Seminar on “High-Energy Cosmic Ray Acceleration in Relativistic Jets”

Artistic impression of a super-massive black hole with relativistic jets. Credit: ESA/NASA/AVO/Padovani

Guest: Dr. Athina Meli, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Gent, Belgium

When: Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017, from 11h00

Where: Institute of Space Science (Auditorium)


The Fermi acceleration mechanism at shocks is invoked to explain non-thermal cosmic-rays in Supernova Remnants, Active Galactic Nuclei Jets and Gamma ray Bursts. The importance of achieving the highest observed cosmic-ray energies by such a mechanism in extragalactic astrophysical environments is a recurring theme. Moreover, relativistic shocks, either single or multiple, have been inferred by observations to be forming within a high-speed plasma jet in extragalactic, relativistic sources. The acceleration of cosmic-rays via the Fermi acceleration mechanism in these shocks is believed to be responsible for the observed cosmic-ray power-law distributions and consequently for the radiation of gamma-rays and neutrinos. In this talk, I will focus on the relativistic cosmic-ray shock acceleration mechanism by giving an overview, will present Monte Carlo test-particle simulation studies for relativistic single and multiple shocks, and will briefly discuss the secondary production and extragalactic propagation of the accelerated high-energy cosmic-rays, giving some insights of their relevance to a multi-messenger physics approach.

Contact person: Ioana Duțan <idutan [at] spacescience [dot] ro>


NASA reveals the existence of an exoplanetary system at 40 light years away from Earth

Artistic Illustration of the TRAPPIST-1 system. Source NASA.

On February 22nd, 2017, through a press release, NASA reveals a historic discovery concerning the existence of new exoplanetary system, called TRAPPIST-1, which hosts seven planets, comparable in size and mass with Earth; three of them being located in the habitable zone, the most likely to have liquid water. The super-cool dwarf star, located at about 40 light years away from Earth, is being named after the TRAPPIST mission – Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescopes.

”One light year means about nine trillion kilometers, i.e at one milliard add three more zeroes. At the moment we cannot perceive yet to cover such a distance with human capabilities. Perhaps, it is necessary a paradigm shift, a change of perception, which will allow us, hopefully in a near future, to see how we could access these stars”, says President of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA), Dr. Marius-Ioan Piso, in an interview accorded at Radio France International (RFI).

The observations began at the end of 2015, when a team of astronomers from University of Liege, Belgium, decoded the data acquired with the Liege telescope TRAPPIST-Sud, located in Chile. Further ongoing observations have implied more telescopes on-ground (TRAPPIST-Nord in Morocco, UK Infrared Telescope – UKIRT in Hawaii, William Herschel and Liverpool telescopes in La Palma, and the South African Astronomical Observatory telescope) and the NASA’s Spitzer space telescope.

In order to detail the atmospheric composition, or the structure of the rock of those planets, we may need perhaps a decade from now on”, says scientific researcher at the Institute of Space Science (ISS), Dr. Gina Isar, in an interview accorded at Antena 1 Observator TV.

However, NASA has made the reveal that seven planets revolve around TRAPPIST-1, through long and dedicated observations of better precision with the Spitzer space telescope. The remarkable results were recently published in Nature, which conclude that: “The TRAPPIST-1 system represents a unique opportunity to thoroughly characterize temperature Earth-like planets that are orbiting a much cooler and smaller star than the Sun” [Gillon, M. et al. Nature, 2017].

The TRAPPIST telescopes are part of a wider project called SPECULOOS – Search for habitable Planets EClipsing Ultra-cOOl Stars, which aims to detect more systems of this type, with four new telescopes in Chile.

Further observations will continue with new performant telescopes, both on ground and in space.

More information on the TRAPPIST telescopes can be found here.

More information on the SPECULOOS project can be found here.


INA – An interactive software tool for the statistical analysis of time series with application to space plasma turbulence

The diagram of INA and the schematic illustration of its main functionalities.

INA (Integrated Nonlinear Analysis) is an interactive software product designed to analyze satellite data with advanced nonlinear methods adapted to space plasma turbulence research. The software is developed in the framework of the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme project STORM (Solar system plasma Turbulence: Observations, inteRmittency and Multifractals) where ISS had a significant contribution. The main developers are Dr. Costel Munteanu (scientist at the Institute of Space Science – ISS), Dr. Marius Echim (senior scientist at ISS and also at the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BISA), Brussels) and Dr. Peter Kovacs (senior scientist at the Geological and Geophysical Institute of Hungary, Budapest).

INA is publicly available from the website of the project ( as an executable file to be run under Windows or Linux operating systems. The download page is available after registration by email to

The software is written in MATLAB (version 2015a), but it can also be used independently by installing a MATLAB compiler, which can be downloaded freely from here. Through an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI), INA provides a complete statistical analysis of a time series and provides various methods: descriptive analysis, power spectral density (PSD), spectrogram analysis, analysis of probability distribution functions (PDF) of fluctuations, wavelet analysis, structure function analysis (SF), and multifractal analysis using the rank ordered multifractal analysis (ROMA).

INA is optimized for the analysis of magnetic field and plasma data provided by Venus Express, Cluster and Ulysses satellites, but has also adequate modules for reading and analyzing other data types.

For more information about INA, the software developers can be contacted directly by email: Dr. Marius Echim <marius.echim [at] oma [dot] be>, Dr. Costel Munteanu <costelm [at] spacescience [dot] ro>, Dr. Peter Kovacs <kovacs [dot] peter [at] mfgi [dot] hu>.

ISS’s researcher, IAA Newly Elected Member 2016

©ISS The award ceremony of IAA member, L. A. Popa together with IAA’s President and Vicepresident.

On the 25th September 2016, Dr. Lucia Aurelia Popa, senior researcher at the Institute of Space Science (ISS), became a full member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) at the Basic Sciences Section.

The award ceremony took place in frame of the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Dr. Lucia Popa is the Romanian representative of the Planck and Euclid ESA’s Missions and has been a Corresponding Member of IAA for three years, since 2013.


This post is also available in: Romanian

©ISS The IAA award of L. A. Popa

Celebrating 30 years of PRODEX

Source of the artistic image of Euclid: ESA

On September 5th and 6th 2016, PRODEX is organising an event for the “PRODEX 30th anniversary” at the ESA’s Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

Created in June 1986, PRODEX (PROgramme de Développement d’Expériences scientifiques) offers institutions and industry the chance to work on ESA experiments. The programme works to help countries to get returns on their investments, and to promote scientific and industrial excellence and competitiveness.

The PRODEX Programme is an open programme. ESA Member States, as well as non-Member States, can become participating states. Romania became the 16th full ESA member state in 2011, and joined the PRODEX Programme in 2012. The PRODEX Participating States are 12 in total, reprezentated by Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece, Romania, Netherlands, Poland.

In this image: Dr. Lucia Popa

In the presence of the PRODEX team and delegates from participating countries, Dr. Lucia Popa, seniour researcher at the Institute of Space Science (ISS), is invited to give a talk on the PRODEX project “Romanian Contribution to the Science Ground Segment of the Euclid Mission”. The detailed program of the event can be found here.

ISS signed a PRODEX Institute Agreement in September 2015, which enhance the project contributions in the field of space science to the PRODEX Programme.



Flag raising Ceremony for Romania at CERN


On 5th of September 2016, in the Globe of Science and Innovation at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland, takes place a great ceremony in the presence of His Excelency Mr. Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania, including national institutional representatives and romanian scientists, marking the accession of Romania as a Member State of CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics).

This is a memorable day, since Romania became the 22nd Member State of CERN on 18th July 2016.

However, bilateral contacts began back in 1991, when a scientific and technical cooperation agreement was signed between CERN and the Government of Romania, establishing the legal framework for later developments. Presently, Romania has particularly strong involvement in several LHC experiments, like ATLAS, ALICE and LHCb, with main contributions from the National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering “Horia Hulubei” and the Institute of Space Science (ISS).

ISS is part of the ALICE Collaboration since 2006, and has a long-standing experience in the study of Quark Gluon Plasma produced in heavy ion collisions at relativistic energies. The ISS-ALICE group, consisting of 6 physicists and 3 guest scientists, has various activities related to jet and flow analysis, offline production management and software service tasks, GRID maintenance and operation in frame of the ALICE Collaboration. ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) is one of the four large experiments operating at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), dedicated to study the properties and behaviour of the strongly interacting matter, at the very high temperatures and energy densities reached in ultra-relativistic collisions.

Launch of the First Orbital Telescope for the detection of ultra-high energy cosmic rays induced air showers

Image: Lomonosov Moscow State University

On Thursday, April 28, the TUS telescope aboard the Lomonosov satellite was successfully launched from the Vostochny spaceport. Lomonosov along with two other satellites, Aist-2D and SamSat-218, were carried into orbit by an unmanned Soyuz-2.1A rocket, the first rocket to fly from the new Russian spaceport.

The TUS (Tracking Ultraviolet Set-Up) orbital telescope aboard the Lomonosov satellite will detect Extensive Air Showers (EAS) produced by Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECR) and contribute to the study of the energy spectrum and arrival distribution of the cosmic rays with energies above 1020 eV.

“It is one more important step towards UHECR measurements from space!” said Pavel Klimov from the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics, Moscow State University, one of the lead scientists in the collaboration.

In 2013, a team of scientists from the Institute of Space Science lead by Dr. Maria Haiduc joined the TUS collaboration and signed a protocol with the Skobeltsyn Institute for Nuclear Physics to this effect. The involvement of the ISS team in the TUS collaboration is concerned with the development, together with a team form the Joint Institute of Nuclear Physics lead by Dr. Leonid Grigorievich Tkatchev, of a ground-based high-power LED UV light system to be used for the orbital calibration of the TUS telescope.

The TUS telescope can be regarded as a pathfinder for the future space-based UHECR detectors (e.g. KLYPVE, JEM-EUSO) and will gather preliminary data that will be extremely useful for the fine-tuning of the operational parameters of these future missions.

This post is also available in Romanian here.

More details on the event along with a movie of the launch can be found at:

Lomonosov Satellite

A new technique to gauge the distant Universe

Image credit:  ESA/XMM-Newton/G. Hasinger, N. Cappelluti, and the XMM-COSMOS collaboration
Image credit: ESA/XMM-Newton/G. Hasinger, N. Cappelluti, and the XMM-COSMOS collaboration

Scientists have developed a technique to use quasars – powerful sources driven by supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies – to study the Universe’s history and composition. To demonstrate the new method, based on a relation between a quasar’s luminosity at X-ray and ultraviolet wavelengths, they made extensive use of data from XMM-Newton X-ray observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA). This approach promises to become an important tool to constrain the properties of our Universe.

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Dark knowledge to search for dark matter — CERN workshop on artificial intelligence (AI)

Image credit: CERN
Image credit: CERN

During 9–13 November, physicists who work on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and artificial intelligence (AI) researchers attended a workshop — the first of its kind — at which they discussed how advanced AI techniques could speed discoveries at the LHC.

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A search for cosmic-ray sources with IceCube, the Pierre Auger Observatory, and the Telescope Array

Image credit: Pierre Auger Collaboration
Image credit: Pierre Auger Collaboration

In a new study by the IceCube, Pierre Auger and Telescope Array Collaborations, scientists have looked for correlations between the highest energy neutrino candidates in IceCube and the highest energy cosmic rays in these two cosmic-ray observatories.

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