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Research in Astronomy

Astronomy is often able to ask some "big questions" such as, how did we get here?  

One question related to that is, how did our Milky Way Galaxy form?  Research shows that it has been built up, at least in part, by the Milky Way "eating" smaller, dwarf galaxies.  

Dr. Barton Pritzl studies ancient stellar populations in globular clusters and dwarf galaxies in order to better understand their properties and how they may have played a role in forming our Galaxy.

Currently, Dr. Pritzl is working with students to study globular clusters that belong to other galaxies to see how their properties compare to those that belong to the Milky Way Galaxy.  

These ancient stellar populations often contain pulsating variable stars, such as RR Lyrae stars. The properties of these pulsating stars reveal properties of the systems they belong to, such as their distance and metallicity. Students currently working on these projects are Thomas Gehrman and Ellyn Bell.

Another big question is related to the process of star formation.

Scientists did not know that stars are powered by nuclear fusion until about 100 years ago, and as recently as 50 years ago they did not think that stars are continually forming in the Universe. Now we know that the Universe consists of billions of galaxies and many of them are harboring regions of active star formation.

Dr. Nadia Kaltcheva studies young stellar populations in Galactic star-forming fields  in order to better understand the interplay between stars and interstellar matter that determines the rate of formation of new stars. According to current theories, stars are born from the interstellar gas and dust via fragmentation and gravitational collapse. The recently born massive stars have a profound influence on their surroundings, causing cloud disruption on large scales and cloud compression on small scales, in this way triggering the formation of even more stars.

All of the research of Dr. Kaltcheva is open to student’s participation. Learn more about the latest exciting presentations of her students. 

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by Kempen, Kayde L last modified Mar 08, 2015 01:28 PM