The 2023 High Energy Astrophysics Division’s Early-Career Prize is awarded to Dr. Chiara Mingarelli for her leadership in the analysis of pulsar timing array data and her contributions to our understanding of the stochastic gravitational wave background.
For more information about the Prize, see https://head.aas.org/awards/earlycareer/earlycareer.prize.html
Daniel McCarron, a physics professor, received a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for his work analyzing the quantum mechanical behavior of a simple hydrocarbon molecule: CH, or methylidyne. A highly reactive gas, methylidyne is abundant in the interstellar medium, and its simple composition promises to allow researchers to study the role of quantum mechanics within organic chemistry.
In order to expose the quantum nature of these molecules, Prof. McCarron has devised a way to cool them down to a millionth of a degree above absolute zero using laser light. At such a low temperature, “quantum effects are amplified and can reveal themselves in the lab,” he says. “You don’t really get that in a beaker at room temperature – things just happen too quickly and too chaotically.”
The AFOSR is funding the purchase of a high-powered laser to assist in slowing down beams of CH radicals from about 100 meters per second to several centimeters per second. This laser-cooling and trapping technology will allow amplifying and better study of the quantum behavior of this organic molecule, with an eye toward furthering scientific knowledge about the role of quantum mechanics in chemical reactions in general—a field where successful research has been scarce.