Spring 2019 Newsletter

Letter from the Chair

Dear Friends,

Greetings from the balmy Pacific Northwest, where we have somehow skipped straight from pollen season to high summer, to April showers, and back to high summer in the space of a few weeks. Although the unseasonably warm weather calls us outside, the work inside the Astronomy Department continues.

On campus, our undergraduates are actively preparing for the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium, where dozens of Astronomy students (from first years on up!) present their research to the entire campus. The students; talks and posters are a highlight of the year for all of us, and especially for the many faculty, postdocs, and graduate students who have mentored and supported our undergraduates throughout their time at UW. Our students always shine, and it is a real pleasure to see the breadth of research and the depth of excellence that our undergraduates display. In the coming year, we are hoping to partner with our donors to find ways to tangibly support our undergraduate researchers; so many of these students face financial difficulties that pull them away from research, as they seek jobs that can pay their expenses. We are hoping to develop a funding model that can pull those students back into research, where they can continue to thrive and grow.

Within the department, we are gearing up to celebrate and honor our students. With graduation next week we are excited to share in this monumental moment in their academic lives. Many of our students will be moving on to new universities across the nation. We cannot wait to see their impacts in the scientific field.

Looking forward, as Chair my current focus is on “what’s next?”. Every ten years, our department carries out a year-long process to figure out how we’ve changed over the past decade, and to set a course for the coming one. Starting this fall, we’ll be analyzing data on the growth of our program, on the successes and challenges we’ve faced as a department, and on the future of astronomy and our place in it. Strategic choices made during previous self-studies have led directly to our strength in fields like data-driven survey astronomy and astrobiology. The time has come to again to decide what we want our future to look like, and what our impact will be. With the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope operating, and the next generation of 20-30m telescopes coming online (dwarfing our plucky 3.5m at Apache Point Observatory), where do we want to be in 2029? How can we best serve our community of scientists and students? These are daunting, but exciting questions to consider, and I am sure the answers will lead to exciting times for all of us. As we dive into these questions we are excited to share our mission, and growth with you.

Best wishes,

Julianne Dalcanton
Professor and Chair

Kudos of the Quarter

Kudos of the quarter: Aleezah Ali

Astronomy Kudo’s of the Quarter goes to Aleezah Ali! Currently Aleezah conducts research on the binary system called KH 15D. This system includes two young stars orbiting their common center of mass, surrounded by an inclined precessing circumbinary disk. She performs  on VRIJHK filter images from the 1.3m telescope operated by the Small Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS) at the Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). From this photometry, lightcurves can be created, and used to probe the composition of the disk, derive the magnitude of each star, and demonstrate the overall mechanics of the system.

Outside of school, Aleezah enjoys volunteering in outreach with Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (TJO) and the Mobile Planetarium Committee (MoPlaC), and inspiring young scientists in the greater Seattle area. She also loves spending time with her friends, family, and her pet bunny! Aleezah has contributed a lot of time and effort into the departments mission. We are sad that she is graduating this year, but we can’t wait to see what she will accomplish in the future.

“Aleezah is an outstanding astronomy student in ways that extend well beyond the classroom — academically driven, for certain, but also generous with her time and dedicated to supporting the whole UW astronomy community. She is the radiant, endlessly upbeat heart of the LOA, and we are lucky to have her leadership and spirit.” – Professor Chris Laws

Graduate Research: Focus on Tyler Gordon

This quarter’s research spotlight is on Tyler Gordon. Tyler’s research focuses on improving the detectability of exoplanetary transits. Transits occur when an exoplanet passes between us and its host star, causing a brief dip in the light of the star which indicates the presence of the planet. Unfortunately, the star itself complicates things by fluctuating in brightness even when no planets are present. Tyler works on developing models which can differentiate between these two effects by considering how different wavelengths of stellar light are affected differently by transits as opposed to the star’s own variability. With these models in hand, he hopes to be able to detect smaller planets and determine their properties with greater precision than is currently possible. Tyler also serves as astronomy’s Planetarium Coordinator. He can often be found giving a number of talks to students ranging from K-12, or fixing the planetarium computers. We are extremely grateful to Tyler for keeping the planetarium a viable tool for classroom learning and outreach.

“Tyler is a model departmental citizen, having served as a graduate representative for the astronomy grads, and running the planetarium. For his research, Tyler is helping in making new discoveries in planetary systems observed with the James Webb Space Telescope, such as planets hosting moons, should they exist.” – Professor Eric Agol

Outside of his research, and planetarium life Tyler enjoys taking full advantage of the clement Pacific Northwest summers to explore the region. When the weather is less agreeable, he spends his time reading and trying out new recipes. He finds purpose in caring for his many houseplants and hopes to someday have an outdoor garden as well. We are very happy to share his research with you.

“It’s always a pleasure to listen to a research talk given by Tyler. His talks are engaging, clear, and funny. If only we could have more of his plants in the department.” –Professor Julianne Dalcanton

Undergraduate Research Symposium

Spring brings many exciting events to the department. Between graduation, academic prizes, graduate admissions, and the symposium we barely have time to enjoy the blooming colors and sun.

The Undergraduate Research Symposium is a very important event, as our Chair Julianne said. This symposium gives us the opportunity to share all of the dedication, collaboration, and knowledge that the undergraduates demonstrate on a daily basis within the department. This hard work not only applies to their individual research, but also to the outreach events, teaching assistance, and community building that keeps astronomy thriving.

This year astronomy would like to let a few students share their experiences and research with you.

Olivia Petry

I work with Professor Jessica Werk and graduate student Matt Wilde, studying the gaseous components of galaxies. I and seven undergraduates make up the Werk SQuAD (Student Quasar Absorption Diagnosticians). We analyze high-resolution quasar (QSO) spectroscopy data and have completed the analysis of every z~1 QSO in the Hubble Spectroscopic Legacy Archive (HSLA). Our goal is to match strong absorption systems with galaxies near QSO sightlines. We are currently in the process of determining precise redshifts for > 3000 z~1 galaxies. Upon completion, we will match redshifts of galaxies with strong absorption systems found in our QSO spectra and begin building a map of the Circumgalactic Medium around z~1 galaxies.
Next year I plan to continue research with the Werk SQuAD and begin the process of applying for astronomy graduate programs.

Keyan Gootkin

In my research I study spectropolarimetry of P Cygni. P Cygni was the first discovered Luminous Blue Variable (LBV), a critically important transitional phase in the post main sequence lives of the universe’s most massive stars. LBVs are highly unstable, capable of achieving the highest mass-loss rates of any class of stars, but not much is known about mechanisms behind this mass loss. Using over 13 years of polarimetric observations from the at Pine Bluff Observatory we are able to make some inferences about the geometry of circumstellar material very near to P Cyg. Additionally, we found a strange wavelength dependent feature in the polarimetry at H𝛼, if anyone thinks they know what it is please tell me! Another fun highlight from my poster was about the month-long quest I was on to define the mathematical significance of a circle (many thanks to Gwendolyn Eadie for completing that quest for me).

This summer I am going to continue researching the mass-loss of Luminous Blue Variables as a part of the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program. Next year will be my third year at UW, I look forward to being active in the department as the League of Astronomer’s Outreach Coordinator. I will be giving planetarium shows, leading mobile planetarium groups, volunteering at TJO, organizing the Cookies with Colloquium Speaker seminar, and many many more things.  

Mercedes Thompson

My name is Mercedes Thompson and for almost a year I’ve worked with Dr. Lynne Jones and Professor Zeljko Ivezic constructing a pipeline to fit light curves to asteroid data pulled from the Zwicky Transient Factory (ZTF). ZTF is a new optical time-domain, extreme wide field survey aimed at covering the Northern hemisphere. Using ZTF’s alert stream of photometric and astrometric data, we fit candidate light curves to more than 20K objects with more than 50 observations using multi-band LombScargle techniques. The work being done for ZTF will also be an excellent base for further works done on similar telescopes such as LSST. In my next year of school, I hope to continue my research experiences branching into galactic spectroscopy and furthering my computing skills. I look forward to opportunities such as attending AAS next year with Jessica Werk, research scholarships, and taking on graduate applications. I’ll also be graduating at the end of next year and can’t wait to celebrate with family, friends, and my fellow peers!

The League of Astronomers Club


Spring quarter has been a busy time for our outreach efforts! Our mobile planetarium team worked hard to develop curriculum for an afterschool STEM program at Neighborhood House community centers in Seattle. We partnered with STUDIO; a group based out of the College of Education here at UW. The activities were conducted with a group of middle schoolers and a group of high schoolers. We focused on various perspectives of the night sky – cultural, geographic, and over time.
The Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (TJO) is still conducting its open houses through the summer. The next months will include speakers from ASTR 270, the UW’s astronomy outreach course. As the skies clear up, we are looking forward to getting the public excited about gazing at stars and planets. Tickets are free – all you have to do is send an email to tjores@uw.edu. Shows are on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month.

Dancing with the Stars

We are excited to have pulled off another “Dancing with the Stars”. This magical night featured planetarium talks from some of our members, a beautiful photo booth, and a live band! We were graced with the band Night Lunch, composed of four of our very own astronomy graduate students.

Thank you to all who came and jammed out with us, and a very special thank you to Night Lunch for performing for us! If you liked what you heard, you can check out the band’s brand new EP, titled Am I Falling, on most major streaming platforms. Don’t forget to check us out next year for our next Dancing with the Stars event!

The LoA itself holds general meetings every Wednesday at 4:30pm PAB B360 (AKA the Astrolab), and our Tea Time Colloquia with Astronomy’s weekly speaker are Thursdays at 1:30pm also in PAB B360.  You can keep up with our activities and meetings by checking out our Facebook page.

Winter 2019 Newsletter

Salutations from the Astronomy Department!

Now that the department has recovered from “Snowmageddon 2019” we are really looking forward to spring. Spring quarter brings the opening of the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (TJO), a fresh round of colloquium speakers, and graduation!

Spring gives our astronomers more time to observe the skies, and more opportunities to share their discoveries and knowledge with student and the public. As we head into spring we hope that you will take part in one of our many department events such as: Open house Wednesday nights at the Jacobsen Observatory, First Friday’s at the Planetarium, and off campus events for the Mobile Planetarium. As always, we are tremendously grateful for our alumni and friends, and their help and support. With much to look forward to, we wish you all the best for the coming spring.


Astronomy Highlights: Melissa Graham

Astronomy would like to introduce Dr. Melissa Graham. Dr. Graham has been with the department for 3 years working with the LSST Data Management team as a Project Science Analyst. This quarter her work is focusing on supernova science with the Zwicky Transient Facility, preparing for the future of time-domain astronomy with the stream of millions of “astronomical event alerts” that LSST will produce, and finishing up a paper on how best to estimate distances to galaxies with future large-area multi-wavelength surveys.

An exciting accomplishment for Dr. Graham this year has been the publication of a paper in which she was the lead, titled “Delayed Circumstellar Interaction for Type Ia SN 2015cp Revealed by an HST Ultraviolet Imaging Survey”. This paper was accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. She presented this work at the American Astronomical Society meeting (AAS) here in Seattle in January, and the UW media office did a press release to coincide with her talk. You can find links to a few articles relating to Dr. Graham’s research below.

“Dr. Melissa Graham is an outstanding scientist whose work is at the forefront of research on exploding supernovae stars. She is also doing fantastic work as a member of thhe LSST team and helping us prepare for time-domain science with millions of alerts per night that LSST will soon start producing.” —Dr. Željko Ivezić

Outside of the university Dr. Graham finds time to tap dance! She is taking intermediate tap dancing classes with the All That Dance studio. She’s also taking beginner Spanish classes at Seattle City University. We are excited to see what she does next in and out of the University.

“One little dot can tell us a lot! This is our Hubble Space Telescope image of Type Ia supernova 2015cp, obtained with a near-ultraviolet filter, 686 days after the original explosion (cyan circle labeled “ultraviolet source”). That dot is light from the explosion of a white dwarf star hitting material within 0.1 light-years of the progenitor star system. The very existence of this material indicates that the exploding star had was in a binary system, and likely had either a sun-like or red giant star companion — not another white dwarf star.” —Dr. Graham

Read more about Dr. Graham’s work at UW News, Geek Wire, and DiRAC.


Kudos of the Quarter

This quarter we’d like to give kudos to Bayu Wilson. Bayu is a senior in the Astronomy department. He is currently studding the evolution of high-redshift intergalactic gas using the absorption `forests` in the spectrum of quasars with Professor Matthew McQuinn and Dr. Vid Iršič.

“In my work, I probe this gas using the quasar spectra at redshifts between 3.0 and 4.2 from the XQ-100 Legacy Survey taken with VLT/XSHOOTER. With 100 quasar spectra from this survey I make flux power spectrum measurements on the Lyman-alpha and Lyman-beta forest (Two electronic transitions of hydrogen gas). By measuring the same intergalactic gas in two different ways (Lyman-alpha & Lyman-beta), my work can improve constraints on cosmology measurements made with the Lyman-alpha forest alone. I test my analysis pipeline on synthetic data that match the quasar redshift distribution of the XQ-100 sample. I use high-resolution simulations of the intergalactic medium from the Sherwood simulation suite. The image below is a projection of gas density at z=2.8 with 40 comoving Mpc/h on each side from this simulation suite.” —Bayu Wilson

“Even though a senior undergraduate, he has successfully developed a code to measure the power spectrum of the absorption lines – a task suited more for a graduate level student: this includes understanding and coding of Fast Fourier Transforms, time evolution asymmetry, expansion of the Universe, and various systematic effects that has to take into account, or correct, using his code. Despite his own work on the project, Bayu has continuously shown interest and offering help with other areas of the project, making him invaluable to a group effort that will ultimately result in a peer-reviewed publication.” —Dr. Vid Iršič

One might wonder how Bayu has time to sleep or eat with such an extensive research and classroom load. However, Bayu has time to play soccer, dance salsa & tango, and run long-distance. This quarter he dances almost every single day! He loves to go dancing at Dance Underground in Capitol Hill and Salsa Con Todo in Fremont.
Bayu says, “Let me know if you ever want to come! It’s a bit chilly for soccer right now but next quarter I might try to form the Pulsar Kicks [an astronomy themed soccer team].” Lastly, Bayu plans to train for a marathon or half-marathon later this year. Please join us in cheering him on in and out of the department!


Graduate Research: Focus on Brett Morris

This winter we’d like to introduce you to Brett Morris. Brett Morris has dedicated much of his time to not only research, but also furthering the growth of the astronomy community in Seattle. Brett has played a major role in the Astronomy on Tap series. Astronomy on Tap is a free event that features accessible, engaging science presentations on topics ranging from planets to black holes to the beginning of the Universe. Most events have games and prizes to test and reward your new-found knowledge! Any and everyone is invited.

As for Brett’s research we only know as much about a planet as we know about its host star, which is why Brett’s dissertation work focuses on stellar magnetic activity and its effects on observations of transiting exoplanets. The first half of Brett’s graduate work focused on the starspots of a spotted star called HAT-P-11, in collaboration with Leslie Hebb, Suzanne Hawley, Jim Davenport and Eric Agol. Brett used transits of HAT-P-11’s hot-Neptune exoplanet to reveal a map of the stellar surface. The starspot map shows that spots on HAT-P-11 emerge in similar locations as sunspots on the Sun, though in far greater numbers.

“Brett is absolutely phenomenal in his research on solar and stellar magnetic activity and the effects on exoplanets!  He has 9 first author papers since Sept 2017, along with several research notes and meeting abstracts.  He has also given 6 invited talks at national and international conferences.  Brett won the inaugural Graduate Student Research Award in 2018.” —Dr. Suzanne Hawley

The second half of Brett’s dissertation has focused on the tiny star in the TRAPPIST-1 system, and whether brightness variations on the stellar surface influence measurements of the radii of its exoplanets. Brett found evidence for bright regions on the stellar surface which may affect future optical observations of the seven Earth-sized planets. In collaboration with Eric Agol and other members of the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, Brett is preparing for James Webb Space Telescope observations of these tantelizing small worlds, which may allow us to constrain their atmospheric compositions and bulk densities.

“Brett discovered a novel form of stellar variability in the small, cool star, Trappist-1, which is famed for hosting a seven transiting planet system, which Brett has helped to characterize.  Beyond his own research achievements, he serves the astronomical community by providing Python code packages for others to use, such as astroplan.” —Dr. Eric Agol

When Brett is not working on astrophysics, he devotes time to astrobiology by collaborating with Jody Deming and Max Showalter in the Oceanography Department. Brett is developing an open source software package for digital holographic microscopy, which might enable us to answer the question: “is microbial motility an unambiguous biosignature?” The team is working on a microscope called SHAMU — the Submersible Holographic Astrobiology Microscope with Ultra-resolution — and accompanying software which can be sent to Europa or Enceladus to search for swimming microbes in an effort to search for extant life. As Brett gets ready to graduate with his PhD we are excited to see where his research takes him.

The League of Astronomers Club

The League of Astronomers (LoA) had a huge presence at the January American Astronomical Society meeting! Several of our members attended, presented, and volunteered at the meeting. We brought our mobile planetarium to showcase some of our outreach efforts to the wider astronomical community, and the LoA even had a poster presented by the lovely Adriana Gomez-Buckley!

We also held a lunar eclipse viewing party in Red Square on January 20th. Many people attended, and were able to get a great view of the eclipse above Suzzallo Library.

Have no fear! The Mobile Planetarium Committee is here

The League of Astronomers has formed the Mobile Planetarium Committee (MoPlaC)! We created MoPlaC to do more impactful outreach with the mobile planetarium. Last quarter we crafted a mission statement: “The mission of the University of Washington Mobile Planetarium Committee (UW MoPlaC) is to increase diversity in the field of astronomy beginning with the next generation of astronomers (K-12 students). Specifically, we will give engaging mobile planetarium presentations to middle school students from underrepresented communities in the Seattle area to inspire students to consider a future in astronomy.”

In order to achieve our mission, we have been working with a group called STUDIO from the College of Education. In partnership with STUDIO, we are crafting a 6-week curriculum that is culturally responsive and engaging. In the spring, we plan to apply this curriculum to an already existing mentorship program at a middle school in West Seattle.

If you are interested in getting involved email leagueoa@uw.edu. You may also come to our weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 4:30pm in the PAB B360.

Upcoming Events

Theodor Jacobsen Observatory opens in the spring! Open house events take place on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, and consist of a 30-minute talk given by members of the UW astronomy community followed by hands-on activities and viewings of the dome telescope (courtesy of the Seattle Astronomical Society). The first open house is on April 2nd, and early reservations are open. Email tjores@uw.edu to secure a spot!

Dancing with the Stars will return this spring! Last year the LoA hosted a ball featuring music from Night Lunch, free planetarium shows, and other activities. It was a blast, so we decided to make it a yearly event. The second annual Dancing with the Stars event will tentatively take place on May 3rd; stay tuned! Check in on our Facebook page closer to the date!

The LoA itself holds general meetings every Wednesday at 4:30pm PAB B360 (AKA the Astrolab), and our Tea Time Colloquia with Astronomy’s weekly speaker are Thursdays at 1:30pm also in PAB B360.

The remaining speakers for winter quarter colloquium are:

February 28th– Liang Dai from the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, NJ.

March 7th– Dr. Jessica Werk from the University of Washington

March 14th– Dr. Kelle Cruz from Hunter College, New York, NY.

Colloquia are at 4:00PM in PAA A102, with refreshments at 3:45PM. We hope you join us in the fun!”

A list of all quarterly colloquium speakers can be found under the News & Events page on the Astronomy website.

Bolin, Bryce

Bryce is a Senior Researcher at the B612 Asteroid Institute and DIRAC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington. The main focus ofhis academic studies has been the dynamical processes that affect
small body populations in the solar system and their observable
consequences. He uses observational and numerical modeling approaches
on topics such as ancient asteroid families, Main Belt asteroids,
Near-Earth Objects, and comets.

Fall 2018 Newsletter

Letter from the Chair

Julianne DalcantonDear Friends,

Back in August, when I was lamenting the quiet of the summer months on campus, it was hard to imagine the current whirlwind of activity.  We have new students, new researchers, new visitors, and new projects, and every day seems to bring another interesting talk or scientific result to discuss.  When I first started here, our talk schedule centered on the weekly Department colloquium, Journal Club presentations by our graduate students, and an occasional visitor talk at lunch time.  These days, however, we also have weekly Astrobiology colloquia, weekly lunch talks from our many visitors, talks from visitors and members of the Data Intensive Research in Astrophysics and Cosmology (DIRAC) center, and weekly discussions of new papers on astro-ph over coffee (“CAphEINE”).  For as long as I’ve been an astronomer, the most exciting time seems to be RIGHT NOW, and the current department schedule certainly confirms that impression.

For me, one of the highlights of this past quarter was the Department’s “Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) Hack Day”, organized by Prof. Eric Bellm, DIRAC Associate Director Dr. Daniela Huppenkothen, and DIRAC postdoctoral researcher Zach Golkhou.  ZTF is an exciting time-domain survey of the northern sky that UW recently joined as one of a small number of partners.  This project is allowing UW scientists to make exciting scientific discovers while also developing critical expertise for the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).  The Department’s ZTF Hack Day was a supportive, collaborative, and extremely efficient way to jump start our ZTF-based research, by helping us rapidly climb the steep learning curve that any new project requires.  We celebrated the end of the day with our first monthly department social, hosted by Prof. Andy Connolly.

Looking forward, one of the biggest events on the calendar is the coming of the American Astronomical Society’s national winter meeting to Seattle.  Many of our wonderful collaborators and former students will be coming to town, and many of our faculty, postdocs, and students (grad and undergrad!) will be giving talks at the meeting itself.  We hope to catch up with you at the meeting or on campus before or after.  In particular, for those of you who have helped to support the Department’s Jacobsen, Hodge, or Wallerstein funds, please reach out so that I can thank you in person.

Best wishes for a relaxing and satisfying holiday season,

Julianne Dalcanton
Professor and Chair
Astronomy Department
University of Washington

Kudos of the Quarter

Aislynn WallachAislynn Wallach is an undergraduate senior majoring in Astronomy and Physics. All students in the Astronomy Department know that a good life includes a lot of giving. Accordingly, some of the undergraduate majors in the Astronomy Department regularly do fantastic volunteer outreach to the general public. Here we’d like to recognize Aislynn, who often volunteers their time to meet with the public at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (“TJO”).

“Note that our wonderful volunteer donates their services in the evenings when they might otherwise be studying, socializing, or doing their laundry. The many Open House activities would be impossible without the undergraduate volunteers like Aislynn.” – Dr. Bruce Balick

Aislynn is currently working on two projects: the first with Dr. Jamie Lomax — former UW post-doc, now a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis — using spectropolarimetry to analyze the geometry of the binary star system V367 Cyg. So far they have preliminary polarimetric light curves of the system, and are working on finalizing them and the code to write them before their poster presentation on the project at AAS this January. Closer to home, they also work with graduate student Trevor Dorn-Wallenstein attempting to find Wolf-Rayet stars in the h+chi Persei star cluster.

In their free time, Aislynn enjoys baking, especially when they get to bring their experiments in to feed their friends. They spend time with the UW Q Center community. Aislynn is also an officer in the League of Astronomers. The LOA plays a major role in undergraduate life in the Astronomy department. We are excited and proud to share Aislynn’s work with you.

Graduate Research: Focus on Margaret Lazzarini

Margaret LazzariniThis quarter’s spotlight is on graduate student Margaret Lazzarini. Her research focuses on studying populations of X-ray binaries in local galaxies. X-ray binaries are systems in which a compact object primary (black hole or neutron star) accretes matter from a stellar companion. She is particularly interested in how we can use the population demographics — the fraction of systems with a black hole/neutron star primaries and different types of companion stars — to better understand the formation and evolution of these systems.

“Margaret has been pushing to the forefront of multiwavelength X-ray/optical studies of nearby galaxies. She just completed her second internship at Goddard, published her first first author paper as well as a second author paper over the past few months. ” – Dr. Benjamin Williams

Margaret uses X-rays to study the compact object. Observations of high energy X-ray emission with NuSTAR can distinguish between black holes and neutron stars. Also observations at optical wavelengths allows for the companion star to be identified and its spectral type to be determined. Her recent work has included a multi-wavelength study of the high mass X-ray binary population in Andromeda using data from the NuSTAR X-ray telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Outside of research, Margaret is passionate about teaching and improving equity and inclusion within astronomy. This fall she is the instructor of the Pre-Majors in the Astronomy Program (Pre-MAP) seminar. Margaret has co-developed and taught a two week course in astronomy called Protostars for middle school girls. This is taught through UW’s educational outreach office in the summer of 2016 and 2018. Margaret has also spent many Friday mornings giving planetarium shows to local school groups as both a presenter and the planetarium’s coordinator. Prior to coming to UW she taught high school physics and astronomy for two years in Los Angeles while obtaining a Master’s Degree in education. She recently won the Graduate Student award for teaching.

“Margaret has consistently been one of the strongest TAs every quarter that she has taught. Her teaching experience prior to graduate school has paid large dividends for the students in the Astronomy 101, 102, and 150 classes. Margaret’s commitment to teaching is demonstrated in her preparation and execution in the classroom. Even in topics far outside her field of research, Margaret’s dedication to teaching has lead to an outstanding experience for the undergraduate students.” – Professor Toby Smith

Somehow Margaret has found time to experience life outside of the department. She spent two years of graduate school playing on the UW club water polo team, and these days she spends most of her free time hanging out with her adorable dog, Melba. Congratulations to Margaret and all of her accomplishments in the recent years.

Upcoming Events

The League of Astronomers Club

The League of Astronomers is a club at the University of Washington which seeks to expose as many people as possible to the joy of astronomy. Our fall meeting time is Tuesdays at 6pm in PAB B360, so join us for some fun trivia and tea time seminars! Please contact our group at leagueoa@uw.edu if you have any questions about becoming a member, or if you have any general inquiries about our group.

Colloquium Tea Time Seminar

We are planning on holding Tea Time Seminars with the weekly colloquium speaker. This will include a brief summary by the speaker on who they are, what they’re researching followed by a Q&A session with our members. For the rest of this quarter, we will be holding it at 11:00am on Thursdays in the Astrolab (PAB B360). There will be tea and cookies!

A list of the quarterly colloquium speakers can be found under the News & Events page on the Astronomy website.

Movie Review: First Man

First Man

The League of Astronomers was invited to a pre-screening of the new movie First Man with Ryan Gosling! It received mixed reviews from our members, giving us a final Dehydrated Space Tomatoes rating of 60%. Overall, we liked the emotional focus of the movie, but thought it was too slow-paced at times. From the trailer, one would assume the movie would be a fast-paced action movie about the journey to the moon, but in reality it was about the emotional journey of one man. It also glossed over societal issues of the time that it could have delved into more deeply. However, its brutally honest representation of the human toll of the space race won over most of our members. While it wasn’t a bad movie, it’s certainly no Hidden Figures.

“It made me want to be an astronaut. The Moon landscapes were so beautiful and serene. It felt like I was really there, stepping in the regolith, soaking in the barren grandeur. And then a thought crossed my mind: Oh my god, Hollywood actually faked the Moon landing!” –Postdoc Michael Wong

“It was amazing to really see the struggles NASA had to go through. I did not realize there were so many political setbacks and deaths. It was inspiring to see what they had to overcome to get us to the moon.” – Undergraduate Courtney Klein

American Astronomical Society Meeting in Seattle!

The League of Astronomers has secured travel funds to send 5 undergraduate students to the 233rd AAS conference in January 2019. The AAS meeting is the most highly attended meeting in the Astronomical society every year in the US. Additionally, we have received an invitation to showcase the mobile planetarium at AAS from UW alum Philip Rosenfield, the project director for World Wide Telescope (WWT). Our goal is to teach AAS members how the mobile planetarium functions, showcase WWT software, and announce our future plans towards targeted outreach. We are planning to send 5 volunteers to carry out this goal, who will also be able to attend the meeting at no additional cost.