Astro professors blast off into new research

Illustration by Evan Stamps | The Signal

Rafal Angryk, professor of computer science at Georgia State, along with astronomy professors Piet Martens and Stuart Jefferies, is working to build an interdisciplinary astroinformatics team to study space weather and space climate.

The project itself is funded by Georgia State’s Next Generation Program, which strengthens core and emerging research with an overall goal to improve Georgia State’s physics and astronomy department through astroinformatics. Astroinformatics is the overall field of study that involves an in-depth research among astronomy, data science, and information and communications technologies.

According to Martens, one of their first goals is to progress their further understanding of solar storms. They also want to eventually discover opportunities to predict the mechanisms behind solar storms, which are eruptions of mass and energy from the sun’s surface.

Georgia State astronomy professor Todd Henry and his astronomy team have been compiling a grand, three-dimensional map of all of the stars located near the sun, which has focused on 6,000 stellar systems. Some of the research the team has provided thus far includes the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory Parallax Investigation.

The Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory Parallax is an investigation lead by astronomers to discover nearby red, white and brown dwarf stars that lurk unidentified in the solar system. The current goal of Georgia State’s local scientists is to discover at least 300 new southern star systems.

Jefferies has done research in the past that included using instruments for remote sensing. Remote sensing is used to record radiation in the sun’s atmosphere. The instruments used for remote sensing work as a vast date file compiling research data for astronomers to decipher. One of the instruments used in remote sensing is the MOTH II instrument suite.

Over the past thirty years, Jefferies has traveled to the South Pole several times to examine the sun’s inner atmospheric layers, such as the Core, Radiative Zone and Convection Zone.

“The primary purpose of the MOTH II instrument suite is to provide multi-height observations for helioseismic probing of the Sun’s interior and atmosphere via studies of the omnipresent magneto-acoustic-gravity waves in the solar atmosphere,” he said. “However, the data also have relevance to Space Weather studies.”

Jefferies, Martens and Angryk aim to interpret the techniques behind solar storms. Without relying on old approaches from the past, they want to use their current data with the help of other astronomers to design algorithms to grasp the complex data they receive in their daily research.

“Many Georgia State undergraduate students are currently working alongside Angryk, Jefferies, and myself to further the research we have so far,” Martens said.

He added that they have been doing rather well on diversity, which is one of their goals, too. Martens has arranged his effort with students from various backgrounds who have an interest in astronomy. The team includes graduate and undergraduate students in astronomy and physics at Georgia State.