Colloquium PhD Defense: Sean Markert
Mar 31 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium PhD Defense: Sean Markert


Dr. S. Markert, NMSU


The weak gravitational lensing of galaxy clusters is a valuable tool. The deflection of light around a lens is solely dependent on the underlying distribution of foreground mass, and independent of tracers of mass such as the mass to light ratio and kinematics. As a direct probe of mass, weak lensing serves as an independent calibration of mass-observable relationships. These massive clusters are objects of great interest to astronomers, as their abundance is dependent on the conditions of the early universe, and accurate counts of clusters serve as a test of cosmological model. Upcoming surveys, such as LSST and DES, promise to push the limit of observable weak lensing, detecting clusters and sources at higher redshift than has ever been detected before. This makes accurate counts of clusters of a given mass and redshift, and proper calibration of mass-observable relationships, vital to cosmological studies.
We used M> 10 13.5 h −1 M ⊙ halos from the MultiDark Planck simulation at z∼0.5 to study the behavior of the reduced shear in clusters. We generated 2D maps of convergence and shear the halos using the GLAMER lensing library. Using these maps, we simulated observations of randomly placed background sources, and generate azimuthal averages of the shear. This reduced shear profile, and the true reduced shear profile of the halo, is fit using analytical solutions for shear of the NFW, Einasto, and truncated NFW density profile. The masses of these density profiles are then compared to the total halo masses from the halo catalogs.
We find that fits to the reduced shear for halos extending past ≈ 2 h −1 Mpc are fits to the noise of large scale structure along the line of sight. This noise is largely in the 45 ◦ rotated component to the reduced tangential shear, and is a breakdown in the approximation of g tan ≈g tot required for density profile fitting of clusters. If fits are constrained to a projected radii of < 2 h −1 Mpc, we see massively improved fits insensitive to the amount of structure present along the line of sight.

Tombaugh Observatory Open House
Apr 7 @ 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Tombaugh Observatory Open House

9Open to the public.

Faculty member: James McAteer

Graduate students: Jodi Berdis, Caitlin Doughty, Ethan Dederick

Colloquium PhD Defense: Jacob Vander Vliet
May 5 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium PhD Defense: Jacob Vander Vliet @ Domenici Hall 106

Observing the Baryon Cycle in Hydrodynamic Cosmological Simulations

Jacob Vander Vliet, NMSU

An understanding of galaxy evolution requires an understanding of the flow of baryons in and out of a galaxy. The accretion of baryons is required for galaxies to form stars, while stars eject baryons out of the galaxy through stellar feedback mechanisms such as supernovae, stellar winds, and radiation pressure. The interplay between outflowing and infalling material form the circumgalactic medium (CGM). Hydrodynamic simulations provide understanding in the connection between stellar feedback and the distribution and kinematics of baryons in the CGM. To compare simulations and observations properly the simulated CGM must be observed in the same manner as the real CGM. I have developed the Mockspec code to generate synthetic quasar absorption line observations of the CGM in cosmological hydrodynamic simulations. Mockspec generates synthetic spectra based on the phase, metallicity, and kinematics of CGM gas and mimics instrumental effects. Mockspec includes automatic analysis of the spectra and identifies the gas responsible for the absorption. Mockspec was applied to simulations of dwarf galaxies at low redshift to examine the observable effect different feedback models have on the CGM. While the different feedback models had strong effects on the galaxy, they all produced a similar CGM that failed match observations. Mockspec was applied to the VELA simulation suite of high redshift, high mass galaxies to examine the variance of the CGM across different galaxies in different environments. The observable CGM showed little variation between the different galaxies and almost no evolution from z=4 to z=1. The VELAs were not able to generate a CGM to match the observations. The properties of cells responsible for the absorption were compared to the derived properties from Voigt Profile decomposition. VP modeling was found to accurately describe the HI and MgII absorbing gas but failed for high ionization species such as CIV and OVI, which do not arise in the assumed coherent structures.  The technique of mock QAL is useful for testing the accuracy of the simulated CGM and for verifying observational techniques, but not for differentiating between feedback prescriptions in dwarf galaxies.


Tombaugh Observatory Open House
May 5 @ 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Tombaugh Observatory Open House

Open to the public.

Faculty member: Jon Holtzman

Graduate students: Laurel Farris, Drew Chojnowski

Colloquium PhD Defense: Laura Mayorga
Jun 27 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Colloquium PhD Defense: Laura Mayorga @ Domenici Hall 102

The Orbital and Planetary Phase Variations of Jupiter-Sized Planets: Characterizing Present and Future Giants

Laura Mayorga, NMSU

It is commonly said that exoplanet science is 100 years behind planetary science. While we may be able to travel to an exoplanet in the future, inferring the properties of exoplanets currently relies on extracting as much information as possible from a limited dataset. In order to further our ability to characterize, classify, and understand exoplanets as both a population and as individuals, this thesis makes use of multiple types of observations and simulations.

Firstly, direct-imaging is a technique long used in planetary science and is only now becoming feasible for exoplanet characterization. We present our results from analyzing Jupiter’s phase curve with Cassini/ISS to instruct the community in the complexity of exoplanet atmospheres and the need for further model development. The planet yields from future missions may be overestimated by today’s models. We also discuss the need for optimal bandpasses to best differentiate between planet classes.

Secondly, photometric surveys are still the best way of conducting population surveys of exoplanets. In particular, the Kepler dataset remains one of the highest precision photometric datasets and many planetary candidates remain to be characterized. We present techniques by which more information, such as a planet’s mass, can be extracted from a transit light curve without expensive ground- or space-based follow-up observations.

Finally, radial-velocity observations have revealed that many of the larger “planets” may actually be brown dwarfs. To understand the distinction between a brown dwarf and an exoplanet or a star, we have developed a simple, semi-analytic viscous disk model to study brown dwarf evolutionary history. We present the rudimentary framework and discuss its performance compared to more detailed numerical simulations as well as how additional physics and development can determine the potential observational characteristics that will differentiate between various formation scenarios.

Exoplanet science has already uncovered a plethora of previously unconsidered phenomenon. To increase our understanding of our own planet, as well as the other various possible end cases, will require a closer inspection of our own solar system, the nuanced details of exoplanet data, refined simulations, and laboratory astrophysics.

Colloquium PhD Defense: Nigel Mathes
Jul 3 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Colloquium PhD Defense: Nigel Mathes

The Vulture Survey of MgII and CIV Absorbers: Feasting on the Bones of Spectra Left to Die

Nigel Mathes, NMSU


We present detailed measurements of the absorption properties and redshift evolution of MgII and CIV absorbers as measured in archival spectra from the UVES spectrograph at the Very Large Telescope (VLT/UVES) and the HIRES spectrograph at the Keck Telescope (Keck/HIRES) to equivalent width detection limits below 0.01 angstroms. This survey examines 860 high resolution spectra from various archival data sets representing 700 unique sightlines, allowing for detections of intervening MgII absorbers spanning redshifts 0.1 < z < 2.6 and intervening CIV absorbers spanning redshifts 1 < z < 5. We employ an accurate, automated approach to line detection which consistently detects redshifted absorption doublets. We observe three distinct epochs of evolution in the circumgalactic medium (CGM) as traced by MgII and CIV absorbers. At high redshifts, from 3 < z < 5, galaxies rapidly build up a metal enriched halo where, despite significant evolution in the ionizing background, the production of metals through star formation driven outflows dominates observed trends increasing the number of observed absorbers per redshift path length towards z = 3. At mid redshifts, from 2 < z < 3, a large cosmic increase in the global star formation rate drives large numbers of high column density outflows into the halos of galaxies. At this time, metal line absorption of all species is increased above all other epochs. At low redshifts, for z < 2, the universe becomes more quiescent in both star formation and ionizing background. Weak, low column density MgII absorbers proliferate, while strong MgII absorbers likely fragment or re-accrete onto their host galaxy. Strong CIV absorbers, at this time, still increase in number per absorption path, while their weaker counterparts begin to disappear. MgII and CIV absorbers appear to originate in star formation driven outflows, but their different evolutionary properties imply they represent two physically distinct phases of gas. These two phases comprise the CGM and contribute separately to the cycle of baryons into and out of galaxies.

Colloquium PhD Defense: Jean McKeever
Sep 20 @ 3:00 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium PhD Defense: Jean McKeever @ Business College 103

Asteroseismology of Red Giants: The Detailed Modeling of Red Giants in Eclipsing Binary Systems

Jean McKeever, NMSU

Asteroseismology is an invaluable tool that allows one to peer into the inside of a star and know its fundamental stellar properties with relative ease. There has been much exploration of solar-like oscillations within red giants with recent advances in technology, leading to new innovations in observing. The Kepler mission, with its 4-year observations of a single patch of sky, has opened the floodgates on asteroseismic studies. Binary star systems are also an invaluable tool for their ability to provide independent constraints on fundamental stellar parameters such as mass and radius. The asteroseismic scaling laws link observables in the light curves of stars to the physical parameters in the star, providing a unique tool to study large populations of stars quite easily. In this work we present our 4-year radial velocity observing program to provide accurate dynamical masses for 16 red giants in eclipsing binary systems. From this we find that asteroseismology overestimates the mass and radius of red giants by 15% and 5% respectively. We further attempt to model the pulsations of a few of these stars using stellar evolution and oscillation codes. The goal is to determine which masses are correct and if there is a physical cause for the discrepancy in asteroseismic masses. We find there are many challenges to modeling evolved stars such as red giants and we address a few of the major concerns. These systems are some of the best studied systems to date and further exploration of their asteroseismic mysteries is inevitable.


Campus Observatory Open House
Sep 29 @ 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Campus Observatory Open House @ Campus Observatory

Welcome to the first open house of the 2017 Fall Semester. Your hosts will be: James McAteer, Jodi Berdis, Carlos Vargas, and Julie Imig.

The (September) Autumnal Equinox.

September Night Sky Chart.

Observatory Open House
Oct 27 @ 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Observatory Open House

Your hosts for the October Open House at the Campus Observatory are Kristian Finlator, Sten Hasselquist, Rachel Marra, and Aleczander Herczeg.

The Calendar of Astronomical Events for October 2017

October Night Sky Chart.

Observatory Open House
Nov 17 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Observatory Open House

Your hosts for the November Campus Observatory Open House are Chris Churchill, Sean Sellers, Sam Schonfeld, and Sarah Kovac.


The Calendar of Astronomical Events for November 2017

November Night Sky Chart.