Project/blog link:Creating a Program to Find Plantesimals BASIS Advisor: Elizabeth Wheeler Internship location: UofA Steward Observatory Onsite Mentor: Dr. Steve Ertel, Astrophysicist, Res. Dir., Instrument scientist for the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI)
Across the universe, surrounding millions of stars, are rings of rocky material spanning from a few micrometers to multiple kilometers across, colliding, smashing, and breaking. These rings are most commonly referred to as “debris disks” as they are the remnants of massive interplanetary collisions. These rings are difficult to observe as they do not produce light of their own, but transmit light from nearby stars. Dr. Steve Ertel has been studying a debris disk surrounding a white dwarf star, because they are the brightest, in the Helix Nebula. During observation, astronomers were not able to find this debris disk. The goal of my project is to create a program which will probe different parameters in order to determine where the debris disk can be found. I will also be attending some observations and examining some of the methods that astronomers use in their research, such as the different ways to observe astronomical bodies, how astronomers collect and process data, how the brilliant images of space are created, and what implications these observations have both for current studies and future research. Astronomy is a field in which any person with curiosity can partake. From small personal telescopes to groundbreaking observatories, astronomy is an ever-present field. However, not many people know the methods and tools used by professional astronomers. Knowing how the universe is studied gives a glimpse into a field for which many people have passion.