Colloquium: Doug Biesecker
Oct 16 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Doug Biesecker @ BX102

Why Space Weather Matters and How Forecasting Will Improve in the DSCOVR Era

Doug Biesecker, NOAA/NWS/Space Weather Prediction Center

Space Weather is a growing enterprise, with growing recognition of its importance inside and outside government.  The largest concern is with the electric power grid, but impacts to Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are also significant.  Other areas of impact include satellites and human space flight, and high frequency communication for aviation, mariners, and emergency responders, among many.  The NOAA National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is the nation’s official source of space weather watches, warnings and alerts.  SWPC does this with a 24×7 staffed operation that monitors the Sun, solar wind, and geospace environment taking advantage of a broad suite of observations and models to provide the best forecasts possible.  In conjunction with the growing recognition of space weather, NOAA launched its first mission, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), out of the Earth’s orbit to an orbit about the L1 Lagrange point.  This is also NOAA’s first satellite mission where space weather is the primary mission and DSCOVR marks the first of what is expected to be a long series of space weather monitoring satellites.  NOAA is also bringing numerical space weather models into the mix of models running on the nation’s supercomputers.  Numerical space weather models have demonstrated the ability to improve the onset time of space weather storms and will, for the first time, allow regional geomagnetic forecasting.  Instead of describing conditions on Earth with a single number, customers will have forecasts tailored to their location.


Pizza Lunch: Jacob Vander Vliet
Oct 19 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Jacob Vander Vliet

The Simulated Circumgalactic Medium

Colloquium: Lauren Woolsey
Feb 12 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium:  Lauren Woolsey @ BX102

Magnetic Influences on Coronal Heating and the Solar Wind

Lauren Woolsey, Harvard University



The physical mechanism(s) that generate and accelerate the solar wind have not been conclusively determined after decades of study, though not for lack of possibilities. The long list of proposed processes can be grouped into two main paradigms: 1) models that require the rearranging of magnetic topology through magnetic reconnection in order to release energy and accelerate the wind and 2) models that require the launching of magnetoacoustic and Alfvén waves to propagate along the magnetic field and generate turbulence to heat the corona and accelerate the emanating wind. After a short overview of these paradigms, I will present my ongoing dissertation work that seeks to investigate the latter category of theoretical models and the role that different magnetic field profiles play in the resulting solar wind properties with Alfvén-wave-driven turbulent heating. I will describe the computer modeling in 1D and 3D that I have done of bundles of magnetic field (flux tubes) that are open to the heliosphere, and what our results can tell us about the influences of magnetic field on the solar wind in these flux tubes, including the latest time-dependent modeling that produces bursty, nanoflare-like heating. Additionally, I will present the latest results of our study of chromospheric network jets and the magnetic thresholds we are finding in magnetogram data.

Colloquium: Bart De Pontieu
Mar 3 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Bart De Pontieu @ BX 102

Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph Views of How the Solar Atmosphere is Energized

Dr. Bart De Pontieu, Lockheed Martin

At the interface between the Sun’s surface and million-degree outer atmosphere or corona lies the chromosphere. At 10,000K it is much cooler than the corona, but also many orders of magnitude denser. The chromosphere processes all magneto-convective energy that drives the heating of the million-degree outer atmosphere or corona, and requires a heating rate that is at least as large as that required for the corona. Yet many questions remain about what drives the chromospheric dynamics and energetics and how these are connected to the transition region and corona.

The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is a NASA small explorer satellite that was launched in 2013 to study these questions. I will review recent results from IRIS in which observations and models are compared to study the onset of fast magnetic reconnection in the solar atmosphere, the generation of violent jets and how they feed plasma into the hot corona, and the role of nanoflares in heating the corona.

Colloquium: Hazel Bain
Mar 10 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Hazel Bain @ BX 102

Antarctic high altitude balloon observations of solar flares: Life and work on the ice

Dr. Hazel Bain, University of California, Berkeley


The Gamma-Ray Imager/Polarimeter for solar flares (GRIPS) instrument is a balloon-borne telescope designed to study particle acceleration in solar flares. The process through which stored magnetic energy is released and particles are accelerated to high energies in solar flares is not well understood. Hard x-rays and gamma-rays are direct signatures of these accelerated particles and can be used as a proxy to investigate particle acceleration mechanisms in these explosive events.

In the austral summer of 2016, GRIPS began its inaugural flight from NASA’s Long Duration Balloon (LDB) facility just outside McMurdo, Antarctica. During the 12 day flight, the balloon was carried around the Antarctic continent by the seasonal stratospheric polar vortex. At the end of the 2016 season, the data vaults were recovered however due to the lateness of the season a full recovery was scheduled for the following year.

In this talk I will discuss the GRIPS instrument design and science goals, the process of testing and integration leading up to a balloon launch, the inaugural flight and subsequent instrument recovery this year from the GRIPS landing site out in Antarctica’s “flat white”. I’ll also talk a little bit about life and work on the ice.

Pizza Lunch: Laurel Farris
Apr 24 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Laurel Farris @ AY 119

Determining the size of coronal bright points using cross-correlation methods

Laurel Farris


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.


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.

Special Pizza Lunch: Jane Rigby
Nov 9 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Special Pizza Lunch: Jane Rigby @ AY 119

Galaxy Evolution in High Definition Via Gravitational Lensing

Dr. Jane Rigby

Deputy Project Scientist for JWST, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Abstract: In hundreds of known cases, “gravitational lenses” have deflected, distorted, and amplified images of galaxies or quasars behind them.  As such, gravitational lensing is a way to “cheat” at studying how galaxies evolve:  lensing can magnify galaxies by factors of 10–100 times, transforming them from objects we can barely detect to bright objects we can study in detail.   For such rare objects, we are studying how galaxies formed stars at redshifts of 1–4, the epoch when most of the Universe’s stars were formed. For lensed galaxies, we can obtained spectral diagnostics that are currently unavailable for the distant universe, but will become routine with next-generation telescopes.

In particular, I’ll discuss MEGaSaURA, The Magellan Evolution of Galaxies Spectroscopic and Ultraviolet Reference Atlas, which comprises high signal-to-noise, medium spectral resolution (R~3300) spectra of 15 extremely bright gravitationally lensed galaxies at redshifts of 1.6<z<3.6.   The sample, drawn from the SDSS Giant Arcs Survey, are many of the brightest lensed galaxies known.  The MEGaSaURA spectra reveal a wealth of spectral diagnostics: absorption from the outflowing wind; nebular emission lines that will be key diagnostics for JWST, GMT, and TMT; and photospheric absorption lines and P Cygni profiles from the massive stars that power the outflow.

Pizza Lunch: James Lewis
Nov 13 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: James Lewis @ AY 119

Multivariate Analysis of the CGM