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Astronomy

Research

Williams College undergraduate students participate in many research projects with their professors, including:

Observing the solar corona

Prof. Jay Pasachoff observes the solar corona at total solar eclipses. The most recent expedition, joint with Dr. Bryce Babcock and two Williams College students each time, was to Siberia for the August 1, 2008, total solar eclipse; Tianhuangping, China, for the July 22, 2009, total solar eclipse, and Easter Island for the July 11, 2010, total solar eclipse.. They brought electronic cameras purchased for Williams College on a joint NASA grant with MIT and a variety of other telescopes and cameras.  For the 2012 annular eclipse of May 22 in the western United States and the total eclipse of November 13/14 in Australia, Pasachoff has received a research grant from the Atmospheric Sciences Program of the Solar Terrestrial Division of the National Science Foundation.  See Eclipses & Transits

Occultations

Prof. Pasachoff and Dr. Babcock travel the world to observe occultations of stars by Pluto and other objects in the outer solar system. See Occultation Research

Planetary nebulae

Prof. Karen Kwitter studies planetary nebulae, the ejected outer layers of old stars, observing their spectra with ground-based telescopes such as the 3.5-meter ARC reflector in New Mexico, and with the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. See Planetary Nebulae

Emission-line stars

Dr. Souza studies young, massive stars that exhibit H-alpha as an emission line, rather than in absorption as most stars do. The project monitors variations in H-alpha emission over timescales of days to years to help determine the nature of these peculiar stars.

X-rays

Prof. Pasachoff works with colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on x-ray studies with the Chandra X-ray Observatory in space.

Cosmic Deuterium

The detection of deuterium and the calculation of a D/H ratio are important tools for determining the baryonic density of the Universe. This project catalogues four decades of deuterium-related articles. See Cosmic Deuterium