LSU, Penn State and the 2020 stumbles of college football’s power programs come to light in Week 14

It has been just 11 months since LSU topped Clemson 42-25 in the College Football Playoff National Championship, completing what might have been the best season by a team in the sport’s history. And it already feels ancient.

On Saturday, LSU will stumble toward its 2020 finish line with a makeup date against Alabama that perfectly encapsulates all that has gone wrong for the Tigers in the past 11 months.

This week, head coach Ed Orgeron lamented the latest opt-out of a star player, as WR Terrace Marshall ended his time with the program. Orgeron spoke glowingly of his former players, the stars of 2019, now off to spectacular starts in the NFL. He did his best to add some optimism to a lost season, promising the 3-4 Tigers would “be champions again” at some point.

But when Orgeron was asked whether his team was better equipped today to face Alabama than it would have been three weeks ago, when the game was originally scheduled to be played, his answer felt pretty telling of all that 2020 has wrought for the defending champs.

“Yes,” Orgeron said, “because now we have enough players to play the game.”

After winning the CFP championship last season, 2020 has been much harder on Ed Orgeron and 3-4 LSU. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

LSU is among the most prominent examples of 2020’s misfortunes.

But Orgeron’s misery is nothing compared to what has happened at Penn State. The Nittany Lions won their first game of the season last week, but that’s hardly enough to forget how inept they looked during an unprecedented 0-5 start. Now, Penn State travels to Rutgers this weekend with more potential embarrassment waiting around every corner.

The team Penn State beat last weekend might be in a worse position. Michigan just canceled its game with Maryland this weekend, COVID-19’s intrusion into the Wolverines’ locker room the latest problem for embattled coach Jim Harbaugh.

Look around the standings and it’s not hard to find programs that ended 2019 on a high note — Louisville, Baylor, Utah, Tennessee — that might now be wondering if playing this season was worth all the trouble. And that doesn’t even touch on Nebraska. No team has ever pushed harder or argued louder for the right to go 1-4.

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Orgeron, for one, refused to blame COVID-19 for the setbacks, but it is fair to wonder whether LSU-Alabama or Tennessee-Florida or Virginia Tech-Clemson might be a whole lot more interesting if everything off the field in 2020 had been — well, a whole lot less interesting.

“Nobody wants to go through a season like this, but I do believe we’re building character and grit that will help us later on,” Orgeron said. “You always have to represent LSU with pride, and the standard is very high. We haven’t met that. I’m not going

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Maya Water System Discoveries Show the Ancient Civilization in a New Light

During the two centuries Western archaeologists have excavated and investigated ancient Maya sites, comparatively little time has been spent understanding the structures that kept cities functioning for centuries. “Unfortunately, there’s this almost 200 year legacy of people focused on burial chambers and temples and hieroglyphics,” says Kenneth Tankersley, an archaeological geologist at the University of Cincinnati. “No one had been asking the question, ‘well, how did these people survive in this biologically stressful environment?'”

But over time, a decidedly mundane portion of ancient Maya life has entered the spotlight: water management. Research and excavations have gradually shown that ancient civilizations in what is now Mexico, Guatemala and Belize modified landscapes to ensure regional water cycles worked for farmers and fed thriving cities. In a stretch of land hit with alternating hurricanes and droughts, Maya ancestors scooped out reservoirs and dug drainage systems capable of holding and transporting water. And the more researchers learn, the more the forged landscapes shine as marvels of ancient Maya culture.

A Flawed Western Perspective

When early archaeologists first examined ancient Maya remains, they fixated on wealth and power, such as temples, graves and their extravagant contents. This was in part because the investigators themselves were rich. The work was a hobby conducted and funded by wealthy Europeans. “Early gentlemen scholars were interested in the elite because they were elite,” says Adrian Chase, an archaeologist at Arizona State University. Europeans also first arrived in Central America on a quest for wealth. That attitude — and search — bled into the first archaeological explorations. Additionally, Western ideas about agriculture influenced how researchers thought residents could put land to use. Dense jungle seemed somewhat impossible to transform into agricultural fields for those who were used to seeing flat plains.

As research continued over the years, archaeologists began to reconsider their assumptions. In the 1970s, attempts to map Tikal, a major Maya city in Guatemala, showed that it was so densely populated that the inhabitants must have relied on a kind of agriculture that farmed the same plots of land repeatedly. It seemed to be the only way to feed a relatively packed metropolis.

Further excavations showed that terraces, or giant shallow steps, carved into hillsides contain layers of modified soil. Each step carries so few rocks that residents must have intentionally removed material from the Earth, and the design of each step allowed water to flow from one to the next.

In the early 2000s, LiDAR technology made its way into ancient Maya research projects. The imaging system emits bursts of radar beams from above and builds a topographic map of the land below by tracking where each of those beams makes contact. LiDAR maps can show a landscape as if it were stripped of any plants — a particularly handy feature when working with former Maya settlements now covered in dense jungle.

With this technology, archaeologists started to see the landscape features, reservoirs and terraces with exceptional detail. They also saw buried infrastructure they didn’t necessarily know

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LAMOST-Kepler/K2 survey announces the first light result

LAMOST-Kepler/K2 survey announces the first light result
Fig.1 Kepler telescope. Credit: NASA

An international team led by Prof. Fu Jianning and Dr. Zong Weikai from Beijing Normal University released the first light result of medium-resolution spectroscopic observations undertaken by the LAMOST-Kepler/K2 Survey. The study was published in Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series on Nov. 12.

The result demonstrated that the medium-resolution spectrographs on LAMOST performed to the designed expectation.

The LAMOST-Kepler/K2 Survey was launched based on the success of the LAMOST-Kepler project, a low-resolution spectroscopic survey that consecutively performed since 2011.

Different from LAMOST-Kepler project, the LAMOST-Kepler/K2 Survey aims to collect time-series spectroscopies with medium resolution on about 55,000 stars distributed on Kepler and K2 campaigns, with higher priority given to the targets with available Kepler photometry.

Each of those input targets will be visited about 60 times during the period from September 2018 to June 2023. This project is allocated with one-sixth of the entire time within the LAMOST medium-resolution observations.

From May 2018 to June 2019, a total of 13 LAMOST-Kepler/K2 Survey footprints have been visited by LAMOST, and obtained about 370,000 high-quality spectra of 28,000 stars.

The internal uncertainties for the effective temperature, surface gravity, metallicity and radial velocity were 80 K,0.08 dex, 0.05 dex and 1km/s when the signal to noise ratio equals to 20, respectively, which suggested that the performance of LAMOST medium-resolution spectrographs meet the designed expectation.

The external comparisons with GAIA and APOGEE showed that LAMOST stellar atmospheric parameters had a good linear relationship, which indicated the quality of LAMOST medium-resolution spectra is reliable.

The LAMOST-Kepler/K2 Survey is the first project dedicated to obtaining time series of spectra by using the LAMOST medium-resolution spectrographs, pointing toward the Kepler/K2 fields. These spectra will be very important for many scientific goals, including the discovery of new binaries or even the brown dwarfs, the study of oscillation dynamics for large-amplitude pulsators and the investigation of the variability of stellar activity.

LAMOST releases its sixth data internationally

More information:
Weikai Zong et al. Phase II of the LAMOST-Kepler/K2 Survey. I. Time Series of Medium-resolution Spectroscopic Observations, The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series (2020). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4365/abbb2d
Provided by
Chinese Academy of Sciences

LAMOST-Kepler/K2 survey announces the first light result (2020, November 30)
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A leading light in the U.S. solar market

Residential solar adoption is increasing at a rapid clip, catalyzed by a number of factors, including consumer demand for renewable energy, the falling price of solar panel installation and upkeep, and availability of federal tax credits. Already a $10 billion industry, the runway for growth is long: Only 2% of U.S. residents are currently deploying solar, and demand is rising.

the roof of a building

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Upward trends during 2020 are illustrative of the industry’s resilience. According to energy research and consultancy, Wood McKenzie, in the second quarter of 2020, the U.S. solar market installed 3.5 GW of solar PV capacity — a 52% increase year over year, and the largest second quarter ever.


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“This year has been challenging for nearly every industry, but even with all the uncertainty renewable energy is gaining ground and homeowners are switching to solar,” says Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower, a leading solar technology and energy services provider. “It’s clear that consumers care about their impact on the climate, and they care about reducing the size of their electricity bills.”

SunPower expects 30-50% growth in its residential and new homes businesses in 2021.

Innovation in storage and supply

2020 has been a pressure year for traditional power infrastructure in the U.S. Heatwaves and wildfires in California triggered rolling blackouts and public safety shutoffs.

“The traditional electricity grid is in need of updating for improved resiliency,” says Werner. “So we are taking the power plant and putting it right in people’s homes.”

SunPower’s new SunVault™ storage system, combined with its SunPower Equinox® system, allows homeowners to capture energy directly from the sun and store it for use when they need it most. The storage system is contained in two sleekly designed boxes, typically installed in the garage.

SunVault is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to harnessing technology to improve the solar energy offering. SunPower’s intelligent software will soon touch everything from grid integration to electricity bill optimization, delivering a user-friendly customer experience from the day of activation. Controlling from where, when and how you use your energy will soon be as easy as online banking or scrolling a news feed.

“Our application gives homeowners control over the electricity stored,” Werner continues, “this allows you to offset costs at peak times and gives you the opportunity to store energy for use during an outage. In some cases when your solar system produces more energy than you need, you can sell your excess energy back to the grid, helping to take pressure off the grid during peak times.”

SunPower-Maxeon split

2020 has been one of SunPower’s most significant years since going public in 2005. In August, it spun off Maxeon Solar Technologies, the manufacturing and international sales arm of its business, creating two independent publicly-traded companies.

This strategic milestone means SunPower stays focused on developing its positions in the U.S. distributed generation, storage and energy services segments, while Maxeon will focuses on manufacturing high quality, high efficiency panels and sales and installation outside

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Earth is 2,000 light years closer to the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole than previously thought

A new map of the Milky Way created by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan shows Earth is spiraling faster and is 2,000 light years closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy than was previously thought. 

In 1985, the International Astronomical Union announced that Earth was 27,700 light years away from the black hole, named Sagittarius A*. But a 15-year analysis through Japanese radio astronomy project VERA found that the Earth is actually only 25,800 light years away. They also found that Earth is moving 7 km/s faster than they previously believed.

Sagittarius A* and black holes of the like are dubbed “supermassive” for a reason — they are billions of times more massive than the sun. 

But the NAOJ said there is no need to worry, as the latest data does not indicate the planet is “plunging towards the black hole.” It just means there is now a “better model of the Milky Way galaxy.” 

Position and velocity map of the Milky Way Galaxy. Arrows show position and velocity data for the 224 objects used to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines show the positions of the Galaxy’s spiral arms. The colors indicate groups of objects belonging the same arm. The background is a simulation image. 


Using the VERA Astrometry Catalog, scientists created a position and velocity map that lays out the center of the Milky Way galaxy and the objects that reside within. The first VERA Astrometry Catalog was published this year and includes data for 99 objects. 

Positioning indicates that Earth orbits the Galactic Center, where the black hole is located, at 227 km/s. Astronomers originally thought the orbit was at a speed of 220 km/s.

“Because Earth is located inside the Milky Way Galaxy, we can’t step back and see what the Galaxy looks like from the outside,” NAOJ said in a press statement. “Astrometry, accurate measurement of the positions and motions of objects, is a vital tool to understand the overall structure of the Galaxy and our place in it.”

VERA, Very Long Baseline Interferometry Exploration of Radio Astrometry, was created in 2000 and uses interferometry to aggregate data from radio telescopes located throughout Japan. Through the project, scientists can create the same resolution as a 2,300 km diameter telescope, which “is sharp enough in theory to resolve a United States penny placed on the surface of the moon,” NAOJ said. 

NAOJ scientists are hoping to gather data on even more objects, with a focus on those that are close to Sagittarius A*. 

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Earth just got 2,000 light years closer to Milky Way’s supermassive black hole


Earth is a little closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way than we believed.


At the centre of the our galaxy there’s a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*. It has a mass roughly 4 million times that of our Sun.

Great news! It turns out scientists have discovered that we’re 2,000 light years closer to Sagittarius A* than we thought.

This doesn’t mean we’re currently on a collision course with a black hole. No, it’s simply the result of a more accurate model of the Milky Way based on new data.

Over the last 15 years, a Japanese radio astronomy project, VERA, has been gathering data. Using a technique called interferometry, VERA gathered data from telescopes across Japan and combined them with data from other existing projects to create what is essentially the most accurate map of the Milky Way yet. 

By pinpointing the location and velocity of around 99 specific points in our galaxy, VERA has concluded the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A, at the centre of our galaxy, is actually 25,800 light-years from Earth — almost 2,000 light years closer than what we previously believed. 

In addition, the new model calculates Earth is moving faster than we believed. Older models clocked Earth’s speed at 220 kilometers (136 miles) per second, orbiting around the galaxy’s centre. VERA’s new model has us moving at 227 kilometres (141 miles) per second.

Not bad!

VERA is now hoping to increase the accuracy of its model by increasing the amount of points it’s gathering data from. By expanding into EAVN (East Asian VLBI Network) and gathering data from a larger suite of radio telescopes located throughout Japan, Korea and China. 

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Remote control of heat nanosources motion and thermal-induced fluid flows by using light forces

Remote control of heat nanosources motion and thermal-induced fluid flows by using light forces
a, Multiple gold NPs (spheres of 200 nm radius) are confined by a ring-shaped laser trap (wavelength of 532 nm) and optically transported around it. These NPs rapidly assemble into a stable group of hot particles creating a confined heat source (G-NP) of temperature ~500 K. Free (not trapped) gold NPs acting as tracer particles are dragged toward the G-NP by the action of the thermal-induced water flow created around it (see Video S5 of the paper). The speed of the G-NP is controlled by the optical propulsion force which is proportional to the phase gradient strength tailored along the laser trap as displayed in b, corresponding to the transport state 1. This non-uniform propulsion force drives the G-NP reaching a maximum speed of 42 μm/s. b, Sketch of the switching of the phase gradient configuration (state 1 and 2) enabling a more sophisticated manipulation of the heat source: split and merge of the G-NP. (c), The opposite averaged propulsion forces in the split region (see state 3 at ~0 deg, shown in b) separate the NPs belonging to the original G-NP thus creating G-NP1 and G-NP2, as observed in the displayed sequence (see Video S6 of the paper). These two new heat sources are propelled by the time averaged propulsion force corresponding to state 3 in opposite directions toward the region where they finally merge into a joint G-NP again. Complex transport trajectories for G-NP delivery, for example in form of knot circuit (see Video S7 of the paper), can be created enabling spatial distribution of moving heat sources across a target network Credit: José A. Rodrigo, Mercedes Angulo and Tatiana Alieva

Today, optofluidics is one of the most representative applications of photonics for biological/chemical analysis. The ability of plasmonic structures (e.g., colloidal gold and silver nanoparticles, NPs) under illumination to release heat and induce fluid convection at the micro-scale has attracted much interest over the past two decades. Their size- and shape-dependent as well as wavelength-tunable optical and thermal properties have paved the way for relevant applications such as photothermal therapy/imaging, material processing, biosensing and thermal optofluidics to name a few. In-situ formation and motion control of plasmon-enhanced heat sources could pave the way for further harnessing of their functionalities, especially in optofluidics. However, this is a challenging multidisciplinary problem combining optics, thermodynamics and hydrodynamics.

In a recent paper published in Light Science & Applications, Professor Jose A. Rodrigo and co-workers from Complutense University of Madrid, Faculty of Physics, Department of Optics, Spain, have developed a technique for jointly controlling the formation and motion of heat sources (group of gold NPs) as well as of the associated thermal-induced fluid flows created around them. The scientists summarize the operational principle of their technique, “The technique applies a structured laser-beam trap to exert an optical propulsion force over the plasmonic NPs for their motion control, while the same laser simultaneously heats up them. Since both the shape of the laser trap and the optical propulsion forces are easily and

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Platypuses Glow Under UV Light


  • Researchers found that platypus fur actually glows under UV light
  • They made the discovery when studying the glow in another mammal species
  • The trait has been observed in many other animals but only a few mammals

What could possibly make the duck-billed platypus stranger that it already is? Researchers found that their fur also glows blue when placed under ultraviolet (UV) light.

Platypuses are some of the strangest creatures on the planet. They’re one of the very few mammals that lay eggs, they have bills and webbed feet similar to ducks’, their tails look rather like beaver tails and, apparently, they also glow an eerie shade of blue-green when exposed to UV light.

The latter was recently discovered by a team of scientists who were actually studying biofluorescence, the means by which creatures absorb and re-emit wavelengths of light, in the museum specimens of another species. According to a news release from De Gruyter, the team made the discovery while looking at flying squirrel museum specimens.

They had previously observed pink biofluorescence in flying squirrels and were confirming it in the museum specimens when they decided to also check the museum’s platypus samples for the trait.

There, they discovered that platypuses also possess biofluorescence, with their brown fur exhibiting a greenish glow under the UV light. The researchers tested another sample in different museum and also observed the glow.

“Here we document the discovery of fluorescence of the pelage of the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)—to our knowledge, the first report of biofluorescence in a monotreme mammal under UV light,” the researchers wrote in the study. 

In total, the researchers observed platypus biofluorescence in three museum samples, two of which were from the Field Museum of Natural History and the other from the University of Nebraska State Museum, the news release noted. 

“It was a mix of serendipity and curiosity that led us to shine a UV light on the platypuses at the Field Museum. But we were also interested in seeing how deep in the mammalian tree the trait of biofluorescent fur went,” study lead Paula Spaeth Anich of Northland College said in the news release. “It’s thought that monotremes branched off the marsupial-placental lineage more than 150 million years ago. So, it was intriguing to see that animals that were such distant relatives also had biofluorescent fur.”

But what could platypuses possibly have use for biofluorescence? It’s possible, the researchers say, that platypuses use this trait to interact with each other in the dark and to reduce their visibility to UV sensitive-predators.

It would be particularly useful since platypuses are most active at night and during low-light environments at dawn and dusk. However, field research is needed to confirm these hypotheses, the researchers said.

Biofluorescence has been observed in many other animals such as fishes, reptiles and amphibians, but only few mammalian species are known to posses biofluorescence, including the opossum and the flying squirrel. 

“The discovery of biofluorescence in the platypus adds a new dimension to our

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First light on a next-gen astronomical survey toward a new understanding of the cosmos

First light on a next-gen astronomical survey toward a new understanding of the cosmos
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s fifth generation made its first observations earlier this month. This image shows a sampling of data from those first SDSS-V data. The central sky image is a single field of SDSS-V observations. The purple circle indicates the telescope’s field-of-view on the sky, with the full Moon shown as a size comparison. SDSS-V simultaneously observes 500 targets at a time within a circle of this size. The left panel shows the optical-light spectrum of a quasar–a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy, which is surrounded by a disk of hot, glowing gas. The purple blob is an SDSS image of the light from this disk, which in this dataset spans about 1 arcsecond on the sky, or the width of a human hair as seen from about 21 meters (63 feet) away. The right panel shows the image and spectrum of a white dwarf –the left-behind core of a low-mass star (like the Sun) after the end of its life. Credit: Hector Ibarra Medel, Jon Trump, Yue Shen, Gail Zasowski, and the SDSS-V Collaboration. Central background image: unWISE/NASA/JPL-Caltech/D.Lang (Perimeter Institute).

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s fifth generation collected its very first observations of the cosmos at 1:47 a.m. on October 24, 2020. This groundbreaking all-sky survey will bolster our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies—including our own Milky Way—and the supermassive black holes that lurk at their centers.

The newly-launched SDSS-V will continue the path-breaking tradition set by the survey’s previous generations, with a focus on the ever-changing night sky and the physical processes that drive these changes, from flickers and flares of supermassive black holes to the back-and-forth shifts of stars being orbited by distant worlds. SDSS-V will provide the spectroscopic backbone needed to achieve the full science potential of satellites like NASA’s TESS, ESA’s Gaia, and the latest all-sky X-ray mission, eROSITA.

“In a year when humanity has been challenged across the globe, I am so proud of the worldwide SDSS team for demonstrating—every day—the very best of human creativity, ingenuity, improvisation, and resilience. It has been a challenging period for the team, but I’m happy to say that the pandemic may have slowed us, but it has not stopped us,” said SDSS-V Director Juna Kollmeier.

As an international consortium, SDSS has always relied heavily on phone and digital communication. But adapting to exclusively virtual communication tactics was a challenge, as was tracking global supply chains and laboratory availability at various university partners while they shifted in and out of lockdown during the final ramp-up to the survey’s start. Particularly inspiring were the project’s expert observing staff, who worked in even-greater-than-usual isolation to shut down, and then reopen, operations at the survey’s mountain-top observatories.

Funded primarily by member institutions, along with grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation, SDSS-V will focus on three primary areas of investigation, each exploring different aspects of the cosmos using different spectroscopic tools. Together

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GRETA, a 3-D gamma-ray detector, gets green light to move forward

GRETA, a 3D gamma-ray detector, gets green light to move forward
This set of renderings shows the completed GRETA array (top and bottom left) and half of the completed array (right). The detector is designed to open up, with each half sliding on tracks. Samples can be placed at the center of the spherical array. The completed array will contain 120 high-purity germanium crystals. Credit: GRETA collaboration

The effort to construct GRETA (Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking Array), a cutting-edge spherical array of high-purity germanium crystals that will measure gamma-ray signals to reveal new details about the structure and inner workings of atomic nuclei, has received key approvals needed to proceed toward full build-out.

GRETA, which will also provide new insight about the nature of matter and how stars create elements, is expected to reach the first phase of completion in 2023, and to achieve final completion in 2025. It builds on the existing GRETINA (Gamma-Ray Energy Tracking In-beam Nuclear Array) instrument, completed in 2011, which features fewer gamma-ray-detecting crystals. Gamma rays are very energetic, penetrating forms of light that are emitted as unstable atomic nuclei decay into more stable nuclei.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has had a leadership role in both GRETINA and GRETA, and Berkeley Lab nuclear physicists and engineers are working with teams at Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories, and Michigan State University, in the development of GRETA.

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, DOE officials approved key milestones for the GRETA project, including the scope of work and its schedule, and the final construction engineering plans that will guide the project through to completion. The formal approval steps are known as Critical Decision 2 and Critical Decision 3 (CD-2 and CD-3).

“The approvals were a major achievement for the project and the team. It marks the successful completion of the final design, and demonstrates we are ready to build the array,” said Paul Fallon, GRETA project director and a senior staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Nuclear Science Division. A key next step is to fabricate the complex, meter-wide aluminum sphere that will house the detectors.

New user facility will put GRETA to work

GRETINA, and later GRETA, will be installed at Michigan State University’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), when that facility begins operations in 2022. On Sept. 29, FRIB was officially designated as the newest member of the DOE Office of Science’s user facilities. There are now 28 of these user facilities, which are accessible to scientists from across the country and around the world. Already, an estimated 1,400 scientific users are lined up to participate in nuclear physics experiments at FRIB once that facility starts up in 2022. Still under construction, FRIB is about 94% complete.

GRETINA is equipped with 12 detector modules and 48 detector crystals, and GRETA will add 18 more detector modules, for a total of 30 modules and 120 crystals. About 18-20 detector modules are expected to be installed in GRETA before the end of 2024, with the final modules installed in 2025.

When the

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