Astrophysicists report new discoveries
Published: Saturday May 12, 2012
Yerevan - In April 2012 the head of Armenia's Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) and director of the Yerevan Physics Institute, Prof. Ashot Chilingarian, was invited to the European Space Agency center in Italy. A conference there was devoted to the Italian "AGILE" space satellite mission which discovered many unexpected astrophysical phenomena during its five years of scientific exploration.
Discoveries included unexpected flares from the Crab Nebula - the debris resulting from the explosion or "supernova" of a massive star which occurred about 1000 years ago. The Crab Nebula had always, and apparently wrongly, been assumed to be a constant, unvarying source of radiation which astronomers relied upon to calibrate their measurements. Also discussed at this conference was the recently discovered phenomenon of Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes (TGFs) in which thunderclouds emit high energy radiation previously assumed to originate only from space. Through mechanisms not completely understood, electrons are accelerated from thunderstorms into outer space.
Particle fluxes (radiation of subatomic particles) from thunderclouds are a very important and yet poorly understood phenomenon which is intensively researched both from space and from high altitude mountain research stations. CRD's Aragats research station atop Mt. Aragats has assumed a leading position in this branch of research. Prof. Chilingarian presented CRD's latest research results on fluxes of electrons, gamma rays, and neutrons measured on Mt. Aragats. Discussed were energy spectra and physical models of Thunderstorm Ground Enhancements (TGEs) in which high energy electrons are accelerated both downward towards the earth, and upward towards space, from within thundercloud formations. Much of the research on this phenomenon is conducted by young CRD scientists. Recent PhD recipient Bagrat Mailyan's doctoral dissertation characterizing this phenomenon shed a great deal of light on this subject within the international science community.
Numerous particle detectors and electric field meters located on the slopes of mountain Aragats and in Yerevan continuously monitor changing geophysical conditions. A new planned geophysical station near Lake Sevan, with three existing stations on the slopes of Mt. Aragats, will monitor particle fluxes from the sun, thunderclouds, and our galaxy as well as magnetic and electrical fields and lightning occurrences. CRD will issue alerts and forewarnings on upcoming dangerous consequences of space weather events and thunder-storms.
In series of three papers published by the journal of American Physical society, "Physical Review", Armenian physicists reported new phenomena manifested by a number of physical effects. These included large fluxes of electron and gamma radiation, neutron radiation, short microsecond bursts of electron radiation coinciding with negatively charged electric fields near the earth's surface, and reduced lightning between clouds and the ground along with increased lightning within clouds. The most recent paper was published on April 16, 2012.
Armenia invited to join international scientific team
The President of the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP), Dr. Nat Gopalswany, on February 13, 2012 invited Armenia to joint SCOSTEP as an adherent member of this important international scientific team. This invitation is a direct result of the monumental achievements of the Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) of the Yerevan Physics Institute in the global scientific arena. In his invitation Dr. Gopalswamy noted the valuable contribution of Armenia's scientists and of Prof. Ashot Chilingaryan to understanding the physics of Sun-Earth interactions. In his letter to Professor Samvel Harutunyan, Chairman of Armenia's State Committee on Science, Dr. Gopalswamy cited the enormous Armenian scientific contributions from both the data collected at observatories on Armenia's Mt. Aragats and the data analysis tools developed by Prof. Chilingarian and his scientists. Stated Gopalswamy, "Armenia has been very active in the Solar Terrestrial Physics research area with lots of young researchers active and making their presence known with excellent publications. Armenian scientists have also been contributing enormously to the physics of the Sun-Earth system by creating observing facilities and data analysis tools, and are recognized internationally. For this reason, I invite Armenia to become an official member of the Scientific Committee on Solar Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP)."
Dr. Gopalswamy is a noted research scientist at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA). Professor Ashot Chilingarian is the director of Armenia's Yerevan Physics Institute, the head of its Cosmic Ray Division (CRD), a noted scientist researching cosmic ray physics and space weather - the effects of solar disturbances on the earth's environment, and a professor of cosmic ray physics at Yerevan State University with several PhD students under his wings.
In mid-February the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs held its International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI) steering committee meeting in Vienna. As a member of this elite group of scientists from around the world, Prof. Ashot Chilingarian reported on CRD's Space Environmental Viewing and Analysis Network (SEVAN), which is a network of cosmic ray monitors which are designed and made in Armenia and are being deployed in a number of countries. The ISWI currently has 15 instrument projects either under development or in deployment in 101 countries. These instrument deployments are coordinated by scientists from Armenia, France, Japan, Switzerland and the United States. The conclusions from the steering committee meetings were reported to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space forty-ninth session held in Vienna, Austria on February 6 - 17, 2012
On a further note, in February Prof. Chilingarian visited a number of National Scientific Laboratories in Germany and Austria, meeting and solidifying relationships with their directors. In his visits to these research institutions, Prof. Chilingarian noted the large number of scientists from Armenia who, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Armenia's difficult economic situation, moved to scientific institutions in Europe. During discussions, Chilingarian worked to establish collaborative relations between these expatriate Armenian scientists and their colleagues in Armenia.
Prof. Chilingarian announced that starting in mid-March, the "Vaporciyan Multivariate Analysis Project" will begin at the Cosmic Ray Division. This is an important new project which enhances the ability to analyze massive amounts of complex cosmic ray data gathered around the world. Armenian scientists from the Cosmic Ray Division of the Yerevan Physics Institute and the Cosmic Ray Division of the Forschumzentrum in Karlsruhe, Germany will lead the project. New students at the CRD will have the opportunity to work on it as part of their PhD thesis work. This project is named in honor of late Kirakos Vaporciyan and his surviving brother Harutyun and their family. The Vaporciyan family has been a steadfast supporter of the CRD for the past 10 years and thanks to them and other supporters like them, CRD has been able to put Armenia on the map for outstanding scientific achievements such as enumerated above. Equally importantly, it is this support that has helped to retain bright young scientists in Armenia, a trend that will hopefully expand with time.
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