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The Flame Nebula is a stand out in optical images of the dusty, crowded star forming regions toward Orion's belt and the easternmost belt star Alnitak, a mere 1,400 light-years away. Alnitak is the bright star at the right edge of this infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope. About 15 light-years across, the infrared view takes you inside the nebula's glowing gas and obscuring dust clouds though. It reveals many stars of the recently formed, embedded cluster NGC 2024 concentrated near the center. The stars of NGC 2024 range in age from 200,000 years to 1.5 million years young. In fact, data indicate that the youngest stars are concentrated near the middle of the Flame Nebula cluster. That's the opposite of the simplest models of star formation for a stellar nursery that predict star formation begins in the denser center of a molecular cloud core. The result requires a more complex model for star formation inside the Flame Nebula.
Check current conditions and historical weather data at the ESC.
Transtrum received a BYU Early Career Scholarship Award.
Eric Hirschman received an Outstanding Service Award from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

Selected Publications

BYU Authors: Brittni Pratt, Nicholas Atkinson, Daniel Hodge, Mahonri Romero, Christoph Schulzke, Yance Sun, Michael Ware, and Justin Peatross, published in Phys. Rev. A

We measure polarization-resolved fundamental, second, and third harmonic nonlinear Thomson scattering out the side of a laser focus with 1018 W/cm2. The separate measured polarization components are each associated with a distinct dimension of predicted electron figure-8 motion. Taken together, the measured angular emission patterns for the two polarizations unambiguously confirm the figure-8 motion. Electrons are donated from low-density helium (10−3 to 1 Torr) ionized early during the laser pulse. Time-resolved single-photon detection is used to distinguish signal from noise.

BYU Authors: Timothy W. Leishman, Samuel D. Bellows, Claire M. Pincock, and Jennifer K. Whiting, published in J. Acoust. Soc. Am.

Although human speech radiation has been a subject of considerable interest for decades, researchers have not previously measured its directivity over a complete sphere with high spatial and spectral resolution using live phonetically balanced passages. The research reported in this paper addresses this deficiency by employing a multiple-capture transfer function technique and spherical harmonic expansions. The work involved eight subjects and 2522 unique sampling positions over a 1.22 or 1.83 m sphere with 5° polar and azimuthal-angle increments. The paper explains the methods and directs readers to archived results for further exploration, modeling, and speech simulation in acoustical environments. Comparisons of the results to those of a KEMAR head-and-torso simulator, lower-resolution single-capture measurements, other authors' work, and basic symmetry expectations all substantiate their validity. The completeness and high resolution of the measurements offer insights into spherical speech directivity patterns that will aid researchers in the speech sciences, architectural acoustics, audio, and communications.

BYU Authors: Jared Carlson, Alden R. Pack, and Mark K. Transtrum, published in Phys. Rev. B

Although often ignored in first-principles studies of material behavior, electronic free energy can have a profound effect in systems with a high-temperature threshold for kinetics and a high Fermi-level density of states (DOS). Nb3Sn and many other members of the technologically important A15 class of superconductors meet these criteria. This is no coincidence: both electronic free energy and superconducting transition temperature Tc are closely linked to the electronic density of states at the Fermi level. Antisite defects are known to have an adverse effect on Tc in these materials because they disrupt the high Fermi-level density of states. We observe that this also locally reduces electronic free energy, giving rise to large temperature-dependent terms in antisite defect formation and interaction free energies. This work explores the effect of electronic free energy on antisite defect behavior in the case of Nb3Sn. Using ab initio techniques, we perform a comprehensive study of antisite defects in Nb3Sn, and find that their effect on the Fermi-level DOS plays a key role determining their thermodynamic behavior, their interactions, and their effect on superconductivity. Based on our findings, we calculate the A15 region of the Nb-Sn phase diagram and show that the phase boundaries depend critically the electronic free energy of antisite defects. In particular, we show that extended defects such as grain boundaries alter the local phase diagram by suppressing electronic free-energy effects, explaining experimental measurements of grain boundary antisite defect segregation. Finally, we quantify the effect of antisite defects on superconductivity with the first ab initio study of Tc in Nb3Sn as a function of composition, focusing on tin-rich compositions observed in segregation regions around grain boundaries. As tin-rich compositions are not observed in bulk, their properties cannot be directly measured experimentally; our calculations therefore enable quantitative Ginzburg-Landau simulations of grain boundary superconductivity in Nb3Sn. We discuss the implications of these results for developing new growth processes to improve the properties of Nb3Sn thin films.