Talk on the Future of the SpeX Prism Library

Prof. Adam Burgasser gave a talk on March 21, 2014 at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, describing the impact and future of the SpeX Prism Library (SPL).  The talk can be viewed in its entirety through YouTube:

Initiated over 5 years ago, the SPL is a compilation of nearly 1000 low-resolution near-infrared spectra of M, L and T dwarfs measured with the SpeX spectrograph on the 3-meter IRTF telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.  The data were acquired by several groups over the past decade.  Used in over 100 publications to date, the SPL has been an invaluable resource for studies on cool stars, brown dwarfs, exoplanets and even high redshift quasars!  In addition, SPL data has been used for art (through Project Planetaria) and public outreach/education.

In his talk, Adam described his vision of the future of the SPL , which is aimed at making it a fully curated dataset and more user-friendly for non-expert use; e.g., for research projects for students from middle school to college levels. Some of the main tasks he foresees in realizing this vision are (1) providing a more uniformly calibrated set of spectra through re-reduction of older data; (2) expansion of the dataset, including data published in the literature or languishing in the SpeX computers; (3) development of Python software tools to visualize, measure and manipulate the spectra; and (4) development of visual programming tools so non-experts can explore the data in new ways.  Adam has requested funding from the NSF and NASA to pursue this work.


Some of the work is already underway, as the Cool Star Lab has started development of the SpeX Prism Library Analysis Toolkit, or SPLAT.  In weekly coding sessions, the group has produced the first iteration of the toolkit, allowing for spectral data reading, plotting and index measurement.  More to come soon!

Cloud properties of Nearest Brown Dwarfs Revealed through Spectral Monitoring Study

starweatherWe’ve just reported the first results from our April 2013  campaign to monitor the nearby brown dwarf binary Luhman 16AB, in a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal.  Our results confirm the earlier “flux reversal” seen in FIRE spectroscopy, and allow us to make the first constraints on the cloud coverage fraction and the temperatures of the “clouds” and “holes” in the atmosphere of Luhman 16B.  We also confirm an apparent correlation between rotation period and variability amplitude, which may emerge if cloud features are related to the Rhine’s scale of brown dwarf atmospheres.

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