Calendar

Jun
27
Tue
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.

Jul
3
Mon
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

Abstract:

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.

Sep
20
Wed
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.

 

Jan
24
Wed
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Laurel Farris
Jan 24 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Laurel Farris @ Science Hall, Room 110

Characterizing the oscillatory response of the chromosphere during solar flares

Laurel Farris; NMSU Astronomy Department

Quasi-periodic pulsations (QPPs) are observed in the emission of solar flares over a wide range of wavelengths,

particularly in the radio and hard x-ray regimes where non-thermal emission dominates. These pulsations are

considered to be an intrinsic feature of flares, yet the exact mechanism that triggers them remains unclear.

There have been reports of an increase in the oscillatory power at 3-minute periods (the local acoustic

cutoff frequency) in the solar chromosphere associated with flaring events. I propose to investigate the

chromospheric response to flares by inspecting the spatial and temporal onset and evolution of the 3-minute

oscillatory power, along with any QPP patterns that may appear in chromospheric emission. The analysis

will be extended to multiple flares, and will include time before, during, and after the main event. To test

initial methods, the target of interest was the well-studied 2011 February 15 X-class flare. Data from two

instruments on board the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) were used in the preliminary study, including

continuum images from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) and UV images at 1600 and 1700

Angstroms from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA). Later, spectroscopic data from the Interface

Region Imaging Spectrometer (IRIS) will be used to examine velocity patterns in addition to intensity.

Mar
15
Thu
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Drew Chojnowski
Mar 15 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Drew Chojnowski @ Domenici Hall 102

The Circumstellar Disks and Binary Companions of Be Stars

Drew Chojnowski, NMSU

Tremendous progress has been made over the past two decades toward understanding Be stars, but a number of key aspects of them remain enigmatic. The unsolved mysteries include identification of the mechanism responsible for disk formation, the reason this mechanism occasionally turns off or on unexpectedly, the source of viscosity in the circumstellar disks, and the cause of slowly precessing density perturbations in the disks of many or most Be stars. On a deeper level, the origin of Be stars’ near-critical rotation is unknown, with one possible explanation being spin-up due to interaction with a binary companion. A better understanding of these stars is needed, with a particular focus on high-mass binaries being warranted in the age of gravitational wave astronomy. In this dissertation, I will extend the knowledge and understanding of Be stars through a series of three projects. First, I will present and describe the largest ever homogeneous, spectroscopic sample of Be stars to date. I will then focus on investigation of a rare class of Be stars found in binary systems with hot, low mass companions. The second project will present detailed characterization and modeling of HD~55606, a newly discovered member of this class. Finally, I will discuss the results of spectroscopic monitoring of seven newly discovered systems and establish or place limits on the orbital parameters of the binary components.

Mar
28
Wed
Colloquium PhD Thesis Defense: Ethan Dederick
Mar 28 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium PhD Thesis Defense: Ethan Dederick @ Science Hall 109

Seismic Inferences of Gas Giant Planets: Excitation & Interiors

Ethan Dederick, NMSU

Seismology has been the premier tool of study for understanding the interior structure of the Earth, the Sun, and even other stars. In this thesis we develop the framework for the first ever seismic inversion of a rapidly rotating gas giant planet. We extensively test this framework to ensure that the inversions are robust and operate within a linear regime. This framework is then applied to Saturn to solve for its interior density and sound speed profiles to better constrain its interior structure. This is done by incorporating observations of its mode frequencies derived from Linblad and Vertical Resonances in Saturn’s C-ring. We find that although the accuracy of the inversions is mitigated by the limited number of observed modes, we find that Saturn’s core density must be at least 8.97 +/- 0.01 g cm^{-3} below r/R_S = 0.3352 and its sound speed must be greater than 54.09 +/- 0.01 km s^{-1} below r/R_S = 0.2237. These new constraints can aid the development of accurate equations of state and thus help determine the composition in Saturn’s core. In addition, we investigate mode excitation and whether the \kappa-Mechanism can excite modes on Jupiter. While we find that the \kappa-Mechanism does not play a role in Jovian mode excitation, we discover a different opacity driven mechanism, The Radiative Suppression Mechanism, that can excite modes in hot giant planets orbiting extremely close to their host stars if they receive a stellar flux greater than 10^9~erg cm^{-2} s^{-1}. Finally, we investigate whether moist convection is responsible for exciting Jovian modes. Mode driving can occur if, on average, one cloud column with a 1-km radius exists per 6423 km^2 or if ~43 storms with 200 columns, each with a radius of 25 km, erupt per day. While this seems unlikely given current observations, moist convection does have enough thermal energy to drive Jovian oscillations, should it be available to them.

Apr
13
Fri
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Emma Dahl
Apr 13 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Emma Dahl @ BX102

Colloquium Title

Emma Dahl, NMSU

Abstract text

May
9
Wed
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Caitlin Doughty
May 9 @ 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Caitlin Doughty @ Science Hall 107

Metal Absorption in the Circumgalactic Medium During the Epoch of Reionization

Caitlin Doughty, NMSU

The characteristics of metal absorption arising from the circumgalactic medium of galaxies have been demonstrated to be related to conditions in the galaxy which sourced them, as well as to the ambient ultraviolet background. I propose a three- pronged thesis in order to better understand and utilize these relationships. First, I will explore whether the spectral energy distributions of binary stars, incorporated into a custom version of GADGET-3, can explain the discrepancy between observed and simulated absorber statistics. Second, I will study the relationship between neu- tral oxygen absorbers and the neutral hydrogen fraction in simulated quasar sight- lines and relate the results to observations of neutral oxygen at z ≥ 4.0. Third, I will study the relationships between the emissive properties of galaxies, stemming from their nebular gas, and the metal absorbers which they source. Taken as a whole, this thesis will improve the ability of cosmological simulations to reproduce realistic metal absorption, probe the local progress and topology of reionization, and under- stand what emissive galaxy traits we expect at z > 5 based on observations of metal absorbers.

Jan
23
Wed
Colloquium Thesis Defense: Lauren Kahre
Jan 23 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Colloquium Thesis Defense: Lauren Kahre

Extinction Mapping and Dust-to-Gas Ratios of Nearby Galaxies

Lauren Kahre, NMSU

We present a study of the dust{to{gas ratios in 31 nearby (D >
10 Mpc) galaxies. Using Hubble Space Telescope broad band WFC3/UVIS UV and
optical images from the Treasury program LEGUS (Legacy ExtraGalactic UV
Survey) combined with archival HST/ACS data, we correct thousands of
individual stars for extinction across these galaxies using an
isochrone-matching (reddening-free Q) method. We generate extinction maps
for each galaxy from the individual stellar extinctions using both
adaptive and fixed resolution techniques, and correlate these maps with
neutral HI and CO gas maps from literature, including The HI Nearby Galaxy
Survey (THINGS) and the HERA CO-Line ExtraGalactic Survey (HERACLES). We
calculate dust-to-gas ratios and investigate variations in the dust-to-gas
ratio with galaxy metallicity. We find a power law relationship between
dust-to-gas ratio and metallicity. The single power law is consistent with
other studies of dust-to-gas ratio compared to metallicity, while the
broken power law shows a significantly shallower slope for low metallicity
galaxies than previously observed. We find a change in the relation when
H_2 is not included. This implies that underestimation of N_H2 in
low-metallicity dwarfs from a too-low CO-to-H2 conversion factor X_CO
could have produced too low a slope in the derived relationship between
dust-to-gas ratio and metallicity. We also
compare our extinctions to those derived from fitting the spectral energy
distribution (SED) using the Bayesian Extinction and Stellar Tool (BEAST)
for NGC 7793 and and systematically lower extinctions from SED-fitting as
compared to isochrone matching. Finally, we compare our extinction maps of
NGC 628 to maps of the dust obtained via IR emission from Aniano et al.
(2012) and find a factor of 2 difference in dust-to-gas ratios determined
from the two maps, consistent with previous work.

Sep
12
Thu
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Rachel Marra
Sep 12 @ 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Colloquium Thesis Proposal: Rachel Marra @ Jett Hall 210

An Observer’s Examination of the Circumgalactic Medium using Cosmological Simulations

Rachel Marra, NMSU

A significant aspect to understanding galaxy evolution is having an understanding of the intricacies involving the inflow and outflow of baryons onto a galaxy. Gas needs to accrete onto the galaxy in order for star formation to occur, while stellar winds, supernovae, and radiation pressure result in the outflow of gas from the galaxy. The diffuse region around the galaxy that has gas from interstellar medium (ISM) inflows and intergalactic medium (IGM) outflows interacting is the circumgalactic medium (CGM). Studying the CGM will help us learn about the baryon cycle and give us a better understanding of galactic evolution.

The primary method to studying the CGM is through absorption, as the density is too low to detect emission. Studying these absorption features allows us to learn about the physical properties of the gas giving rise to the absorption. Other than through observations, cosmological simulations play a large role in how we learn about the CGM of galaxies. Using MOCKSPEC, the Quasar Absorption Line Analysis Pipeline, to create mock quasar sightlines through the VELA simulation suite of galaxies, we use the absorption features seen in the sightlines to study the CGM in the simulations. While there are many ions that are used to study the CGM, we focus on OVI.

We intend to study how effective our methods are for studying the CGM with both observations and simulations. The covering fraction of OVI for a sample of observed galaxies will be compared with the covering fraction that is found from a selection of LOS that probe simulated, Milky-Way type galaxies. This tells us if the simulations can reproduce the observations, and if they do not, we can gain insights as to why the simulations do not match observed data. We will also investigate if the metallicity calculated from an observed absorption feature reflects the actual metallicity of the probed gas by using mock sightlines through simulations. Additionally, we will do a comparison of different methodologies used to study the CGM in simulations, to determine if using mock quasar sightlines is a more realistic and accurate method to compare to observed data.