First SPLAT Publication: An In-depth Analysis of GJ 660.1AB

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.14.17 PMMorehouse College undergraduate Christian Aganze has led the first result to be published from the SpeX Prism Library Analysis Toolkit (SPLAT) project: an in-depth analysis of the M-dwarf binary system GJ 660.1AB.

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Discovery of a Nearby Star-Brown Dwarf Binary

The nearest star systems to the Sun are some of the most heavily studied, as their proximity makes them brighter and easier to observe. Moreover, nearby systems can be studied at finer resolution than distant ones, making it easier to detect astrometric motion (parallax, proper motion, orbital motion), close companions, and even circumstellar structures such as disks and jets.  As astronomers probe ever cooler stars and brown dwarfs, we are constantly finding new neighbors, such as the recently discovered L dwarf + T dwarf binary Luhman 16AB (3rd closest to the Sun) and the frigid Y dwarf WISE J0855-0714, both around 2 pc (6 lightyears) away.

One of the recent nearby star discoveries is WISE J0720-0846 (Figure 1), uncovered by Ralf-Dieter Scholz in a cross-match of the WISE and 2MASS surveys.  At ~7 pc, this apparently cool late M or L dwarf is an exciting new addition to the Solar Neighborhood. So of course we had to get a peek at it.

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Spectral binaries of brown dwarfs

Screen shot 2013-08-22 at 2.02.36 AMHow do brown dwarfs form? Some theories point to a star-like birth, accreting material from a molecular cloud, while some others point to a planet-like formation from a pre-stellar disk. Either way, the essential mechanisms for brown dwarf formation remain under debate by theorists. Given the astronomical timelines of star formation (1-10 million years), we cannot witness the formation process in action, but we can study its consequences on the statistical properties of the systems created.

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Carl Melis’s Precision Distance Measurement of the Pleiades Makes the Cover of Science

F1.medium-1Carl Melis and collaborators have just published the most accurate distance measurement to the Pleiades Star Cluster – reported on the cover of Science magazine – and one conclusion stands out: Hipparcos was wrong.

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2014 Summer Undergraduate Research Conference


Cool Star Lab undergraduates participated en masse at the 2014 Summer Undergraduate Research Conference  (SURC) on August 14th.  Christian Aganze, Mike Lopez, Rosalinda Lopez, Caleb Choban, and Kieran Berton each presented their summer’s work in the Astrophysics session, moderated by PI Adam Burgasser. Morehouse-UCSD Physics Bridge Fellows Jeremy Ariche and Saidou Ngaide also presented in this session. Melisa Tallis and Morehouse Fellow Julian Pilate-Hutcherson, who worked in the Shpyrko Lab this summer, presented in the parallel Physics & Engineering session; Jarrhett Butler, another Morehouse Fellow, presented in the Biophysics session.  This was the first time Astrophysics had its own session at the SURC, and the room was filled with astronomy fans and proud mentors.

Congratulations to everyone on a successful summer of research!

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