Number 26, March, 22 1991 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein|
THE DECADE OF DISCOVERY IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS , a report released on March 19 by the National Research Council, is a blueprint for astronomy in the 1990's. The 15-member committee (chaired by John Bahcall of Princeton) that drew up the report specified as their highest priority in ground-based research an increase in the operations and maintenance budgets for the national observatories and an increase in the grants program for young astronomers. Many new astronomy instruments are recommended. In the category of "large programs," four initiatives are mentioned. These are in order of priority (1) the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), a device 1000 times more sensitive than ground-based infrared detectors; (2) an infrared-optimized 8-meter telescope operating in Mauna Kea, Hawaii; (3) the Millimeter Array (MMA), an array of telescopes operating at millimeter wavelengths; and (4) the Southern 8-meter optical telescope, which would operate from the Southern Hemisphere. A decade's worth of new equipment initiatives, including the Large Projects as well as small and moderate projects, would cost $3 billion.
THE WOODSTOCK OF CARBON? A special session on carbon-60, held at the American Physical Society meeting this week in Cincinnati, reviewed what was known about this new form of carbon. First of all, Buckyballs are always spinning; because they are nearly spherical and noninteractive, there is nothing for other molecules to grab onto. C-60 is the most photo-stable molecule: 35-eV photons are needed to blast them apart. Robert Fleming of AT&T Bell Labs reported that in the solid form C-60 molecules pack together as if they were smooth 7-angstrom-diameter balls with a nearest-neighbor spacing of 10 angstroms. The individual bonds betweens carbons have an average length of 1.4 angstroms. Fleming grew C-60 crystals in the form of thin needles which, when examined by x-ray diffraction, exhibited a curious pseudo-10-fold symmetry. Richard Smalley (713-527-4845) of Rice University, who received the Langmuir Prize at the meeting, said that of all the elements only carbon would likely form molecules like the Buckyball.
THE SOLENOIDAL DETECTOR COLLABORATION , consisting of physicists from 61 institutions and headed by George Trilling of LBL, hope to build the first detector facility at SSC. Their proposal to construct the 40-meter-long $500-million device was approved by the SSC Program Advisory Committee in November. Under usual running conditions, the SDC detector will have to be able to sort through about 100 billion collision events per second. (Physics Today, March 1991.)
THE RELATIVISTIC HEAVY ION COLLIDER (RHIC) is now under construction at Brookhaven National Lab, having received from Congress $13.5 million in construction money for FY91; the six-year project will cost a total of $397 million. At RHIC beams of heavy ions such as gold, with energies up to 100 GeV per nucleon, will collide head on, creating extreme states of high nuclear density, perhaps even a plasma of quarks and gluons. This matter density will match that of the universe only one microsecond after the big bang. (RHIC Bulletin, Jan. 1991.)