Understanding the origin of the Universe, cosmology, is one of humankind's fundamental endeavors. Close study of clusters of galaxies remains a critical element in this pursuit. The aim of this conference is for the first time to gather scientists worldwide for the study of cosmology with X-ray, Suyaev-Zel'dovich Effect (SZE) and associated astronomical observations of clusters.

One important feature of clusters of galaxies is the huge volume and mass of hot gas that permeates the space between member galaxies. This hot gas is visible in X-rays and is substantial enough that it causes the light remaining from the birth of the Universe---known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)---to shift ever so slightly toward the blue end of the light spectrum. This slight shift of the CMB is detectable and can be used to locate large clusters of galaxies over a wide range of distances and to measure important cosmological parameters that describe and characterize the origin of the Universe. This conference will bring together many American and international scientists involved in current X-ray and SZE experiments to discuss current progress, the latest results, and the many remaining puzzles. The unique aspect of this conference is to facilitate interactions of scientists focused on different observational approaches (i.e., X-ray, SZE, others) so that the community will gain greater insight by combining the knowledge base of these different approaches.

The proposed four-day conference is structured as a workshop to allow ample time for substantial discussions following each talk and each session. A key objective is to involve students and recent graduates. NSF, which is funding about 25% of the total estimated cost of the conference, will be primarily supporting the modest travel expenses of 30 students and recent graduates to attend the conference. The organizers are committing substantial effort to recruit speakers, participants, and students from groups underrepresented in the sciences. The organizers will also produce a volume of the proceedings, including all oral and poster presentations. Holding this conference in the United States will benefit many US students and scientists who would otherwise be unable to attend a similar or related conference overseas. Finally, the proposed effort should have a substantial impact on the training of young STEM researchers and to connect them with international collaborators---supporting the two NSF Strategic Goals that follow: To prepare and engage a diverse STEM workforce motivated to participate at the frontiers. To keep the United States globally competitive at the frontiers of knowledge by increasing international partnerships and collaborations.

Project Report

The conference `SZXHuntsville 2011: Cosmology with X-ray and Sunyaev-Zeldovich Effect Observations of Galaxy Clusters' was the year's largest gathering to discuss the status of observational cosmology with galaxy clusters, the universe's largest structures. Nearly one hundred scientists and students from North America, South America, Europe and Asia gathered in Huntsville, AL, on Sept 19-22 2011 to report on their findings, which included the study of dark matter and dark energy, the discovery of new massive clusters, and the evolution of the universe with a number of instruments that included the South Pole Telescope, and many other ground and space-borne observatories. The meeting was especially geared towards early-career researchers and students that were supported by the NSF to participate in this meeting. The meeting featured thirty invited speakers, several additional contributed speakers, and every participant had an opportunity for a poster presentation with a 2-minute talk in front of the general assembly to summarize their findings. The broader impacts of this meeting were to strengthen and establish new collaborations among researchers, in particular for graduate students and early postdoctoral fellows. All participants engaged in lively exchanges with many of the world-renowned leaders in this field, including Dr. Rashid Sunyaev, the inventor of the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect, who gave a passionate and brilliant introductory talk, and challenged the speakers during the four days of the meeting. The intellectual merit of this conference was the study of observational cosmology, an area of research that is going through a rapid phase of discovery thanks to several dedicated observatory that make it possible to study the evolution of the universe like never before. Meetings such as this made it possible to discussa advances and challenges, and provide directions for future studies.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Edward Ajhar
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Alabama in Huntsville
United States
Zip Code