Awards Database

Scialog: Collaborative Teams - 2017

Carles  Badenes

Carles Badenes

Physics, University of Pittsburgh

Kevin Covey

Astronomy, Western Washington University

Todd Thompson

Astronomy, Ohio State University

Stellar Multiplicity Meets Stellar Evolution: The APOGEE View

Thanks to advancing technology and new instrumentation, astronomers and astrophysicists are amassing mountains of data about stars and the forces that affect them. Much of this data remain to be interpreted, however, before it can help to explain some of the mysteries of the universe.

That’s why recently Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), America’s second-oldest foundation and the first devoted wholly to science, funded three researchers -- Carles Badenes, University of Pittsburgh; Kevin Covey, Western Washington University; and Todd Thompson, Ohio State University – through a program called Scialog: Time Domain Astrophysics: Stars and Explosions. Badenes, Covey and Thompson will use the $100,000 Scialog award to study the interplay between stellar evolution and binary star systems (two stars orbiting each other) using data from the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE). This extensive sky survey uses high-resolution, high signal-to-noise infrared spectroscopy to penetrate the dust that obscures significant fractions of the disk and bulge of our galaxy. APOGEE has examined more than 100,000 main sequence and red giant stars across the whole galaxy. In the process it has also amassed a great deal of data on binary star systems. Binary stars, especial those in tight orbits around one another, cause or contribute to a variety of stellar phenomena, including Type 1a supernovae – spectacular stellar explosions that occur when at least one of the binary stars is a white dwarf.

The APOGEE data is unique, the researchers say, because “it provides a full spectral characterization for a large number of targets spread throughout the galaxy.” They plan on cross-correlating APOGEE data with other surveys to further extend their findings into the blue and ultraviolet spectra. Their results may help refine inputs to binary population synthesis for all types of interacting stellar binaries, including those producing Type Ia supernovae. They’re hoping the techniques they develop in this project can be used with data gleaned from current and future star surveys.

The three formed their collaboration at an RCSA-sponsored conference, Scialog: Time Domain Astrophysics, held late last year in Tucson, Arizona. There, 50 leading young astronomers and astrophysicists, joined by 10 distinguished senior scientists, engaged in intensive discussions designed to produce creative ideas for innovative research. (Scialog is a combination of “science” and “dialog.”)

“Scialog aims to encourage collaborations among theorists, experimentalists and computational scientists,” said RCSA Program Director Richard Wiener. “We want to catalyze the development of a community in which theory and observation work together to achieve understanding of fundamental phenomena.”

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