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51 Pegasi b Fellowship at University of Arizona

The 51 Peg b postdoctoral fellowship  (Heising-Simons Foundation) is soliciting applications. The due date is Oct 2, 2020. Note that only certain institutions may host a 51 Peg b postdoctoral scholar: the UA is one of them. Astronomy/Steward welcome applications to the Heising-Simons Foundation that list us as a first-choice institution. For specific UA information on this fellowship, please contact  Dr Jared Males ( or Dr Buell Januzzi, the Department Chair ( Read more about the fellowship HERE and HERE

We note that Steward grad Ben Rackham of UA Astronomy received a 51 Peg b fellowship to work at MIT starting in Fall 2019. Ya-Lin Wu, a 2018 fellow, also from UA Astronomy, is now working at UT Austin. Thaddeus Komacek of UA Planetary Sciences and a 2018 fellow, is now at the University of Chicago.

35 Steward Employees Receive UArizona Service Awards

The annual UArizona service awards were announced this past week. Thirty-five Steward employees were honored. George Rieke and Rodger Thompson (PI of the NICMOS Camera on HST)  were rewarded for 50 years at UArizona, with Regents' Professor Marcia Rieke acknowledged for 45 years of service, including a current position as Principal Investigator of the Near Infrared Camera for the James Webb Space Telescope. UA @ Work profiled George Rieke. We quote the article: "Among the 50-year service award honorees is George Rieke, Regents Professor of astronomy and planetary sciences, who says he was hired in 1970 through a "rather strange accident" involving the late Frank Low, Regents Professor emeritus. "I went down to talk to Frank one day, and he was having a furious argument with somebody over the telephone," Rieke recalled. He quickly realized Low was speaking to someone Rieke was planning to work for as a postdoc at Goddard Space Flight Center. "After the argument died down, I said, 'It's a funny coincidence that I'm probably going to be working for that guy in six months.' Then Frank said, 'Oh. You want a job?'"

Rieke says he has valued watching the University take a leading position in astronomy throughout his career. He has been no small part of that growth. Rieke currently serves as NASA's science team lead for the James Webb Space Telescope's Mid-Infrared Instrument. The University, he says, provides a culture that will allow the next generation of scientists to build on that momentum. "We've had good leadership and an atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to be an entrepreneur," Rieke said. "You can basically create your own opportunities if you are skillful enough, aggressive enough, determined enough and lucky enough." His wife, Marcia Rieke, Regents Professor of astronomy, has also made the University a long-term home. She marks 45 years of service this year." 

Image Courtesy of George Rieke

(June 11 2020)

Revealing Fomalhaut b's True Nature

Assistant Astronomer Andras Gaspar and Professor George Rieke propose a solution to the decade old mystery of the first directly imaged exoplanet, Fomalhaut b, in an article recently published in the Publications of the National Academy of Sciences. First discovered in 2008 in images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in 2004 and 2006, Fomalhaut b has always been an enigmatic object within the group of roughly two dozen directly imaged exoplanets. Despite being observed multiple times in the optical, it remains undetected at infrared wavelengths, contrary to expectations for a massive planet. In addition, its eccentric orbit crosses the debris ring around the star, yet the ring does not show the perturbations expected from interaction with a massive planet. 

While designing upcoming observations of the Fomalhaut debris disk system using their group's Guaranteed Observing Time on the James Webb Space Telescope, Gaspar methodically reduced all archival HST observations on the system, including unpublished 2013 and 2014 data. To his surprise, the Fomalhaut b object was not detected in the 2014 dataset, leading to their in-depth analysis and theoretical modeling of the Fomalhaut b object. 
Additionally, they found that the object has been fading since its first observation and that its size (spatially resolved in the later datasets) has been increasing. Finally, its orbit was now better explained by an escaping trajectory. These observational aspects all pointed towards a single plausible explanation: the object is a large expanding dust cloud on a radially escaping path. Such a cloud would be produced by a massive collision between two large asteroidal objects.
Dr. Gaspar gave us three photos: HERE is a video of the system over time. 
HERE is the cover photo. And HERE is an artist's conception of creating the dust cloud. 


Graduation 2020

On May 14, 2020, we used a "webinar" program to join from afar faculty, staff, parents, friends, relatives, and astronomy alumni. We all gathered to celebrate 29 graduating undergraduate astronomy majors and 12 astronomy minors.The list of names follows this text. Four screenshots, along with the text of former astronaut Dr. George "Pinky" Nelson's speech are given in the following five links: ONETWOTHREEFOURFIVE. You can watch the 80 min audio/video HERE (speaker view) or HERE (gallery view). 

Congratulations and good luck to everyone, and special thanks to everyone who made this graduation possible.

If you're interested in going to school in astronomy at UArizona, the presentation also provides a Department-wide perspective of our undergraduate program, including opportunities for research, funding, and inter-Department programming available to our students.


Astronomy Majors-- Samantha Elizabeth Andrews; Marco Antonio Barragan; Cassandra Bodin; Yuxuan Chen; Sean Cunningham; Xingzhong Fan; Farah Fauzi; Colin Alexander Hauch; Yuan Jea Hew; Joseph Robert Hickey; Mackenzie Madisen James; Charlotte Kevis; Michael Klein; Reagen Anne Leimbach; Collin Davis Lewin; Jimmy Lilly; Sammie Mackie; José Angel Pérez Chávez; Chirag Rathi; Daniel Ryan Robinson; William Walker Rockwell; Trevor James Smith; Alejandra Jimena Stephenson; James Jordan Taylor; Justin Tazeah Osiris Ugaitafa; Madison Victoria Walder; Emily Catherine Walla; Ryan T. Webster; Steven Zhou-Wright

Astronomy Minors-- Adam Michael Bauer; Haley Love Collins; Jackson Williams DeStefano; Nicholas Richard Ferrone; Rebeca Christine Gardner; Zackary Kyle Hatfield ;Jacob Reis Heller; Minseong Kang; Evan William Mekenney; Shitij Seth; Sukriti Sinha; Prem Kumar Thirunagari

Aaronson Symposium On Galactic Dynamics With Resolved Stars, postponed to Spring 2022

The first Marc Aaronson science symposium will be held here at the University of Arizona. Because of COVID-19 it has been postponed until Spring 2022.  The conference will be organized around 3 key topics:1)  The secular evolution of galaxies: Physical insights (to be) learned from 6D phase space information of the major baryonic components (bulge, bar and disk) of Local Group galaxies.; 2) The distribution of dark matter in galaxies: Physical insights (to be) learned from 6D phase space of tracers of the dark matter halo of Local Group galaxies (globular clusters, satellites, streams and stars); 3) The nature of dark matter: Physical insights (to be) learned from 6-D phase space information of dark matter dominated systems and systems affected by dark matter.

The Scientific Organizing Committee is: Gurtina Besla (Chair), Dennis Zaritsky (chair), Vasily Belokurov, Kathryn Johnston, Nitya Kallivayalil, Knut Olsen, Hans-Walter Rix, Louis Strigari.

You can learn more HERE and HERE. You can submit an Abstract HERE.

Note that there have been 19 Aaronson Prize Lectures from 1989 to the present, and an Aaronson@30 Symposium in 2017. Our intention is to alternate Aaronson Science Symposia and Aaronson Prize Lectures.

You can learn more about Marc Aaronson HERE

Science News/Links at Steward

Three very recent science articles by/about Steward people. If you have one, send it to edo.

1) ASTROBITES: Samantha Scibelli & Yancy Shirley, "COMs in Cores: Complex Chemistry in Dense Cores in the Taurus Star-Forming Region". LINK HERE.

2) Chris Impey, "the Conversation." "Coronavirus: Social distancing is delaying vital scientific research." LINK HERE.

3) Chris Impey, "the Conversation," How technology can combat the rising tide of fake science." LINK HERE.

The photo is from Adam Block. You can see it and others HERE.