Colloquium: Miguel Aragon-Calvo
Sep 25 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Miguel Aragon-Calvo @ BX102

Galaxy formation in the Cosmic Web

Miguel Angel Aragon-Calvo, University of California Santa Cruz

The Cosmic Web is the stage where galaxy formation and evolution occurs. Despite the many observations relating galaxies and their environment, and our recent ability to replicate galaxy properties in computer simulations, we still do not have a clear understanding of the environmental processes shaping galaxies. In this talk I will present a model of galaxy formation that, based on galaxy-LSS interactions, is able to reproduce and explain several observations including galaxy conformity, the galaxy color-mass/luminosity distribution and the evolution of the cosmic star formation rate. While introducing the model I will present several novel analysis and simulation techniques and discuss the importance of data visualization as a driver of scientific discovery.

Colloquium: John Wisniewski
Nov 6 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium:  John Wisniewski @ BX102

Diagnosing the SEEDS of Planet Formation

John Wisniewski, University of Oklahoma

Circumstellar disks provide a useful astrophysical diagnostic of the formation and early evolution of exoplanets. It is commonly believed that young protoplanetary disks serve as the birthplace of planets, while older debris disks can provide insight into the architecture of exoplanetary systems. In this talk, I will discuss how one can use high contrast imaging techniques to spatially resolve nearby circumstellar disk systems, and how this imagery can be used to search for evidence of recently formed planetary bodies. I will focus on results from the Strategic Exploration of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS) project, as well as some ongoing follow-up work.

Colloquium: Brian Jackson
Dec 4 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium:  Brian Jackson @ BX102

On the Edge: Exoplanets with Orbital Periods Shorter Than a Peter Jackson Movie

Brian Jackson, Boise State Univeristy

From wispy gas giants to tiny rocky bodies, exoplanets with orbital periods of several days and less challenge theories of planet formation and evolution. Recent searches have found small rocky planets with orbits reaching almost down to their host stars’ surfaces, including an iron-rich Mars-sized body with an orbital period of only four hours. So close to their host stars that some of them are actively disintegrating, these objects’ origins remain unclear, and even formation models that allow significant migration have trouble accounting for their very short periods. Some are members of multi-planet system and may have been driven inward via secular excitation and tidal damping by their sibling planets. Others may be the fossil cores of former gas giants whose atmospheres were stripped by tides.

In this presentation, I’ll discuss the work of our Short-Period Planets Group (SuPerPiG), focused on finding and understanding this surprising new class of exoplanets. We are sifting data from the reincarnated Kepler Mission, K2, to search for additional short-period planets and have found several new candidates. We are also modeling the tidal decay and disruption of close-in gaseous planets to determine how we could identify their remnants, and preliminary results suggest the cores have a distinctive mass-period relationship that may be apparent in the observed population. Whatever their origins, short-period planets are particularly amenable to discovery and detailed follow-up by ongoing and future surveys, including the TESS mission.

Pizza Lunch: Laura Mayorga
Oct 10 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Laura Mayorga @ AY 119

Title: Proto-BD disks and the Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics

Laura Mayorga


Colloquium: Karen Olsen
Nov 18 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Karen Olsen @ Biology Annex 102

Simulations of the interstellar medium at high redshift: What does [CII] trace?

Dr. Karen Olsen, Arizona State University

We are in an exciting era were simulations on large, cosmological scales meet modeling of the interstellar medium (ISM) on sub-parsec scales. This gives us a way to predict and interpret observations of the ISM, and in particular the star-forming gas, in high-redshift galaxies, useful for ongoing and future ALMA/VLA projects.

In this talk, I will walk you though the current state of simulations targeting the the fine structure line of [CII] at 158 microns, which has now been observed in several z>6 galaxies. [CII] can arise throughout the interstellar medium (ISM), but the brightness of the [CII] line depends strongly on local environment within a galaxy, meaning that the ISM phase dominating the [CII] emission can depend on galaxy type. This complicates the use of [CII] as a tracer of either SFR or ISM mass and calls for detailed modeling following the different ways in which [CII] can be excited.

I will present SÍGAME (Simulator of GAlaxy Millimeter/submillimeter emission) – a novel method for predicting the origin and strength of line emission from galaxies. Our method combines data from cosmological simulations with sub-grid physics that carefully calculates local radiation field strength, pressure, and ionizational/thermal balance. Preliminary results will be shown from recent modeling of [CII] emission from z~6 star-forming galaxies with SÍGAME. We find strong potential for using the total [CII] luminosity to derive the ISM and molecular gas mass of galaxies during the Epoch of Reionization (EoR).


Colloquium: Michael Boylan-Kolchin
Feb 17 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Michael Boylan-Kolchin @ BX 102

Near-field Cosmology: Big Science from Small Galaxies

Dr. M. Boylan-Kolchin, UT Austin

The local Universe provides a unique and powerful way to explore galaxy formation and cosmological physics. Through measurements of the abundances, kinematics, and chemical composition of nearby systems that can be studied in exquisite detail, we can learn about the initial spectrum of cosmological density fluctuations, galaxy formation, dark matter physics, and processes at cosmic dawn that might otherwise remain unobservable. I will summarize some of the new and surprising results in this rapidly-changing subject of “near-field cosmology” and discuss how these results are driving advances in both astronomy and particle physics.

Colloquium: Jack Burns (Host: Nancy Chanover)
Mar 2 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Jack Burns (Host: Nancy Chanover) @ Domenici Hall Room 106

Cosmology from the Moon: The Dark Ages Radio Explorer (DARE)

Dr. Jack Burns, University of Colorado Boulder

In the New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy & Astrophysics Decadal Survey, Cosmic Dawn was singled out as one of the top astrophysics priorities for this decade. Specifically, the Decadal report asked “when and how did the first galaxies form out of cold clumps of hydrogen gas and start to shine—when was our cosmic dawn?” It proposed “astronomers must now search the sky for these infant galaxies and find out how they behaved and interacted with their surroundings.” This is the science objective of DARE – to search for the first stars, galaxies, and black holes via their impact on the intergalactic medium (IGM) as measured by the highly redshifted 21-cm hyperfine transition of neutral hydrogen (HI). DARE will probe redshifts of 11-35 (Dark Ages to Cosmic Dawn) with observed HI frequencies of 40-120 MHz. DARE will observe expected spectral features in the global signal of HI that correspond to stellar ignition (Lyman-α from the first stars coupling with the HI hyperfine transition), X-ray heating/ionization of the IGM from the first accreting black holes, and the beginning of reionization (signal dominated by IGM ionization fraction). These observations will complement those expected from JWST, ALMA, and HERA. We propose to observe these spectral features with a broad-beam dipole antenna along with a wide-band receiver and digital spectrometer. We will place DARE in lunar orbit and take data only above the farside, a location known to be free of human-generated RFI and with a negligible ionosphere. In this talk, I will present the mission concept including initial results from an engineering prototypes which are designed to perform end-to-end validation of the instrument and our calibration techniques. I will also describe our signal extraction tool, using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo technique, which measures the parameterized spectral features in the presence of substantial Galactic and solar system foregrounds.


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.

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: Travis Metcalfe (Host: Jason Jackiewicz)
Sep 8 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Travis Metcalfe (Host: Jason Jackiewicz) @ BX102

The Magnetic Mid-life Crisis of the Sun

Dr. Travis Metcalfe, Space Sciences Institute

After decades of effort, the solar activity cycle is exceptionally well characterized but it remains poorly understood. Pioneering work at the Mount Wilson Observatory demonstrated that other sun-like stars also show regular activity cycles, and suggested two possible relationships between the rotation rate and the length of the cycle. Neither of these relationships correctly describe the properties of the Sun, a peculiarity that demands explanation. Recent discoveries have started to shed light on this issue, suggesting that the Sun’s rotation rate and magnetic field are currently in a transitional phase that occurs in all middle-aged stars. We have recently identified the manifestation of this magnetic transition in the best available data on stellar cycles. The results suggest that the solar cycle may be growing longer on stellar evolutionary timescales, and that the cycle might disappear sometime in the next 0.8-2.4 Gyr. Future tests of this hypothesis will come from ground-based activity monitoring of Kepler targets that span the magnetic transition, and from asteroseismology with the TESS mission to determine precise masses and ages for bright stars with known cycles.