Check out my GitHub page to see projects I'm currently working on!
Detecting Black Holes in the Milky Way Galaxy with Photometric Microlensing
Dr. Jessica Lu (UC Berkeley) and Dr. Peter Nugent (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Massive stars end their lives in either massive explosions or self-collapse, creating an object whose density is so large that not even light can escape its grasp. These exotic remnants are known as black holes. Models predict that there should be millions of them in the Milky Way Galaxy. Yet astronomers have only been able to discover a few dozen, all of which are dancing with binary partners and emitting strong X-rays. Photometric mircolensing is the only method for detecting isolated black holes and may be the key to discovering the lost population of dark objects swimming amongst the stars. I search through the terabytes of data generated by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) for moments when black holes appear to pass in front of background stars and act as gravitational lenses, warping the spacetime so strongly that the background stars appear to shine brighter for longer.
The Hunt for Planet Nine: Detection of trans-Neptunian Objects via Wide-Sky Shift-and-Add Method
Dr. Peter Nugent (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Trans-Neptunian Objects are asteroids beyond Neptune left over from the initial formation of the solar system. The traditional method to detect these transients is to continuously observe a patch of night sky for a moving piece of light. The proposed "Planet Nine", theorized by Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin, may be so far away from our sun that it is undetectable by these usual methods. We are developing a novel approach which leverages large-scale computational techniques to possibly discover the planet in existing images. The Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) contains millions of images of the Northern sky, many which fall right on top of the most likely location of the planet. We calculate the trillions upon trillions of possible paths of the planet, and then combine PTF images along these arcs across the sky. By combining many images together, instead of searching for a signal on a single image, we hope to see deeper into the night sky and possible discover Planet Nine.
Read about our search in this article in IEEE Spectrum magazine.
Photo Credit: IEEE Spectrum Magazine
Exploration of Massive Stellar Core Boundary Definitions in MESA
Dr. Vicky Kalogera (Northwestern University Haven Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Director of CIERA)
We explored the various methods of defining the core boundaries for massive star models with the Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics (MESA). The currently accepted understanding is that core boundary definitions widely vary within modern star modeling, leading to inconsistent calculations for envelope ejection in binary star formation and it's associated parameters (Tauris 2001). We believe that these results may only apply to low-mass stars and that massive stars may have coherent boundary definitions in certain circumstances. Discovery of coherent core boundary definitions for massive stars may lead to more accurate calculations of binary envelope ejection energies and associated parameters. In order to increase the rate of our work, I have programmed submission and analysis scripts (Python & IDL) to enable parallel MESA simulations on the Northwestern Quest/Grail high performance computing cluster.
Near-infrared and Millimeter-wavelength Observations of Mol 160:
A Massive Young Protostellar Core
Drs. Michael Smutko and Grace Wolf-Chase
Published: The Astrophysical Journal, 6 Jan 2012
The evolution of massive protostars is believed to involve mass accretion followed by outflow jets. In this paper, we measured the collision of outflow jets with molecular hydrogen gas in a potentially very early phase massive protostellar system. I developed data reduction software that automated the process of cleaning, combining and analyzing years of data. This 40-fold increase in efficiency left me the time to investigate previously uncorrected over-subtractions in the NICFIPS imager. I programmed inverse correction frames to cancel these instrumental biases, a new correction technique which led to previously undiscovered shock-excited gas in Mol 160. These shocks provided evidence of outflow jets and became the central focus of our paper.
ApJ Abstract | PDF Download
ApJ Abstract | PDF Download