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Applications Being Accepted for Strittmatter Fellowship

The University of Arizona Dept of Astronomy and Steward Observatory is seeking applicants for the Peter A Strittmatter Fellowship for Advanced Study in Astronomy & Astrophysics. The job ad can be found HERE. For more information, please contact Professor Feryal Ozel (fozel) or Dr. Jared Males (jrmales). (Add "" to the prefix in the previous sentence.)

This postdoctoral fellowship provides an opportunity for a recent Ph.D. recipient to pursue an ambitious program of research in any area of theoretical, experimental, or observational astronomy or astrophysics. All of the observational and computational facilities of the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory are available to the Fellow, who is encouraged to conduct independent research and to develop collaborations with faculty, staff, and students.
The Strittmatter Fellow will receive  stipend of $65,000 per year, as well as access to a generous research fund to support their scientific program. This is a year-to-year Fellowship for up to 3 years and commences in fall 2020. Candidates must have completed all requirements for the Ph.D. in Astronomy or a related field before the start date of the Fellowship.
Review of applications begins Dec 3, 2019.

Assistant Professor Peter Behroozi Wins Packard Fellowship

We are pleased to announce that Assistant Professor Peter Behroozi is part of a nationwide class of 22 early-career scientists to be awarded a Packard Fellowship. He is one of only four astronomers to get this five-year, $875000 award in 2019. You can read about the Packard HERE and Daniel Stolte's UANews story HERE

Part of Peter's research will be to try to understand how supermassive black holes form so quickly in the early universe. Observations by others have shown that by the time the universe is 700 million years old (5% of its current age), there already exist supermassive black holes large enough to power the most luminous quasars. Current physical models simply cannot make such large black holes on the timescales that Nature does. Peter and his graduate student, Haowen Zhang, will attack this problem in the following way: "We are going to use our experience in creating millions of virtual universes containing billions of galaxies and apply it to generating new synthetic universes, this time filled with black holes,"  Peter says. "We will then compare our results to observational data of active, supermassive black holes and quasars at different times as well as to black holes closer to home."

Please join us in congratulating  Peter. Peter joins Astronomy/Steward Professors Dennis Zaritsky (1997) and Xiaohui Fan (2004) as Packard winners. 

Ruth McCutcheon

We are sad to tell you that our friend and colleague, Ruth McCutcheon, the Director of Development for the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory, passed away on July 29, 2019, after a courageous battle with cancer. We offer our deepest condolences to her children Grace and Henry, and to her parents Jim and Martha McCutcheon. Ruth was a leader in our efforts to connect with public and philanthropic contributors supporting the Department and Steward Observatory.  Her ability to build positive relationships between individuals and communities will be greatly missed by all of us.

Ruth, with the help of her family and friends, recently created the Ruth McCutcheon Steward Observatory Postdoctoral Fellows Research Endowment to help support the research of our Steward Observatory Prize Postdoctoral Fellows and postdoctoral researchers of Steward Observatory in general. Our academic community is brightened and strengthened by the presence and activities of our Fellows.  We are grateful  that Ruth recognized their key contributions and singled them out for her support. Please consider making a donation, in Ruth's honor, to this endowment.

HERE is a photo of Ruth in front of the oven at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona. HERE is a photo of Ruth doing what she loved best, communicating with people.

Yours most sincerely,

Buell Jannuzi

Head, Department of Astronomy

Director, Steward Observatory

(the eclipse photo of Ruth was taken by Alan Strauss, the other two linked photos by Cathi Duncan, and the front-page photo by Frank Gacon)

picture courtesy of Arizona Illustrated

Arizona Illustrated and Telumundo Visit Mt Lemmon Sky Center

In October Arizona Illustrated visited the Mount Lemmon Sky Center and did a feature on the public observing done there. You can see the video HERE. In addition, a similar spot was filmed during summer shutdown 2019, in Spanish, and shown on Telemundo.

(The photo is a screenshot from the Arizona Illustrated video.)

2019-2020 First-Year Grad Students

Another academic year has begun. Here are two photos of our first-year class. Photo 1 is the formal photo and Photo 2 is the proof that our students can fly.

From left to right: Quentin Socia, Logan Pearce, Cameron White, Spencer Scott, Victoria Jones, Jiachuan Xu, Justin Kang, Pranjal Rajendra Singh and Zuyi Chen.  

(Photos are courtesy Michelle Cournoyer.) 

The SAGUARO Project and Multi-Messenger Astronomy

Since April 2019 , Michael Lundquist and David Sand of Steward Observatory along with a team of astronomers from Northwestern University have partnered with Eric Christensen (LPL) and the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) on the Searches After Gravitational-waves using ARizona Observatories (SAGUARO) project. This project uses the Steward Observatory Mount Lemmon 60” telescope to search for optical counterparts to gravitational wave events using the CSS asteroid survey. CSS provides two years worth of historical imaging that is used with image subtraction to more easily identify new events.  Many in the Steward community are involved, with the team, in the follow-up observations of these events.

In April 2019  the Advanced LIGO and Virgo facilities turned on and began their third observing run looking for the gravitational wave signals indicative of the mergers of compact objects such as neutron stars and black holes. While no optical counterparts to the gravitational wave event were found, by anyone in the world, the SAGUARO team was able to test and improve its telescope response to the LIGO alerts. In this test, it discovered two new supernovae (unrelated to detected gravitational waves) and utilized the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory to spectroscopically classify one promising optical counterpart from another group. This object, PS19eq, was also determined to be a supernova and unfortunately not a kilonova.

To date, only one optical counterpart to a gravitational wave event, AT2017gfo, has been found. Part of the reason for this is that the gravitational wave observatories can only localize events to tens or hundreds (or even thousands) of square degrees.The image shows the gravitational wave localization of this object as well as field centers of observed images. Teams such as SAGUARO are able to image many square degrees of sky quickly, looking for things that have changed brightness, and then to use large telescopes for spectroscopic followup of the most likely transient sources.

This is a new and exciting field that will open up our understanding of heavy element production in the universe, provide independent measurements of cosmological parameters, and provide clues to the structure of neutron stars. The current LIGO and Virgo observing run continues through April 2020. SAGUARO represents the one of the most significant additions to the search for optical counterparts. The SAGUARO team is ready and able to follow up these detections searching for the elusive optical counterparts.

You can read the Saguaro paper HERE. The UA News article is HERE.


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