Research in Galactic Astronomy

m13

Stellar astrophysics is an area of emphasis at UCSC, particularly the late stages of stellar evolution. A research team led by Stan Woosley is working on theoretical and computational supernova studies and on gamma-ray bursts, which (for bursts longer than a few seconds) are thought to result from exploding massive young stars. Some of this work is detailed on the high energy astrophysics page. There is also an active group working on radio pulsar studies.

Approaching supernovae from the low mass side, Mike Bolte and recent graduate student Kurtis Williams (now an NSF fellow) did a spectroscopic survey of white dwarfs, in part to determine the critical stellar mass above which supernovae occur. Their work has been important in understanding mass loss from stars, which is the primary source of the most common elements in the periodic table.

Artist's View of Planet in Globular Cluster M4

Globular star clusters are a focus of activity for several UCSC astrophysicists. As some of the oldest known structures, they are fossil tracers of the earliest stages of star formation and a long-lived record of galaxy-galaxy interactions. Studies of globular clusters are thus a bridge between galactic and extragalactic astronomy. For example, Jean Brodie leads the Study of the Astrophysics of Globular clusters in Extragalactic Systems (SAGES), which combines HST imaging with Keck spectroscopy to study the joint formation and evolution of globular cluster systems and their host galaxies.

Theoretical work on stellar evolution includes numerical studies of common-envelope evolution in close binaries by Peter Bodenheimer, and work on lithium burning and on horizontal branch stars by John Faulkner.

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