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  Kick Off for the New Age Astrophysics

The Forefront of Space Quest Fostered by Close Bond of Friendship

 We have launched our project called“Promotion of Modern Astrophysics Collaborating with Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Space Telescope Science Institute”, one of the projects of Brain Circulation Programs resourced by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Being funded by JSPS, we will be sending four young researchers out to Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics(CfA) as well as Space Telescope Science Institute (STScl), who are expected to stay there for over one year in total within two and a half year span (till the end of March 2014). The four researchers are going to challenge to unveil the origin and evolution of the universe by conducting collaborating studies with the local researchers who are actively leading figures in the areas related to those Japanese researchers’.

 It all goes back to six years ago. My long cherished dream is to clarify the beginning of the universe through observations of the oldest light of the universe, the cosmic microwave background radiation. The light coming from beyond the universe is superposed with lights emitted by countless celestial objects along the way. By the time its travel reaches the earth, the cosmic microwave background radiation, very weak to begin with, is buried with the noise of celestial objects' origin. Among all, the lights emitted from the various materials exist in the Milky Way Galaxy where we live now cover the entire sky, interfering us in capturing the weak signal containing information on the beginning of the universe. It is the light from Star Dust, also called cosmic dust, one of the lights coming from the galaxy. Since our understandings of the cosmic dust are still poor, cosmic dust is blocking our ways as a thick veil to seek the origin of the universe.

 At such time I bumped into the facts that could possibly make a progress in great deal of our understandings on the cosmic dust by using the observational data obtained by Japanese infrared astronomical observation satellite called “Akari”. I immediately joined the Akari far infrared all sky map-making team, just incorporated and headed by Dr. Doi (Tokyo University). This was 6 years ago. One of the team members was the Spanish female researcher, Dr. Etxaluze, who was a graduate student at the university in England that time. In the following summer, I had a chance to meet Dr. Finkbeiner from CfA at the international conference took place in the United States. He was the one of three scientists who made the first all sky cosmic dust distribution map using far infrared all sky data obtained by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite launched about 30 years ago by the United States. In our conversation, we both went along with renewing the dust map together when we complete the Akari far infrared map making.

 When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11 last year, Dr. Etxaluze was working at CfA as a Postdoctoral Fellow. When she found out about this catastrophic earthquake, she asked her superior Dr. Smith if they could provide any support for us. This led us to deepen the bond of our research exchange between us and CfA. And, it turns out that there are many possible seeds laying available for us. In this project, we have selected four different seeds by placing young researchers to work on and we, the senior researchers, can support them grow. These seeds can be categorized into three possibilities: the seed of what they have been individually preparing to grow, the seed of what has been waiting to grow, and the seed of what we found out to be very rich in harvest if the US-Japan teams work together. The research groups from CfA and the STScI have joined our project from the United States. The earthquake was the start of our project though, looking back now, I feel that the beginning of the exchange program between Japan and the United States is inevitable consequence to explore the new age of the cosmic quest.

 Through the tragic earthquake, I realized how much our projects were being supported by so many people. Always keeping my appreciation in myself for being able to continue my research today, I would like to provide my every effort to promote not only the Brain Circulation Program but also the everyday research and teaching activities. For the young researchers, please do not be afraid of failures and just keep yourself working with your research. I believe that someday it will bring you a huge fruits of success to open up the new era in the fields of Astrophysics.

Tohoku University Astronomical Institute     Dr. Makoto Hattori

from right to left, Dr. Howard Smith (CfA), Dr. Mireya Etxaluze (INTA), Dr. Lauranne Lanz (CfA).

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) Participation in the Tohoku Brain Circulation Program.

 This is an amazing time for research astronomy. Scientists today are probing very basic questions about our cosmic origins, including how the first stars and galaxies began. We know that after the Big Bang, matter in the early universe condensed into structures forming a giant web of filaments. Within these structures the first galaxies developed. But exactly how did the these galaxies form, and how did they evolve-through collisions, star formation, and other processes? We know that a few billion years after the Big Bang these young galaxies began makingstars at a rate perhaps ten times faster than today. Perhaps ourown Milky Way went through such a phase itself. The mechanisms at workremain mysterious. Star formation itself has many unanswered questions, including understanding how many new stars are massive - and so end their lives as supernovas - and how many are smaller stars like our Sun or even smaller. The process of forming new stars probably also produces planets around them. Finally, all of the chemical elements of the universe - except for hydrogen and some helium that were made in the Big Bang itself - were produced by nuclear fusion later on in stars. Hence star formation is a key to everything that happens in the cosmos.

 The Brain Circulation program between CfA and U. Tohoku involves researchers and students working on all these important topics. At the CfA, six senior scientists and their students are working with U. Tohoku scientists on understanding the very early days of the universe, the nature of galaxies in the young cosmos, and how stars form today and how they formed back then. The goal of these various research projects is to understand better the universe in which we live, and why it has the properties that we see.

 The Brain Circulation program has two other important components. First are projects to develop new technologies to probe these faint, distant regions with sensitive infrared and submillimeter detectors and other instruments. Science always makes major advances with the use of improved technology, and it is expected that these projects will ultimately contribute to advances in our understanding. The second component is education. We hope to train some new graduate students with these research programs, and help them become creative, independent astronomers. We also hope to explain to younger students in school, to students in other areas of study, and to the general public at large what it is that we are doing, and why it is so important.

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), the Collaborative Overseas Partners     Dr. Howard Smith

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