Friday, March 6, 2009

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for March 6

Little-known U.S. agency hunts down radioactive castoffs

A container holding an encased vial of plutonium 238 is prepared for removal from a company in Silicon Valley that makes security inspection systems. LA Times photo.

he four-man government disposal team arrived Monday from Los Alamos, N.M., to take away the small canister of plutonium.

Weighing just 1.3 grams, the plutonium-238 isotope had been owned by a Silicon Valley company for nearly 30 years and was stored safely in a 10-foot hole in the ground.

But in the wrong hands, federal officials say, the highly radioactive isotope could pose a serious threat to public safety and conceivably provide terrorists with material for a dirty bomb. Read the Los Angeles Times story

See another Offsite Source Recovery story in
USA Today.

And view a
video about Los Alamos National Laboratory’s role.

Search for Earth-like planets includes LANL star analysis

The primary mirror of the Kepler telescope. The craft’s mission is to discover Earth-like planets in Earth-like places. Ball Aerospace photo – from The New York Times.

Four stellar seismologists at the Laboratory are part of the Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium, a large, multi-national team that will analyze the vast quantity of data expected from the mission.

Using Kepler, NASA expects to answer a very fundamental question: do planets the size of Earth exist in orbit around other stars? The Kepler Spacecraft is equipped with a large telescope that will measure the variations in brightness of 170,000 stars simultaneously and continuously for a period of at least 3.5 years.

The mission will not only be able to search for planets around other stars, but also yield new insights into the parent stars themselves. Kepler’s measurements of changes in stellar brightness can also be used to study stars and their interiors. Read the LANL news release.

See a related story about the Kepler Mission in The New York Times.

Forensic seismology

A seismograph is used to measure Earth’s vibrations. Agence France Presse photo.

n the mid 1990s, Terry Wallace, now at America's Los Alamos National Laboratory, was part of a team studying earth movements in the Andes Mountains along the border between Bolivia and Chile.

Occasionally, one of the seismometers would record strange micro-earthquakes, less than 1.0 on the Richter scale. Small temblors are common, but these occurred only late at night in a remote plain, 4,000 metres above sea level. See the
story here.

Swift Satellite records early phase of gamma ray burst

Illustration of a gamma ray burst. NASA image.

UK astronomers, using a telescope aboard the NASA Swift Satellite, have captured information from the early stages of a gamma ray burst - the most violent and luminous explosions occurring in the Universe since the Big Bang.

The work was published on Friday 27th February in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical society. Swift, a medium-class Explorer mission was built in collaboration with national laboratories and universities including the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Read more about it

os Alamos National Laboratory this week posted on its YouTube channel a new video about a technology for making industrial quantities of a high-temp superconducting tape.

The tape carries 300 times the capacity of an equivalent copper cable. The tape is flexible and easy to install—and stands to save billions of dollars. See the
video here.

Foundation comes to aid of kids who need a lift

he Friends Forever Foundation offers a family emergency fund, which is funded through Los Alamos National Laboratory, where MaryAna Eames is employed. The group also offers a
Link bereavement fund to help families who have lost a loved one. Read the story here.

To subscribe to Los Alamos Report, please e-mail and include the words subscribe los alamosreport in the body of your email message; to unscubscribe, include unsubscribe losalamosreport.

Please visit us at