Astrophysics Projects

This is a listing of our current Astrophysics projects.

The Expansion Kinematics of High Mass Supernovae

 Stars around 10 times or more massive than our Sun end their lives when they run out of light elements to convert into heavier elements thus making energy. When they run out of such nuclear fuel, the star's central regions collapse under the weight of the layers above, crushing the gas forming a neutron star which ironically releases more energy than the star produced during its entire lifetime. Such stellar deaths are seen as supernova outbursts. Our knowledge about many of the important details of just how the star explodes -- such as whether its spherical or bipolar -- are presently uncertain. Through a study of the kinematics of the expanding debris of several supernova remnants from high mass stars, we hope to clarify some of the physical processes behind such awesome stellar eruptions.

FACULTY CONTACT: Robert Fesen

The Evolution of Blue Spectral Features in Late-Time Type Ia Supernova Spectra

This project is to develop a long duration, high-altitude LTA platform optimized to use solar heating to generate lift and intended to loft small payloads in the range of 5–20 kg mass. The envisioned platform is a hybrid system building upon the well-established zero-pressure balloon technology employed by NASA but adding a solar energy capture and containment element to increase the lifting capability during daylight hours. The objective is to demonstrate the utility of solar heating for such a concept. A clear demonstration of the practicality of solar hot air lift could stimulate interest among large funding agencies to pursue the solar-powered, station-keeping LTA concept.

FACULTY CONTACT: Robert Fesen

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