News and Events

Thumbnail of King of Wings Hoodoo under the Milky Way
This rock structure is not only surreal -- it's real. Perhaps the reason it's not more famous is that it is smaller than one might guess: the capstone rock overhangs only a few meters. Even so, the King of Wings outcrop, located in New Mexico, USA, is a fascinating example of an unusual type of rock structure called a hoodoo. Hoodoos may form when a layer of hard rock overlays a layer of eroding softer rock. Figuring out the details of incorporating this hoodoo into a night-sky photoshoot took over a year. Besides waiting for a suitably picturesque night behind a sky with few clouds, the foreground had to be artificially lit just right relative to the natural glow of the background. After much planning and waiting, the final shot, featured here, was taken in May 2016. Mimicking the horizontal bar, the background sky features the band of our Milky Way Galaxy stretching overhead.
Mount Timpanogos with sky above
Check current conditions and historical weather data at the ESC.
Image for Wesley Morgan Doubles AP Physics Enrollment
Y Magazine recognizes finalist for the 2023 National Science Foundation’s Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
Image for BYU Women in Physics Students Thrive at CUWiP
Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics provides support and opportunities for female BYU physics students
Image for New Faculty Member, Dr. Micah Shepherd
Dr. Micah Shepherd, Acoustic Physicist, joins faculty
Image for Nanoparticle Drug Delivery Using Magnetism
Dr. Karine Chesnel awarded Interdisciplinary Research Origination Grant

Selected Publications

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Abstract:

We present 0.'' 22-resolution Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observations of CO(2-1) emission from the circumnuclear gas disk in the red nugget relic galaxy PGC 11179. The disk shows regular rotation, with projected velocities near the center of 400 km s-1. We assume the CO emission originates from a dynamically cold, thin disk and fit gas-dynamical models directly to the ALMA data. In addition, we explore systematic uncertainties by testing the impacts of various model assumptions on our results. The supermassive black hole (BH) mass (M BH) is measured to be M BH = (1.91 +/- 0.04 [1 sigma statistical] -0.51+0.11 [systematic]) x 109 M circle dot, and the H-band stellar mass-to-light ratio M/L H = 1.620 +/- 0.004 [1 sigma statistical] -0.107+0.211 [systematic] M circle dot/L circle dot. This M BH is consistent with the BH mass-stellar velocity dispersion relation but over-massive compared to the BH mass-bulge luminosity relation by a factor of 3.7. PGC 11179 is part of a sample of local compact early-type galaxies that are plausible relics of z similar to 2 red nuggets, and its behavior relative to the scaling relations echoes that of three relic galaxy BHs previously measured with stellar dynamics. These over-massive BHs could suggest that BHs gain most of their mass before their host galaxies do. However, our results could also be explained by greater intrinsic scatter at the high-mass end of the scaling relations, or by systematic differences in gas- and stellar-dynamical methods. Additional M BH measurements in the sample, including independent cross-checks between molecular gas- and stellar-dynamical methods, will advance our understanding of the co-evolution of BHs and their host galaxies.

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The AGN STORM 2 campaign is a large, multiwavelength reverberation mapping project designed to trace out the structure of Mrk 817 from the inner accretion disk to the broad emission line region and out to the dusty torus. As part of this campaign, Swift performed daily monitoring of Mrk 817 for approximately 15 months, obtaining observations in X-rays and six UV/optical filters. The X-ray monitoring shows that Mrk 817 was in a significantly fainter state than in previous observations, with only a brief flare where it reached prior flux levels. The X-ray spectrum is heavily obscured. The UV/optical light curves show significant variability throughout the campaign and are well correlated with one another, but uncorrelated with the X-rays. Combining the Swift UV/optical light curves with Hubble Space Telescope UV continuum light curves, we measure interband continuum lags, tau(lambda), that increase with increasing wavelength roughly following tau(lambda) proportional to lambda 4/3, the dependence expected for a geometrically thin, optically thick, centrally illuminated disk. Modeling of the light curves reveals a period at the beginning of the campaign where the response of the continuum is suppressed compared to later in the light curve-the light curves are not simple shifted and scaled versions of each other. The interval of suppressed response corresponds to a period of high UV line and X-ray absorption, and reduced emission line variability amplitudes. We suggest that this indicates a significant contribution to the continuum from the broad-line region gas that sees an absorbed ionizing continuum.

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By Kent L. Gee (et al.)
Abstract:

To improve acoustical models of super heavy-lift launch vehicles, this Letter reports Space Launch System's (SLS's) overall sound power level (OAPWL) and compares it to NASA's past lunar rocket, the Saturn V. Measurements made 1.4–1.8 km from the launchpad indicate that SLS produced an OAPWL of 202.4 (⁠ 

0.5) dB re 1 pW and acoustic efficiency of about 0.33%. Adjustment of a static-fire sound power spectrum for launch conditions implies Saturn V was at least 2 dB louder than SLS with approximately twice the acoustic efficiency.

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Abstract:

Polar-ring galaxies (PRGs) are an outstanding example of galaxies with misaligned kinematics where a typically red central galaxy is surrounded by a large-scale ring or disc of stars, gas, and dust oriented almost perpendicular to the main body. It is believed that polar structures (PSs) are formed in a secondary event after the assembly of a central galaxy, but due to their scarcity, their formation paths are not well constrained yet. We present a study of PRGs from TNG50 cosmological simulations, focusing on the origin of their PSs. Based on the synthetic images and baryonic mass distribution, we found six galaxies with stellar polar rings. Using Supplementary Data Catalogues and available particle data, we confirm that the selected galaxies are direct analogues of real PRGs. In our sample, the PSs are a result of the close interaction between the host galaxy and its companion. We track two formation paths for the stellar polar rings in our sample: (i) star formation in the accreted gas and (ii) tidal disruption of the satellite's stellar component. Rings formed during the first scenario are, on average, bluer and younger than ones formed due to the satellite disruption. We report a steady increase of the ring's inclination around the two most massive galaxies across a few billion years with a rate of approximate to 8(degrees) Gyr(-1). The formation of a PS in some cases can increase the nuclear activity of the central galaxy and/or turn the active nucleus off completely.

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By Mylan R. Cook, Kent L. Gee, and Mark. K. Transtrum (et al.)
Abstract:

The National Transportation Noise Map (NTNM) gives time-averaged traffic noise across the continental United States (CONUS) using annual average daily traffic. However, traffic noise varies significantly with time. This paper outlines the development and utility of a traffic volume model which is part of VROOM, the Vehicular Reduced-Order Observation-based model, which, using hourly traffic volume data from thousands of traffic monitoring stations across CONUS, predicts nationwide hourly varying traffic source noise. Fourier analysis finds daily, weekly, and yearly temporal traffic volume cycles at individual traffic monitoring stations. Then, principal component analysis uses denoised Fourier spectra to find the most widespread cyclic traffic patterns. VROOM uses nine principal components to represent hourly traffic characteristics for any location, encapsulating daily, weekly, and yearly variation. The principal component coefficients are predicted across CONUS using location-specific features. Expected traffic volume model sound level errors—obtained by comparing predicted traffic counts to measured traffic counts—and expected NTNM-like errors, are presented. VROOM errors are typically within a couple of decibels, whereas NTNM-like errors are often inaccurate, even exceeding 10 decibels. This work details the first steps towards creation of a temporally and spectrally variable national transportation noise map.

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By Micah R. Shepherd (et al.)
Abstract:

The acoustic black hole (ABH) effect has been shown to increase damping of structures by focusing energy into a tapered-thickness region with added damping material. This paper illustrates that enhanced damping can be achieved without the use of damping material. Three panels were designed with different ABH grid patterns and parameters and compared to a baseline panel. Increased damping is shown to exist for two of the three ABH panels even though no damping material was applied. The panel modes which exhibited increased damping were local to the ABH grid while global modes did not exhibit increased damping.