Hartwick Physics Majors Work with World’s Largest Telescope

September 7, 2010

In August, Hartwick physics majors Michelle Brault '11 and Catherine Weigel '12 used the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center's 1000-foot collecting dish to obtain data that will be used to study galaxies over 200 million light years away.

The duo, along with Assistant Professor of Physics Parker Troisch, worked this summer with the world's largest radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. They worked to determine the distances, rotational speeds and the amount of star forming material in galaxies that are located in galactic group WBL 368 as part of the Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA (ALFALFA) Undergraduate Team Groups Project.

Hartwick is among 16 undergraduate institutions - including Cornell University, Colgate University, George Mason University, St. Lawrence University, Sienna College, Sidmore College, the University of Puerto Rico, among others - engaged in a National Science Foundation-sponsored project.

The efforts of Troisch and team are aimed at studying the impact of group environment on individual galaxies and their associated properties. The results of their work will be presented at several astronomy conferences throughout the year, as well as the Hartwick College Research Symposium in the spring.

"My students got to take control of this telescope and perform data analysis," Troisch explained. "It was an incredible experience for all of us!"

The work is sponsored by ALFALFA through a National Science Foundation grant and also by a Hartwick College Freedman Prize for Student-Faculty Collaborative Research.

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,500 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Christopher Lott
Phone: 607-431-4030