Physics Application Brief
Institute for Astrophysics
The Babelsberg Observatory conducts painstaking analysis of
astronomy experiments to identify phenomena in the data.
In most scientific disciplines, data are gathered in a matter of weeks
or months or even in an afternoon. The science of astronomy, however,
deals with sets of observations that can span decades or centuries.
Researchers in most areas of science manipulate, test, and analyze
variables according to a planned experimental design; researchers in
astronomy, however, must perform repeated painstaking analysis of data
that have seldom been collected with any thought of analysis in mind.
The essential difficulty in this research is in identifying the
phenomena contained in a data set, since patterns may be obscured over
hundreds of years of observations. It is impossible to know for
certain whether one has picked out the correct information.
The Solar Neutrino Problem
One famous difficulty in astronomical research is the solar neutrino
problem, a puzzle that has baffled astrophysicists and other
star-gazers for almost twenty-five years. The problem consists of a
discrepancy between the solar neutrino flux calculated from standard
solar models and the flux that is actually recorded: theory is not
matching observation, and astronomic researchers all over the world
have been struggling to figure out why not. Dr. Hans Joachim Haubold,
at the Babelsberg Observatory in Potsdam, Germany and at the United
Nations' Outer Space Division in New York, hopes to solve this puzzle
by applying Fourier analysis to observed neutrino flow data. He thinks
he might find some periodicity that will explain the discrepancy.
Comprehensive Analysis Software Required
Dr. Haubold's work involves analyzing solar argon production rates and
other solar activity recorded for decades or centuries, working with
data sets compiled by other researchers. The software he uses must
provide data management, flexible graphics, and comprehensive
statistical analysis functions.