Calendar

Apr
15
Fri
Tombaugh Observatory Open House
Apr 15 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Tombaugh Observatory Open House @ Tombaugh Observatory | Las Cruces | New Mexico | United States

Open to the public.

Faculty member: Chris Churchill

Graduate Students: Carlos Vargas, Sam Schonfeld, Jean McKeever

 

May
13
Fri
Tombaugh Observatory Open House
May 13 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Tombaugh Observatory Open House @ Tombaugh Observatory | Las Cruces | New Mexico | United States

Open to the public.

Faculty member: Nancy Chanover

Graduate Students: Jacob VanderVliet, Ethan Dederick, Jean McKeever

 

Aug
11
Thu
Computing bootcamp
Aug 11 – Aug 12 all-day

To try provide an opportunity to try to make sure people have some basic understanding/exposure to our computers and some computing tools.  This will likely be at a more basic level than the Software Carpentry workshop that we tried last year, and thus may not be of much interest beyond the first year students.

The current plan is to cover: NMSU/Astronomy computing facilites/setup, basic UNIX/UNIX shells, basic programming principles, introduction to Python, plotting with Python matplotlib, Python packages and documentation with Sphinx, version control with git/github, LaTeX basics, web pages/HTML basics. We might cover some other web page summary information on other topics (database/SQL, IDL, TOPCAT).

 

 

Aug
26
Fri
Colloquium PhD Defense: Kyle Uckert
Aug 26 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium PhD Defense: Kyle Uckert @ BX102

Characterization of Biosignatures within Geologic Samples Analyzed using a Suite of in situ Techniques

Kyle Uckert, NMSU   

Abstract:
I investigated the biosignature detection capabilities of several in situ techniques to evaluate their potential to
detect the presence of extant or extinct life on other planetary surfaces. These instruments included: a laser desorption
time-of- flight mass spectrometer (LD-TOF-MS), an acousto-optic tunable filter (AOTF) infrared (IR) point spectrometer, a
laser-induced breakdown spectrometer (LIBS), X-ray diffraction (XRD)/X-ray fluorescence (XRF), and scanning electron
microscopy (SEM)/energy dispersive X-Ray spectroscopy (EDS). I measured the IR reflectance spectra of several speleothems
in caves in situ to detect the presence of biomineralization. Microorganisms (such as those that may exist on other solar
system bodies) mediate redox reactions to obtain energy for growth and reproduction, producing minerals such as
carbonates, metal oxides, and sulfates as waste products. Microbes occasionally become entombed in their mineral
excrement, essentially acting as a nucleation site for further crystal growth. This process produces minerals with a
crystal lattice distinct from geologic precipitation, detectable with IR reflectance spectroscopy. Using a suite of
samples collected from three subterranean environments, along with statistical analyses including principal component
analysis, I measured subsurface biosignatures associated with these biomineralization effects, including the presence of
trace elements, morphological characteristics, organic molecules, and amorphous crystal structures.

I also explored the optimization of a two-step LD-TOF-MS (L2MS) for the detection of organic molecules and other
biosignatures. I focused my efforts on characterizing the L2MS desorption IR laser wavelength dependence on organic
detection sensitivity in an effort to optimize the detection of high mass (≤100 Da) organic peaks. I analyzed samples
with an IR reflectance spectrometer and an L2MS with a tunable desorption IR laser whose wavelength range (2.7 – 3.45
microns) overlaps that of our IR spectrometer (1.6 – 3.6 microns), and discovered a IR resonance enhancement effect. A
correlation between the maximum IR absorption of organic functional group and mineral vibrational transitions – inferred
from the IR spectrum – and the optimal IR laser configuration for organic detection using L2MS indicates that IR
spectroscopy may be used to inform the optimal L2MS IR laser wavelength for organic detection. This work suggests that a
suite of instruments, particularly LD-TOF-MS and AOTF IR spectroscopy, has strong biosignature detection potential on a
future robotic platform for investigations of other planetary surfaces or subsurfaces.

Sep
9
Fri
Tombaugh Observatory Open House
Sep 9 @ 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Tombaugh Observatory Open House @ Tombaugh Observatory | Las Cruces | New Mexico | United States

The NMSU Department of Astronomy will hold an observatory open house at the NMSU campus observatory at 8 p.m.Friday, Sept. 9. Astronomy personnel on hand will be Chris Churchill and graduate assistants Xander Thelen, Trevor Picard and Jacob Vander Vliet.

Guests can view Mars and Saturn together in the evening sky in the constellation of Scorpio. Telescopes will also have the center of the Milky Way Galaxy in view, and in this region there are many beautiful star clusters and globular clusters (tight groups of millions of stars). High in the sky, viewers will see the constellation Vega with its double-double star system and the famous ring nebula, which is the remnants of a dying star much like our own sun. The moon will be in the phase called first quarter and will make a wonderful sight.

Contact the NMSU Astronomy Department at 575-646-4438 with questions. Everyone is welcome to come and spend an evening of stargazing. Admission is free and children are especially welcome to attend.

For information on what is up in September, go here: http://whatsouttonight.com/Resources/2016SepSkyWOT.pdf

Sep
20
Tue
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Ethan Dederick
Sep 20 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Ethan Dederick @ Science Hall 310

Utilizing Planetary Oscillations to Constrain the Interior Structure of the Jovian Planets

Ethan Dederick

Seismology has been the premier tool of study for understanding the
interior structure of the Earth, the Sun, and even other stars. Yet in this
thesis proposal, we wish to utilize these tools to understand the interior
structure of the Jovian planets, Saturn in particular. Recent observations
of spiral density structures in Saturn’s rings caused by its oscillations
have provided insight into which modes exist within Saturn and at what
frequencies. Utilizing these frequencies to compare to probable mode can-
didates calculated from Saturn models will also us to ascertain the interior
profiles of state variables such as density, sound speed, rotation, etc. Using
these profiles in a Saturn model, coupled with tweaking the interior struc-
ture of the model, i.e. the inclusion of stably stratified regions, should
allow us to explain which modes are responsible for the density structures
in the rings, as well as predict where to look to find more such structures.
In doing so, we will not only have a much greater understanding of Sat-
urn’s interior structure, but will have constructed a method that can also
be applied to Jupiter once observations of its mode frequencies become
available. In addition, we seek to explain if moist convection on Jupiter is
responsible for exciting its modes. We aim to do this by modeling Jupiter
as a 2D harmonic oscillator. By creating a resonance between moist con-
vective storms and Jovian modes, we hope to match the expected mode
energies and surface displacements of Jupiter’s oscillations.

Oct
28
Fri
Colloquium: Mark Wardle
Oct 28 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Mark Wardle @ Biology Annex 102

Star formation in the vicinity of the supermassive black hole at the Galactic Centre

Dr. Mark Wardle, Macquarie University

The disruptive tidal field near supermassive black holes overcomes the self-gravity of objects that are less dense than the Roche density.  This was once expected to suppress star formation within several parsecs of  Sgr A*, the four million solar mass black hole at the centre of the Galaxy.   It has since become apparent that things are not this simple:  Sgr A* is surrounded by a sub-parsec-scale orbiting disk of massive stars, indicating a star formation event occurred a few million years ago.    And on parsec scales,  star formation seems to be happening now:  there are proplyd candidates and protostellar outflow candidates,  as well as methanol and water masers that in the galactic disk would be regarded as sure-fire signatures of star formation.  In this talk, I shall consider how star formation can occur so close to Sgr A*.

The stellar disk may be created through the partial capture of a molecular cloud as it swept through the inner few parsecs of the galaxy and temporarily engulfed Sgr A*.  This rather naturally creates a disk of gas with the steep surface density profile of the present stellar disk.  The inner 0.04 pc  is so optically thick that it cannot fragment, instead accreting onto Sgr A* in a few million years; meanwhile the outer disk fragments and creates the observed stellar disk.   The isolated young stellar objects found at larger distances, on the other hand,  can be explained by stabilisation of clouds or cloud cores by the high external pressure that permeates the inner Galaxy.   A virial analysis shows that clouds are indeed tidally disrupted within 0.5 pc of Sgr A*, but outside this the external pressure allows self-gravitating clouds to survive, providing the raw material for ongoing star formation.

 

Nov
14
Mon
Pizza Lunch: Drew Chojnowski
Nov 14 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Drew Chojnowski @ AY 119

Title: H-band Spectral Variability of Classical Be Stars

Drew Chojnowski

 

Feb
24
Fri
Colloquium: Thomas Rivinius
Feb 24 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Thomas Rivinius

Our Current Understanding of Classical Be Stars

Dr. Thomas Rivinius, Chile, ESO Paranal

I will introduce Be stars as B-type stars with gaseous disks in Keplerian rotation. These disks form by mass ejection from the star itself and their evolution is then governed by viscosity. The observables and their formation in the disk will be discussed, as well as what we know about the central stars: they are the most rapidly rotating non-degenerate stars, they are non-radial pulsators, and they do not show magnetic fields. The pulsation is clearly (phenomenologically) linked to the mass ejection, but the physical mechanism responsible for the ejection and disk formation is not known. Finally, I will discuss several open questions of broader interest, including the (possibly absent) chemical mixing of very rapid rotators and the unexpectedly large viscosity of Be star disks.

 

Oct
16
Mon
Pizza Lunch: Ken Naiff
Oct 16 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Pizza Lunch: Ken Naiff @ AY 119

Dark Sky Images

Ken Naiff

Ken, an retired engineer, is a highly technically skilled and artistic
astrophotographer.  He will be sharing some of his work and elaborating on
the technical methods and processing techniques he applies to obtain his
unique and enhanced images.  You can see Ken’s work at:

https://darkskyimagesbyken.com/products