News and Events

Will our Sun look like this one day? The Helix Nebula is one of brightest and closest examples of a planetary nebula, a gas cloud created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The outer gasses of the star expelled into space appear from our vantage point as if we are looking down a helix. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The Helix Nebula, given a technical designation of NGC 7293, lies about 700 light-years away towards the constellation of the Water Bearer (Aquarius) and spans about 2.5 light-years. The featured picture was taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) located atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii, USA. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows complex gas knots of unknown origin.
Check current conditions and historical weather data at the ESC.
Physics professor Ben Frandsen recently received an Early Career Award from the United States Department of Energy
Liz Finlayson, who is graduating from the Physics Teaching program, was recently highlighted in the APS Spring 2020 newsletter
New telescope installed in the campus dome on February 22, 2020

Selected Publications

BYU Authors: Dennis Della Corte, Ben Welker, and Brian Rennick, published in Digital Library Perspectives


The purpose of this technical paper is to evaluate the emerging standard “Allotrope Data Format (ADF)” in the context of digital preservation at a major US academic library hosted at Brigham Young University. In combination with the new information management system ZONTAL Space (ZS), archiving with the ADF is compared with currently used systems CONTENTdm and ROSETTA.


The approach is a workflow-based comparison in terms of usability, functionality and reliability of the systems. Current workflows are replaced by optimized target processes, which limit the number of involved parties and process steps. The connectors or manual solutions between the current workflow steps are replaced with automatic functions inside of ZS. Reporting functionalities inside of ZS are used to track system and file lifecycle to ensure stability and data preservation.


The authors find that the target processes leveraging ZS drastically reduce complexity compared to current workflows. Archiving with the ADF is found to decrease integration complexity and provide a more robust data migration path for the future. The possibility to enrich data automatically with metadata and to store this information alongside the content in the same information package increases reusability of the data.

Research limitations/implications

The practical implications of this work suggest the arrival of a new information management system that can potentially revolutionize the archiving landscape within libraries. Beyond the scope of the initial proof of concept, the potential for the system can be seen to replace existing data management tools and provide access to new data analytics applications, like smart recommender systems.


The value of this study is a systematic introduction of ZS and the ADF, two emerging solutions from the Pharmaceutical Industry, to the broader audience of digital preservation experts within US libraries. The authors consider the exchange of best practices and solutions between industries to be of high value to the communities.

BYU Authors: Tracianne B. Neilsen, published in IEEE J. Ocean. Eng.

A broad overview of the field work conducted during the SBCEX has been provided. SBCEX included a comprehensive subbottom chirp profile of the experimental area, about 200 sediment cores, and a number of direct in situ measurements of the acoustic properties of the seabed. Numerous acoustic propagation measurements throughout the experimental site provided data for inversion processes and statistical inference techniques to remotely sense the acoustic properties of the bottom. The scientific plan of these measurements and the supporting oceanographic and environmental measurements allowed the various principal investigators to begin to achieve the goals outlined in the introduction of this editorial, and thereby increase the community's understanding of the acoustic properties of the fi ne-grained sediment at the site.

BYU Authors: Benjamin C. N. Proudfoot and Darin Ragozzine, published in Nat. Astron.

While collisional families are common in the asteroid belt, only one is known in the Kuiper belt, linked to the dwarf planet Haumea. The characterization of Haumea’s family helps to constrain its origin and, more generally, the collisional history of the Kuiper belt. However, the size distribution of the Haumea family is difficult to constrain from the known sample, which is affected by discovery biases. Here, we use the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) Ensemble to look for Haumea family members. In this OSSOS XVI study we report the detection of three candidates with small ejection velocities relative to the family formation centre. The largest discovery, 2013 UQ15, is conclusively a Haumea family member, with a low ejection velocity and neutral surface colours. Although the OSSOS Ensemble is sensitive to Haumea family members to a limiting absolute magnitude (Hr) of 9.5 (inferred diameter of ~90 km), the smallest candidate is significantly larger, Hr = 7.9. The Haumea family members larger than ≃20 km in diameter must be characterized by a shallow H-distribution slope in order to produce only these three large detections. This shallow size distribution suggests that the family formed in a graze-and-merge scenario, not a catastrophic collision.