It’s been a while since I wrote something about astronomy. Rest assured, I have been doing a lot of work over the past few months. The biggest news is that I’ve just resubmitted a paper after receiving comments from the peer-review process. I’ll try and write more about the paper later, but essentially it presents simulations of galaxy collisions that are matched to individual objects we see in the local universe. It’ll form a chapter of my dissertation, so it’s feels good to have it almost out the door.
Monday, 6 May 2013
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
A little over a week ago I was sitting in a meeting room in Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland for the 43rd Saas Fee Course, on “Star formation in galaxy evolution: connecting numerical models to reality”. This 6 day school covered techinques related to computer simulations as well as the relevant physics for how stars form. The icing on the cake was the location: the heart of the Alps.
Thursday, 7 March 2013
It has been a little too long since I wrote about astronomy (a post about my goings on at Caltech will be coming soon) .. but, as you read this I am on my way to Villars-sur-Ollon to participate in this year’s Saas-Fee course on Star Formation in Galaxy Evolution. This school will include lectures by experts in simulating various aspects of galaxy evolution. The schedule appears to be quite intense and will cover the major topics in our understanding of how galaxies evolve as the Universe ages. Though, there will be some down-time to enjoy the surrounding area (ahem, “to go skiing”).
This meeting comes at a great time for me, as my PhD thesis is aimed at constraining simulations and our understanding of the physics involved in galaxy evolution by comparing the simulations with data. As if there was any doubt, I am clearly not alone in this interest.
It will be awesome to spend the next week learning more about simulations and how I can improve my research. I expect to be consumed by science (and skiing) over the next week, but there will be full recap afterwards!
Monday, 26 November 2012
I have some exciting news to share.. A month or two ago I applied for a graduate fellowship at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (hosted at Caltech). I am happy to say that I was offered a fellowship and will be spending six months in Pasadena doing research with some of my collaborators there. The topic of my research there will still be galaxy mergers, but it will have a slightly different twist (yet to be nailed down; there are too many fun options! ).
I expect to begin there in mid-January and will work for 6 months before coming back to Charlottesville. After that it will be a sprint to the finish for my PhD and a job; it should be a busy 18 months.
Being in a new place for a somewhat extended period of time, I hope to be going on some fun adventures (in addition to the fun work I’ll be doing). Stay tuned here for some CA adventure: galaxy mergers, skiing, rock climbing, etc. The standard stuff, but 2500 miles displaced!
Thursday, 15 November 2012
Even in astronomy, where many things take millions of years to change, there are often events which last days, hours, minutes, or even seconds. Many telescope facilities have mechanisms to receive proposals for these “target of opportunities”. Currently my science focuses on the global evolution of galaxies, which occurs with timescales longer than a million years. So there isn’t much opportunity for rapid-response science.
However, two weekends ago I did have the opportunity to do some rapid-response activity related to science. Typically telescope time is allocated months in advance, often after an established proposal evaluation process. The deadlines are known with at least a few weeks notice so it doesn’t typically come as a surprise. In this case I received an email Friday morning noting that some telescope time had become available and that proposals needed to be submitted asap (i.e., that same day) and that detailed observation plans would need to be submitted a few days later. Crunch time!
From the front seat of my car (while stopped at a gas station), I fired off a quick email sketching out an idea to measure the rotation of a galaxy which has enhanced star formation. I want to know if that galaxy was just involved in a collision with a nearby galaxy or if something else has triggered the vigorous star formation. Seeing if the stars are in regular orbits versus more perturbed orbits can help answer this question.
A few days later I’d received word that I could have up to 3 hours of telescope time to answer this question and the scripts needed to be in ASAP (aka “yesterday”)! So I devoted a day to arranging all the details of the observations: which stars to use as calibrations, when would be the best time to observe the calibration stars, how to obtain the spectra I need, etc.
The good news is the scripts are submitted, have been approved by the telescope staff, and the observing run starts tomorrow night!
Not quite a rapid phenomenon, but rapid activity on my end.