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Observational Techniques 2016


I am a visiting fellow at the RSAA working with Lisa Kewley's research group, but I recently moved from the RSAA to begin a Hubble Fellowship at Caltech. Most of my research interests revolve around the fueling and feedback associated with black holes (and sometimes star formation). My research on gas inflow and outflow makes use of two relatively recent observational techniques:

Integral Field Spectroscopy

Integral field spectroscopy (IFS) is for the astronomer who doens't want to decide between images (spatially resolved information) and spectroscopy (spectrally resolved information). This type of data produces a datacube, with two spatial dimensions and a wavelength dimension. IFS is therefore extremely powerful: any number you can measure from one spectrum is now spatially resolved across your galaxy. We can map metallicities, stellar ages, ionization sources, kinematics, etc.

Adaptive Optics

Adaptive optics (AO) is a fairly new observational technique that measures and counteracts the blurring caused by turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. This enables spatial resolutions far exceeding what would otherwise be possible from the ground (and matching or improving even upon images from the Hubble Space Telescope). When thinking about black holes, this technique is crucial for separating out the large-scale host galaxy from the central regions (which can more directly affect and/or be affected by the black hole).

Comparing to FIRE Simulations

I came to Caltech to begin a collaboration with Phil Hopkins and the FIRE team. Their simulations of galaxy evolution study Feedback In Realistic Environments, and have some of the most sophisticated treatments of the interstellar medium, black hole accretion, star formation, and the subsequent feedback processes. My AO-assisted observations are the perfect complement to their high resolution predictions.