Here you will find brief summaries of some of my research projects. To see my full publication list go to ADS
SN2016iet was a supernova discovered back in 2016 by the Gaia space mission. We’ve been following the supernova in the optical ever since, collecting photometry and spectroscopy to track its evolution. This turned out to be a peculiar supernova for many reasons: A very long lasting light curve still visible 700 days after explosion; a surprisingly large offset from its host galaxy; and models which suggest a progenitor star of 150-260 solar masses.
AT2018hyz was a tidal disruption event discovered in 2018, when a star passed too close to the supermassive black hole and got subsequently torn apart. We obtained hundreds of images and over 50 spectra of this object, allowing us to track its evolution in detail. We modeled the light curve using the Modular Open-Source Fitter for Transients and found that it is best explained by a black hole of 106 solar masses partially disrupting a star of 0.1 solar masses.
The LIGO interferometer is constantly “listening” to the sky, searching for merging stars. When two black holes, two neutron stars, or a neutron star and a black hole crash into each other LIGO is able to hear it and point us in the right direction. In September 2019 LIGO detected on of these mergers, S190814bv. Subsequently, we used one of the Magellan 6.5m telescopes to scan this region LIGO pointed us in, searching for any galaxy that show a new light source. Unfortunately this time, we were not able to find any.
Quiet Black Holes
Most of the black holes we know of were found while they were “active”, meaning they were eating a close by star, producing an outburst of X-ray radiation. Yet we expect that there must be many more “quiet” black holes, which are not eating, not emitting as much energy, and therefore harder to find. I worked with Dr. Josh Grindlay looking for these quiet black holes in 100 year old data as part of the Harvard DASCH project, a set of historic glass plates stored at the Harvard College Observatory. Where we expect to find black holes that had were active and had an outburst many years ago, but have now become quiet.
In order for us to understand the mass distribution of black holes in the galaxy, we need to model their data to understand the properties of the system. I did my undergraduate thesis with Dr. Paul Mason at The University of Texas at El Paso in collaboration with Dr. Edward Robinson from UT Austin. Where we modeled the light curve of an known black hole candidate, V1408Aql, in order to determine the mass of the black hole. We found the best estimates to be for a black hole of 2-6 solar masses, dead in the center of a well known “mass-gap” that exists in between neutron stars and black holes.
During the summer of 2013 I worked with Dr. Michael Nowak at MIT measuring the spin of the best known black hole, Cygnus X-1. We modeled a Chandra X-ray spectrum and determined that the black hole is rapidly spinning, with a spin parameter a* greater than 0.9.
During the summer of 2014 I worked with Dr. Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz at the University of California Santa Cruz on modeling relativistic jets from microquasars in order to test what environment conditions could cause enough instabilities to break the head of the jet and explain the structure of jets that have been observed.