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The SAGUARO Project and Multi-Messenger Astronomy

Since April 2019 , Michael Lundquist and David Sand of Steward Observatory along with a team of astronomers from Northwestern University have partnered with Eric Christensen (LPL) and the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) on the Searches After Gravitational-waves using ARizona Observatories (SAGUARO) project. This project uses the Steward Observatory Mount Lemmon 60” telescope to search for optical counterparts to gravitational wave events using the CSS asteroid survey. CSS provides two years worth of historical imaging that is used with image subtraction to more easily identify new events.  Many in the Steward community are involved, with the team, in the follow-up observations of these events.

In April 2019  the Advanced LIGO and Virgo facilities turned on and began their third observing run looking for the gravitational wave signals indicative of the mergers of compact objects such as neutron stars and black holes. While no optical counterparts to the gravitational wave event were found, by anyone in the world, the SAGUARO team was able to test and improve its telescope response to the LIGO alerts. In this test, it discovered two new supernovae (unrelated to detected gravitational waves) and utilized the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory to spectroscopically classify one promising optical counterpart from another group. This object, PS19eq, was also determined to be a supernova and unfortunately not a kilonova.

To date, only one optical counterpart to a gravitational wave event, AT2017gfo, has been found. Part of the reason for this is that the gravitational wave observatories can only localize events to tens or hundreds (or even thousands) of square degrees.The image shows the gravitational wave localization of this object as well as field centers of observed images. Teams such as SAGUARO are able to image many square degrees of sky quickly, looking for things that have changed brightness, and then to use large telescopes for spectroscopic followup of the most likely transient sources.

This is a new and exciting field that will open up our understanding of heavy element production in the universe, provide independent measurements of cosmological parameters, and provide clues to the structure of neutron stars. The current LIGO and Virgo observing run continues through April 2020. SAGUARO represents the one of the most significant additions to the search for optical counterparts. The SAGUARO team is ready and able to follow up these detections searching for the elusive optical counterparts.

You can read the Saguaro paper HERE. The UA News article is HERE.

Congratulations New PhD's

Six of Astronomy's graduate students have received Doctorates this summer. We congratulate them and wish them the best in their new endeavors. What follows is a picture book of photos from their post-defense celebrations. 

Ekta Patel, May 9.

Deborah Schmidt, July 17.

Ramesh Mainali, July 25.

Junhan Kim, July 29.

David Lesser, July 31. 

Yifan Zhou, August 5. 

Recent Steward Ph.D. K. Decker French Wins the ASP's Trumpler Award

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific recently announced that K. Decker French (Ph.D. in 2017 from U.A. Dept. of Astronomy) has been awarded the 2019 Trumpler Award. It is given to "a recent recipient of the Ph.D. degree in North America whose research is considered unusually important to astronomy." 

You can read the A.S.P.'s press release HERE. The Carnegie article is HERE.

While at Arizona, Dr. French worked with Prof. Ann Zabludoff and contributed to a range of astronomical subfields, such as gravitational lensing, galaxy evolution, and the tidal disruption of individual stars by the massive black holes in the centers of galaxies. Her analyses included theoretical simulations, machine learning classifiers, and space- and ground-based imaging and spectroscopy that spanned ultraviolet to radio wavelengths. Dr. French's 2017 Ph.D. dissertation, "New Methods for Tracking Galaxy and Black Hole Evolution using Post-Starburst Galaxies," made important discoveries connecting the global star formation histories of galaxies to their gas content and to their galactic nuclei. She is now a Hubble Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Decker joins an impressive list of Stewardites who have won the Trumpler Award: Jennifer Scott (2005), Jill Bechtold (1988), John Hill (1986), and Gary Schmidt (1979). In addition professors and former professors Gurtina Besla (2013, Harvard), Jim Liebert (1980, Berkeley), and the above-mentioned Jill Bechtold have been so honored.

Congratulations, Decker, from all of us in the Astronomy Dept. and Steward Observatory.

WIRED Magazine Talks About Chris Walker's Huge Space Balloon-Telescopes

WIRED Magazine has an article,  HERE, about Chris Walker's "Echo like" space balloon-telescopes. You can read older stories about Dr Walker's projects HERE. You can watch a podcast of a recent talk by Dr Walker HERE.

Graduation-Related Photos from Late Spring 2019

Here are six photos covering the College of Science Graduate Students Award Ceremony, the Steward celebration of our graduating majors and minors, our new Phds, and COS graduation itself.

Photo 1   Photo 2    Photo 3   Photo 4   Photo 5   Photo 6

Professor Lucy Ziurys Appointed Regents' Professor

UA Professor of  Biochemistry/Chemistry and Astronomy Lucy Ziurys has been appointed to be a Regents' Professor.  The article linked below summarizes some of her many accomplishments, notably her laboratory and observational work on molecules of astrophysical interest. Regents' Professors are a major honor in the State of Arizona University system: they can be no more than 3% of the tenured and tenure-line professors at each of UA and ASU and NAU.  Professor Ziurys joins Professors Roger Angel, W. David Arnett, Xiaohui Fan, George Rieke, Marcia Rieke and Peter Strittmatter as Regents' Professors in our Department. You can read the UA News article HERE.


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