SLAC Today is available online at:

In this issue:
Mergers Most Likely Fuel for Active Galaxies
Distracted Driving

SLAC Today

Tuesday - June 15, 2010

Mergers Most Likely Fuel for Active Galaxies

(Image - merging galaxies)
Galaxy mergers are the most likely cause of active galaxies. (Image courtesy NASA, ESA, and STScI/AURA.)

The first solid evidence for how the center of some galaxies come to shine brightly while others barely flicker has been uncovered by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and several other institutions around the world. This work offers new insight into one of the most extreme environments in the universe—the tumultuous region around black holes, where gas and dust churn mightily as they slowly spiral inward.

At the center of nearly all galaxies lurks a black hole, a heavy behemoth that gobbles nearby gas and dust, drawing it in with its strong gravitational pull. While the cores of some galaxies blaze with the light given off by the black hole's hearty meal, others emit only a pale gleam as the black hole pulls in only a meager snack. Astrophysicists call the galaxy centers awash with the light of gravitationally trapped matter "active" galaxies.

"Until recently, why some galaxies are active while others are not was still a mystery," said KIPAC Astrophysicist Marco Ajello, a co-author on the recent study. Some mechanism, he continued, ensures that some have plenty of matter to feast on while others must subsist on very little.  Read more...

Distracted Driving

The Department of Energy has taken steps to ensure that employees are free from driving distractions, as directed by Executive Order 13513, Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging While Driving. Recent guidance mandates that Federal employees shall not engage in text messaging (a) when driving Government-owned, Government-leased, or Government-rented vehicles, or when driving privately-owned vehicles while on official Government business, or (b) when using electronic equipment supplied by the Government while driving.

DOE takes safe driving very seriously. So seriously in fact, that guidance has been issued to address recommended levels of discipline, from reprimand to removal, for employees who engage in text messaging while driving on official business.

Driving distractions result in drivers being delayed in their recognition of information needed to drive safely because something within or outside the vehicle draws attention away from driving. Distracted drivers experience what researchers call "inattention blindness," similar to tunnel vision. Carelessness and inattention cause more accidents than anything else.

How to avoid being distracted:

  • Limit interaction with passengers.
  • Avoid talking while driving.
  • Avoid taking your eyes off the road.
  • Keep both hands on the wheel.
  • Avoid driver fatigue.
  • Don’t drive when angry or upset.
  • Avoid "gawking," or slowing down to look at a crash or other activity.
  • Avoid using a cell phone, two-way radio or Nextel while driving.

Federal employees should also be mindful of laws in place in other states regarding driving distractions when traveling, whether it be on Government or personal time. Please also review laws for each state regarding cell phone use while driving.

Events (see all | submit)

Access (see all)

(see all | submit)

 Lab Announcements

Community Bulletin Board

Training ((see all | register)

Lab Training

Upcoming Workshops & Classes

News (submit)

dividing line
(Office of Science/U.S. DOE Logo)

View online at