Astrophysics and Exploration from the International Space Station with NASA's NICER Mission (speaker: Zaven Arzoumanian, NASA Goddard)

Tuesday, October 4, 4:00pm
36-428 (Please note location!)

Astrophysics and Exploration from the International Space Station with NASA's NICER Mission

Zaven Arzoumania, NICER Deputy Principal Investigator & Science Lead

Planned for launch in early 2017, NASA's Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is designed to study the extraordinary gravitational, electromagnetic, and nuclear-physics environments embodied by neutron stars. Their exotic interiors, where density and pressure are higher than in atomic nuclei, harbor a form of ultra-dense matter that exists nowhere else in nature. NICER aims to reveal the fundamental physics of such matter -- a longstanding unsolved problem -- by inferring the masses and radii of neutron stars through high-precision timing and spectroscopy in the soft X-ray band, specifically targeting pulsars with millisecond spin periods. NICER will explore dynamic phenomena, such as thermonuclear explosions and starquakes, driven by accretion, strong gravity, and bulk quantum fluids. NICER will probe the extreme physics of pulsar magnetospheres, perhaps the most powerful cosmic particle accelerators anywhere. These objectives are enabled by an instrument that brings together established technologies in an innovative configuration, exploiting International Space Station infrastructure to offer a low-cost, low-risk, and highly capable instrument to the X-ray astrophysics community. This talk provides an overview of the NICER mission, its core science agenda, and its potential contributions across a range of X-ray astrophysics investigations made possible through a Guest Observer program. Finally, NICER's first-ever demonstration of spacecraft navigation using pulsars as beacons in a "Galactic Positioning System" -- the technology that may one day guide humankind through the Solar System and beyond -- is outlined.

Host: Deepto Chakrabarty

refreshments at 3:45pm, talk will begin at 4:00pm in 36-428