Union Astronomy Team Organizes and Attends NSF-Sponsored Workshop at Arecibo Observatory

Union astronomers at AreciboAssociate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the third annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 11-14, 2010. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

SreyNoch Chin ’12 and Schuyler Smith accompanied Koopmann to the workshop, joining a selected group of 18 undergraduate students and 14 faculty members from 16 colleges and universities across the United States to learn about radio astronomy, observing at Arecibo Observatory, and applications to the study of other galaxies.

As part of the workshop, Chin and Smith presented a poster about their Summer 2009 research project at Union.
Entitled “ALFALFA HI Observations of the NGC 5846 Group of Galaxies,” the poster describes their research on a concentration of galaxies within the ALFALFA survey area to determine how their proximity has influenced their evolution. Kaitlyn O’Brien, ’11, was a coauthor of the poster.

Among other activities, Chin and Smith visited the platform suspended 450-feet above the reflecting surface of the Arecibo telescope and participated in observing runs for the ALFALFA project.

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.