Conor is a physics major who has always had a fascination with astronomy. When he first began attending Cal Poly Pomona as an undeclared major, he wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to study. After he took his first physics course, he was confident that studying physics would be just the major to satisfy his curiosity with the universe and laws that govern it. When Conor heard about the CAMPARE program, he knew it would be a great experience that would help him better understand where he wants to be and what he wants to do in the future. Conor spent the summer of 2013 doing research at the University of Arizona. This is his story
During the summer of 2013, I was given the opportunity to conduct research with Professor Nathan Smith at the University of Arizona. My research was on the type IIn supernova SN2010jp. Dr. Smith wrote a paper about SN2010jp explaining some of the odd characteristics that it displayed. Two merging galaxies were seen with a similar redshift velocity to SN2010jp, but SN2010jp was quite a distance away from them. This meant that it wasn’t clear whether or not SN2010jp was part of the galaxy merger or not. SN2010jp had a spectrum with a significant triple peak at the H-alpha lines. This was interpreted as evidence that SN2010jp is a bipolar jet-driven supernova. After analysis, it was seen that SN2010jp’s jets actually had a velocity of about -13000km/s and 15000km/s. Because SN2010jp is not your average supernova, Dr. Smith went to the Magellan Telescopes in Chile to gather more data. The data he gathered there is what I used for my research.
My first objective for this project was to figure out how to use IRAF, a program run in the computer terminal, to reduce and analyze my data. IRAF is a useful program for those who know how to use it, but it is quite confusing for people who are just starting to learn it. There are hundreds of commands in IRAF, and each of those commands have parameters that dictate how the command works with the data you are using. Once I became friends with IRAF and reduced all my data, I began analyzing it. I still used IRAF to analyze my data, but I started using different commands that would examine my final output images from the reduction process. After analyzing my data, I talked with Dr. Smith about what conclusions I could make.
We found that my analysis showed that SN2010jp was in fact part of the galaxy merger that was nearby. In my analysis, I created a light-curve that showed the decay in absolute magnitude of SN2010jp since the first set of data that was taken about 2 and 1/2 years prior to my data. From this light-curve, we found that SN2010jp was giving off my light than previously expected. This could be due to either a star cluster in the region where the supernova occurred or supernova shock interaction with circumstellar matter. Another part of my research was to analyze the H-alpha emissions from SN2010jp. By analyzing the H-alpha emissions, we should have been able to tell whether or not there is a star forming region where SN2010jp was, but more data needs to be taken to come to a decision.
All in all, I loved my experience working at the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. Learning about supernova and doing research on SN2010jp with Dr. Smith was very fulfilling. I also had a lot of fun hanging out with the other students that in CAMPARE and going on field trips to observatories. I won’t ever forget this summer and I hope that more students in the future get to have as great a time as I did.