R. D. Blandford

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States

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Publications (485)2514.65 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: One of the most intriguing results from the gamma-ray instruments in orbit has been the detection of powerful flares from the Crab Nebula. These flares challenge our understanding of pulsar wind nebulae and models for particle acceleration. We report on the portion of a multiwavelength campaign using Keck, HST, and Chandra concentrating on a small emitting region, the Crab's inner knot, located a fraction of an arcsecond from the pulsar. We find that the knot's radial size, tangential size, peak flux, and the ratio of the flux to that of the pulsar are correlated with the projected distance of the knot from the pulsar. A new approach, using singular value decomposition for analyzing time series of images, was introduced yielding results consistent with the more traditional methods while some uncertainties were substantially reduced. We exploit the characterization of the knot to discuss constraints on standard shock-model parameters that may be inferred from our observations assuming the inner knot lies near to the shocked surface. These include inferences as to wind magnetization, shock shape parameters such as incident angle and poloidal radius of curvature, as well as the IR/optical emitting particle enthalpy fraction. We find that while the standard shock model gives good agreement with observation in many respects, there remain two puzzles: (a) The observed angular size of the knot relative to the pulsar--knot separation is much smaller than expected; (b) The variable, yet high degree of polarization reported is difficult to reconcile with a highly relativistic downstream flow.
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    William E. East, Jonathan Zrake, Yajie Yuan, Roger D. Blandford
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    ABSTRACT: We study a prototypical class of magnetostatic equilibria where the magnetic field satisfies $\nabla \times\mathbf B = \alpha \mathbf B$, where $\alpha$ is spatially uniform, on a periodic domain. Using numerical solutions of the force-free electrodynamic and relativistic ideal magnetohydrodynamic evolution equations, we show that generic examples of such equilibria are unstable to ideal modes which are marked by exponential growth in the linear phase. We characterize the unstable mode, showing how it can be understood in terms of merging magnetic and current structures and explicitly demonstrate its instability using the energy principle. Following the nonlinear evolution of these solutions, we find that they exhibit dissipation of magnetic energy and eventually settle into a configuration with the largest allowable wavelength. Such examples of magnetic energy being liberated on dynamical time-scales may have implications for astrophysical sources.
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    ABSTRACT: The dwarf spheroidal satellite galaxies (dSphs) of the Milky Way are some of the most dark matter (DM) dominated objects known. We report on gamma-ray observations of Milky Way dSphs based on 6 years of Fermi Large Area Telescope data processed with the new Pass 8 event-level analysis. None of the dSphs are significantly detected in gamma rays, and we present upper limits on the DM annihilation cross section from a combined analysis of 15 dSphs. These constraints are among the strongest and most robust to date and lie below the canonical thermal relic cross section for DM of mass <∼ 100 GeV annihilating via quark and τ -lepton channels.
    Physical Review Letters 03/2015; · 7.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the results of a multi-band observing campaign on the famous blazer 3C 279 conducted during a phase of increased activity from 2013 December to 2014 April, including first observations of it with NuSTAR. The $\gamma$-ray emission of the source measured by Fermi-LAT showed multiple distinct flares reaching the highest flux level measured in this object since the beginning of the Fermi mission, with $F(E > 100\,{\rm MeV})$ of $10^{-5}$ photons cm$^{-2}$ s$^{-1}$, and with a flux doubling time scale as short as 2 hours. The $\gamma$-ray spectrum during one of the flares was very hard, with an index of $\Gamma_\gamma = 1.7 \pm 0.1$, which is rarely seen in flat spectrum radio quasars. The lack of concurrent optical variability implies a very high Compton dominance parameter $L_\gamma/L_{\rm syn} > 300$. Two 1-day NuSTAR observations with accompanying Swift pointings were separated by 2 weeks, probing different levels of source activity. While the 0.5$-$70 keV X-ray spectrum obtained during the first pointing, and fitted jointly with Swift-XRT is well-described by a simple power law, the second joint observation showed an unusual spectral structure: the spectrum softens by $\Delta\Gamma_{\rm X} \simeq 0.4$ at $\sim$4 keV. Modeling the broad-band SED during this flare with the standard synchrotron plus inverse Compton model requires: (1) the location of the $\gamma$-ray emitting region is comparable with the broad line region radius, (2) a very hard electron energy distribution index $p \simeq 1$, (3) total jet power significantly exceeding the accretion disk luminosity $L_{\rm j}/L_{\rm d} \gtrsim 10$, and (4) extremely low jet magnetization with $L_{\rm B}/L_{\rm j} \lesssim 10^{-4}$. We also find that single-zone models that match the observed $\gamma$-ray and optical spectra cannot satisfactorily explain the production of X-ray emission.
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    ABSTRACT: The third catalog of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) detected by the Fermi-LAT (3LAC) is presented. It is based on the third Fermi-LAT catalog (3FGL) of sources detected with a test statistic (TS) greater than 25, using the first 4 years of data. The 3LAC includes 1591 AGNs located at high Galactic latitudes (|b| > 10◦), which is a 71% increase over the second catalog that was based on 2 years of data. There are 28 duplicate associations (two counterparts to the same gamma-ray source), thus 1563 of the 2192 high-latitude gamma-ray sources of the 3FGL catalog are AGNs. A very large majority of these AGNs (98%) are blazars. About half of the newly detected blazars are of unknown type, i.e., they lack spectroscopic information of sufficient quality to determine the strength of their emission lines. Based on their spectral properties, these sources are evenly split between FSRQs and BL Lacs. The general properties of the 3LAC sample confirm previous findings from earlier catalogs, but some new subclasses (e.g., intermediate- and high-synchrotron-peaked FSRQs) have now been significantly detected.
    The Astrophysical Journal 01/2015; · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the third Fermi Large Area Telescope source catalog (3FGL) of sources in the 100 MeV–300 GeV range. Based on the first four years of science data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope mission, it is the deepest yet in this energy range. Relative to the 2FGL catalog, the 3FGL catalog incorporates twice as much data as well as a number of analysis improvements, including improved calibrations at the event reconstruction level, an updated model for Galactic diffuse γ-ray emission, a refined procedure for source detection, and im- proved methods for associating LAT sources with potential counterparts at other wavelengths. The 3FGL catalog includes 3033 sources above 4σ significance, with source location regions, spectral properties, and monthly light curves for each. Of these, 78 are flagged as potentially being due to imperfections in the model for Galactic diffuse emission. Twenty-five sources are modeled explicitly as spatially extended, and overall 232 sources are considered as identified based on angular extent or correlated variability (periodic or otherwise) observed at other wavelengths. For 1009 sources we have not found plausible counterparts at other wavelengths. More than 1100 of the identified or associated sources are ac- tive galaxies of the blazar class; several other classes of non-blazar active galaxies are also represented in the 3FGL. Pulsars represent the largest Galactic source class. From source counts of Galactic sources we estimate the contribution of unresolved sources to the Galactic diffuse emission is ∼3% at 1 GeV.
    The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 01/2015; · 14.14 Impact Factor
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    Yashar D. Hezaveh, Philip J. Marshall, Roger D. Blandford
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    ABSTRACT: We examine the prospects of detecting demagnified images of gravitational lenses in observations of strongly lensed mm-wave molecular emission lines with ALMA. We model the lensing galaxies as a superposition of a dark matter component, a stellar component, and a central supermassive black hole and assess the detectability of the central images for a range of relevant parameters (e.g., stellar core, black hole mass, and source size). We find that over a large range of plausible parameters, future deep observations of lensed molecular lines with ALMA should enable detection of the central images at $\gtrsim 3\sigma$ significance. We use a Fisher analysis to examine the constraints that could be placed on these parameters in various scenarios and find that for large stellar cores, both the core size and the mass of the central SMBHs can be accurately measured. We also study the prospects for detecting binary SMBHs with such observations and find that only under rare conditions and with very long integrations ($\sim$40-hr) the masses of both SMBHs may be measured using the distortions of central images.
    01/2015; 799(2). DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/799/2/L22
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    ABSTRACT: The joint JAXA/NASA ASTRO-H mission is the sixth in a series of highly successful X-ray missions developed by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), with a planned launch in 2015. The ASTRO-H mission is equipped with a suite of sensitive instruments with the highest energy resolution ever achieved at E > 3 keV and a wide energy range spanning four decades in energy from soft X-rays to gamma-rays. The simultaneous broad band pass, coupled with the high spectral resolution of Delta E < 7 eV of the micro-calorimeter, will enable a wide variety of important science themes to be pursued. ASTRO-H is expected to provide breakthrough results in scientific areas as diverse as the large-scale structure of the Universe and its evolution, the behavior of matter in the gravitational strong field regime, the physical conditions in sites of cosmic-ray acceleration, and the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters at different redshifts.
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    ABSTRACT: Measuring cosmological parameters with a realistic account of systematic uncertainties is currently one of the principal challenges of physical cosmology. Building on our recent successes with two gravitationally lensed systems, we have started a program to achieve accurate cosmographic measurements from five gravitationally lensed quasars. We aim at measuring H_0 with an accuracy better than 4%, comparable to but independent from measurements by current BAO, SN or Cepheid programs. The largest current contributor to the error budget in our sample is uncertainty about the line-of-sight mass distribution and environment of the lens systems. In this proposal, we request wide-field u-band imaging of the only lens in our sample without already available Spitzer/IRCA observations, B1608+656. The proposed observations are critical for reducing these uncertainties by providing accurate redshifts and in particular stellar masses for galaxies in the light cones of the target lens system. This will establish lensing as a powerful and independent tool for determining cosmography, in preparation for the hundreds of time-delay lenses that will be discovered by future surveys.
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    ABSTRACT: The Large Area Telescope (LAT) on board the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope routinely detects the highly dust-absorbed, reddened, and MeV-peaked flat spectrum radio quasar PKS 1830-211 (z=2.507). Its apparent isotropic gamma-ray luminosity (E>100 MeV) averaged over $\sim$ 3 years of observations and peaking on 2010 October 14/15 at 2.9 X 10^{50} erg s^{-1}, makes it among the brightest high-redshift Fermi blazars. No published model with a single lens can account for all of the observed characteristics of this complex system. Based on radio observations, one expects time delayed variability to follow about 25 days after a primary flare, with flux about a factor 1.5 less. Two large gamma-ray flares of PKS 1830-211 have been detected by the LAT in the considered period and no substantial evidence for such a delayed activity was found. This allows us to place a lower limit of about 6 on the gamma rays flux ratio between the two lensed images. Swift XRT observations from a dedicated Target of Opportunity program indicate a hard spectrum and with no significant correlation of X-ray flux with the gamma-ray variability. The spectral energy distribution can be modeled with inverse Compton scattering of thermal photons from the dusty torus. The implications of the LAT data in terms of variability, the lack of evident delayed flare events, and different radio and gamma-ray flux ratios are discussed. Microlensing effects, absorption, size and location of the emitting regions, the complex mass distribution of the system, an energy-dependent inner structure of the source, and flux suppression by the lens galaxy for one image path may be considered as hypotheses for understanding our results.
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    ABSTRACT: The γ-ray sky can be decomposed into individually detected sources, diffuse emis- sion attributed to the interactions of Galactic cosmic rays with gas and radiation fields, and a residual all-sky emission component commonly called the isotropic diffuse γ-ray background (IGRB). The IGRB comprises all extragalactic emissions too faint or too diffuse to be resolved in a given survey, as well as any residual Galactic foregrounds that are approximately isotropic. The first IGRB measurement with the Large Area Tele- scope (LAT) on board the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (Fermi) used 10 months of sky-survey data and considered an energy range between 200 MeV and 100 GeV. Im- provements in event selection and characterization of cosmic-ray backgrounds, better understanding of the diffuse Galactic emission, and a longer data accumulation of 50 months, allow for a refinement and extension of the IGRB measurement with the LAT, now covering the energy range from 100 MeV to 820 GeV. The IGRB spectrum shows a significant high-energy cutoff feature, and can be well described over nearly four decades in energy by a power law with exponential cutoff having a spectral index of 2.32 ± 0.02 and a break energy of (279±52) GeV using our baseline diffuse Galactic emission model. The total intensity attributed to the IGRB is (7.2 ± 0.6) × 10−6 cm−2 s−1 sr−1 above 100 MeV, with an additional +15%/−30% systematic uncertainty due to the Galactic diffuse foregrounds.
    The Astrophysical Journal 10/2014; 799(43). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/799/1/86 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present new Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio images of the Crab Nebula at 5.5 GHz, taken at two epochs separated by 6 days about two months after a gamma-ray flare in 2012 July. We find no significant change in the Crab's radio emission localized to a region of <2 light-months in radius, either over the 6-day interval between our present observations or between the present observations and ones from 2001. Any radio counterpart to the flare has a radio luminosity of <~ $2 \times 10^{-4}$ times that of the nebula. Comparing our images to one from 2001, we do however find changes in radio brightness, up to 10% in amplitude, which occur on decade timescales throughout the nebula. The morphology of the changes is complex suggesting both filamentary and knotty structures. The variability is stronger, and the timescales likely somewhat shorter, nearer the centre of the nebula. We further find that even with the excellent uv~coverage and signal-to-noise of the VLA, deconvolution errors are much larger than the noise, being up to 1.2% of peak brightness of the nebula in this particular case.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 09/2014; 446(1). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu2025 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    Roger Blandford, Paul Simeon, Yajie Yuan
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    ABSTRACT: Physicists have pondered the origin of cosmic rays for over a hundred years. However the last few years have seen an upsurge in the observation, progress in the theory and a genuine increase in the importance attached to the topic due to its intimate connection to the indirect detection of evidence for dark matter. The intent of this talk is to set the stage for the meeting by reviewing some of the basic features of the entire cosmic ray spectrum from GeV to ZeV energy and some of the models that have been developed. The connection will also be made to recent developments in understanding general astrophysical particle acceleration in pulsar wind nebulae, relativistic jets and gamma ray bursts. The prospects for future discoveries, which may elucidate the origin of cosmic rays, are bright.
    Nuclear Physics B - Proceedings Supplements 09/2014; 256-257. DOI:10.1016/j.nuclphysbps.2014.10.002 · 0.88 Impact Factor
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    R Bühler, R Blandford
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    ABSTRACT: The Crab nebula and its pulsar (referred to together as 'the Crab') have historically played a central role in astrophysics. True to this legacy, several unique discoveries have been made recently. The Crab was found to emit gamma-ray pulsations up to energies of 400 GeV, beyond what was previously expected from pulsars. Strong gamma-ray flares, of durations of a few days, were discovered from within the nebula, while the source was previously expected to be stable in flux on these time scales. Here we review these intriguing and suggestive developments. In this context we give an overview of the observational properties of the Crab and our current understanding of pulsars and their nebulae.
    Reports on Progress in Physics 06/2014; 77(6):066901. DOI:10.1088/0034-4885/77/6/066901 · 15.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent accurate measurements of cosmic-ray (CR) species by ATIC-2, CREAM, and PAMELA reveal an unexpected hardening in the proton and He spectra above a few hundred GeV, a gradual softening of the spectra just below a few hundred GeV, and a harder spectrum of He compared to that of protons. These newly discovered features may offer a clue to the origin of high-energy CRs. We use the Fermi Large Area Telescope observations of the γ-ray emission from Earth's limb for an indirect measurement of the local spectrum of CR protons in the energy range ∼90 GeV-6 TeV (derived from a photon energy range 15 GeV-1 TeV). Our analysis shows that single power law and broken power law spectra fit the data equally well and yield a proton spectrum with index 2.68±0.04 and 2.61±0.08 above ∼200 GeV, respectively.
    Physical Review Letters 04/2014; 112(15):151103. DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.151103 · 7.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent accurate measurements of cosmic-ray (CR) species by ATIC-2, CREAM, and PAMELA reveal an unexpected hardening in the proton and He spectra above a few hundred GeV, a gradual softening of the spectra just below a few hundred GeV, and a harder spectrum of He compared to that of protons. These newly-discovered features may offer a clue to the origin of high-energy CRs. We use the ${\it Fermi}$ Large Area Telescope observations of the $\gamma$-ray emission from the Earth's limb for an indirect measurement of the local spectrum of CR protons in the energy range $\sim 90~$GeV-$6~$TeV (derived from a photon energy range $15~$GeV-$1~$TeV). Our analysis shows that single power law and broken power law spectra fit the data equally well and yield a proton spectrum with index $2.68 \pm 0.04$ and $2.61 \pm 0.08$ above $\sim 200~$GeV, respectively.
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    ABSTRACT: Observations of occultations of bright γ-ray sources by the Sun may reveal predicted pair halos around blazars and/or new physics, such as, e.g., hypothetical light dark matter particles—axions. We use Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope (Fermi) data to analyze four occultations of blazar 3C 279 by the Sun on October 8 each year from 2008 to 2011. A combined analysis of the observations of these occultations allows a point-like source at the position of 3C 279 to be detected with significance of ≈3σ, but does not reveal any significant excess over the flux expected from the quiescent Sun. The likelihood ratio test rules out complete transparency of the Sun to the blazar γ-ray emission at a 3σ confidence level.
    The Astrophysical Journal 03/2014; 784(2):7. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/784/2/118 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Using data from the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT), we report the first clear γ-ray measurement of a delay between flares from the gravitationally lensed images of a blazar. The delay was detected in B0218+357, a known double-image lensed system, during a period of enhanced γ-ray activity with peak fluxes consistently observed to reach >20-50 × its previous average flux. An auto-correlation function analysis identified a delay in the γ-ray data of 11.46 ± 0.16 days (1σ) that is ~1 day greater than previous radio measurements. Considering that it is beyond the capabilities of the LAT to spatially resolve the two images, we nevertheless decomposed individual sequences of superposing γ-ray flares/delayed emissions. In three such ~8-10 day-long sequences within a ~4 month span, considering confusion due to overlapping flaring emission and flux measurement uncertainties, we found flux ratios consistent with ~1, thus systematically smaller than those from radio observations. During the first, best-defined flare, the delayed emission was detailed with a Fermi pointing, and we observed flux doubling timescales of ~3-6 hr implying as well extremely compact γ-ray emitting regions.
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters 01/2014; 782(2). DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/782/2/L14 · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Using data from the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT), we report the first clear gamma-ray measurement of a delay between flares from the gravitationally lensed images of a blazar. The delay was detected in B0218+357, a known double-image lensed system, during a period of enhanced gamma-ray activity with peak fluxes consistently observed to reach >20-50 times its previous average flux. An auto-correlation function analysis identified a delay in the gamma-ray data of 11.46 +/- 0.16 days (1 sigma) that is ~1 day greater than previous radio measurements. Considering that it is beyond the capabilities of the LAT to spatially resolve the two images, we nevertheless decomposed individual sequences of superposing gamma-ray flares/delayed emissions. In three such ~8-10 day-long sequences within a ~4-month span, considering confusion due to overlapping flaring emission and flux measurement uncertainties, we found flux ratios consistent with ~1, thus systematically smaller than those from radio observations. During the first, best-defined flare, the delayed emission was detailed with a Fermi pointing, and we observed flux doubling timescales of ~3-6 hrs implying as well extremely compact gamma-ray emitting regions.
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    ABSTRACT: Mkn 421 is a nearby active galactic nucleus dominated at all wavelengths by a very broad non-thermal continuum thought to arise from a relativistic jet seen at a small angle to the line of sight. Its spectral energy distribution peaks in the X-ray and TeV gamma-ray bands, where the energy output is dominated by cooling of high-energy electrons in the jet. In order to study the electron distribution and its evolution, we carried out a dedicated multi-wavelength campaign, including extensive observations by the recently launched highly sensitive hard X-ray telescope NuSTAR, between December 2012 and May 2013. Here we present some initial results based on NuSTAR data from January through March 2013, as well as calibration observations conducted in 2012. Although the observations cover some of the faintest hard X-ray flux states ever observed for Mkn 421, the sensitivity is high enough to resolve intra-day spectral variability. We find that in this low state the dominant flux variations are smooth on timescales of hours, with typical intra-hour variations of less than 5%. We do not find evidence for either a cutoff in the hard X-ray spectrum, or a rise towards a high-energy component, but rather that at low flux the spectrum assumes a power law shape with a photon index of approximately 3. The spectrum is found to harden with increasing brightness.
    The European Physical Journal Conferences 09/2013; 61. DOI:10.1051/epjconf/20136104013

Publication Stats

20k Citations
2,514.65 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2004–2015
    • Stanford University
      • • Department of Physics
      • • Kavli Institute for Particle Physics and Cosmology (KIPAC)
      Palo Alto, California, United States
    • Clemson University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      CEU, South Carolina, United States
  • 2012–2013
    • Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron
      Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
    • Hiroshima University
      • Division of Physical Sciences
      Hirosima, Hiroshima, Japan
  • 2009–2013
    • University of Padova
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy "Galileo Galilei"
      Padua, Veneto, Italy
    • KTH Royal Institute of Technology
      • Department of Physics
      Tukholma, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 1977–2013
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • • Space Sciences Laboratory
      • • Department of Astronomy
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 1974–2013
    • University of Cambridge
      • Institute of Astronomy
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 2010–2012
    • INFN - Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
      Frascati, Latium, Italy
    • University of California, Santa Cruz
      • Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Santa Cruz, California, United States
    • Università degli Studi di Trieste
      • Department of Physics
      Trst, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy
    • University of Alabama in Huntsville
      • Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR)
      Huntsville, Alabama, United States
  • 2011
    • National Academy of Sciences
      Washington, Washington, D.C., United States
  • 1991–2010
    • The Ohio State University
      • Department of Physics
      Columbus, Ohio, United States
  • 1979–2009
    • California Institute of Technology
      • • Department of Astronomy
      • • Jet Propulsion Laboratory
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2003–2007
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Los Angeles, California, United States
  • 2001
    • University of Chicago
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 1999
    • National Radio Astronomy Observatory
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  • 1987–1991
    • Pasadena City College
      Pasadena, Texas, United States
    • Columbia University
      • Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 1985
    • Raman Research Institute
      Bengalūru, Karnātaka, India