PHY319: 3rd Year Astronomy Projects

I am offering four projects for PHY319 in 2015 - two analytical/computational projects, and two educational/science communications projects. If you are interested in any of these projecst, feel free to come and have a chat - my office is F29 and my student drop-in hours are 13.00-14.00 on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, or 13.00-16.00 on Fridays.

#1: Tracing Gas and Star Formation in CALIFA galaxies

How do galaxies form and evolve? Can star formation happen in ellipticals? How important are galaxy interactions? The Calar Alto Legacy Integral Field Area (CALIFA) survey provides simultaneous spatial and spectroscopic views of several hundred galaxies. Using pre-existing software, the student will identify emission from stars and gas, and extract appropriate images of the galaxy emission in both cases. These images can then be analysed (either using existing easy-to-use software such as GALFIT or with custom student-designed code) and contrasted, in order to explore how gas and stellar emission varies as a function of galaxy radius, and potentially between galaxies as a function of hubble type, stellar age, mass, interaction status and velocity profile. Alternatively, the students may wish to investigate how gas emission relates to star formation rates according to the Kennicutt law, and compare their own star formation estimates with those of the CALIFA team.

This is primarily a data analysis project, but will require some simple additional programming.

#2: Astrophysics in Schools

You will design, plan, organise and deliver a presentation and practical activity for secondary school pupils. The exact content is up to you but it should have some connection to the astrophysics content of the National Curriculum, and encourage young people to study astronomy/physics in the future. You will need to think carefully about what might appeal to the audience. This will include pitching the presentation at an appropriate level for the age and capturing and keeping their attention. You should also plan an activity/experiment that they can do/join in. The session should be fun but also educational and most of all inspire them to think more positively about physics, which may challenge stereotypes they had. The project will also involve communicating with teachers in local schools and organising a time to deliver your planned session. You will then be expected to critically analyse how the session went (what went well and what didn't) and suggest ways to improve your original design. Ideally you will deliver your session in a minimum of 2 different schools.

This educational project is not open to students who carried out the equivalent project in physics with Dr Rhoda Hawkins in the previous semester (PHY341).

#3: Podcasting/Videocasting Astronomy

The student will produce a series of short, high-quality podcasts or video broadcasts on an astrophysics research topic of their choice. This project has two strands: communicating effectively with the public and creating useful learning resources. The broadcasts should be targeted at multiple audience levels (e.g. children aged 7-10; GCSE-level students/interested adults; 6th formers/first year students; older students/academics), and should effectively and clearly convey the concepts/topics covered at an appropriate level for the intended audience. The students may also wish to explore the physics of sound quality/podcast optimisation, through an open-ended investigation of waveforms, noise features and filtering and the construction/use of DIY noise-reduction environments.

This is an educational/experimental project.

#4: Building a Galaxy

Single observations of distant galaxies only give us a tantalising glimpse of their stellar populations. In this project, simple and composite synthesised stellar populations will be used to construct spectral energy distributions of galaxies of different types, ages and star formation histories. The students will explore how the observed luminosities of galaxies vary as a function of source redshift and the wavelength of the observations, and how this can be applied to identifying key astrophysical details.

This is a computational project.

Dr. Katherine J. Inskip

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