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Chemists ID Catalytic 'Key' for Converting CO2 to Methanol

Results from experiments and computational modeling studies that definitively identify the "active site" of a catalyst commonly used for making methanol from CO2 will guide the design of improved catalysts for transforming this pollutant to useful chemicals.

Cryo-Electron Microscopy Achieves Unprecedented Resolution Using New Computational Methods

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM)--which enables the visualization of viruses, proteins, and other biological structures at the molecular level--is a critical tool used to advance biochemical knowledge. Now Berkeley Lab researchers have extended cryo-EM's impact further by developing a new computational algorithm instrumental in constructing a 3-D atomic-scale model of bacteriophage P22 for the first time.

New Study Maps Space Dust in 3-D

A new Berkeley Lab-led study provides detailed 3-D views of space dust in the Milky Way, which could help us understand the properties of this dust and how it affects views of distant objects.

Single-Angle Ptychography Allows 3D Imaging of Stressed Materials

Scientists have used a new X-ray diffraction technique called Bragg single-angle ptychography to get a clear picture of how planes of atoms shift and squeeze under stress.

New Feedback System Could Allow Greater Control Over Fusion Plasma

A physicist has created a new system that will let scientists control the energy and rotation of plasma in real time in a doughnut-shaped machine known as a tokamak.

Towards Super-Efficient, Ultra-Thin Silicon Solar Cells

Researchers from Ames Laboratory used supercomputers at NERSC to evaluate a novel approach for creating more energy-efficient ultra-thin crystalline silicon solar cells by optimizing nanophotonic light trapping.

Study IDs Link Between Sugar Signaling and Regulation of Oil Production in Plants

UPTON, NY--Even plants have to live on an energy budget. While they're known for converting solar energy into chemical energy in the form of sugars, plants have sophisticated biochemical mechanisms for regulating how they spend that energy. Making oils costs a lot. By exploring the details of this delicate energy balance, a group of scientists from the U.

High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Two-Dimensional MXene Materials Get Their Close-Up

Researchers have long sought electrically conductive materials for economical energy-storage devices. Two-dimensional (2D) ceramics called MXenes are contenders.


Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.

Dan Sinars Represents Sandia in First Energy Leadership Class

Dan Sinars, a senior manager in Sandia National Laboratories' pulsed power center, which built and operates the Z facility, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a new Department of Energy leadership program that recently visited Sandia.

ORNL, HTS International Corporation to Collaborate on Manufacturing Research

HTS International Corporation and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an agreement to explore potential collaborations in advanced manufacturing research.

Jefferson Lab Director Honored with Energy Secretary Award

Hugh Montgomery, director of the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), was awarded The Secretary's Distinguished Service Award by the Secretary of Energy earlier this year.

New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive

Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California's total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.

Southern Research Project Advances Novel CO2 Utilization Strategy

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy has awarded Southern Research nearly $800,000 for a project that targets a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of producing some of the most important chemicals used in manufacturing.

Harker School Wins 2017 SLAC Regional Science Bowl Competition

After losing its first match of the day to the defending champions, The Harker School's team won 10 consecutive rounds to claim victory in the annual SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Francis Alexander Named Deputy Director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative

Alexander brings extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research to the position.

Kalinin, Paranthaman Elected Materials Research Society Fellows

Two researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sergei Kalinin and Mariappan Parans Paranthaman, have been elected fellows of the Materials Research Society.

Two PNNL Researchers Elected to Membership in the National Academy of Engineering

Two scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will become members of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.


High-Energy Electrons Probe Ultrafast Atomic Motion

A new technique synchronized high-energy electrons with an ultrafast laser pulse to probe how vibrational states of atoms change in time.

Rare Earth Recycling

A new energy-efficient separation of rare earth elements could provide a new domestic source of critical materials.

Modeling the "Flicker" of Gluons in Subatomic Smashups

A new model identifies a high degree of fluctuations in the glue-like particles that bind quarks within protons as essential to explaining proton structure.

Rare Nickel Atom Has "Doubly Magic" Structure

Supercomputing calculations confirm that rare nickel-78 has unusual structure, offering insights into supernovas.

Microbial Activity in the Subsurface Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

Natural carbon dioxide production from deep subsurface soils contributes significantly to emissions, even in a semiarid floodplain.

Stretching a Metal Into an Insulator

Straining a thin film controllably allows tuning of the materials' magnetic, electronic, and catalytic properties, essential for new energy and electronic devices.

How Moisture Affects the Way Soil Microbes Breathe

Study models soil-pore features that hold or release carbon dioxide.

ARM Data Is for the Birds

Scientists use LIDAR and radar data to study bird migration patterns, thanks to the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

The Future of Coastal Flooding

Better storm surge prediction capabilities could help reduce the impacts of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes.

Estimating Global Energy Use for Water-Related Processes

Scientists find that water-related energy consumption is increasing across the globe, with pronounced differences across regions and sectors.


Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

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More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Monday April 25, 2016, 05:05 PM

Giving Back to National Science Bowl

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Friday March 25, 2016, 12:05 PM

NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

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Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

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Rare Earths for Life: An 85th Birthday Visit with Mr. Rare Earth

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Meet Robert Palomino: 'Give Everything a Shot!'

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University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

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Student Innovator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Seeks Brighter, Smarter, and More Efficient LEDs

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Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

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Don't Get 'Frosted' Over Heating Your Home This Winter

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New Research Center To Tackle Critical Challenges Related to Aircraft Design, Wind Energy, Smart Buildings

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First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device Heats Home, Saves Money

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Like Superman, American University Will Get Its Energy from the Sun

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ARRA Grant to Help Fund Seminary Building Green Roof

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UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

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Monday November 01, 2010, 12:50 PM

Rensselaer Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center Announces First Deployment of New Technology on Campus

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Friday September 10, 2010, 12:40 PM

Ithaca College Will Host Regional Clean Energy Summit

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Texas Governor Announces $8.4 Million Award to Create Renewable Energy Institute

Texas Tech University

Friday May 07, 2010, 04:20 PM

Creighton University to Offer New Alternative Energy Program

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Kansas Rural Schools To Receive Wind Turbines

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Attention Earthlings: Help Wanted in Finding a New Planet

Article ID: 670768

Released: 2017-03-07 13:05:27

Source Newsroom: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

  • Credit: NASA

    The public is invited to participate in the hunt for a hypothetical Neptune-like ninth planet in our solar system, dubbed Planet Nine. This image shows an artist’s concept of Planet Nine, with a view toward the sun.

  • Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    An artist’s conception of three types of brown dwarfs.

  • Credit: www.backyardworlds.org

    An example of a large dipole object (at lower left) spotted by a Backyard Worlds participant.

  • Credit: www.backyardworlds.org

    Citizen scientists are asked to identify dipoles, which are black-and-white objects that seem to flip flop from frame to frame, and "movers," which are objects that appear to move in a line, changing position in each frame. This animation shows sample frames for both types of these objects of interest.

  • Credit: Robert Hurt/Caltech

    The orbit of a possible ninth planet in our solar system is shown in brown.

The pursuit of Planet Nine -- a hypothesized Neptune-like giant that some scientists believe may be cruising along a remote orbit in our solar system -- can now go door-to-door.

A new NASA-launched citizen science project is looking for the public’s help in reviewing more than a million animations to identify moving space objects that could be new discoveries. The effort benefited from data research on a cosmology project led by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Each animation in this “Backyard Worlds: Planet 9” project, launched Feb. 15, is composed of four infrared images taken of the same patch of sky over the course of the past five years by NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) space telescope.

Aaron Meisner, a UC Berkeley physics postdoctoral researcher who works on DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument), a sky-mapping project led by the Berkeley Lab, said his research earned him a spot on the Backyard Worlds team.

“It turns out that the WISE data that I was adapting for DESI is really good for looking for moving objects,” such as brown dwarfs, said Meisner. “We wouldn’t have all of this WISE data available in this form if it wasn’t for DESI,” he added.

Brown dwarfs can be tens of times more massive than Jupiter but aren’t capable of carrying out the same type of nuclear fusion as stars.

Marc Kuchner, the Backyard Worlds project creator and an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said, “More than a million of these ‘rogue worlds’ are swarming the galaxy. There may well be a brown dwarf located near the sun that we can find with this project.”

Kuchner reached out to Meisner when he learned of his work with the WISE data. Meisner has been developing algorithms tapping Berkeley Lab’s NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) to help parse and reprocess the giant load of data produced by WISE and make it more useful to DESI. UC Berkeley researchers are also using NERSC to sift through data collected by a San Diego-area telescope for signs of Planet Nine.

Kuchner has also led a citizen science project called Disk Detective that allows users to scan WISE images for debris disks that could provide clues to planetary formation. He was a graduate student of Mike Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology who helped build up the scientific case for the existence of Planet Nine.

A goal of the Backyard Worlds project is to see whether there are any brown dwarfs that are even closer than Proxima Centauri, which is the nearest star to our sun at about 4.2 light years’ distance. The nearest brown dwarfs that have been observed, to date, are about 6.5 light years away.

In his DESI-related research, Meisner helps to ensure that the WISE images are useful for selecting sky objects that DESI can fix on when it begins operating in 2019. Data from a set of Earth-based, visible-light sky surveys will also be used to identify millions of candidate galaxies and quasars for DESI.

DESI will build the most detailed 3-D map of the universe and provide the most exacting measure of the accelerating expansion rate of the universe. Scientists explain this expansion rate with a hypothesized form of energy called dark energy.

Meisner last year embarked on a pet project to conduct automated searches for Planet Nine within the WISE data. But computerized searches can be greatly compromised by false detections caused by a small amount of light scattering in the telescope’s camera -- particularly when there are bright stars or densely packed stars in the image.

“One of the hardest areas for both automated and citizen science approaches is in the plane of the Milky Way galaxy because there are so many stars,” Meisner said. “We don’t want to leave out any part of the sky, and that is one of the key motivations and advantages for showing the volunteers everything.”

The current plan for the Backyard Worlds project is to have each of the 1.2 million animations in the project’s first batch of data reviewed at least 15 times, for a total of 18 million classifications. This helps increase the possibility that moving objects that slip past some of the volunteers may be spotted by others.

In the first week, Backyard Worlds drew about 1.7 million total classifications from about 20,000 volunteers.

“The response has been so wonderful that we’re having trouble keeping up,” Kuchner said. “The volunteers are churning through the data as fast as I can upload it.”

Volunteers are asked to click to place markers in every frame for those objects that clearly flip-flop between black-and-white states between frames (referred to as “dipoles”), and those that seem to be moving across the frame (“movers”).

Volunteers are also invited to review a couple of online catalogs of space objects to check whether what they find is something new or something known, and to make notations for what they learn.

Members of the Backyard Worlds team participate in online discussion groups at its Web home on Zooniverse to help keep up with volunteers’ queries.

The team is working out plans on how to best mine all of the user-generated information that is already pouring in, Meisner said, and he plans to assist in developing some algorithms to call out the most promising finds by volunteers.

There is plenty of additional WISE data available to feed to the growing community of Backyard Worlds volunteers, too, he said.

The early data analyses of the volunteers’ classifications has begun, Meisner added, and already the data appear to contain intriguing examples of pairs of nearby stars that trail across the animations at about the same speed and direction.

Little is known about how Planet Nine might appear in the WISE animations, or if it would appear at all, and that’s part of the excitement surrounding Backyard Worlds, Meisner said. The discovery of nearby brown dwarfs would be a big win for the project, even without the unearthing of a new planet.

“While we may not discover Planet Nine, we’ll still have the fun of finding new objects,” he said.

NERSC is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

More information about the Backyard Worlds project:

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.