  — a briefcase-sized spacecraft orbiting the sun, capping a student-led mission in the cosmos.

Right now, approximately 3.7 million miles from Earth, a small spacecraft the size of a briefcase is racing away from the planet by about 40,000 miles every day. And each day, sometimes twice, a team of 10 Georgia Tech undergraduate students communicate with it to monitor its health, respond to anomalies, and use its instruments for scientific studies.

Not only are they controlling the sun-circling satellite, but they also own it. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California has given Lunar Flashlight to Georgia Tech, making it the only higher education institution in full control of an interplanetary spacecraft. The designation is typically reserved for NASA or foreign governments.

“It’s really crazy. I didn’t imagine as an undergraduate that I would be talking to a satellite, let alone leading a team of 10 of my peers,” said Micah Pledger, an aerospace engineering student serving as missions operations lead. “Our team learns so much every day.”

Water on the Moon May Be Forming Due to Electrons From Earth

Scientists have discovered that electrons from Earth may be contributing to the formation of water on the Moon’s surface. The research, published in Nature Astronomy, has the potential to impact our understanding of how water — a critical resource for life and sustained future human missions to Earth’s moon — formed and continues to evolve on the lunar surface.

“Understanding how water is made on the Moon will help us understand how water was made in the early solar system and how water inevitably was brought to Earth,” says Thom OrlandoRegents’ Professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry with a joint appointment in the School of Physics, who played a critical role in the discovery alongside Brant Jones, a research scientist in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech.

Physicists Focus on Neutrinos With New Telescope

Georgia Tech scientists will soon have another way to search for neutrinos, those hard-to-detect, high-energy particles speeding through the cosmos that hold clues to massive particle accelerators in the universe — if researchers can find them. 

“The detection of a neutrino source or even a single neutrino at the highest energies is like finding a holy grail,” says Professor Nepomuk Otte, the principal investigator for the Trinity Demonstrator telescope that was recently built by his group and collaborators, and was designed to detect neutrinos after they get stopped within the Earth.

Jim Sowell Talks About Watching Annular Eclipse

Jim Sowell, director of the Georgia Tech Observatory, will be keeping his eyes on the sky this weekend — and he says you should do the same.

An annular eclipse is set to take place Saturday, Oct. 14. It will cross North, Central, and South America with varying degrees of visibility.

“The entire country will see at least a partial eclipse,” Sowell said. “Go out and experience it and see it for yourself.”

M87* One Year Later: Proof of a Persistent Black Hole Shadow

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration has released new images of M87*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy Messier 87, using data from observations taken in April 2018.

With the participation of the newly commissioned Greenland Telescope and a dramatically improved recording rate across the array, the 2018 observations give researchers a view of the source independent from the first observations in 2017.