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Investigating accretion disks in young stars with high resolution spectra from Chandra.


Term:

Summer

Department:

MKI: MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

Faculty Supervisor:

Moritz Guenther

Faculty email:

hgunther@mit.edu

Apply by:

05/29/2020

Contact:

Pragati Pradhan, Email: pragati@mit.edu, Phone: +1 814 699 0432 (M)

Project Description

The stars in our galaxy emit light over a wide range of wavelengths. The hottest parts of a star, the so-called corona, is usually so hot that it emits X-ray light. This light can be observed with satellites like the Chandra X-ray observatory, which was launched by NASA 20 years ago. Since then, it has observed the X-ray emission from several hundred stars. One of the instruments on Chandra, the HETG, was designed and build by our group. The HETG is a spectrometer that separates the light from a star into different wavelength. In this UROP, you will analyse the light from all stars observed so far to measure the temperature and other characteristics of the stars' coronae. Of particular interest to us is a group of very young stars that are still surrounded by a disk of gas and dust. It is in these disks that planets form. However, some of the disk material also falls into the star. This process also generates X-rays. With your measurements, we can determine how hot the infalling gas is and what its chemical composition is. Understanding how the disk and the star interact is obviously very important to understanding how planets form.

Pre-requisites

This UROP can easily be done remotely and we will mentor you through regular video-conferencing. However, you will have to install special software (https://space.mit.edu/cxc/ISIS/index.html), which is only available for Linux and Mac and needs to be compiled by hand (no graphical compiler). This UROP is based on the analysis of Chandra X-ray data, so you will spend most of your time looking at X-ray spectra from various stars and compare the features with what you see with models. This position does not have any specific course prerequisites, but you must be comfortable with working on the command line on Linux or MacOS, typing commands and reading the output. The position can be undertaken either in full or part time and you will be working mostly with Dr. Pragati Pradhan, an expert on Chandra data analysis, and Dr. Moritz Guenther, who studies young stars.