Heavy Ash Fall From Ambae Volcano

Much of the east and north of Vanuatu’s Ambae Island have experienced heavy ashfall after the eruption from the Manaro volcano intensified on Monday, residents say.

One resident, Marsden Philip Vuvu, said there was a thick fine ash on his veranda and it got so dark at four in the afternoon that people were forced to used torches.

He said people were also using umbrellas to keep the ash off them.

The Penama Province Disaster Officer, Mansen Tari, has confirmed the latest ash fall saying the rumbling noise of the eruption can be heard at Penama Provincial Headquarters at Saratamata on the coast, more than 30 kilometres away.

The Department of Meteorology and Geo-Hazards in Port Vila has also called on residents to keep well away from the no-go zones and warned that the eruption may eject rocks from the crater.

The Department warns that with the current wind direction, the nearby islands of Maewo and Pentecost may also be affected by ash fall.

Study Finds Deep Subterranean Connection Between Two Japan Volcanoes

Scientists have confirmed for the first time that radical changes of one volcano in southern Japan was the direct result of an erupting volcano 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) away. The observations from the two volcanos–Aira caldera and Kirishima–show that the two were connected through a common subterranean magma source in the months leading up to the 2011 eruption of Kirishima.

The Japanese cities of Kirishima and Kagoshima lie directly on the border of the Aira caldera, one of the most active, hazardous, and closely monitored volcanoes in southern Japan. Identifying how volcanoes interact is critical to determine if and how an eruption can influence the activity of a distant volcano or raise the threat of a new strong explosive event.

The research team from the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Florida International University analyzed deformation data from 32 permanent GPS stations in the region to identify the existence of a common magma reservoir that connected the two volcanoes.

Leading up to the eruption of Kirishima, which is located in the densely-populated Kagoshima region, the Aira caldera stopped inflating, which experts took as a sign that the volcano was at rest. The results from this new study, however, indicated that the opposite was happening–the magma chamber inside Aira began to deflate temporarily while Kirishima was erupting and resumed shortly after the activity at Kirishima stopped.

“We observed a radical change in the behavior of Aira before and after the eruption of its neighbor Kirishima,” said Elodie Brothelande, a postdoctoral researcher at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study. “The only way to explain this interaction is the existence of a connection between the two plumbing systems of the volcanoes at depth.”

Prior to this new study, scientists had geological records of volcanoes erupting or collapsing at the same time, but this is the first example of an unambiguous connection between volcanoes that allowed scientists to study the underlying mechanisms involved. The findings confirm that volcanoes with no distinct connection at the surface can be part of a giant magmatic system at depth.

“To what extend magmatic systems are connected is an important question in terms of the hazards,” said Falk Amelung, professor of geophysics at the UM Rosenstiel School and coauthor of the study. “Is there a lot of magma underground and can one eruption trigger another volcano? Up until now there was little or no evidence of distinct connections.”

“Eruption forecasting is crucial, especially in densely populated volcanic areas,” said Brothelande. “Now, we know that a change in behavior can be the direct consequence of the activity of its neighbor Kirishima.”

The findings also illustrate that large volcanic systems such as Aira caldera can respond to smaller eruptions at nearby volcanoes if fed from a common deep reservoir but not all the time, since magma pathways open and close periodically.

“Now, we have to look whether this connnection is particular for these volcanoes in southeastern Japan or are widespread and occur around the world,” said Amelung.

Another Volcano? Jupiter Probe Sees Hotspot on Roiling Moon Io

NASA’s Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft may have just boosted the already-impressive volcano tally on the gas giant’s lava-spewing moon Io.

Juno’s Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper instrument, or JIRAM, detected a sizable “hotspot” near Io’s south pole on Dec. 16, 2017, during one of the probe’s close Jupiter flybys. Juno was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) away from Io at the time, NASA officials said.

“The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot,” Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, said in a statement. [Amazing Photos: Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon Io]

“We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hotspot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature,” Mura added.

Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system, with its insides roiled and churned by Jupiter’s powerful gravity and the tugs of its fellow Galilean satellites, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Thanks to the efforts of ground-based telescopes and NASA probes such as the Jupiter-orbiting Galileo and the Saturn-studying Cassini, astronomers have already mapped about 150 volcanoes on the moon, some of which blast lava 250 miles (400 km) out into space.

So, confirming a new Io volcano wouldn’t come as much of a shock. Indeed, according to NASA officials, about 250 additional volcanoes likely await discovery on Io, which is the fourth-largest moon in the solar system. (With a diameter of about 2,260 miles, or 3,640 km, Io is slightly larger than Earth’s moon.)

The $1.1 billion Juno mission arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The spacecraft loops around the gas giant on a highly elliptical path, making close flybys like the Dec. 16 encounter every 53 days. During these passes, Juno studies Jupiter’s composition, structure, and gravitational and magnetic fields, looking for clues about the huge planet’s formation and evolution (and also collecting a wealth of other data, as the Io observations show).

Hawaii Volcano Eruption Forms New Lava ‘Island’Just Off Coast

The ongoing eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano and continued lava flows into the sea has created a tiny new landmass off the Big Island, officials revealed Friday.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the tiny island formed off the northernmost part of the ocean entry from Fissure 8, and was oozing lava similar to that of the larger lava flow along the coast.

In photos posted by the agency, the “island” is just a few meters off shore, and about 20 to 30 feet in diameter.

“It’s most likely part of the fissure 8 flow that’s entering the ocean—and possibly a submarine tumulus that built up underwater and emerged above sea level,” the USGS said.

But anyone who may have wanted to visit the new landmass in its ‘island’ form is out of luck, as the agency revealed on Monday it’s now connected back to the Big Island by a strip of lava.

How Might Dark Matter Interact With Ordinary Matter?

An international team of scientists that includes University of California, Riverside, physicist Hai-Bo Yu has imposed conditions on how dark matter may interact with ordinary matter — constraints that can help identify the elusive dark matter particle and detect it on Earth.

Dark matter — nonluminous material in space — is understood to constitute 85 percent of the matter in the universe. Unlike normal matter, it does not absorb, reflect, or emit light, making it difficult to detect.

Physicists are certain dark matter exists, having inferred this existence from the gravitational effect dark matter has on visible matter. What they are less certain of is how dark matter interacts with ordinary matter — or even if it does.

In the search for direct detection of dark matter, the experimental focus has been on WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles, the hypothetical particles thought to make up dark matter.

But Yu’s international research team invokes a different theory to challenge the WIMP paradigm: the self-interacting dark matter model, or SIDM, a well-motivated framework that can explain the full range of diversity observed in the galactic rotation curves. First proposed in 2000 by a pair of eminent astrophysicists, SIDM has regained popularity in both the particle physics and the astrophysics communities since around 2009, aided, in part, by work Yu and his collaborators did.

Yu, a theorist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCR, and Yong Yang, an experimentalist at Shanghai Jiaotong University in China, co-led the team analyzing and interpreting the latest data collected in 2016 and 2017 at PandaX-II, a xenon-based dark matter direct detection experiment in China (PandaX refers to Particle and Astrophysical Xenon Detector; PandaX-II refers to the experiment). Should a dark matter particle collide with PandaX-II’s liquefied xenon, the result would be two simultaneous signals: one of photons and the other of electrons.

Yu explained that PandaX-II assumes dark matter “talks to” normal matter — that is, interacts with protons and neutrons — by means other than gravitational interaction (just gravitational interaction is not enough). The researchers then search for a signal that identifies this interaction. In addition, the PandaX-II collaboration assumes the “mediator particle,” mediating interactions between dark matter and normal matter, has far less mass than the mediator particle in the WIMP paradigm.

“The WIMP paradigm assumes this mediator particle is very heavy — 100 to 1000 times the mass of a proton — or about the mass of the dark matter particle,” Yu said. “This paradigm has dominated the field for more than 30 years. In astrophysical observations, we don’t, however, see all its predictions. The SIDM model, on the other hand, assumes the mediator particle is about 0.001 times the mass of the dark matter particle, inferred from astrophysical observations from dwarf galaxies to galaxy clusters. The presence of such a light mediator could lead to smoking-gun signatures of SIDM in dark matter direct detection, as we suggested in an earlier theory paper. Now, we believe PandaX-II, one of the world’s most sensitive direct detection experiments, is poised to validate the SIDM model when a dark matter particle is detected.”

The international team of researchers reports July 12 in Physical Review Letters the strongest limit on the interaction strength between dark matter and visible matter with a light mediator. The journal has selected the research paper as a highlight, a significant honor.

“This is a particle physics constraint on a theory that has been used to understand astrophysical properties of dark matter,” said Flip Tanedo, a dark matter expert at UCR, who was not involved in the research. “The study highlights the complementary ways in which very different experiments are needed to search for dark matter. It also shows why theoretical physics plays a critical role to translate between these different kinds of searches. The study by Hai-Bo Yu and his colleagues interprets new experimental data in terms of a framework that makes it easy to connect to other types of experiments, especially astrophysical observations, and a much broader range of theories.”

PandaX-II is located at the China Jinping Underground Laboratory, Sichuan Province, where pandas are abundant. The laboratory is the deepest underground laboratory in the world. PandaX-II had generated the largest dataset for dark matter detection when the analysis was performed. One of only three xenon-based dark matter direct detection experiments in the world, PandaX-II is one of the frontier facilities to search for extremely rare events where scientists hope to observe a dark matter particle interacting with ordinary matter and thus better understand the fundamental particle properties of dark matter.

Particle physicists’ attempts to understand dark matter have yet to yield definitive evidence for dark matter in the lab.

“The discovery of a dark matter particle interacting with ordinary matter is one of the holy grails of modern physics and represents the best hope to understand the fundamental, particle properties of dark matter,” Tanedo said.

For the past decade, Yu, a world expert on SIDM, has led an effort to bridge particle physics and cosmology by looking for ways to understand dark matter’s particle properties from astrophysical data. He and his collaborators have discovered a class of dark matter theories with a new dark force that may explain unexpected features seen in the systems across a wide range, from dwarf galaxies to galaxy clusters. More importantly, this new SIDM framework serves as a crutch for particle physicists to convert astronomical data into particle physics parameters of dark matter models. In this way, the SIDM framework is a translator for two different scientific communities to understand each other’s results.

Now with the PandaX-II experimental collaboration, Yu has shown how self-interacting dark matter theories may be distinguished at the PandaX-II experiment.

“Prior to this line of work, these types of laboratory-based dark matter experiments primarily focused on dark matter candidates that did not have self-interactions,” Tanedo said. “This work has shown how dark forces affect the laboratory signals of dark matter.”

Yu noted that this is the first direct detection result for SIDM reported by an experimental collaboration.

“With more data, we will continue to probe the dark matter interactions with a light mediator and the self-interacting nature of dark matter,” he said.

Breakthrough In The Search For Cosmic Particle Accelerators

Using an internationally organised astronomical dragnet, scientist have for the first time located a source of high-energy cosmic neutrinos, ghostly elementary particles that travel billions of light years through the universe, flying unaffected through stars, planets and entire galaxies. The joint observation campaign was triggered by a single neutrino that had been recorded by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole, on 22 September 2017. Telescopes on earth and in space were able to determine that the exotic particle had originated in a galaxy over three billion light years away, in the constellation of Orion, where a gigantic black hole serves as a natural particle accelerator. Scientists from the 18 different observatories involved are presenting their findings in the journal Science. Furthermore, a second analysis, also published in Science, shows that other neutrinos previously recorded by IceCube came from the same source.

The observation campaign, in which research scientists from Germany played a key role, is a decisive step towards solving a riddle that has been puzzling scientists for over 100 years, namely that of the precise origins of so-called cosmic rays, high-energy subatomic particles that are constantly bombarding Earth’s atmosphere. “This is a milestone for the budding field of neutrino astronomy. We are opening a new window into the high-energy universe,” says Marek Kowalski, the head of Neutrino Astronomy at DESY, a research centre of the Helmholtz Association, and a researcher at the Humboldt University in Berlin. “The concerted observational campaign using instruments located all over the globe is also a significant achievement for the field of multi-messenger astronomy, that is the investigation of cosmic objects using different messengers, such as electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves and neutrinos.”

Messengers from the high-energy universe

One way in which scientists expect energetic neutrinos to be created is as a sort of by-product of cosmic rays, that are expected to be produced in cosmic particle accelerators, such as the vortex of matter created by supermassive black holes or exploding stars. However, unlike the electrically charged particles of cosmic rays, neutrinos are electrically neutral and therefore not deflected by cosmic magnetic fields as they travel through space, meaning that the direction from which they arrive points straight back at their actual source. Also, neutrinos are scarcely absorbed. “Observing cosmic neutrinos gives us a glimpse of processes that are opaque to electromagnetic radiation,” says Klaus Helbing from the Bergische University of Wuppertal, spokesperson for the German IceCube network.””Cosmic neutrinos are messengers from the high-energy universe.”

Demonstrating the presence of neutrinos is extremely complicated, however, because most of the ghostly particles travel right through the entire Earth without leaving a trace. Only on very rare occasions does a neutrino interact with its surroundings. It therefore takes huge detectors in order to capture at least a few of these rare reactions. For the IceCube detector, an international consortium of scientists headed by the University of Wisconsin in Madison (USA) drilled 86 holes into the Antarctic ice, each 2500 metres deep. Into these holes they lowered 5160 light sensors, spread out over a total volume of one cubic kilometre. The sensors register the tiny flashes of light that are produced during the rare neutrino interactions in the transparent ice.

Five years ago, IceCube furnished the first evidence of high-energy neutrinos from the depths of outer space. However, these neutrinos appeared to be arriving from random directions across the sky. “Up to this day, we didn’t know where they originated,” says Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich, whose group contributed crucially to the findings. “Through the neutrino recorded on 22 September, we have now managed to identify a first source.”

From radio waves to gamma radiation

The energy of the neutrino in question was around 300 tera-electronvolts, more than 40 times that of the protons produced in the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider at the European accelerator facility CERN outside Geneva. Within minutes of recording the neutrino, the IceCube detector automatically alerted numerous other astronomical observatories. A large number of these then scrutinised the region in which the high-energy neutrino had originated, scanning the entire electromagnetic spectrum: from high-energy gamma- and X-rays, through visible light, to radio waves. Sure enough, they were able for the first time to assign a celestial object to the direction from which a high-energy cosmic neutrino had arrived.

“In our case, we saw an active galaxy, which is a large galaxy containing a gigantic black hole at its centre,” explains Kowalski. Huge “jets” shoot out into space at right angles to the massive vortex that sucks matter into the black hole. Astrophysicists have long suspected that these jets generate a substantial proportion of cosmic particle radiation. “Now we have found key evidence supporting this assumption,” Resconi emphasises.

The active galaxy that has now been identified is a so-called blazar, an active galaxy whose jet points precisely in our direction. Using software developed by DESY researchers, the gamma-ray satellite Fermi, operated by the US space agency NASA, had already registered a dramatic increase in the activity of this blazar, whose catalogue number is TXS 0506+056, around 22 September. Now, an earthbound gamma-ray telescope also recorded a signal from it. “In the follow-up observation of the neutrino, we were able to observe the blazar in the range of very high-energy gamma radiation too, using the MAGIC telescope system on the Canary Island La Palma,” says DESY’s Elisa Bernardini, who coordinates the MAGIC observations. “The gamma-rays are closest in energy to neutrinos and therefore play a crucial role in determining the mechanism by which the neutrinos are created.” The programme for the efficient follow-up observation of neutrinos using gamma-ray telescopes was developed by Bernardini’s group.

The NASA X-ray satellites Swift and NuSTAR also registered the eruption of the blazar, and the gamma-ray telescopes H.E.S.S., HAWC and VERITAS as well as the gamma-ray and X-ray satellites AGILE, belonging to the Italian Space Agency ASI, and Integral, belonging to the European Space Agency ESA, all took part in the follow-up observations. All in all, seven optical observatories (the ASAS-SN, Liverpool, Kanata, Kiso Schmidt, SALT and Subaru telescopes, as well as the Very Large Telescope VLT of the European Southern Observatory, ESO) observed the active galaxy, and the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) studied its activity in the radio spectrum. This led to a comprehensive picture of the radiation emitted by this blazar, all the way from radio waves to gamma-rays carrying up to 100 billion times as much energy.

Search in archives reveals further neutrinos

A worldwide team of scientists from all the groups involved worked flat out, conducting a complicated statistical analysis to determine whether the correlation between the neutrino and the gamma-ray observations was perhaps just a coincidence. “We calculated that the probability of it being a mere coincidence was around 1 in 1000,” explains DESY’s Anna Franckowiak, who was in charge of the statistical analysis of the various different data sets. This may not sound very large, but it is not small enough to quell the professional scepticism of physicists.

A second line of investigation rectified this. The IceCube researchers searched through their data from the past years for possible previous measurements of neutrinos coming from the direction of the blazar that had now been identified. And they did indeed find a distinct surplus of more than a dozen of the ghost particles arriving from the direction of TXS 0506+056 during the time between September 2014 and March 2015, as they are reporting in a second paper published in the same edition of Science. The likelihood of this excess being a mere statistical outlier is estimated at 1 in 5000, “a number that makes you prick up your ears,” says Christopher Wiebusch from RWTH Aachen, whose group had already noted the hint of excess neutrinos from the direction of TXS 0506+056 in an earlier analysis. “The data also allows us to make a first estimate of the neutrino flux from this source.” Together with the single event of September 2017, the IceCube data now provides the best experimental evidence to date that active galaxies are in fact sources of high-energy cosmic neutrinos.

“We now have a better understanding of what we should be looking for. This means that we can in future track down such sources more specifically,” says Elisa Resconi. And Marek Kowalski adds, “Since neutrinos are a sort of by-product of the charged particles in cosmic rays, our observation implies that active galaxies are also accelerators of cosmic ray particles. More than a century after the discovery of cosmic rays by Victor Hess in 1912, the IceCube findings have therefore for the first time located a concrete extragalactic source of these high-energy particles.”