News from the Department (2023)

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March 2023

February 2023

  • Congratulations to Dr. Ronald Gamble, who is an integral part of the Black in Astro team which was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Annie Maunder Medal for 2023! Black in Astro "is a grassroots organization and community that focuses on inspiring, developing, and enriching Black space scientists." Dr. Gamble's work with Black in Astro "brings together outreach and community empowerment, beyond a model of recruitment: communicating astronomy to the public, diversifying early career researcher cohorts, and building a true community." For more information about the Black in Astro's achievements, please see the writeup of the Annie Maunder Medal Black in Astro 2023.

  • Please extend your congratulations to Dr. Jialu Li, who defended her PhD thesis titled "Molecular Spectroscopy of Star Forming Regions: Cool and Hot, Close and Far" on Friday February 24. Jialu will stay with us for a two-year postdoc working on SOFIA and related data on high mass star formation with Xander Tielens. Congratulations Jailu!

  • Benedikt Diemer's Sloan award kept popping up across the University announcements including the CMNS release repeated on MarylandToday Two Faculty Members Receive 2023 Sloan Research Fellowships. If you haven't read the release, it includes quotes from Benedikt and Dean Varshney, along with this explanation: "Awarded this year to 126 of the brightest young scientists across the U.S. and Canada, the fellowships are also often seen as a marker of the quality of an institution's science faculty and proof of an institution's success in attracting the most promising junior researchers to its ranks."
    Marc Pound and Mark Wolfire were interviewed by Frank Timmes as part of the AAS Journal Author Series for their recently published paper about the PDR Toolbox. Available on YouTube or explore the AAS YouTube channel. Marc says it was a fun experience, and recommends it for any department member if they are asked after they publish a paper (Frank is also open to volunteers).
    And a belated reference about the Green Comet -- Tony Farnham's January 24 interview on WUSA9!

  • I am delighted to convey the excellent news that Prof. Benedikt Diemer has been selected as a 2023 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Physics. He is one of only two selected by the Sloan Foundation for this honor on the entire UMD campus this year. This high honor reflects the importance and impact of Benedikt's work so far, and also recognizes his future promise. Read the CMNS release: Two UMD Faculty Members Receive 2023 Sloan Research Fellowships. If you haven't yet, please congratulate Benedikt when you see him!

  • Dr. Laura Vega was chosen to be the CRESST II Scientist of the Month featured for February 2023. Dr. Vega is postdoctoral researcher in the Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory at the University of Maryland, College Park.

  • Our alum Jim Ulvestad has been appointed as NSF's Acting Director of Polar Programs. A bio including highlights of the positions he has held is in NSF's announcement of his appointment.

  • Continuing the Green Comet media blitz, Mike Kelly and Carrie Holt star in a New Yorker articleWhat the Green Comet Tells Us About the Past-and the Future. As Mike notes, they stubbornly refuse to correct the error citing its emission of tear gas (chloroacetophenone) instead of cyanogen (CN). Mike did see the comet through binoculars, confirming that his eyes were unaffected by tear gas. The New Yorker had a reputation for fierce fact-checking, but I guess no more. Mike was on the radio, too, WTOP and NPR's Morning Edition (which I heard while driving to campus), and hit the international press with NatGeo France. Carrie and Matthew Knight appear in a Popular Science article A green comet is visiting us from the edge of the solar system, and astronomers are thrilled, too. Quite something!

  • Joe DeMartini is the 2nd (but fully co-first) author on an MNRAS accepted paper that includes Derek Richardson in the author list. The paper, which Joe previewed at last week's Hot Papers, stems from a collaboration I started with a student at Auburn University. The work numerically investigates potential surface refreshing from tidal and other forces on Apophis during its 2029 close Earth encounter.

  • Alice Allen has been selected as a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society! Her citation reads "Alice Allen: For her great insight, deep knowledge, leading advocacy, and inspiring achievements involving open-source astronomy software; for making astronomy a more efficient science by creating avenues to release and cite research software; and for building, editing, and promoting the Astrophysics Source Code Library, a pioneering code repository that now registers more than 2,000 [actually, over 3000 by now] of the most useful codes in astronomy and astrophysics." Send your congratulations to Alice for her work in the best tradition of public service!

  • The AstroTerps, with help from Elizabeth Warner, ran a phenomenally successful viewing of Comet ZTF (C/2022 E3 ZTF, aka the Green Comet) last week! With the weather aligning with the scheduled event, reports are that some 300 to 400 people visited the AstroTerps at the M-circle hill to look through telescopes and binoculars at the comet. AstroTerps leader Siobhan Light posted a photo of the event to the Department's Slack channel -- too dark to make a count, but clearly a lot of people! Participants were also able to get some pizza (probably for the first batch to show up), and collect NASA-related swag. Congratulations to Siobhan, the other AstroTerps involved. and to Elizabeth!
    The comet is getting fainter (6th magnitude today), but it is moving up the leading side (Capella side) of Auriga this week, close to some of the constellation's brighter stars or well-placed between them, which will help in finding it. After moving between Auriga and Mars on Thursday, it will be passing close to Mars on Friday and Saturday as it continues to dim.

January 2023

  • Another bumper crop of publications and interviews (some of which I forgot to include last week by accident) -- keep them coming! I'm sure there are more than I hear about.

  • In the spirit of noting Department members' good news, I pass along the news that I've been selected as a Fellow of the AAS with the citation: "Andrew Harris: For the development of innovative radio-, millimeter-, and submillimeter-wavelength instrumentation, and for insightful studies of the star-forming interstellar medium in our galaxy and in galaxies across cosmic time."

  • Congratulations to Jegug for being awarded an Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award! The Graduate School established this award to recognize and honor the outstanding contributions Graduate Assistants provide to students, faculty, departments, and the University as a whole. The award conveys the honor of being recognized as among the top 2% of campus Graduate Assistants in a given year. In a more concrete appreciation, Jegug will receive a credit for mandatory fees for Spring 2023. Congratulations!

  • Congratulations to Levon Avanov, who received Patent number 11531011 for "Imaging Device with Gated Integrator" on December 20, 2022!

  • Maryland claims three NASA ExoExplorers this round: Ell Bogat and former undergrads Junellie Gonzalez Quiles (graduated in December 2018, now in the grad program at JHU), and Alison Duck (graduated in May 2019, now in the grad program at OSU). We just missed Ell's web presentation on Friday, Jan 20, but Alison's is scheduled for Feb 17th and Junellie's for May 12. Check the ExoExplorers web page for links to the webinars. The Exoplanet Explorers (ExoExplorers) Science Series is sponsored by the ExoPAG Executive Committee and the NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program, aims to enable the professional development of a cohort of graduate students and/or postdocs in exoplanet research ("ExoExplorers"). Each member of the cohort will be featured in a webinar that will be live streamed to the exoplanet community, helping to increase their visibility within the field. The cohort will also engage with established exoplanet researchers ("ExoGuides") via a combination of tailored presentations and small group discussions.

  • In other publication news, Mike Kelly was quoted from the NY Times article How to Watch the 'Green Comet' While You Still Can on a comet discovered by the ZTF:
    Comet C/2022 E3 (Z.T.F.) made its closest approach to the sun on Jan. 12, and the comet is now steadily brightening as it swings toward the Earth. While the comet won't pass us until Feb. 2, it is already nearly visible to the naked eye - an encouraging sign for viewing opportunities, said Mike Kelley, an astronomer at the University of Maryland and the co-lead of the solar system working group at the Zwicky Transient Facility.
    We're still waiting to see how Mike's and Carrie Holt's interviews with the New Yorker and National Geographic France look. The comet's closest approach to Earth will be Feb. 2, and around Jan. 30 it will be halfway along a line between the Big Dipper's "pointer stars" and Polaris. More information and finder charts in the Sky & Telescope article Forget the hype and go outside to enjoy the real thing - a relatively bright comet you can see in binoculars from a dark sky.

  • We have a bumper crop of publications to report this week:

  • We had a bunch of Department members at the AAS. Most prominent of the many talks that Department members gave was Richard Mushotzky's Henry Norris Russell Lecture. Former JSI Fellow Erin Kara (now MIT faculty) gave her Newton Lacy Pierce Prize lecture as well. In prospective Probe-class missions, AXIS (PI Chris Reynolds) had its own splinter session, with a far-IR splinter session covering SPICE (PI Lee Mundy) and PRIMA (co-I Alberto Bolatto, with Sylvain Veilleux on the science team). I didn't find LEM in the program, which has Anna Ogorzalek (member of the core management team) and Sylvain (science working group), but that may well be my error. AXIS also had a booth at AAS that John Cullinan supported masterfully.
    And from Peter Teuben: "I just finished a grueling but rewarding 2-day 'Software Carpentry Workshop' at the Seattle AAS. They use a particular style of teaching that I may talk about at another opportunity. Suffice to say, you co-teach this with another person, and two helpers, and involved a red and green sticky for the 30 learners. Already ran into lots of Maryland current and former students. Quite a few of us were at the AAS, I'd hate to list them all, because I will likely miss so many of our alumni. Did you know that our alumnus Trish Henning is now the VLA director? I think I missed that news. Lee and I also participated in the LMT booth (we had 6 others from UMass, ...). Richard gave a fabulous prize-talk. All plenary talks will be online soon (Vimeo I think). My own highlight, apart from a stellar 10 minute science talk on Shell Galaxies, was co-teaching a grueling and rewarding 2-day Software Carpentry workshop (AAS sponsored) on bash, python and git. We had 30 students, Their style of teaching is very interesting and different. We are considering one for ADASS as well."
    Please let me know of other highlights from AAS!

  • The GRAD-MAP Co-Leads Katya Leidig, Arjun Savel, and Rob Dalka report that the 10th GRAD-MAP Winter Workshop, which was held virtually this year, went spectacularly!!! This year we welcomed 6 incredible students from near and far. They spent the week learning python, professional development skills, and working independently with mentors on specific challenge problems in physics and astronomy. The week ended with a fabulous presentation session by the students. We would like to thank the mentors from the astronomy department, Elizabeth Warner, Matthew Nixon, and Esteban Wright, for cultivating an excellent learning environment and providing unparalleled support and mentorship over such a short period of time! We also had 11 other incredible volunteers from the astronomy department who made this program possible! Thank you all for volunteering your time and expertise!! And last but not least, please give a the co-leads who made this all happen a big round of applause! You can read more about this year's student cohort and the activities they got up to on the GRAD-MAP twitter account.

  • Congratulations to Alex Dittmann for being awarded an Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award! The Graduate School established this award to recognize and honor the outstanding contributions Graduate Assistants provide to students, faculty, departments, and the University as a whole. The award conveys the honor of being recognized as among the top 2% of campus Graduate Assistants in a given year. In a more concrete appreciation, Alex will receive a credit for mandatory fees for Spring 2023. Congratulations!

  • In more AGU news, Derek Richardson reports on DART's press conference announcing their average estimate for the all-important beta parameter, which is 3.6 (meaning, the ejecta imparted 3.6 times as much momentum to Dimorphos as the spacecraft did). This BBC news story has more details and includes a photo featuring several UMD folks!

  • Tad Komacek, Daniel Koll & Jun Yang (Peking University), and Mark Hammond (Oxford University), organized an AGU Session titled "Atmospheres, Climate, and Potential Habitability of Rocky Exoplanets." This included two oral sessions for a total of 15 talks, 18 in-person posters, and 7 online posters. The session description is: Exoplanet discoveries of the past decade have shown that every star hosts at least 0.1-1 roughly Earth-sized, or rocky, planets. Our galaxy therefore contains billions of rocky worlds, vastly outnumbering the 4 rocky planets of our own Solar System. What are these worlds like? This session invites submissions that probe the nature of rocky exoplanets, including: What can our Solar System teach us about rocky exoplanets? How different are atmospheres and climates on rocky planets around other stars, on rocky planets in exotic orbital states, or on rocky planets with radically different formation histories? How can we characterize such planets via observations? And could the processes that kept Earth habitable over billions of years also occur elsewhere?

  • Tad Komacek reports on two new papers: One paper is led by recent UMD Astronomy graduate (now ASU Ph.D student) Yoav Rotman, and demonstrates the potential detectability of the carbon dioxide-methane biosignature pair in the atmosphere of TRAPPIST-1e with JWST NIRSpec/PRISM using 3D circulation modeling with the ExoCAM GCM. Tad leads the second paper, which couples predictions for the internal evolution of hot and ultra-hot Jupiters to MITgcm simulations of their atmospheric dynamics. We show that the internal heat flux can affect the thermal structure and winds of hot and ultra-hot Jupiters and must be taken into account to provide a complete picture of their atmospheric circulation.

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