Student-Faculty Programs Office
Summer 2017 Announcements of Opportunity

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Project:  Effects of Supernovae Explosions on Ultra-Faint Galaxies
Discipline:  Astrophysics
Mentor:  Andrew Benson, Dr, (PMA),, Phone: 6263040246
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  Ultra-faint galaxies - with luminosities of only a few hundred times that of the Sun - have been found orbiting the Milky Way in the past decade. Based on current understanding from galaxy formation theory, and the energetics of individual supernovae explosions, it is expected that even a single supernova explosion in such an ultra-faint galaxy could cause all of the gas in the galaxy to be ejected. Since this gas is the fuel from which stars form, this would shut down star formation in the galaxy.

This project would used a state of the art galaxy formation model to simulate the formation of thousands of such galaxies, tracking the effects of individual supernova explosions to understand how these events shape the masses, luminosities, and heavy element content of the faintest galaxies. These prediction will be compared with current and future observations, many of which are be carried out by astronomers at the Carnegie Observatories and at Caltech.
Description:  The student will make use of the Galacticus galaxy formation code, modifying the behavior of the code to determine when individual supernova explosions occur (the code currently uses a continuum approximation which is applicable only in more massive galaxies), and to apply the effects of those explosions to the galaxies forming in the model.

With these modifications in place the student will use this model to compute statistical properties of ultrafaint galaxies and compare them to current observational measurements. Once a viable model has been found detailed predictions for future observational studies could be made.
Student Requirements:  Some knowledge of astronomy (such as would be gained from Ay 1, with Ay 20 and Ay 21 always being useful) is useful but not strictly necessary. The project will involve a significant amount of programming so some experience of programming (in any language) would be useful.

A recent review of known satellite galaxies of the Milky Way can be found at and has a lot of useful background for understanding their properties and how they are discovered.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    Caltech students only 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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Problems with or questions about submitting an AO?  Call Jen Manglos of the Student-Faculty Programs Office at (626) 395-2885.
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