Category Archives: Prof. Koopmann

Michael Warrener ’16 and Professor Koopmann Observe at Kitt Peak National Observatory

Michael Warrener ’16 and Rebecca Koopmann ’89, professor of physics and astronomy, recently observed at the WIYN 0.9m telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz. The observations of the star formation properties of nearby galaxies will clarify the role of a galaxy’s environment on its evolution.


Professor Koopmann and Rachel Almodovar ’15 at Astronomy workshop at Arecibo Observatory

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann ’89 organized the “Undergraduate ALFALFA Team Workshop” at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico Jan. 14 to 16, sponsored by a recent NSF award.  Rachel Almodovar ’15, an astronomy major, accompanied Koopmann and 17 other undergraduate students and 14 faculty members from 15 colleges and universities across the country. Together they learned about the ALFALFA project to study neutral hydrogen gas in nearby galaxies and carried out their own observations on the William F. Gordon telescope, the largest reflecting telescope in the world. See this Union College Chronicle story  and visit The Undergraduate ALFALFA Team Workshop home page for more information.

Prof. Koopmann Awarded NSF Grant: The Undergraduate ALFALFA Team

Associate Professor Rebecca Koopmann has been awarded a $437,883 grant from the National Science Foundation for three years to support the Undergraduate ALFALFA Team (UAT) project. Koopmann leads the UAT, a consortium of 19 undergraduate-focused institutions committed to develop undergraduate research opportunities within the Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA (ALFALFA) survey, a major radio astronomy observational survey led by astronomers Riccardo Giovanelli and Martha Haynes of Cornell University. The UAT will build on the infrastructure and enhanced faculty skill set developed during the previous grant period (NSF AST-0724918), which successfully involved more than 150 undergraduates and 22 faculty mentors (~ 50% women). Core components include an annual group workshop at Arecibo, observing runs for several groups per year at Arecibo, a summer student research stipend program supporting 8 students per year culminating in a presentation at a national meeting, and funding to provide computers to each Team school. Multiple Union College students have participated to date in ALFALFA research and activities. See for example: Union Students Observe at Arecibo and 2012 Workshop

A summary of the grant may be found at this site.

International Astronomy Meeting at Union July 8-11, 2012

Prof. Koopmann organized and hosted an international group of astronomers for the Star Formation and Gas Reservoirs in Nearby Groups and Clusters
Conference from July 8-11, 2012. Prof. Koopmann received funding from the Skidmore Union Network (NSF ADVANCE grant, PI Brenda Johnson) to gather an international group of astrophysicists to discuss the latest results on the evolution of galaxies relatively near the Milky Way. The meeting focused on the observed star formation properties and gas content (the raw material for star formation) of galaxies in nearby relatively high density regions (groups and clusters), and the current theoretical understanding of the dominant physical mechanisms at work in the conversion of their gas to stars. The invited speakers were Michael Balogh (U. Waterloo), Greg Bryan (Columbia U.), Henry Ferguson (Space Telescope Science Institute), Christine Jones (Harvard U.), Martha Haynes (Cornell U.), Robert Kennicutt (Cambridge Institute of Astronomy, UK), and Ann Zabludoff (U. Arizona).

There were 73 attendees, including ~30 from international institutions (including Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Germany, Italy, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland). 14 were undergraduates, including 2 Union students: Halley Darling, ’13, and Lucas Viani, ’14.
A well-known attendee was Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose research interests include unusually active star-formation in galaxies in dense environments. He spent time with student attendees and interacted and posed for pictures with Union summer research students who recognized him during the lunch in Wold Atrium.

Halley Darling, ’13, and Lucas Viani, ’14, each presented posters during the conference about their multi-year research projects with Koopmann on the gas and star formation properties of a nearby group of galaxies.

Many Union staff helped with the conference. Special thanks to Colleen Palleschi, Halley Darling, Lucas Viani, Scott LaBrake, Paul Debiase,
Cynthia Martin, Mina Evtimova, Joyce Chabot, John Sheehan, Judy Manchester, Gary Olsen, Dining Services, ITS, Diane Meyers and Facilities, Mary D’Amelia and Special Events staff.


Union Physics majors observe at Arecibo Observatory

Rachel Almodovar, Rebecca Koopmann, Halley Darling, and Lucas Viani at the Arecibo Telescope

Physics and Astronomy majors Halley Darling, ’13, Lucas Viani, ’14, and Rachel Almovodar, ’15, recently observed at the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico with Physics & Astronomy Professor Rebecca Koopmann, ’89. The team carried out a 4-night observing run to record radio emission from hydrogen gas in galaxies located up to 750 million light-years away. The Arecibo telescope operates at radio wavelengths and is the world’s largest reflector, spanning more than 1,000 feet in diameter and with a surface area as big as 26 football fields.

The observations carried out by the Union team are part of the ongoing ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA, where ALFA i
s the name of the detector used in the observations) survey, a 7-year project headed by Riccardo Giovanelli at Cornell University, to census hydrogen-bearing galaxies in the local Universe. Among the targets were some of the smallest galaxies yet detected.

Funding for the trip was provided by Koopmann collaborative NSF “Undergraduate ALFALFA Team” grant with Colgate University and Georgia Southern University. The Union team also trained faculty and student colleagues from Hartwick College and St. Mary’s College of California in observing and data reduction techniques.

The trip was part of the Sophomore Scholar’s Project of Lucas Viani, ’14; he studied gas and star formation properties of a nearby gravitationally-bound group of galaxies.

Rachel Almodovar is from Puerto Rico – it was a childhood dream of hers to observe at Arecibo, an opportunity provided by Union! She wrote up her thoughts on observing at Arecibo on the ALFALFA blog at:

All three students will be working with Koopmann this summer on research related to the observing trip.

Prof. Koopmann and Students organize and attend NSF-Sponsored National Workshop at Arecibo Observatory

Lucas Viani, Rebecca Koopmann, and Wyatt Smith at the Arecibo Telescope

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the fifth annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 16-18, 2012. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

Lucas Viani, ’14, a Physics & Astronomy major, and Wyatt Smith accompanied Koopmann and a select group of 16 other undergraduate students and 11 faculty members from 14 colleges and universities across the United States. Together they conducted observing runs, toured the telescope, and learned about radio astronomy. Viani and Smith presented posters about their summer research 2012 projects with Koopmann.

Halley Darling ‘13 attends NSF-Sponsored Workshop at Arecibo Observatory, Organized by Prof. Koopmann

Prof. Koopmann and Halley Darling ‘13 at the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the fourth annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 16-20, 2011. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

Halley Darling, ’13, a Physics & Astronomy major, accompanied Koopmann and a select group of 16 other undergraduate students and 12 faculty members from 14 colleges and universities across the United States. Together they conducted observing runs, toured the telescope, and worked on group activities designed to model scientific collaborations.

As part of the workshop, Darling presented a poster about her Summer 2010 research project at Union (sponsored by NASA New York Space Grant). Entitled “ALFALFA HI Observations of the NGC 5846 Group of Galaxies,” the poster described the Union team’s research on environmental effects (such as gravitational interactions) on a concentration of galaxies. Ana Mikler, ’12, and SreyNoch Chin, ’12, were coauthors on the poster.

Darling used her new skills to help Koopmann conduct a remote observing run from her Union campus lab in Science and Engineering. Two first-year students, Lucas Viani ’14 and Alexandrea Safiq ’14, were enthusiastic participants. They can be seen steering the telescope on the ALFALFA blog.

The ALFALFA project, led by astronomers Riccardo Giovanelli and Martha Haynes of Cornell, is a multiyear survey of a large area of the sky at radio wavelengths appropriate for the detection of neutral hydrogen gas in other galaxies. It is expected that more than 30,000 galaxies out to a distance of 750 million light years will be detected by the survey.


Physics and Astronomy Summer Research 2010

Once again, we are happy to have a large collection of students and faculty working on research this summer. Many (but not all) of them are shown here:

Summer Research Students and Faculty 2010

In this picture: Front row (left to right): Katie Schuff, Ana Mikler, Katie O’Brien, Colin Gleason, Chad Harrington. Second row: Anna Sise, Erin Osgood, Prof. LaBrake, Prof. Maleki. Third row: Prof. Orzel, Tim Kuehn, Prof. Reich, Mark Sullivan, Prof. Marr. Fourth row: Pavel Aprelev, Hannah Ryan, Rob Moore, Prof. Koopmann, SreyNoch Chin, Colin Turley, Prof. Vineyard. Back row: Adam Margulies, John Sheehan, Pengfei Zhang, Prof. Wilkin, Prof. Newman, Amer Khraisat, Prof. Amanuel.

For more information on summer research at Union, see the Undergraduate Research Page, or come to the Summer Student Seminar Series.

Undergraduate Researchers Meet at Union to Discuss Gas Content of Galaxies

ALFALFA Workshop group photo

Members of the NSF-sponsored Undergraduate ALFALFA Team met June 30, 2010, for a Summer Research Workshop. 20 participants from Union, Siena, Skidmore, and Hartwick Colleges reported progress on their research projects analyzing data from the Arecibo Legacy ALFA Survey, a survey of gas in nearby galaxies. In the afternoon, students and faculty at more distant institutions joined the group at Union for a
Summer Research Progress Telecon. Students presented brief summaries of progress at their institutions. Many of the schools are
researching the gas content of galaxies in moderately dense “group” environments and collaborating to compare and publish the results.

Union students SreyNoch Chin, ’12, Halley Darling, ’13, Ana Mikler, ’12, and Katie O’Brien, ’11, participated in the workshop and
presented their results during the telecon. Ana Mikler was the leader of an activity to demonstrate how to create contour maps of gas emission from galaxies. Each group followed her instructions to produce a contour map for one of their galaxy sources.