Tag Archive for Astronomy Department

NASA Funds Greenwood’s Lunar Rock Study

Jim Greenwood

James Greenwood, research associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, received a grant worth $494,517 from NASA. The grant will support his research titled “Water in Lunar Rocks: Petrologic and Isotopic Analyses of Phosphate Minerals in Apollo’s Samples” through June 30, 2014.

Malamut ’12 Photographs Rare Eclipse for NASA

Craig Malamut ’12 helped photograph the Easter Island solar eclipse July 11 as a participant of the Williams College Eclipse Expedition. The composite image brings out the correlation of structures in the sun’s inner and outer corona.

On July 11, Craig Malamut ’12 photographed a pacific solar eclipse 2,500 miles west of South America.

As a Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium Summer Fellow, summer exchange student, Malamut had the opportunity to travel to Easter Island with a group from Williams College. The last time an eclipse occurred over the island was in 591 A.D.

The expedition was led by Jay Pasachoff, the Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College and chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Eclipses. This was Pasachoff’s 51st solar eclipse study; it was Malamut’s first.

“Before getting this position, I was thinking my first total solar eclipse would be the 2017 eclipse that runs across the entire United States from Oregon to South Carolina,” he says. “I never in a million years thought I’d be going to Easter Island to see the 2010 eclipse. It was one of the least viewed total solar eclipses in recent history due to the fact that most of the path of totality went over the Pacific Ocean.”

Before the eclipse, student researchers Malamut

Jensen’s Research Supported by Space Telescope Institute

Adam Jensen, research associate for the Astronomy Department, received a $68,012 grant from the Space Telescope Institute, AURA, for his research on “Definitive ISM Abundances through Low-mass X-ray Binaries as Lighthouses.”

This research program will use 13 orbits of Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observing time along with archival data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory to better understand the composition of the interstellar dust in our galaxy. 

One HST observation was executed in June, with additional observations to follow this fall.  The project is funded through May 31, 2012.

Honor Thesis Students Present Research at NSM Poster Session

Wesleyan’s Natural Science and Mathematics hosted a “Celebration of Science Theses” April 16 in Exley Science Center’s lobby. BA and MA honors thesis students presented their research to peers and the community.

President Michael S. Roth listens to Wei Dai ’11 explain his research on “Effect of Valency on the Dynamics and Thermodynamics of DNA-linked Nanoparticles Materials.” Dai’s advisor is Francis Starr, associate professor of physics. Wei has conducted extensive computer simulations to show nanoparticles can be linked together using DNA as 'bridges'. The resulting nanostructured materials have unusual properties that may be applicable to energy storage, drug delivery, optical materials and nanoscale devices. Dai also has published a peer-review journal article titled “Valency Dependence of Polymorphism and Polyamorphism in DNA-Functionalized Nanoparticles.” (Photo by Roslyn N. Carrier-Brault)

David Boznick, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, congratulates the BA and MA honors thesis students on their achievements.

Herbst, Redfield Published in Astronomy Publications

Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, and Seth Redfield, assistant professor astronomy, are co-authors of the article, “Gas Absorption in the KH 15D System: Further Evidence for Dust Settling in the Circumbinary Disk,” published in The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 711, Issue 2, pp. 1297-1305 in March 2010. Their data supports a picture of a particular circumbinary disk as being composed of a very thin particulate grain layer composed of millimeter-sized or larger objects that are settled within whatever remaining gas may be present.

Herbst also is the author of “Periodic variability in the emission spectrum of T Tauri,” published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, Volume 511 in February 2010.

Redfield Awarded NASA Grant

Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, received a grant from NASA on Jan. 28 for his research titled “Probing the Atomic  & Molecular Inventory of the Beta-PicAnalog, the Young Edge –On Debris Disk of HD32297rp.” The $48,334 grant, will be applied over two years.

Kilgard Receives Grant from Smithsonian Observatory

Roy Kilgard, research assistant professor of astronomy, received a grant on Jan. 4 from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for research titled “ULX in the Most Metal Poor Galaxies.” The award, worth $15,000, will be applied through Dec. 22, 2011.

5 Questions With…Edward Moran


Edward Moran says he measures the mass of black holes by its gravitational effects on something else that's nearby.

5 Questions is a new feature in The Wesleyan Connection that will ask faculty members – surprise! – five questions about their work and activities.

This issue, the questions go to Edward Moran, chair and associate professor of astronomy and director of the Van Vleck Observatory. His primary area of study is black holes. This summer he received a major National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for an extensive study on “intermediate mass” black holes.

Q: Everyone thinks they know, but once and for all: what is a black hole?

EM: Technically, black holes are places where matter has been crushed down to a single point. In other words, blacks hole can have the mass of a star but absolutely no size. They therefore have infinite density and, in their immediate vicinity, an extremely intense gravitational field.

Q: How are black holes created?

EM: We only know how stellar-mass black holes are created, which is from the explosions of very large stars. As for the types of black holes I study, the “supermassive” black holes that are found at the centers of galaxies, how they are created and what their initial masses are remain open questions at this time. I’m trying

NASA Awards Redfield Grant for Ultraviolet Astronomy

Seth Redfield

Seth Redfield

Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, received a grant for $20,000 from NASA for his research on “Development and Flight Testing of High Efficiency Echelles & Detectors for the Future of Ultraviolet Astronomy.”

Redfield is collaborating with the project’s lead institution, the University of Colorado. NASA awarded $2.1M for the entire project.

Moran Awarded NSF Grant for Black Hole Study

Edward Moran, chair and associate professor of astronomy, director of the Van Vleck Observatory, received a grant from the National Science Foundation for his research titled “Black Holes in the Milky Way’s Backyard.” The grant, worth $275,164, will be applied over three years. The award, presented on Aug. 26, is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.