St. Lawrence students will observe galaxies using the world’s largest steerable, single-dish telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, from their labs in Canton, N.Y., thanks to a successful observation proposal by a research team including Henry Priest Professor of Physics Aileen O’Donoghue and Haille Perkins ’22.
As part of the Undergraduate ALFALFA Team, a consortium of colleges and universities dedicated to undergraduate research, St. Lawrence students now have priority observation hours to gather data in real-time from the Green Bank Observatory radio telescope.
Using the telescope, researchers will identify the properties of galaxies at distances determined by supernovae to improve distance measurements for those galaxies without supernova information.
O’Donoghue, who will observe galaxies alongside St. Lawrence students and astronomer Jeff Miller, says using the telescope remotely presents a unique opportunity for students to gain research experience.
“It’s vital that undergraduate students have research experience at the undergraduate level, particularly in astronomy,” O’Donoghue said.” “Now, we will be able to sit in Bewkes Hall and use one of the largest telescopes in the world.”
It’s vital that undergraduate students have research experience at the undergraduate level, particularly in astronomy. Now, we will be able to sit in Bewkes Hall and use one of the largest telescopes in the world.” – Henry Priest Professor of Physics Aileen O’Donoghue
“I was very lucky that they had an open spot just for the exact thing that I wanted to do and Aileen describes astronomy in an enthusiastic way,” Haille said. “It’s helpful to have computer science experience for this research. I want to help people get results and compute data faster so we can better understand the universe.”
O'Donoghue, who credits the success of the proposal to its emphasis on undergraduate student research, says that the opportunity to use technology will enhance the work that the research consortium can do.
“One of the reasons that we did get all the time in a high priority observation group is because we're involving undergraduates in our research,” O’Donoghue said. “It really has been a fantastic thing to be involved in this research group and thanks to modern technology, we are able to make more accurate measurements of distances to galaxies.”
Remote observations will begin in February 2022.
Aileen ODonoghueHenry Priest Professor of Physics
O'Donoghue has conducted observations with the Very Large Array, Arecibo radio telescopes, the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, the 90” Bok telescope at Kitt Peak, and the 1.5 m telescope at Cerro Tololo, Chile. She regularly teaches Introduction to Astronomy with Lab, Modern Physics, and Classical Mechanics at St. Lawrence.
Haille PerkinsClass of 2022
Haille is from Plattsburgh, New York, and is a McNair Scholar. She is a member of the Hub Theme House and the Society of Physics Students, and intends to pursue a graduate degree in computational astrophysics.