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AST News

AST Graduate Student Kristina Punzi accepted into the AAS Astronomy Ambassadors Program

January 9, 2017

Kristina Punzi, current AST PhD student, was  accepted into the AAS Astronomy Ambassadors program ( She was inducted at the 229th AAS meeting (January 2-3, 2017). 

Kristina presented at the 229th American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, TX this past week (January 3-7, 2017). The title of her talk was: "An X-ray and Optical Spectroscopic Study of the Perplexing Star RZ Piscium." The undergraduate students she mentored during the 2016 summer REU  (Lydia Gingerich - Haverford College, Tori Knapp - Ithaca College)  presented a poster entitled: "The Evolutionary Status of the Enigmatic Field Star RZ Piscium: A Search for Comoving Companions." She was also interviewed by Astronomy Magazine about my research. 

Mauela Campanelli presents: Black Hole Mergers, Gravitational Waves and their Gaseous Environments

October 7, 2016

Manuela Campanelli, AST Faculty and director of the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, presented "Black Hole Mergers, Gravitational Waves and their Gaseous Environments" at the Gruber Cosmology Conference at Yale University on Oct. 7 in celebration of the Gruber Cosmology Prize presented in July to Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, Ronald Drever and the entire LIGO team, including members of Campanelli's center, for the first detection of gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes. Link

Dave Principe AST Alumni is coauthor of a new paper that has just appeared in Nature

July 13, 2016

Dave Principe, AST Alumni, is coauthor of a new paper in Nature. The paper concerns the detection of the so-called "snow line" in a planet-forming disk orbiting a very young (less than 1 million year old) star, using the powerful new Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). The "snow line" is thought to mark the position in a disk where coatings of volatile ices (CO, CO2, methanol, etc) can form on dust grains, setting the stage for the buildup of the icy cores of Jupiter-like planets.

AST Students & Faculty Present a the Hidden Monsters Workshop

August 8, 2016

SoPA faculty members Jeyhan Kartaltepe, Billy Vazquez and Andy Robinson, along with Astrophysical Sciences and Technology Ph.D. students Triana Almeyda and Yashashree Jadhav, presented some of their latest research at a Workshop on supermassive black holes in galaxies, “Hidden Monsters: Obscured Active Galactic Nuclei and Connections to Galaxy Evolution". Drs Robinson and Vazquez presented talks on a large observational campaign using the Spitzer Space Telescope to map the interstellar dust distribution in active galactic nuclei, while 4th-year PhD student Almeyda presented a poster on her computer simulations of time-varying infrared emission from the dust. Second-year PhD student Jadhav presented a poster on the first results from her project, which uses Hubble Space Telescope images to search for recoiling supermassive black holes in nearby galaxies. Dr Kartaltepe presented a talk on near infrared spectroscopic observations, obtained with the Subaru and Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, of distant galaxies hosting obscured active nuclei.

The workshop was hosted by Dartmouth College, in Hanover, NH, USA, 8th-12th August 2016. 

From Left: Astrophysical Sciences and Technology PhD students Triana Almeyda and Yashashree Jadhav , at the "Hidden Monsters” workshop.

AST Faculty & Graduate Student mentor RIT undergraduates building star-tracking instrument for NASA research rockets

August 10, 2016

Rochester Institute of Technology undergraduates are making a “compass” for rockets using a new kind of detector technology. The instrument will fly on a NASA technology demonstration mission later this year. The team’s mentors are Zemcov; Dorian Patru, professor of electrical engineering; and Chi Nguyen, a Ph.D. student from Vietnam in the astrophysical sciences and technology graduate program.

The student team is designing, building—and deploying—a telescope and camera that will orient the rocket payload based on the images of stars. RIT’s Cryogenic Star Tracking Attitude Regulation System is funded by a $200,000 grant from NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Project Flight Research Opportunity program. The NASA program is designed to give undergraduates experience developing and flying experiments relevant to NASA’s mission. Full Article

AST Faculty create new method for identifying black holes Techniques connect solutions to Einstein’s equations directly with observations

June 29, 2016

Rochester Institute of Technology professors have developed a faster, more accurate way to assess gravitational wave signals and infer the astronomical sources that made them. Their method directly compares data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory to cutting-edge numerical simulations of binary black holes, including simulations performed at RIT.

In a paper available online, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration reanalyzed the first gravitational wave detections using this method. Insights from these simulations indicate that the first detected black holes were slightly more similar in mass than previously thought. RIT authors on the paper include faculty Richard O’Shaughnessy, Manuela Campanelli, Carlos Lousto, John Whelan and Yosef Zlochower; postdoctoral researcher James Healy; graduate students Jacob Lange and Yuanhao Zhang; and undergraduate student Monica Rizzo and recent graduate Jackson Henry. They are all members of RIT’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration... Full Article

AST Faculty Richard O'Shaughnessy predicts a universe crowded with black holes, co-author of paper in ‘Nature’

June 22, 2016
A new study published in Nature presents one of the most complete models of matter in the universe and predicts hundreds of massive black hole mergers each year observable with the second generation of gravitational wave detectors. The model anticipated the massive black holes observed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. The two colliding masses created the first directly detected gravitational waves and confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
AST Faculty Richard O'Shaughnessy featured in Forbes, National Geographic, Physicsworld & Redorbit articles. 

AST Faculty help identify, analyze gravitational waves, properties of the final black hole, New gravitational waves observed from second pair of black holes

June 15, 2016

Gravitational waves from a second pair of colliding black holes has validated the landmark discovery from earlier this year that confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Rochester Institute of Technology scientists contributed to the initial breakthrough and to the second discovery announced Wednesday by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory.

The second gravitational wave was observed by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration on Dec. 26, 2015, toward the end of the first science run of the Advanced LIGO detectors. The findings, which will appear in the journal Physical Review Letters, validate the new field of gravitational wave astronomy and reveal diversity of size and spin among black holes in the universe.

Full Article: 


Smaller stars pack big X-ray punch for developing planets,AST Faculty leads study

June 13, 2016
Young stars much less massive than the sun can unleash a torrent of X-ray radiation that can significantly shorten the lifetime of planet-forming disks surrounding these stars. This result comes from a new study of a group of nearby stars using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes. Rochester Institute of Technology astronomer Joel Kastner led the study.

2015 AST Ph.D. graduate finds evidence for a newborn planet around a nearby, young star

January, 2016
This work was directly motivated by Valerie’s Ph.D. dissertation project, in which she obtained very similar Gemini Planet Imager results for another nearby, young star (V4046 Sgr).
Observations from the Gemini Planet Imager confirm the presence of a gap in the dusty disk surrounding the nearby star TW Hydrae. Click for a full view! [Adapted from Rapson et al. 2015]