About Me

I am finishing my Ph.D. in the Astrophysical Sciences and Technology program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).  My research focuses on high energy phenomena associated with star formation.  A recent copy of my CV with contact information can be found  here.  Please note that this site is a work in progress.  Thanks!

Research

My research interests in astronomy focus on star and planet formation.  I am particularly interested in X-ray variability via magnetic reconnection events and/or accretion shocks, X-ray ionization of circumstellar material and circumstellar disk structure and kinematics. Below are a few projects I'm currently working on:

 

      X-ray Variability of Young Stars In Orion

     Stars begin their life in cold dark regions of space called  molecular clouds. These dense clouds are full of molecular hydrogen, helium and other ingredients required for star and planet formation. Pictured to the right is the star-forming region M78 at optical wavelengths taken by Martin Pugh. The dark bands of cold molecular gas and dust can be seen in the southern part of the image.  Stars are actively forming within dust lanes but some are so embedded, they cannot be seen at optical wavelengths.  Fortunately, astronomers can use infrared and X-ray telescopes to peer through much of the cold gas and dust to search for young stars.  

I am currently working on a multiwavelength analysis of the young stars in this region using Spitzer (infrared) and Chandra (X-ray) observations.  Infrared observations probe warm dust and can therefore be used to detect the presence of a circumstellar disk in such newly forming stars.  X-ray observations indirectly trace magnetic activity by probing hot coronal plasmas.  Such plasmas are heated to temperatures more than millions of Kelvin via magnetically generated processes such as coronal activity, magnetically funneled accretion, and/or magnetic reconnection events.  These data allow us to estimate the age of young stars and to search for a correlation between young stellar age and magnetic phenomena associated with X-ray emission. 

Simultanoues Multiwavelength Observations of Young Stars

Simultaneous/contemporaneous observations are important to investigate young stars that exhibit variable emission on timescales of days/weeks.  I am currently working on two such campaigns to study a solar-mass and two newly discovered low-mass star-disk systems.  All three young stars are likely viewed (nearly) edge-on.  Below is an artists interpretation of a planet forming circumstellar disk around a young protostar.  Edge-on disk orientiations imply that protostellar X-rays must travel through the circumstellar disk before arriving at the telescope's detector.  Such observations are useful for investigating the absorbing properties of circumstellar gas.  X-ray irradiation and absorption of circumstellar disk gas can have important effects on disk chemistry and planet formation.  Simultaneous optical/infrared observations can probe circumstellar disk gas and dust during the period of X-ray absorption leading to a more comprehensive view of circumstellar chemistry.

 

Artist interpretation of a planet forming circumstellar disk (NASA/FUSE/Lynette Cook)

Image Credit: NASA/FUSE/Lynette Cook