R. D. Blandford

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States

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Publications (503)2639.1 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We report for the first time a gamma-ray and multi-wavelength nearly-periodic oscillation in an active galactic nucleus. Using the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) we have discovered an apparent quasi-periodicity in the gamma-ray flux (E >100 MeV) from the GeV/TeV BL Lac object PG 1553+113. The marginal significance of the 2.18 +/-0.08 year-period gamma-ray cycle is strengthened by correlated oscillations observed in radio and optical fluxes, through data collected in the OVRO, Tuorla, KAIT, and CSS monitoring programs and Swift UVOT. The optical cycle appearing in ~10 years of data has a similar period, while the 15 GHz oscillation is less regular than seen in the other bands. Further long-term multi-wavelength monitoring of this blazar may discriminate among the possible explanations for this quasi-periodicity.
    09/2015; 813(2). DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/813/2/L41
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    ABSTRACT: Supernovae (SNe) exploding in a dense circumstellar medium (CSM) are hypothesized to accelerate cosmic rays in collisionless shocks and emit GeV γ-rays and TeV neutrinos on a timescale of several months. We perform the first systematic search for γ-ray emission in Fermi Large Area Telescope data in the energy range from to from the ensemble of 147 SNe Type IIn exploding in a dense CSM. We search for a γ-ray excess at each SNe location in a one-year time window. In order to enhance a possible weak signal, we simultaneously study the closest and optically brightest sources of our sample in a joint-likelihood analysis in three different time windows (1 year, 6 months, and 3 months). For the most promising source of the sample, SN 2010jl (PTF 10aaxf), we repeat the analysis with an extended time window lasting 4.5 years. We do not find a significant excess in γ-rays for any individual source nor for the combined sources and provide model-independent flux upper limits for both cases. In addition, we derive limits on the γ-ray luminosity and the ratio of γ-ray-to-optical luminosity ratio as a function of the index of the proton injection spectrum assuming a generic γ-ray production model. Furthermore, we present detailed flux predictions based on multi-wavelength observations and the corresponding flux upper limit at a 95% confidence level (CL) for the source SN 2010jl (PTF 10aaxf). © 2015. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
    The Astrophysical Journal 07/2015; 807(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/807/2/169 · 5.99 Impact Factor
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    Yajie Yuan · Roger D. Blandford ·
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    ABSTRACT: Recent observations of the Crab Nebula (Rudy et al 2015) have maintained its reputation for high energy astrophysical enlightenment and its use as a testbed for theories of the behaviour of magnetized, relativistic plasma. In particular, new observations of the inner knot located 0.65'' SE from the pulsar confirm that it is compact, elongated transversely to the symmetry axis and curved concave towards the pulsar. 60 percent polarization has been measured along the symmetry axis (Moran et al 2013). The knot does not appear to be involved in the gamma ray flares. The new observations both reinforce the interpretation of the knot as dissipation of the pulsar wind at a strong shock and challenge the details of existing models of this process. In particular, it is argued that the compactness, high polarization and curvature are difficult to reconcile with simple relativistic shock models. Alternative possibilities include deflection of the outflow ahead of the shock and spatial variation in which the knot is interpreted as a caustic. Some future observations are proposed and new theoretical investigations are suggested.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 06/2015; 454(3). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv2093 · 5.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dark matter in the Milky Way may annihilate directly into γ rays, producing a monoenergetic spectral line. Therefore, detecting such a signature would be strong evidence for dark matter annihilation or decay. We search for spectral lines in the Fermi Large Area Telescope observations of the Milky Way halo in the energy range 200 MeV-500 GeV using analysis methods from our most recent line searches. The main improvements relative to previous works are our use of 5.8 years of data reprocessed with the Pass 8 event-level analysis and the additional data resulting from the modified observing strategy designed to increase exposure of the Galactic center region. We search in five sky regions selected to optimize sensitivity to different theoretically motivated dark matter scenarios and find no significant detections. In addition to presenting the results from our search for lines, we also investigate the previously reported tentative detection of a line at 133 GeV using the new Pass 8 data.
    Physical Review D 06/2015; 91(12). DOI:10.1103/PhysRevD.91.122002 · 4.64 Impact Factor

  • The Astrophysical Journal 06/2015; 806(1):144. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/806/1/144 · 5.99 Impact Factor
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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.
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2015; 811(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/811/1/24 · 5.99 Impact Factor
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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.
    Physical Review Letters 03/2015; 115(9). DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.115.095002 · 7.51 Impact Factor
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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; · 7.51 Impact Factor
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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 $\lesssim$ 100 GeV annihilating via quark and $\tau$-lepton channels.
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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.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2015; 807(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/807/1/79 · 5.99 Impact Factor
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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; · 5.99 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; · 11.22 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.
    The Astrophysical Journal 11/2014; 799(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/799/2/143 · 5.99 Impact Factor
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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 · 5.99 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 d about 2 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-d 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 × 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 per cent in amplitude, which occur on decade time-scales throughout the nebula. The morphology of the changes is complex suggesting both filamentary and knotty structures. The variability is stronger, and the time-scales likely somewhat shorter, nearer the centre of the nebula. We further find that even with the excellent u − v coverage and signal to noise of the VLA, deconvolution errors are much larger than the noise, being up to 1.2 per cent 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 · 5.11 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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    ABSTRACT: The Fermi bubbles are two large structures in the gamma-ray sky extending to $55^\circ$ above and below the Galactic center. We analyze 50 months of Fermi Large Area Telescope data between 100 MeV and 500 GeV above $10^\circ$ in Galactic latitude to derive the spectrum and morphology of the Fermi bubbles. We thoroughly explore the systematic uncertainties that arise when modeling the Galactic diffuse emission through two separate approaches. The gamma-ray spectrum is well described by either a log parabola or a power law with an exponential cutoff. We exclude a simple power law with more than 7$\sigma$ significance. The power law with an exponential cutoff has an index of $1.9 \pm 0.2$ and a cutoff energy of $110\pm 50$ GeV. We find that the gamma-ray luminosity of the bubbles is $4.4^{+2.4}_{-0.9} \times 10^{37}$ erg s$^{-1}$. We confirm a significant enhancement of gamma-ray emission in the south-eastern part of the bubbles, but we do not find significant evidence for a jet. No significant variation of the spectrum across the bubbles is detected. The width of the boundary of the bubbles is estimated to be $3.4^{+3.7}_{-2.6}$ deg. Both inverse Compton (IC) models and hadronic models including IC emission from secondary leptons fit the gamma-ray data well. In the IC scenario, the synchrotron emission from the same population of electrons can also explain the WMAP and Planck microwave haze with a magnetic field between 5 and 20 $\mu$G.
    The Astrophysical Journal 07/2014; 793(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/793/1/64 · 5.99 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

24k Citations
2,639.10 Total Impact Points


  • 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
  • 1976-2013
    • 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
  • 2011-2012
    • INFN - Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare
      Frascati, Latium, Italy
  • 1991-2010
    • The Ohio State University
      • Department of Physics
      Columbus, Ohio, United States
  • 2009
    • KTH Royal Institute of Technology
      • Department of Physics
      Tukholma, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 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
  • 2002
    • The University of Manchester
      • Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics
      Manchester, England, United Kingdom
  • 2001
    • University of Chicago
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 1999
    • National Radio Astronomy Observatory
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  • 1987-1989
    • 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