Research Highlights and News

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2020 Zhenyi Scholarship awarded to Dr. Xiaochen Zheng

The 2020 Zhenyi Scholarship was held on Oct. 8th. Ms. Tao Fei, the sponsor of the Zhenyi Scholarship, attended the event together with graduate and undergraduate students, postdocs and faculty members of the DoA. Prof. Feng Hua introduced the purpose of establishing the Zhenyi Scholarship. Ms. Tao presented the prize to Dr. Zheng Xiaochen, the winner of this year's Zhenyi Scholarship, for her work on the dynamics of extrasolar planets and determination to pursue a career in astronomy. Afterwards, all participants shared their experiences, especially their perseverance required for female scholars to pursue a research career in the fundamental sciences. Finally, all female scholars of the DoA took a group photo.

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Lyα forest as an emerging window into the epoch of reionization

During cosmic reionization (redshift z~8), the intergalactic medium (IGM) is heated by ultraviolet photons originating from stars and galaxies. This extreme heating leaves an imprint in the IGM by injecting the gas with additional thermal energy. The IGM will eventually relax and dissipate the surplus energy, leading to a simple relation between the temperature and the density of the IGM (see, e.g., McQuinn, 2016).

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Department of Astronomy welcomes new graduate students

The opening ceremony unveiled a new chapter for the incoming postgraduates of the Department of Astronomy (DoA) on August 26. The DoA welcomed 11 postgraduates this year, 4 females and 7 males, all wearing a specially-designed DoA T-shirt. The meeting was moderated by Hua Feng, the deputy chair of the Department, and was also attended by faculty members Chris Ormel, Tipei Li, Shude Mao, Yi Mao, Dandan Xu, Sharon Wang, and selected senior students.

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Rotation inferred from proper motions of RR Lyraes in the Galactic bulge

RR Lyrae stars are pulsating, low-metallicity, core-helium-burning horizontal branch giants with ages older than 10 Gyr. Their period-luminosity relation allows their distances to be determined accurately, which enables us to study their spatial distribution and kinematics.

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2020 strategic meeting held to discuss the future of the Department of Astronomy

The Department of Astronomy (DoA) held its 2020 annual strategic meeting on Friday, August 7 to discuss the future of DoA. A total of 11 faculty and staff members joined the meeting either on-site or online.

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A new estimator of resolved molecular gas in nearby galaxies

Stars form out of molecular hydrogen in cold, dense regions of the interstellar medium (ISM). Empirically this picture is supported by correlations between tracers of cold gas and the radiation output from young stars such as the Kennicutt-Schmidt (KS) law. One manifestation of the KS law is the correlation between 12 micron luminosity, measured with the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE; Wright et al. 2010), and CO luminosity measured by ground-based radio telescopes. The 12 micron band spans mid-infrared wavelengths of 8 to 16 microns. In nearby galaxies, 12 micron emission traces star-formation rate (SFR), vibrational emission lines from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and warm dust emission. Galaxy-integrated 12 micron luminosity is strongly correlated with CO(1-0) and CO(2-1) luminosity in nearby galaxies (Jiang et al., 2015; Gao et al., 2019). This correlation is useful for predicting molecular gas masses in galaxies since 12 micron images already exist thanks to the WISE survey (which covers the full sky), whereas CO luminosities require dedicated observations.

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