Amazon Expands Natural Language Processing Capabilities to Support Financial Analysis

Amazon has added new functionality to its Amazon Comprehend platform that aims to more aggressively support financial analysts that require natural language processing for events analysis. The new Amazon Comprehend Events API is specifically designed to help with extracting granular details from news articles, SEC filings, press releases, and bankruptcy filings.

To illustrate the value of the Events API Amazon highlighted a graph taken from the company’s announcement of its 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods. The graph shows information about the Whole Foods’ CEO post-merger. This is valuable information in understanding how the API structures event data. 

Additionally, the announcement of the new resource noted that:

“The Comprehend Events API, under the hood, converts unstructured text into structured data that answers who-what-when-where-how questions. Comprehend Events lets you extract the event structure from a document, distilling pages of text down to easily processed data for consumption by your AI applications or graph visualization tools.”

In addition to the blog post announcing the release of the API, interested developers can also check out the API’s documentation and examples on GitHub

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Author: <a href="">KevinSundstrom</a>


Puzzling ‘cold quasar’ forming new stars in spite of active galactic nucleus

Researchers from the University of Kansas have described a galaxy more than 5.25 billion light years away undergoing a rarely seen stage in its galactic life cycle. Their findings recently were published in the Astrophysical Journal.

The galaxy, dubbed CQ 4479, shows characteristics that normally don’t coexist: an X-ray luminous active galactic nuclei (AGN) and a cold gas supply fueling high star formation rates.

“Massive galaxies, such as our own Milky Way, host a supermassive black hole at their hearts — these are black holes that grow by accreting interstellar gas onto themselves to become more massive,” said Kevin Cooke, lead author and postdoctoral researcher in KU’s Department of Physics & Astronomy. “The end of galactic growth is thought to happen when this gas accretion onto the black hole occurs in sufficient quantities that it produces a tremendous amount of energy. Then, all of that energy surrounding the black hole will actually heat up the rest of the gas throughout the galaxy in such a way that it can’t condense any more to form stars and the galaxy’s growth stops.”

The KU researchers instead found CQ 4479, a galaxy which never had been closely studied before, to be still generating new stars in spite of the luminous AGN at the galaxy’s center.

“Normally, we expect that to shut everything else off,” Cooke said. “But instead, we see massive amounts of new stars being formed in this galaxy. So, it’s a very limited time window where you can see both the black hole growing and the stars surrounding it growing at the same time.”

The researchers observed the cold quasar primarily using NASA’s SOFIA infrared telescope, which is flown aboard a Boeing 747 aircraft. Other measurements were made using FUV-FIR photometry and optical spectroscopy. The work was supported by a NASA grant to primary investigator Allison Kirkpatrick, assistant professor of physics & astronomy at KU, who co-wrote the new paper.

Kirkpatrick said the team’s various methods of observing the galaxy showed contradictory data, making the nature of CQ 4479 even more of a puzzle.

“What’s really unique about this source is we have different measurements of the energy output near the black hole,” Kirkpatrick said. “That tells you how fast the black hole is growing and also its feedback into the host galaxy that can shut down star formation. We have everything from X-ray, to optical and the infrared, so we’re able to measure several different signatures of the black hole’s energy output. And the signatures don’t agree — that’s really rare. One interpretation is the growth of the black hole is slowing, because the X-rays come from right next to the black hole, while the optical signatures come from a little bit further out, and the infrared signatures come from further out as well. Essentially, less energy seems to be being produced right around the black hole now than it was in the past.”

The researchers seem to be looking at a snapshot of the galaxy during a pivotal stage of its lifespan.

“I think this is a galaxy undergoing a midlife crisis,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s going through one last burst of star formation. Most of its solar mass is already in place. It’s forming a few more stars now, and the thing that’s ultimately going to kill it is starting to kick in.”

In part, the research at KU was performed by Kirkpatrick’s undergraduate student and co-author Michael Estrada, now a graduate student at University of Florida.

“He did the data analysis of the optical spectroscopy and measured the black hole mass for us,” Kirkpatrick said.

Other questions about the physical structure of the galaxy remain because current instrumentation available to astronomers don’t provide clear enough images of CQ 4479.

“The image we have shows a central blob and then a little smaller blob below it,” Kirkpatrick said. “So we don’t have a good sense for how this galaxy looks because the central AGN is so bright that it out shines the rest of the host galaxy. This is a real problem that plagues all AGN studies — when you’re dealing with the most luminous things they tend to outshine your host at nearly every wavelength.”

The researchers said CQ 4479 would require more study, particularly using the ALMA Observatory and the NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope — the most powerful space telescope ever designed and currently slated for launch Oct. 31, 2021. Both Cooke and Kirkpatrick hope to perform more investigations of the strange cold quasar once the telescope is launched.

“We’re currently banking on James Webb, because it will have excellent resolution and we should be able to look at wavelengths where we can see the shape of the galaxy,” Kirkpatrick said. “Another good option would be ALMA. But ALMA has unfortunately shut down temporarily because of COVID. We’ve kind of been stymied at seeing the host galaxy.”

The importance of understanding the strange processes underway in a galaxy 5.25 billion light years from Earth might seem vague at first, but Cooke said a better understanding of the cold quasar could improve understanding of the cosmos and the fate of our own galaxy.

“This very much ties into asking ‘where do we come from?’ and ‘what processes were involved in the creation of galaxies?,’ and that’s important because we live in a galaxy,” Cooke said. “We live in one of these vast collections of billions of stars and knowing the processes of what created our home is valuable information. Trying to understand big ticket questions like these also spur important engineering developments here on Earth, such as the detector technology and all the fancy engineering that goes into the SOFIA telescope — there are plenty of ways how this type of work it benefits us here on Earth.”

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Insulators in Alberta at higher risk of chest infections, COPD

Construction workers in Alberta who work with hazardous insulation materials are much more likely to be affected by repeated chest infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to new research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The study followed 990 insulators over six years. Participants underwent regular pulmonary function tests and chest radiography throughout the study. Researchers found 46 per cent of the workers had one or more chest infections over a three-year time span and 16 per cent of insulators who were exposed to asbestos were diagnosed with COPD — a disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

“In the past, physicians have tried to advocate for compensation benefits to insulators who were declined because of a background of cigarette smoking,” said Paige Lacy, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and director of research at the Alberta Respiratory Centre. “This study shows that incidence of COPD and recurrent chest infections is independent of cigarette smoking and demonstrates that hazardous materials really are having an effect on the health of insulators.”

Nearly all insulation materials — including asbestos, carbon fibres, calcium silica, fibreglass and refractory ceramic fibres — with the exception of aerogels and mineral fibres, were associated with chest infections. COPD was only associated with asbestos, a commonly used construction material in Canada until it was banned outright in 2018.

The findings of the study are already being used by the Workers’ Compensation Board to assess insulators who are potentially exposed to hazardous materials in the course of their work, said Lacy.

“Not all of them are in safe working environments. We’re trying to advocate to make their environment safer, to reduce their exposure to these hazardous materials and to make life better for Albertans who are working in the construction sector.”

The research team believes far more can be done to address hazardous working conditions for insulators in Canada. They advocate for greater use of personal protective equipment such as respirators and hazmat suits on worksites, increased worksite monitoring, regular health checkups for workers and elimination of hazardous insulation materials in favour of safer ones.

“A large problem is that workers are not actually informed about potential health risks of some of the materials they’re using,” said Subhabrata Moitra, a post-doctoral fellow at the U of A and lead author of the study. “There really need to be stricter rules for utilizing less hazardous materials when they’re available.”

The team is now working on a followup study examining the same group of workers to determine whether their lung health remains the same or gets worse over time.

“People assume that in Canada, we don’t have the same kinds of workplace exposures to hazardous materials,” said Lacy. “We think it happens somewhere else, like India or China, because they handle very large quantities of raw material in their work, especially because of lack of safety policies. But we’re finding evidence that within Canada, we’re getting people exposed to these hazardous construction materials at very high levels, and this is a threat to their health.”

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Materials provided by University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. Original written by Ross Neitz. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Precursor, ft. Andrew “bunnie” Huang

It looks like a phone with a keyboard, but it does so much more – Precursor is an open hardware development platform for secure, mobile computation and communication.

Tune in for our interview with bunnie Huang – we’ll chat about Precursor, as well as previous projects Novena, Chumby, and more!

// Precursor AMA info:


After more than a decade, ChIP-seq may be quantitative after all

For more than a decade, scientists studying epigenetics have used a powerful method called ChIP-seq to map changes in proteins and other critical regulatory factors across the genome. While ChIP-seq provides invaluable insights into the underpinnings of health and disease, it also faces a frustrating challenge: its results are often viewed as qualitative rather than quantitative, making interpretation difficult.

But, it turns out, ChIP-seq may have been quantitative all along, according to a recent report selected as an Editors’ Pick by and featured on the cover of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“ChIP-seq is the backbone of epigenetics research. Our findings challenge the belief that additional steps are required to make it quantitative,” said Brad Dickson, Ph.D., a staff scientist at Van Andel Institute and the study’s corresponding author. “Our new approach provides a way to quantify results, thereby making ChIP-seq more precise, while leaving standard protocols untouched.”

Previous attempts to quantify ChIP-seq results have led to additional steps being added to the protocol, including the use of “spike-ins,” which are additives designed to normalize ChIP-seq results and reveal histone changes that otherwise may be obscured. These extra steps increase the complexity of experiments while also adding variables that could interfere with reproducibility. Importantly, the study also identifies a sensitivity issue in spike-in normalization that has not previously been discussed.

Using a predictive physical model, Dickson and his colleagues developed a novel approach called the sans-spike-in method for Quantitative ChIP-sequencing, or siQ-ChIP. It allows researchers to follow the standard ChIP-seq protocol, eliminating the need for spike-ins, and also outlines a set of common measurements that should be reported for all ChIP-seq experiments to ensure reproducibility as well as quantification.

By leveraging the binding reaction at the immunoprecipitation step, siQ-ChIP defines a physical scale for sequencing results that allows comparison between experiments. The quantitative scale is based on the binding isotherm of the immunoprecipitation products.

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Materials provided by Van Andel Research Institute. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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In retrospect, the burning of wood in district heating plants has resulted in climate saving

A new report from the University of Copenhagen shows that the burning of wood is significantly more climate friendly than coal and slightly more climate friendly than natural gas over the long run. For the first time, researchers quantified what the conversion of 10 Danish cogeneration plants from coal or natural gas to biomass has meant for their greenhouse gas emissions.

Heat plant

Energy production is responsible for a large part of Danish greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, more than 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions were released as a result of heat and electricity production (9.4 out of 48 million tonnes of CO2). Photo: Getty

A conversion to wood biomass (wood chips and pellets) by Danish district heating plants has benefited the climate and is the more climate-friendly option compared to coal and natural gas. These are the findings of a new report from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management.

The study is the first retrospective investigation by researchers of what a conversion to wood biomass has meant for greenhouse gas emissions at ten Danish cogeneration plants — and thereby the climate impact of replacing either coal or natural gas in favour of wood biomass.

Among other things, researchers calculated the so-called carbon payback period for each plant, i.e. how long it takes for the conversion to wood biomass to elicit a positive climate effect.

“Our results demonstrate that the transition from coal to wood biomass has had a positive effect on CO2 emissions after an average of six years. When it comes to the transition from natural gas, it has in most cases taken between 9 and 22 years, and in one case 37 years before CO2 emissions were reduced,” says Associate Professor Niclas Scott Bentsen of the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, who is one of the authors of the report.

Reduction in CO2 emissions

The researchers also looked at the total CO2 emissions from the three energy sources over a 30-year period, which is the life expectancy of a cogeneration plant.

Transitioning from coal to biomass resulted in a 15 to 71 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, while the move away from natural gas resulted in emissions reductions between -4 and 19 percent.

The fact that, in one case, emissions were -4 percent after 30 years as a result of the conversion, is partly due to the fact that, in relation to energy content, burning natural gas emits less CO2 than burning wood, and that this particular plant had notable changes in its product portfolio.

“When such large fluctuations in the figures occur, it is because the payback period and the amount of CO2 emissions saved are significantly affected by the type of fuel, where it comes from and other alternative uses of the wood,” says Associate Professor Niclas Scott Bentsen

Forestry residues are best for the climate

The 10 Danish cogeneration plants collected 32 percent of their wood biomass from Danish forests, while 41 percent was sourced from the Baltic states, seven percent from Russia and Belarus, and seven percent from the United States. The type of wood biomass used and the distance it needed to be transported factored into the carbon budget as well, according to Professor Bentsen.

“For the typical plant that was once coal-fired, but now using wood from around Denmark and only uses forestry residue that cannot be used for other products, the payback period was roughly one year. The 30-year saving was as much as 60%,” explains Niclas Scott Bentsen.

Wood has an enormous potential to displace carbon heavy construction materials such as steel and concrete and is therefore an important aspect of the green transition.

“Our study demonstrates that the extent to which wood is used for construction or other forms of production, where the long lifespan of wood can bind CO2, is even better for the climate than using it as fuel,” says Niclas Scott Bentsen.


The method used in the study includes an analysis of time series from individual plants that includes the pre- and post-conversion period from fossil energy sources to wood biomass. Among other things, the analysis included specific knowledge of the type of fuel used, where the fuel came from and what alternative uses the wood might have had.

Energy production is responsible for a large part of Danish greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, more than 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions were released as a result of heat and electricity production (9.4 out of 48 million tonnes of CO2)

Of Denmark’s total energy consumption, 16 percent of energy is generated from the burning of wood biomass. By comparison, 7 percent of energy consumption comes from wind turbines.

To reduce the carbon recovery period and atmospheric CO2 emissions, utilities should focus on using residual biomass (tree branches and crowns from logging or residuals from the wood industry that have no other use), biomass from productive forests, as well as reducing long transport distances.

The project is funded by Danish Energy and the Danish District Heating Association. The project was followed by a follow-up group consisting of representatives from the Council for Green Conversion, the Danish Society for Nature Conservation, Concito and the Danish Energy Agency. The report is peer reviewed by internationally renowned researchers.

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New green materials could power smart devices using ambient light

We are increasingly using more smart devices like smartphones, smart speakers, and wearable health and wellness sensors in our homes, offices, and public buildings. However, the batteries they use can deplete quickly and contain toxic and rare environmentally damaging chemicals, so researchers are looking for better ways to power the devices.

One way to power them is by converting indoor light from ordinary bulbs into energy, in a similar way to how solar panels harvest energy from sunlight, known as solar photovoltaics. However, due to the different properties of the light sources, the materials used for solar panels are not suitable for harvesting indoor light.

Now, researchers from Imperial College London, Soochow University in China, and the University of Cambridge have discovered that new green materials currently being developed for next-generation solar panels could be useful for indoor light harvesting. They report their findings today in Advanced Energy Materials.

Co-author Dr Robert Hoye, from the Department of Materials at Imperial, said: “By efficiently absorbing the light coming from lamps commonly found in homes and buildings, the materials we investigated can turn light into electricity with an efficiency already in the range of commercial technologies. We have also already identified several possible improvements, which would allow these materials to surpass the performance of current indoor photovoltaic technologies in the near future.”

The team investigated ‘perovskite-inspired materials’, which were created to circumvent problems with materials called perovskites, which were developed for next-generation solar cells. Although perovskites are cheaper to make than traditional silicon-based solar panels and deliver similar efficiency, perovskites contain toxic lead substances. This drove the development of perovskite-inspired materials, which are instead based on safer elements like bismuth and antimony.

Despite being more environmentally friendly, these perovskite-inspired materials are not as efficient at absorbing sunlight. However, the team found that the materials are much more effective at absorbing indoor light, with efficiencies that are promising for commercial applications. Crucially, the researchers demonstrated that the power provided by these materials under indoor illumination is already sufficient to operate electronic circuits.

Co-author Professor Vincenzo Pecunia, from Soochow University, said: “Our discovery opens up a whole new direction in the search for green, easy-to-make materials to sustainably power our smart devices.

“In addition to their eco-friendly nature, these materials could potentially be processed onto unconventional substrates such as plastics and fabric, which are incompatible with conventional technologies. Therefore, lead-free perovskite-inspired materials could soon enable battery-free devices for wearables, healthcare monitoring, smart homes, and smart cities.”

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Materials provided by Imperial College London. Original written by Hayley Dunning. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Environmentally friendly method could lower costs to recycle lithium-ion batteries

A new process for restoring spent cathodes to mint condition could make it more economical to recycle lithium-ion batteries. The process, developed by nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego, is more environmentally friendly than today’s methods; it uses greener ingredients, consumes 80 to 90% less energy, and emits about 75% less greenhouse gases.

Researchers detail their work in a paper published Nov 12 in Joule.

The process works particularly well on cathodes made from lithium iron phosphate, or LFP. Batteries made with LFP cathodes are less costly than other lithium-ion batteries because they don’t use expensive metals like cobalt or nickel. LFP batteries also have longer lifetimes and are safer. They are widely used in power tools, electric buses and energy grids. They are also the battery of choice for Tesla’s Model 3.

“Given these advantages, LFP batteries will have a competitive edge over other lithium-ion batteries in the market,” said Zheng Chen, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego.

The problem? “It’s not cost-effective to recycle them,” Chen said. “It’s the same dilemma with plastics — the materials are cheap, but the methods to recover them are not.”

The new recycling process that Chen and his team developed could lower these costs. It does the job at low temperatures (60 to 80 C) and ambient pressure, making it less power hungry than other methods. Also, the chemicals it uses — lithium salt, nitrogen, water and citric acid — are inexpensive and benign.

“The whole regeneration process works at very safe conditions, so we don’t need any special safety precautions or special equipment. That’s why we can make this so low cost for recycling batteries,” said first author Panpan Xu, a postdoctoral researcher in Chen’s lab.

The researchers first cycled commercial LFP cells until they had lost half their energy storage capacity. They took the cells apart, collected the cathode powders, and soaked them in a solution containing lithium salt and citric acid. Then they washed the solution with water, dried the powders and heated them.

The researchers made new cathodes from the powders and tested them in both coin cells and pouch cells. Their electrochemical performance, chemical makeup and structure were all fully restored to their original states.

As the battery cycles, the cathode undergoes two main structural changes that are responsible for its decline in performance. The first is the loss of lithium ions, which creates empty sites called vacancies in the cathode structure. The other occurs when iron and lithium ions switch spots in the crystal structure. When this happens, they cannot easily switch back, so lithium ions become trapped and can no longer cycle through the battery.

The process restores the cathode’s structure by replenishing lithium ions and making it easy for iron and lithium ions to switch back to their original spots. The latter is accomplished using citric acid, which acts as a reducing agent — a substance that donates an electron to another substance. Citric acid transfers electrons to the iron ions, making them less positively charged. This minimizes the electronic repulsion forces that prevent the iron ions from moving back into their original spots in the crystal structure, and also releases the lithium ions back into circulation.

While the overall energy costs of this recycling process are lower, researchers say further studies are needed on the logistics of collecting, transporting and handling large quantities of batteries.

“Figuring out how to optimize these logistics is the next challenge,” Chen said. “And that will bring this recycling process closer to industry adoption.”

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Materials provided by University of California – San Diego. Original written by Liezel Labios. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Birth of magnetar from colossal collision potentially spotted for first time

Long ago and far across the universe, an enormous burst of gamma rays unleashed more energy in a half-second than the sun will produce over its entire 10-billion-year lifetime.

After examining the incredibly bright burst with optical, X-ray, near-infrared and radio wavelengths, a Northwestern University-led astrophysics team believes it potentially spotted the birth of a magnetar.

Researchers believe the magnetar was formed by two neutron stars merging, which has never before been observed. The merger resulted in a brilliant kilonova — the brightest ever seen — whose light finally reached Earth on May 22, 2020. The light first came as a blast of gamma-rays, called a short gamma-ray burst.

“When two neutron stars merge, the most common predicted outcome is that they form a heavy neutron star that collapses into a black hole within milliseconds or less,” said Northwestern’s Wen-fai Fong, who led the study. “Our study shows that it’s possible that, for this particular short gamma-ray burst, the heavy object survived. Instead of collapsing into a black hole, it became a magnetar: A rapidly spinning neutron star that has large magnetic fields, dumping energy into its surrounding environment and creating the very bright glow that we see.”

The research has been accepted by The Astrophysical Journal and will be published online later this year.

Fong is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a member of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics). The research involved two undergraduates, three graduate students and three postdoctoral fellows from Fong’s laboratory.

‘There was a new phenomenon happening’

After the light was first detected by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, scientists quickly enlisted other telescopes — including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Array, the W.M. Keck Observatory and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope network — to study the explosion’s aftermath and its host galaxy.

Fong’s team quickly realized that something didn’t add up.

Compared to X-ray and radio observations, the near-infrared emission detected with Hubble was much too bright. In fact, it was 10 times brighter than predicted.

“As the data were coming in, we were forming a picture of the mechanism that was producing the light we were seeing,” said the study’s co-investigator, Tanmoy Laskar of the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. “As we got the Hubble observations, we had to completely change our thought process, because the information that Hubble added made us realize that we had to discard our conventional thinking and that there was a new phenomenon going on. Then we had to figure out about what that meant for the physics behind these extremely energetic explosions.”

Magnetic monster

Fong and her team have discussed several possibilities to explain the unusual brightness — known as a short gamma-ray burst — that Hubble saw. Researchers think short bursts are caused by the merger of two neutron stars, extremely dense objects about the mass of the sun compressed into the volume of a large city like Chicago. While most short gamma-ray bursts probably result in a black hole, the two neutron stars that merged in this case may have combined to form a magnetar, a supermassive neutron star with a very powerful magnetic field.

“You basically have these magnetic field lines that are anchored to the star that are whipping around at about 1,000 times a second, and this produces a magnetized wind,” Laskar explained. “These spinning field lines extract the rotational energy of the neutron star formed in the merger, and deposit that energy into the ejecta from the blast, causing the material to glow even brighter.”

“We know that magnetars exist because we see them in our galaxy,” Fong said. “We think most of them are formed in the explosive deaths of massive stars, leaving these highly magnetized neutron stars behind. However, it is possible that a small fraction form in neutron star mergers. We have never seen evidence of that before, let alone in infrared light, making this discovery special.”

Strangely bright kilonova

Kilonovae, which are typically 1,000 times brighter than a classic nova, are expected to accompany short gamma-ray bursts. Unique to the merger of two compact objects, kilonovae glow from the radioactive decay of heavy elements ejected during the merger, producing coveted elements like gold and uranium.

“We only have one confirmed and well-sampled kilonova to date,” said Jillian Rastinejad, a co-author of the paper and graduate student in Fong’s laboratory. “So it is especially exciting to find a new potential kilonova that looks so different. This discovery gave us the opportunity to explore the diversity of kilonovae and their remnant objects.”

If the unexpected brightness seen by Hubble came from a magnetar that deposited energy into the kilonova material, then, within a few years, the ejected material from the burst will produce light that shows up at radio wavelengths. Follow-up radio observations may ultimately prove that this was a magnetar, leading to an explanation of the origin of such objects.

“Now that we have one very bright candidate kilonova,” Rastinejad said, “I’m excited for the new surprises that short gamma-ray bursts and neutron star mergers have in store for us in the future.”

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation (award numbers AST-1814782 and AST-1909358) and NASA (program number 15964).

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Wolf Administration: More Than 700 Pennsylvania Businesses Received Workforce Training Assistance in FY 2019-20 – PA Department of Community & Economic Development

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced that more than $6.5 million in training assistance funding was provided to 715 Pennsylvania companies in Fiscal Year 2019-20 by WEDnetPA