Probing Exoplanet Atmospheric Properties from Phase Variations and Polarization
Laura Mayorga, NMSU
The study of exoplanets is evolving past simple transit and Doppler method discovery and characterization. One of the many goals of the upcoming mission WFIRST-AFTA is to directly image giant exoplanets with a coronagraph. We undertake a study to determine the types of exoplanets that missions such as WFIRST will encounter and what instruments these missions require to best characterize giant planet atmospheres. We will first complete a benchmark study of how Jupiter reflects and scatters light as a function of phase angle. We will use Cassini flyby data from late 2000 to measure Jupiter’s phase curve, spherical albedo, and degree of polarization. Using Jupiter as a comparison, we will then study a sample of exoplanet atmosphere models generated to explore the atmospheric parameter space of giant planets and estimate what WFIRST might observe. Our study will provide valuable refinements to Jupiter-like models of planet evolution and atmospheric composition. We will also help inform future missions of what instruments are needed to characterize similar planets and what science goals will further our knowledge of giant worlds in our universe.
Searching for Dwarf Satellites around Milky Way – Analog Galaxies with the SAGA survey
Ben Weiner, Steward Observatory
Dwarf satellites of massive galaxies are a probe of many issues in galaxy evolution and cosmology, including the nature of low-mass galaxies, star formation at early times, accretion into halos, and the abundance of low-mass dark matter halos. Much attention has been devoted to the number and nature of Milky Way and M31 dwarf satellites, especially the “missing satellites problem.” However, we know very little about dwarf satellites outside the Local Group below the mass of the LMC, and we don’t know if the MW and M31 satellite systems are typical. The SAGA (Satellites Around Galactic Analogs) survey collaboration aims to address this with both observational and theoretical studies of satellite abundances and properties around Milky Way analog central galaxies. I will present results from our MMT/Hectospec wide field spectroscopic surveys for satellites. We have surveyed the fields of several nearby galaxies that are similar to the Milky Way to detect and spectroscopically confirm dwarf satellites. We find a range of numbers of satellites, suggesting that there is a significant variance in halo histories. We also find that not all dwarf systems resemble the Milky Way and M31 systems. I will discuss these results and some of the implications on the life cycle of satellites that we can infer from satellite abundances and properties, including their images and spectra.
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.
High Resolution Spectroscopy with Immersion Grating Infrared Spectrometer (IGRINS)
Hwihyun Kim, KASI/UT Austin
The Immersion Grating Infrared Spectrometer (IGRINS) is a revolutionary instrument that exploits broad spectral coverage at high-resolution (R=45,000) in the near-infrared. IGRINS employs a silicon immersion grating as the primary disperser of the white pupil, and volume-phase holographic gratings cross-disperse the H and K bands onto Teledyne Hawaii-2RG arrays. IGRINS provides simultaneous wavelength coverage from 1.45 – 2.45 microns in a compact cryostat. I will summarize the performance and various science programs of IGRINS since commissioning in Summer 2014. With IGRINS we have observed such as Solar System objects, nearby young stars, star-forming regions like Taurus and Ophiuchus, the Galactic Center, and planetary nebulae.
The second half of my talk will be focused on the study of ionized and neutral gas in an ultracompact HII region Monoceros R2. We obtained the IGRINS spectra of Mon R2 to study the kinematic patterns in the areas where ionized and molecular gases interact. The position-velocity maps from the IGRINS spectra demonstrate that the ionized gases (Brackett and Pfund series, He and Fe emission lines;Δv ≈ 40km/s) flow along the walls of the surrounding clouds. This is consistent with the model by Zhu et al. (2005, 2008). In the PV maps of the H2 emission lines there is no obvious motion (Δv < ~10km/s) of the molecular hydrogen right at the ionization boundary. This implies that the molecular gas is not taking part in the flow as the ionized gas is moving along the cavity walls.