D.J. Pisano, assistant professor in the Department of Physics at West Virginia University, will have help exploring nearby star bursting galaxies now that the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) has awarded him a student grant.
Pisano will be joined by physics graduate student Katie Rabidoux while studying star formation in its earliest stages using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in Green Bank, W.Va.
Pisano received the NRAO student-observing support grant in collaboration with astronomers at the University of Virginia and the NRAO worth more than $27,000. As part of this grant, Rabidoux will be involved in all stages of the research, including observations, data reduction and data analysis. She will also author the first paper describing the results.
Pisano is measuring the physical conditions of the star-forming gas in galaxies, ranging from small dwarf galaxies and the Milky Way to galaxies undergoing massive collisions, to determine how many stars have formed, how long the star formation is likely to continue and how the star formation is affecting the rest of the galaxy.
“Our motivation is to better understand how galaxies form and evolve so we have a better idea of how the universe works,” said Pisano, who is also an adjunct assistant astronomer at the NRAO. “Similar studies have been done but not for such a large sample of galaxies or with such capable instruments as the GBT.”
Traditional methods for studying star formation use visible emission lines, but dust in galaxies can decrease their brightness often leading to an underestimate of the star formation activity. Instead, Pisano is searching for the radio recombination line emission to measure star formation because the emissions are unaffected by dust, similar to the way you can listen to the radio even when it’s foggy or cloudy.
“This type of work is valuable for training future scientists and engineers whether they continue doing astronomical research or not,” said Pisano.
Pisano began working as a post-doctoral researcher at the observatory in Green Bank in 2009, and currently teaches astronomy and astrophysics at WVU. Previously, he worked at the Naval Research Laboratory and the Australia Telescope National Facility. He received a bachelor’s degree from Yale in 1996 and a doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001.
His research uses radio telescopes around the world to study neutral hydrogen in the Milky Way and other distant galaxies. He is also studying high-velocity clouds around the Milky Way using the Galactic All-Sky Survey, a recently completed neutral hydrogen survey of the southern sky using the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.
For more information, contact D.J. Pisano at (304) 293-3422 or DJPisano@mail.wvu.edu.
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