News and Events

Why can we see the entire face of this Moon? When the Moon is in a crescent phase, only part of it appears directly illuminated by the Sun. The answer is earthshine, also known as earthlight and the da Vinci glow. The reason is that the rest of the Earth-facing Moon is slightly illuminated by sunlight first reflected from the Earth. Since the Earth appears near full phase from the Moon -- when the Moon appears as a slight crescent from the Earth -- earthshine is then near its brightest. Featured here in combined, consecutively-taken, HDR images taken earlier this month, a rising earthshine Moon was captured passing slowly near the planet Venus, the brightest spot near the image center. Just above Venus is the star Dschubba (catalogued as Delta Scorpii), while the red star on the far left is Antares. The celestial show is visible through scenic cloud decks. In the foreground are the lights from Palazzolo Acreide, a city with ancient historical roots in Sicily, Italy.
Check current conditions and historical weather data at the ESC.
The BYU Department of Physics and Astronomy invites applications for two faculty positions to begin August 2022. The application deadline is November 1, 2021.
Dr. Turley influences the future of physics education during his time as program officer for education division of the National Science Foundation
A new and improved planetarium experience
Ways Students have Adapted to the Pandemic
Dr. Boizelle brings radio astronomy to the department
Dr. Della Corte's computational biophysics is the heart of the new Consortium of Molecular Design
Dr. Scott Sommerfeldt awarded the Silver Medal of the Acoustical Society of America for work in active noise control
Dr. Hart's sabbatical propels work on new techniques for constructing interatomic potentials
Sandberg group studying ultrafast optics to find new materials

Selected Publications

BYU Authors: R. L. Sandberg, published in Nat. Commun.

Benzene (C6H6), while stable under ambient conditions, can become chemically reactive at high pressures and temperatures, such as under shock loading conditions. Here, we report in situ x-ray diffraction and small angle x-ray scattering measurements of liquid benzene shocked to 55 GPa, capturing the morphology and crystalline structure of the shock-driven reaction products at nanosecond timescales. The shock-driven chemical reactions in benzene observed using coherent XFEL x-rays were a complex mixture of products composed of carbon and hydrocarbon allotropes. In contrast to the conventional description of diamond, methane and hydrogen formation, our present results indicate that benzene’s shock-driven reaction products consist of layered sheet-like hydrocarbon structures and nanosized carbon clusters with mixed sp2-sp3 hybridized bonding. Implications of these findings range from guiding shock synthesis of novel compounds to the fundamentals of carbon transport in planetary physics.

BYU Authors: Basu R. Aryal, Dulashani R. Ranasinghe, Chao Pang, Asami E. F. Ehlert, Tyler R. Westover, John N. Harb, Robert C. Davis, and Adam T. Woolley, published in ACS Appl. Nano Mater.

DNA origami-assembled metal–semiconductor junctions have been formed as a step toward application of these nanomaterials in nanoelectronics. Previously, techniques such as electroless plating, electrochemical deposition, or photochemical reduction have been used to connect metal and semiconductor nanomaterials into desired patterns on DNA templates. To improve over prior work and provide a more general framework for the creation of electronic nanodevices as an alternative nanofabrication step, we have developed a method to connect gold (Au) and tellurium (Te) nanorods on a single DNA origami template without electroplating by annealing after coating with a heat-resistant polymer. Bar DNA origami templates (17 nm × 410 nm) were seeded site-specifically with Au and Te nanorods in an alternating manner. These templates were then coated with a polymer and annealed at different temperatures. At 170 °C, the Au and Te nanorods were best connected, and we hypothesize that the junctions were established primarily due to the atomic mobility of gold. Electrical characterization of these Au/Te/Au assemblies revealed some nonlinear current–voltage curves, as well as linear plots that are explained. This annealing method and the metal–semiconductor nanomaterials that are formed simply through controlled seeding and annealing on DNA origami templates have potential to yield complex nanoelectronic devices in the future.