Physics professor, collaborators awarded for paper on astronomical breakthrough

Scott Hyman, professor of physics at Sweet Briar College, is one of seven authors of a scientific paper to receive a Naval Research Laboratory Alan Berman Publication Award.

Hyman and his fellow researchers accepted the honor at an awards ceremony and dinner on March 18 at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington.

Michael Nord, a University of New Mexico graduate student and NRL scientist who has nearly completed his dissertation research at the Lab, is the first author of the paper, “High-Resolution, Wide-Field Imaging of the Galactic Center Region at 330 MHz.” Hyman is listed fourth after two NRL astronomers, Joseph Lazio, and Namir Kassim.

Theodore LaRosa of Kennesaw State University in Georgia, Crystal Brogan of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, and Nebojsa Duric of the University of New Mexico are co-authors of the paper, which appeared in the Astronomical Journal.

Hyman and Kassim are longtime colleagues. They were undergraduates together at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned their doctorates at the University of Maryland. Hyman, Kassim, and Lazio collaborate regularly on radio astronomy research designed to study the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. The team analyzes data collected from radio telescopes around the world including the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico.

For the award-winning paper, Nord and his team analyzed a new panoramic VLA view of the Galactic center region made possible by collecting radio waves at 330 MHz. The low-frequency image yielded significantly greater resolution and sensitivity than in previous studies and led to the detection of new characteristics in known objects and the discovery of new ones.

“Many newly detected sources of radio emission, from small-diameter sources to large filamentary structures, are described in the paper. [The] sources include star formation regions, supernova remnants, pulsars, and background galaxies,” Hyman said.

With four Sweet Briar students — Suzanne Bollinger ’00, Jennifer Neureuther ’03, Ashlee Bartleson ’04, and Mariana Lazarova ’05 — Hyman contributed to the measurements and analysis of 241 small-diameter sources. That figure is more than triple the number detected previously.

The paper’s findings affirm the “power of low-frequency, wide-field imaging techniques to discover new sources of radio emissions,” said Hyman, whose own analysis of VLA data recently was published in the journal, Nature. Hyman, his Sweet Briar students, and NRL colleagues observed transient radio-energy “bursts” that indicate a new class of astronomical objects.

NRL scientists and their collaborators produce about 1,200 papers annually. The awards were established in 1968 by Alan Berman, then the Lab’s director of research, to recognize the authors of the best NRL publications of the preceding year. Division branches may nominate two papers for consideration by a review committee that makes the final selections.

Altogether, 35 winners were chosen from 260 papers nominated in 2004.

The Naval Research Laboratory is the corporate research laboratory for the Navy and Marine Corps. It conducts a broad program of scientific research, technology, and advanced development.