Welcome to the web home of the UM-Dearborn Astronomy Research group! This (deliberately) bare-bones, sporadically-updated website exists to support group members in their research efforts.

Research Areas

Galactic Archaeology, particularly of the Inner Milky Way: The crowded inner regions of our own galaxy are key expositors for the formation and evolution of spiral galaxies in general. However, because we see the inner Milky Way through the foreground spiral arms, populations in the inner few kiloparsecs of the Milky Way are challenging observational targets, necessitating new techniques to disentangle (both in observation and in analysis). Example initiatives:

  • New chemodynamical constraints on the Galactic Bulge via chemically-tagged Hubble Space Telescope proper motions (e.g. Clarkson et al. 2018 ApJ)(Aufdemberge);
  • Measuring the present-day disposition of bulge stellar populations via large ground-based imaging datasets (Belanger, Clyne, Conrad, Elpers, Fuller, Howard, Rosenberg, Moore);
  • X-ray surveying for kinematically-tagged populations of compact binaries in the Galactic bulge (Aufdemberge, Howard)
  • Utilizing idle computing cycles in classroom computer rooms to perform astronomical computation (Fuller)

  • Compact stellar binaries, in which a relatively normal orbits in close proximity with a compact stellar remnant (a white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole) are excellent laboratories for the accretion/outflow process which plays out at all astrophysical length-scales, because their dynamical timescales are short enough that long-term behavior becomes amenable to human observation. Example initiatives:

  • Using long-term X-ray datasets to search for a physical correlation between accretion disk-warping and the response of the compact accretor (e.g. Dage, K. C. et al. 2019 MNRAS 482, 337);
  • Photometric monitoring of the prototype black hole binary V404 Cyg using the MDM Observatory (Aufdemberge, Blevins, Fiolka, Vowell);
  • Development of a Bayesian technique to constrain system parameters conditioned on observations of light-echoes (Sutter, Nelson, Storey);
  • Using Hidden Markov Models to characterize the optical flickering state of an X-ray Binary (Wagerson)

  • New observational constraints on star clusters, young and old: Star clusters trace the star formation process and thus the recycling of elements through cosmic time. Proper motions allow separation of the cluster population from the contaminating foreground and background populations, as well as dynamical constraints on the cluster itself (Clarkson et al. 2012 ApJ provides an early example of cluster mass measurement near the Galactic Center via ground-based proper motions). Group members have pursued projects to improve upon observational techniques to disentangle cluster members. Example initiatives:

  • Modification of Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian techniques to constrain cluster properties conditioned on incomplete imaging data (Elrod, Giugliano, Haynes)
  • New proper motion determinations for old clusters (Aufdemberge)

  • Extrasolar planets: With the expected launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in the next few years, the diversity of detected extrasolar planetary systems is expected to increase still further, and we expect further challenges to our understanding of the formation and evolution of planetary systems. Example initiatives:

  • Predicting observational constraints on planets orbiting brown dwarfs (Vowell);
  • Recovery of exoplanet transit transmission spectra in the case of contaminated, overlapping signals.

  • Updates

    April 19, 2019: Group members win academic awards

    Group members Noah Vowell and Thomas Sutter recognized with academic achievement awards at the 2019 Natural Sciences Awards Ceremony on Friday April 19th, 2019:
  • Physics Honor Scholar: Thomas Sutter
  • Outstanding Physics Student: Noah Vowell
  • Congratulations to Thomas and Noah!

    Apr 15, 2019: Group member success in graduate applications

    Congratulations to Austin Blevins and Thomas Sutter, who will both begin PhD programs in their chosen fields of study in 2019 Fall:
  • Austin Blevins: Planetary Geology at Purdue University
  • Thomas Sutter: Astrophysics at UCLA

  • September 20, 2018: Kristen Dage's SMC X-1 article published by MNRAS

    This is the paper resulting from Kristen's investigations at UM-Dearborn into possible disk warp / accretion flow correlations in the prototypical accretion disk-warp system SMC X-1. For more, see Dage, K. C. et al. 2019 MNRAS 482, 337 (on the arXiv at arXiv:1809.07335): Longterm properties of accretion discs in X-ray Binaries - III. A search for spin-superorbital correlation in SMC X-1.