Summer research wrap upbwillman | August 6, 2010
In addition to all of the off campus research that our students have posted about on Astronoblog, four Haverford astronomy students spent 10 weeks of summer research in the Willman lab. [See cute picture of the team in the Astronomers at Play post.] We had a great summer together – even more together than I anticipated. Owing to a thunderstorm induced power failure, my iMac was in the hospital for most of the summer while I worked in my basement lab with the students.
Gail Gutowski (’10) spent the summer wrapping up her photometric analysis of the Willman 1 object, based on data obtained at Kitt Peak National Observatory in 2006. We are hoping to submit the paper before the end of this year, but it may be delayed a bit because of the many technical problems encountered during artificial star testing.
Oliver Elbert (’11) embarked on an analysis of an N-body + SPH simulation of a Milky Way-massed galaxy formed in a cosmological context. In particular, he studied the halo of this galaxy and “observed” it the way the LSST project will observe the actual Milky Way based on RR Lyrae stars. This is a work in progress and will form the basis for Oliver’s thesis. Maybe he will have a cool animation to post here in the Fall.
Maya Barlev (’12) and Miriam Fuchs (’13) both studied ultra-faint galaxies. They began by learning the ropes of IDL programming and dwarf galaxy basics through compiling an extended version of Wolf’s/Kalirai’s recent Milky Way dwarf satellite catalogs. They then studied the detectability of “stealth galaxies” – particularly low surface brightness galaxies – around the Milky Way, inspired by the detection of And XIX around M31 and by Bullock et al’s recent prediction that there may be very stealthy galaxies still hidden around the Milky Way. Maya wrote a lot of software to simulate, and then to search for, fake stealth galaxies. Miriam studied the statistics of randomly distributed fields of stars analyzed with different algorithms in an attempt to quantify “significant detection”. Jen Campbell (’11) will join this project when she returns in the Fall, and bring some of these threads forward to completion for her thesis work.
Me? I spent a lof ot time collaborating on these projects. I also gave 3 different talks [at a particle physics workshop, a colloquium, and at a conference] and provided some support for a couple of papers (one computational, one observational) that were accepted/submitted during the summer. I overcame tough technical setbacks (read: file server disaster) and finally submitted a paper that has been a long time coming – a spectroscopic study of the Willman 1 object. At the end of the day, we argued that this thing is (or was) a dwarf galaxy based on the fact that two of its member stars have iron abundances that differ by an order of magnitude. The total luminosity of the Wil 1 object is less than 1000 times that of the Sun (which is less than the luminosity of the individual stars that my Swarthmore colleague, David Cohen, studies!) but we believe that it is a galaxy, or the remnants thereof. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of Ross Fadely, the postdoc who will be joining our group in a couple of weeks and eagerly awaiting moving away from studying my namesake object.
Now, I’m preparing to attend the All-Hands collaboration meeting for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project next week in my capacity as (co-)chair of the Milky Way and Local Volume Structure science collaboration. Fingers crossed for the role of LSST in the Decadal Survey report to be released a week from today