Clint Hawkins is a physics major interested in astronomy who worked with Dr. Josh Eisner at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory as part of the CAMPARE program, continuing the work of Stephanie Zajac investigating the stellar accretion rates of young, pre-main sequence stars. This is his story.
Over the summer of 2011 I had the extremely fortunate opportunity to work with Dr. Josh Eisner of the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. My summer research work actually began about a month before I finished the spring quarter. I was able to make a trip to Kitt Peak for a five night observing run at the 90” Bok Telescope. This was my first time at an observatory or telescope that was not simply an amateur setup in my own back yard, and for it to be at Kitt Peak, having so many different types of telescopes, it was a dream come true. I was very excited to get to be doing astrophysics research over the summer, but I was even more excited to learn that I was going to actually be acquiring the data for my research myself. At the telescope I had a lot more responsibility than I expected. I was in charge of making sure that the spectrometer was filled with liquid nitrogen a few times a day and while observations were taking place, I told the operator which star to look at and had to make sure that the telescope’s movement was not hindered by anything, I also even got to make fine adjustments to the telescopes orientation to center the object star on our spectrometer. Over the five night run in May, and then again in June, I observed the same 50 objects each night, giving me enough data, in conjunction with the data Stephanie Zajac took in 2010, to be able to achieve my research goal.
As for the research I was doing, apart from taking the data, I wrote a data reduction pipeline in IDL to get the raw spectrometer images into workable, correct spectra. IDL is an array based programming language that is used by Astronomers often in spectroscopy research. This task took the majority of my time in Arizona. I worked in an office at the University of Arizona alongside Steven Jasso, who was working on his own Radio Astronomy research as part of CAMPARE. My overall goal for the summer was to reduce all of my data and Stephanie’s data down to final spectra to which we could determine physical properties of the circumstellar disks around the stars we imaged.
While in Arizona, Steven Jasso, Hector Saldivar and myself made sure to see as much of what Tucson and the University of Arizona could offer. We made trips to the Desert Museum, Triton Missile Museum, the Old Tucson Studios and probably the most impressive thing we saw, the Mirror Lab at the University. Dr. John Bieging took us on a tour of the Mirror Lab, where within we saw the entire process of creating an astronomical mirror. We saw them constructing the mold for a new mirror, the cleaning off of a mold of a previously made mirror, the polishing taking place on the first mirror to be constructed for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and finally a mirror being tested in the laser interferometer mirror testing structure. Truly an amazing opportunity to see such precise work being done, it really made us appreciate what went in to the instruments we were using to collect our data.