FCAD Scholars Spotlight

The Unexplored Flavors of Dead Galaxies

Sam Cutler presenting his work

Galaxies come in all different shapes and sizes and their properties dramatically evolve over cosmic time. A wide swath of these galaxies also shut down their star formation over 10 billion years ago. The lowest mass dead galaxies remain essentially unexplored at these early times, owing to their extreme faintness. In a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Sam Cutler, a fifth year graduate student at UMass, uncovers two distinct classes of dead galaxies while studying the relation between galaxy size and mass using new data from the James Webb Space Telescope. Read more >

Which has a Bigger Impact on Star Formation: Hungry Supermassive Black Holes or Giant Blobs of Gas?

Ian Wolter standing under the 11-meter diameter Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory in Texas

Astronomers are puzzled by the presence of three colossal clouds of gas and a gargantuan-sized black hole in a nearby galaxy group and wonder how they could affect the rate at which stars form in the galaxies. In a Research Note published to the American Astronomical Society in 2023, Ian Wolter, a Smith College senior undergraduate student guided by UT Austin researchers Dr. Michelle Berg and Prof. John Chisholm, investigates some of the potential mechanisms that drive star formation in the nearby group of galaxies. Read more >

The Tumultuous History of Gas in Distant Galaxies

Yingjie Cheng

The early universe may operate under different rules than the modern-day universe. In her research that has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal, Yingjie Cheng, a graduate student from UMass Amherst, investigates why we see correlations between a galaxy’s evolutionary stage and its’ distribution of gas and metals in galaxies around the Milky Way but not for very distant galaxies. Read more >

UMass Undergraduates Hunt for Planet Nine

Perkins Telescope from inside the dome

Three undergraduates and their teaching assistant from Astro 341 secured observing time at the Perkins Telescope Observatory, a 1.8 meter telescope in Flagstaff, Arizona. Under the supervision of Malena Rice (Yale University) and Connor Robinson (Amherst College) their mission is to locate the elusive Planet Nine which is thought to reside beyond Neptune and could allow astronomers to glean insight into the formation of our solar system. Read more >