KY Space Grant Consortium Fellowship for Nicholas Abel: A New Appraoch in Determining Physical Conditions in Star Forming Regions

Grants and Contracts Details


New infrared observatories like the Spitzer Space Telescope will open new avenues of research in star forming regions. The formation of stars is directly linked to the formation of planets and possibly life, which makes the study of these regions a goal of NASA through its Origins Program. Infrared observations can "see" regions of space that are invisible in optical wavelengths due to obscuration by dust. Some of the most important data coming out of these new NASA infrared missions will involve the study of "Photodissociation Regions", or PDRs. PDRs make up the majority of the mass in star forming regions, and mark the transition from ionized to molecular gas. New methods of analysis and interpretation will be needed to keep up with these new observations. The observations are best understood by reference to large-scale numerical simulations of the environments. Our project models the ionized region and the PDR self-consistently in a single calculation. This is the first to take into account the ionized region and self consistently determine the dynamics, chemistry, physical state, and the full observed spectrum. Dynamical effects between the two regions will be included, and also the question of the origin of the infrared radiation will be answered. The project includes the development and application of the spectral synthesis code Cloudy, which is widely used across the astronomical community and is in continual development here at UK. By modeling starforming regions in this fashion, researchers will be able to combine our calculations with the new infrared data and develop a more comprehensive understanding of star forming regions. Finally, by understanding more about star forming regions, we will also understand better the conditions in the early history of planet formation and our own solar system.
Effective start/end date8/1/047/31/05


  • Western Kentucky University: $18,000.00


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