Category: Astronomy

Amherst College Science Center

We Are the Cosmic Weirdos: Exploring the Role and Function of Dark Matter in the Universe

Profile picture of Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

On March 29, Presidential Scholar Chanda Prescod-Weinstein gave a talk in the Science Center called “Cosmic Probes of the Dark Sector.” Prescod-Weinstein is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Core Faculty Member in Women’s Studies at the University of New Hampshire. She began her talk by telling the audience that “there are no stupid questions,…

Reflecting on LIGO SURF

As one of the postdocs who mentored the LIGO SURF program put it, there are five goals to an REU, which are, in order of importance: Safety and health Have fun I learn something My mentors learn something The project A major aim of a summer research internship is to learn what it means to…

A new kind of astronomical collision!

Still image from a numerical simulation of a black hole / neutron star merger. Image credit: S.V.Chaurasia (Stockholm University), T. Dietrich (Potsdam University and Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics), N. Fischer, S. Ossokine, H. Pfeiffer (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics), ,https://www.ligo.org/detections/NSBH2020/files/BHNS_GW200115.png. Scientists have long predicted that neutron stars and black holes could orbit…

Separating Black Holes from the Noise

Hi, everyone! I’m Cailin Plunkett, a rising junior majoring in physics and mathematics. This summer, I’m researching gravitational waves through the Caltech LIGO SURF program. Electromagnetic (EM) radiation—like infrared, visible light, UV, etc—is the type of data we are used to receiving from space. The first telescopes looked at stars and planets in the visible…

Reaching for the Stars: William Balmer Thesis Spotlight

William Balmer is a senior astronomy and physics double major. They took time out of their busy end-of-term schedule to talk about their thesis with the astronomy department: measuring the orbit and brightness of a young star embedded in a disk of material around another young star. The following was adapted from an email interview…

Planetary cradles: UMass/FCAD colloquium speaker Feng Long presents ALMA view of early solar systems

three disks at different wavelengths

Solar systems like ours begin as pancakes of dust and gas left over after a star forms. Over time, the dust within these “circumstellar disks” coagulate into planetesimals that will eventually form planets like the Earth. During this early stage of solar system evolution, these circumstellar disks are called “protoplanetary disks” because planets have not…

Spectra’s STEM Internship Survival Guide – Academia & Research

How do I pick a supervisor?

Considering applying for STEM internships? Interested in experiences inside or outside of academia? Unsure how to get funding for these exciting opportunities (as a U.S. citizen, international, or undocumented student)? It can be hard to find summer opportunities while studying for midterms and completing coursework. Fortunately, Spectra (Amherst College’s very own Physics, Biophysics, and Astronomy…

High Flying Adored: Whole Air Sampling Research Tracks Emissions from Fuel Leaks

three different plumes during 2015 flight

Introduction This post is the third in a series highlighting the fantastic astronomy research Amherst College students have conducted this summer. For more information on the series, visit ,,this post. This week, Astronomy Department Editor William Balmer (that’s me) interviewed Joe Palmo ‘21, who interned this summer at NASA via the Student Airborn Research Program…

Observing Outbursts from Orbit

optical data graph

Introduction This post is the third in a series highlighting the fantastic astronomy research Amherst College students have conducted this summer. For more information on the series, visit ,,this post. This week, Astronomy Department Editor William Balmer (that’s me) interviewed Lena Treiber ’23E, who presented at the Chandra Time-Series Conference this fall. Lena attended the…

Telescope Time Trials

Las Campanas Observatory

Introduction This post is the second in a series highlighting the fantastic astronomy research Amherst students have conducted this summer. For more information on the series, visit ,,this post. This week, Astronomy Department Editor William Balmer (that’s me) interviewed one of the six Follette Lab students who presented at the Colloquia. Khalid Mohamed ‘22 led…