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GravityCam is a new concept of ground-based imaging instrument capable of delivering significantly sharper images from the ground than is normally possible without adaptive optics. Advances in optical and near-infrared imaging technologies allow images to be acquired at high speed without significant noise penalty. Aligning these images before they are combined can yield a 2.5–3-fold improvement in image resolution. By using arrays of such detectors, survey fields may be as wide as the telescope optics allows. Consequently, GravityCam enables both wide-field high-resolution imaging and high-speed photometry. We describe the instrument and detail its application to provide demographics of planets and satellites down to Lunar mass (or even below) across the Milky Way. GravityCam is also suited to improve the quality of weak shear studies of dark matter distribution in distant clusters of galaxies and multiwavelength follow-ups of background sources that are strongly lensed by galaxy clusters. The photometric data arising from an extensive microlensing survey will also be useful for asteroseismology studies, while GravityCam can be used to monitor fast multiwavelength flaring in accreting compact objects and promises to generate a unique data set on the population of the Kuiper belt and possibly the Oort cloud.
Due to their extremely small luminosity compared to the stars they orbit, planets outside our own Solar System are extraordinarily difficult to detect directly in optical light. Careful photometric monitoring of distant stars, however, can reveal the presence of exoplanets via the microlensing or eclipsing effects they induce. The international PLANET collaboration is performing such monitoring using a cadre of semi-dedicated telescopes around the world. Their results constrain the number of gas giants orbiting 1–7 AU from the most typical stars in the Galaxy. Upgrades in the program are opening regions of “exoplanet discovery space” – toward smaller masses and larger orbital radii – that are inaccessible to the Doppler velocity technique.
Healthy first-degree relatives of patients with major depression (rMD+) show brain structure and functional response anomalies and have elevated risk for developing depression, a disorder linked to abnormal serotonergic neurotransmission and reward processing.
In a two-step functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigation, we first evaluated whether positive and negative monetary outcomes were differentially processed by rMD+ individuals compared to healthy first-degree relatives of control probands (rMD−). Second, in a double-blinded placebo-controlled randomized trial we investigated whether a 4-week intervention with the selective serotonergic reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram had a normalizing effect on behavior and brain responses of the rMD+ individuals.
Negative outcomes increased the probability of risk-averse choices in the subsequent trial in rMD+ but not in rMD− individuals. The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) displayed a stronger neural response when subjects missed a large reward after a low-risk choice in the rMD+ group compared to the rMD− group. The enhanced orbitofrontal response to negative outcomes was reversed following escitalopram intervention compared to placebo. Conversely, for positive outcomes, the left hippocampus showed attenuated response to high wins in the rMD+ compared to the rMD− group. The SSRI intervention reinforced the hippocampal response to large wins. A subsequent structural analysis revealed that the abnormal neural responses were not accounted for by changes in gray matter density in rMD+ individuals.
Our study in first-degree relatives of depressive patients showed abnormal brain responses to aversive and rewarding outcomes in regions known to be dysfunctional in depression. We further confirmed the reversal of these aberrant activations with SSRI intervention.
We have investigated the structure and composition of La2CuO4 (both pure and Sr-doped) and Nd(Ba2−xNdx)Cu3O7 using powder neutron diffraction. In La2−xSrxCuO4, Tc reacnes its maximum at x=0.15, after which vacancies are introduced in the 2D planes and superconductivity is destroyed. Superconductivity in La2CuO4 is not bulk. No evidence for nonstoichlometry in this material can be observed. In the Nd(Ba2−xNdx)Cu3O7 system, Tc is a complex function of oxygen ordering and electronic effects.
The mixed-conducting Sr-Fe-Co oxide has potential use as a gas separation membrane. Its superior oxygen transport reveals the feasibility of using oxide membranes in large-scale oxygen separation. Sr2Fe3-xCoxOy (with x = 0.0, 0.3, 0.6, and 1.0) samples were made by solid state reaction. To understand the oxygen transport mechanism in this system, conductivity and thermogravimetry experiments were conducted at high temperature in various oxygen partial pressure environments. The oxygen diffusion coefficient was determined from the time relaxation transient behavior of the specimen after switching the surrounding atmosphere. Mobility of the charge carrier was derived from relative conductivity and weight changes. X-ray diffraction experiments were carried out on these samples to determine their crystal structures.
Several areas of stellar observations depend critically on nearly continuous observations of individual objects over very extended periods. Important examples are investigations of stellar oscillations to carry out asteroseismology, and the search for extra-solar planets. To meet this requirement we are establishing the SONG network, consisting of 8 sites with a 1-meter-class telescope with a suitable geographical distribution. These will be optimized for asteroseismology based on Doppler-velocity observations and the characterization of extra-solar planets with photometry, using gravitational microlensing. Funding has been obtained towards the construction of the prototype SONG telescope which will be set up on Tenerife, with first light expected in 2011. The full network will be established in parallel with the tests of the prototype and is planned to be operational in 2014.
PLANET, the Probing Lensing Anomaly NETwork, is an international team
conducting observations of on-going gravitational microlensing
events from five sites in the southern hemisphere. Our primary goal is to
detect or to put constraints on sub-stellar companions of M dwarfs from the galactic disk.
We report the current status and discuss the future prospects.
A 2 m robotic telescope at Dome C which would benefit from continuous coverage and dream like seeing
(median of 0.27 arcsec) is currently the best option for a
ground based aggressive search for Earth-mass planets in the habitable zone.
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