by John Church, Program Chair
On March 8th we will be having Tim Brandt, a third-year graduate student in Princeton’s Department of Astrophysics. to speak on Type Ia supernovae and the search for their progenitors. Type Ia supernovae are believed to be the thermonuclear explosions of carbon-oxygen white dwarfs. They are also “standardizable candles”: objects whose luminosity can be calculated from detailed light curve observations. This has made them useful distance indicators out to redshifts of ~1, and led to the discovery of the accelerating
universe. However, we still do not know how the white dwarf is
destabilized. The two leading hypotheses are that it accretes mass
from a companion main sequence or giant star, increasing the central
temperature and pressure, or that it merges with another white dwarf.
Tim will also discuss his more recent work as part of the Strategic exploration of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS)collaboration using the 8.2-meter Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. He is currently trying to characterize the instrument and understand the data, with the ultimate goal of doing statistical analyses on the entire data set. He will provide an overview of the telescope and instrument, and of the challenges in the search for companions of nearby stars.
Tim was born in rural Ohio and grew up outside of Boston. His undergraduate work was at Yale, where he majored in math and physics. He did undergraduate research with Meg Urry and collaborators on blazars and active galactic nuclei. After graduating, he spent two years teaching high school physics at the American School of Kuwait. At Princeton, he has worked on Type Ia supernova hosts and progenitors, simulations of core-collapse supernovae, scattering by diffuse interstellar dust, and most recently, direct-imaging exoplanets survey. He is also very interested in teaching and is volunteering in a program to teach algebra at local prisons.
There will be a “Meet the Speaker” dinner at 6:00 pm before the meeting. Please email John Church by noon on Tuesday, March 8th for a reservation. I will respond with the dinner location, which has yet to be determined; it will be at either the Sports Bar (old Sotto) or the Triumph Brewing Company, close to one another on Nassau Street in Princeton. To insure a place or places at the table, it will be very important to make all reservations by noon on the 8th.
On April 12th we will have Michael Molnar speaking on “The Star of Bethlehem,” a topic he has extensively researched. Michael will be signing copies of his book on this subject during the intermission. We will be hearing Ken Kremer’s talk (postponed from January due to the meeting cancellation) on the future of NASA on May 10th. To round out our current session, on June 14th,we will be treated to another presentation by Bill Murray in the New Jersey State Museum Planetarium in Trenton.
On a personal note, it has been my distinct pleasure to serve as your Program Chair for the 2010-11 season. It is now time for me to move on to new subjects and to give other members the chance to serve on the Board of Directors and set ongoing goals for the AAAP. For whoever is selected to be the next Program Chair, I have several possible speakers to suggest for the next session. I wish my successor, who will be elected at the May meeting, all the best as he or she discovers the rewards and pleasures of serving in this highly fulfilling position.