News from the Department (2024)

Department of Astronomy RSS Feed

June 2024

  • Andy Harris and other dads featured in CMNS video celebrating Father's Day. These dads recount typical dad-jokes relevant to their fields. The video is available via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and X.

  • Andy Harris is a co-author on a series of papers reporting Season 2 results from the COMAP experiment:
    COMAP Pathfinder -- Season 2 results I. Improved data selection and processing,
    COMAP Pathfinder -- Season 2 results II. Updated constraints on the CO(1-0) power spectrum, and
    COMAP Pathfinder -- Season 2 results III. Implications for cosmic molecular gas content at "Cosmic Half-past Eleven"

  • Jialu Li is the lead author, along with Xander Tielens and others, in On the Interpretation of Mid-Infrared Absorption Lines of Gas-Phase H2O as Observed by JWST/MIRI.

  • Please welcome the 7 undergraduate students participating in the 10 week GRAD-MAP Summer Scholars program. Over the summer, they will be conducting research across the Astronomy, Physics, and IPST departments, as well as participating in weekly journal clubs, professional skills workshops, and research talks.

  • Please congratulate Mona Susanto on her very well-deserved promotion to Assistant Program Director for Finance in our Department! All of us who work with her have appreciated her proactive, creative (while still legal!), and thorough work for many years. And those of us who haven't worked with her directly have nonetheless benefitted from her many contributions to keeping the Department running smoothly. Thank you and congratulations, Mona!

  • Please extend your congratulations to Jegug Ih, who defended his PhD thesis titled "Connecting Theory and Observations of Exoplanet Atmospheres and Surfaces at the Individual and Population Level with JWST" on Wednesday, June 13th. Jegug heads next to a postdoc at STScI working with Hannah Diamond-Lowe starting in the fall. He'll be working on a JWST program to measure the thermal emission from terrestrial exoplanets to establish whether or not they have atmospheres. Congratulations Jegug!

  • CMNS is sharing its pictures from the undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies. Astronomy is also continuing its tradition started during the pandemic of having a page celebrating its graduating students and recently minted PhDs. The page also links to the CMNS albums and videos from the undergrad and graduate ceremonies as well as pictures from our department's commencement activities. Commencement ceremonies have been cut to one per year, so CMNS has split them between undergrad and graduate ceremonies to get to reasonable lengths.

  • Congratulations to Chris Reynolds, who is co-PI of one of the Chandra Legacy Programs. In November 2023 the CXC issued the Chandra Legacy Program (CLP) call for white papers to identify science challenges for which the capabilities of Chandra are absolutely required. A committee reviewed the white papers and recommended two initiatives, and a Call for Chandra Legacy Program Proposals for these initiatives was issued in February 2023.
    Two review panels, one for each initiative and composed of topical experts from the astrophysics community, evaluated the proposals and provided recommendations to the selection official, CXC director Pat Slane. Chris is on the team that captured one of the two in Initiative II: Deep Observation of a Galaxy Cluster to Understand Key Physical Processes. Their selected proposal is: "The Sounds of Feedback: Deep and Wide Imaging of the Cool Core of the Perseus Cluster" (PI: Andrew Fabian, co-PI Chris Reynolds) with an award of 3.0 Ms. For more information about the selected programs, your can visit the CLP website to find the full proposal abstracts.

  • Congratulations to Sarah Waldych, a junior physics and astronomy double major and one of the nine undergraduates who received CMNS Alumni Network Endowed Undergraduate Awards! Every year, the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) Alumni Network offers summer awards to help undergraduates defray costs related to conducting research, attending conferences or interning.

  • CMNS has a very nice press release on the Nature paper on which Professor of Astronomy and Geology Jessica Sunshine, a member of the NASA Lucy team, is a coauthor.
    NASA's Lucy mission seeks to transform our understanding of planetary formation and evolution in the same way that the discovery of the 1974 Lucy fossil transformed how we view human evolution today.
    In the paper published in Nature, the team detailed the Lucy spacecraft's flyby of the asteroid Dinkinesh ("Dinky" for short) and the surprise discovery that Dinky was not alone in space. The group identified a satellite asteroid in Dinky's orbit, which they named "Selam." But as Lucy sent more data back to Earth, the researchers made another unexpected finding: Selam was not just one moon, it was two.
    "There's a lot more complexity in these small bodies than we originally thought," Jessica said. "With the additional observations taken by the Lucy spacecraft, we were able to better analyze features such as Dinkinesh's rotation speed and Selam's orbit pattern. We also have a better understanding of what materials they're possibly made of, bringing us a step closer to learning just how terrestrial bodies are created."
    CNN also picked up the story in more detail, and quotes Jessica.

May 2024

  • Dorinda Kimbrell saw big, beautiful auroras 10-11 May) in the dark skies of a mountaintop in Western Maryland! The next night, a different mountain, but no more activity despite the clear skies. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warner led a quick road trip with Lance Moreau and Annie Dai to Skyline Drive where they got a brief view before the clouds and rain caught up to them.

  • Jordan Ealy has been nominated and selected as one of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education's Rising Graduate Scholars for 2024. Since 2022, the magazine has been recognizing graduate students for their research agenda. In the June 20, 2024 edition, 10 scholars from a variety of institutions and disciplines will be profiled in what has become one of their most popular editions. Congratulations Jordan!

  • Thanks to Barb Mattson for providing this news about last week's fifth Black Hole Week! This event is a celebration of one of the public's favorite cosmic objects and draws participation from groups across the astronomy and physics community. The astrophysics communications team at Goddard coordinates this event, with UMD firmly at the helm. Barb Mattson provides overall leadership, setting the theme and coordinating with groups both internal and external to NASA. The week is largely driven by social media posts from the NASA Universe accounts run by Sara Mitchell and Kelly Ramos. These accounts provide a weeklong narrative on X, Instagram, and Facebook. Frank Reddy wrote the news article for the popular black hole visualizations showing trips around and into a black hole, and he worked closely with the scientists as they produced the visuals. And Jeanette Kazmierczak worked with the XRISM mission team for an article releasing a new spectrum from an AGN. If you want to commemorate this trip to the brink of a black hole, you can download a poster or digital wallpaper as a momento.

  • ScholarGPS lists Richard Mushotzky as a Highly Ranked Scholar -- ScholarGPS celebrates Highly Ranked ScholarsTM for their exceptional performance in various Fields, Disciplines, and Specialties. ScholarGPS cites Richard's prolific publication record, the high impact of his work, and the outstanding quality of his scholarly contributions to place him in the top 0.05% of all scholars worldwide. Listed below is a summary of the areas in which he has been awarded Highly Ranked Scholar status based on his accomplishments over the totality of his career (lifetime) and over the prior five years:
    #9,960 Overall (All Fields)
    #6 X-ray spectroscopy
    #9 X-ray
    Congratulations Richard!

  • Benedikt Diemer joins foundational science study for LSST -- More than 50 early career researchers have been selected as Fellows for the first meeting of a Scialog initiative to advance the foundational science needed to realize the full potential of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory's upcoming Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). This interdisciplinary community of Fellows represents institutions across the United States, Canada, and Chile (the Rubin Observatory's host country) and includes early career observational astronomers, cosmologists, theoretical physicists and astrophysicists, computational modelers, data scientists, instrument developers, and software engineers.

  • On behalf of the Awards committee of last year's winners (Igor Andreoni, Ian Richardson, Anne Raugh, Cole Miller, Mona Susanto, Massimo Ricotti, Erica Hammerstein) I'm very pleased to announce this year's departmental awards: Congratulations to all of the recipients of their much-deserved awards!

  • Patrick Whelley features in a WTOP article University of Maryland geologist to run simulation that helps astronauts prepare for the moon.
    "The surface of the moon is a pretty hostile place to be," said Patrick Whelley, geologist and assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland and Goddard Space Flight Center. From May 12 through May 21, Whelley will be coordinating safety and logistics for NASA's JETT-5 (Joint Extra Vehicular Activity Test Team). The simulation will be a multi-day "moon walk" on a remote, rocky site in northern Arizona.


  • We have a great group of students starting in the fall! Many thanks to the Admissions Committee of Derek Richardson, Alberto Bolatto, and Jessica Sunshine -- plus all of the recruiting lead by Jordan Ealy and Giannina Guzman Caloca -- plus staff work by John Cullinan, Olivia Dent, Lauren Miles, and Barbara Hansborough -- plus everyone else! It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a small city to admit a class. Thanks everyone!
    • Keyi Ding, Johns Hopkins University
    • Keaton Donaghue, University of Kansas
    • Marshall Hobson-Ritz, University of Washington
    • Maximus Hood, Northern Arizona University
    • Shaniya Jarrett, Fisk University
    • Em Peplinski, University of Michigan (joining in fall 2025)
    • Charles Reisner, Franklin & Marshall College
    • Sophie Robbins, UCLA
    • Cole Smith, University of Maryland


  • Lots of news about new professors last week! First, we received informal news that Eliza Kempton will be promoted to Professor (full professor, but UMD has an odd title series) effective July 1. Then, too, Gehrels Fellow Igor Andreoni selected from among a number of offers to accept an assistant professor position at the University of North Carolina starting sometime very soon. And then our former grad student and current Princeton postdoc Charlotte Ward has accepted an assistant professor position at Penn State, starting in Fall 2025.

April 2024

  • MD Day 2024 a HUGE Success thanks to these AstroTerps, undergrad and grad students, professors, faculty, staff, and observatory friends who volunteered at MD Day 2024!
    Josiah Altschuler, Tilden Barnes, Ankita Bera, Joanna Berteaud, Debika Biswas, Sarah Blaufuss, Mia Bovill, Haareca Chintala, Cecilia Chirenti, Julia Cottingham, Serena Cronin, Carter Dewhurst, Tony Farnham, Chaitanya Garg, Yash Gursahani, Andy Harris, Melissa Hayes-Gehrke, Erika Hoffman, Brooke Kaluzienski, Yugadeep Kanaparthy, Joseph Kleinman, Katya Leidig, Madeline Lessard, Abigail Levy, Tim Livengood, Vanessa Lopez Barquero, Lauren Miles, Cole Miller, Emma Mirizio, Sanna Moore, Oliver O'Brien, Matthew Prem, Kevin Rauch, Derek Richardson, Sebastian Rivera-Munoz, Angel Rodriguez, Elizabeth Warner, Zya Woodfork
    Astronomy's activities drew many curious participants with the spectroscopy glasses (Fingerprinting the Universe) and the wizard's gown (Ask an Astronomer) particular hits. With roughly 78,000 visitors, we were busy the entire day despite the clouds and even rain later in the afternoon which encouraged visitors to join us under the tents ;-)

  • The Solar eclipse may have been 3 weeks ago but we are still getting pictures and reports from Department members! Meanwhile, Quanzhi Ye's work of eclipse comet observation got a mention in a S&T news article, and Barb Mattson starred in a really nice piece from the Montreal Gazette.

  • Please extend your congratulations to Alex Dittmann, who defended his PhD thesis titled "The Lives and Times of Stars and Black Holes in the Disks of Active Galactic Nuclei" on Friday, March 29th. Alex is taking his Hubble Fellowship to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. That's in easy range of New York, so he'll likely spend time hanging out at the Flatiron Institute as well. Congratulations Alex!

  • I'm delighted to report that Dr. Megan Weiner Mansfield will be joining our professorial faculty in Fall 2025. Dr. Weiner Mansfield is an expert exoplanet observer who includes her own strong theoretical component in her interpretive work. In addition, we are hoping that she will be able to join us this Fall, bringing her recently-won a 51 Pegasi b Fellowship at Arizona State University with her.

  • Our Geology colleague Nick Schmerr was featured in a MarylandToday piece about a new seismometer to be deployed by a lunar lander, designed to help sort out the Moon's internal structure.

  • The campus event (thanks to Elizabeth, Jordan, Giannina, Lauren, Abby, and doubtless many others!) was a big success, with the Diamondback's story "Thousands of UMD community members watch 2024 solar eclipse" and MarylandToday's story showing hundreds if not thousands of people scattered across McKeldin Mall, the Engineering Fields, and front lawn of Glenn L Martin Hall where the Astronomy/CMNS/ Space Science Outreach Cooperative hosted event was held!
    Update 15 Apr: It was pretty quiet last week, with many of us out of town for the eclipse and meetings. In addition to last week's images from the campus event, we now have some great images and descriptions from Department members who traveled to totality -- definitely worth a look.
    As a farewell to the eclipse, I recommend NASA's eclipse images if you haven't seen them. The first part is very much about Dallas, but about halfway down you'll find images of the umbra on the Earth, images from space. The first of these images, from the ISS, has the shadow over Quebec, New Brunswick, and Maine. If you look very carefully you may be able to see Sylvain and family, although it is dark where they were at the time, so it's hard to tell. The second of these images is a nifty time-lapse, showing the shadow moving along the eclipse path.
    and in the news about the eclipse, we have

  • Awards (so many awards we need a bulleted list)
    • Please congratulate Lia Hankla and Alex Dittmann as they both won Einstein Fellowships in the 2024 NASA Hubble Fellowship Program. The news was embargoed until just recently, but all coyness is gone, and CMNS put out a very nice press release on Monday. Lia will take her Fellowship here; Alex is soon off to the Institute of Advanced Study with his. Congratulations Lia and Alex, this is as fantastic as it is well-deserved!
    • But wait, there's more: At the CMNS Awards Ceremony on Friday, April 19, 2024 at 3 pm, Alex will receive the Board of Visitors Outstanding Graduate Student Award, and Melissa Hayes-Gehrke will receive the Telma M. Williams Advisor of the Year Award! Congratulations Alex and Melissa for such perceptive awards!
      • Alex's Outstanding Graduate Student Award goes to one student per year, selected on the basis of "... demonstrated scholarly and research excellence," which Alex has most certainly demonstrated. The award carries a $5,000 prize.
      • Melissa's Thelma M. Williams Advisor of the Year Award is presented annually to honor the former Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Dr. Thelma Williams. The citation includes: "Your incredible hard work led to a nomination from the students for which you were selected to receive the award. We are grateful for your efforts and proud of your success. The kind of work that you accomplish helps bring distinction to your department and to our college. In recognition of this award you will be presented with a prize of $1,000 and a plaque."
    • And still more! Congratulations to undergraduate Hayden Plakos, who has been awarded a scholarship under the Department of Defense's Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program. This award provides solid support for Hayden's studies -- congratulations again!
    • And still still more! Congratulations to Gerbs Bauer, Tony Farnham, and Elizabeth Warner for receiving a 2023 NASA Agency Honor Award: Group Achievement Award, "For the exceptional group accomplishment to successfully organize and execute international asteroid observation campaigns for the advancement of Planetary Defense." Let's not have a repeat of the Chesapeake Bay Impact, please.
    • And still still still more! More congratulations, this time to Arjun Savel, who was awarded an International Conference Student Support Award (ICSSA) by the Grad School to support the presentation of his work at the Two HoRSEs Conference. We should be applying for these more often! The ICSSA award covers the cost of a registration fee with an award maximum is $500 US dollars.
    Please congratulate our colleagues on the recognition for their hard and insightful work!

  • A CMNS press release and MarylandToday article highlighted work by a team of researchers led by Alberto Bolatto that appears in ApJ, imaging M82 in dazzling detail with the James Webb Space Telescope. The research team wanted to better understand the conditions that foster star formation in M82, a galaxy that sprouts new stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way. Other than Alberto, the UMD team members included Prof. Sylvain Veilleux, current PhD. student Serena Cronin, and former PhD students Rodrigo Herrera-Camus, Laura Lenkić, Elizabeth Tarantino, and Vicente Villanueva. As a bonus, our former undergrad Alyssa Pagan, now a principal imaging wizard at the Space Telescope Science Institute, rendered the images of M82.

  • And then please extend your congratulations to Erica Hammerstein, who defended her PhD thesis titled "Population Studies of Tidal Disruption Events and Their Hosts: Understanding Host Galaxy Preferences and the Origin of the Ultraviolet and Optical Emission" on Thursday, April 4. Erica heads next to a postdoc in the Astronomy Department at UC Berkeley. Congratulations Erica!

  • Please extend your congratulations to Jongwon Park, who defended his PhD thesis titled "The Formation of Metal-Free Population III Stars in X-ray and Lyman-Werner Radiation Backgrounds" on Monday, April 1 (no kidding!). Jongwon heads next to a postdoc with Dr. Taysun Kimm, Associate professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. Yonsei U. is one of the top research universities in Korea, and where Jongwon did his undergraduate work. Congratulations Jongwon!

  • Israel Martinez Castellanos was recently featured in a Maryland Today release about the BurstCube cubesat. And to top it off, the photo credit in the release is NASA/Jeanette Kazmierczak.

  • Congratulations to Dr. Ronald Gamble, recipient of NASA's 2023 Agency Honor Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Medal (DEIAM)! This is quite an honor. Goddard received 274 nominations. In all, a total of 131 selections (94 individuals and 37 teams) were made across 18 award categories, with only 22 of these selections for Code 600 individuals. All AHA award recipients will be honored at the 2023 GSFC Agency Honor Award ceremony at the Greenbelt campus on June 11, 2024. Congratulations Ron!

  • Please extend your congratulations to Ramsey Karim, who defended his PhD thesis titled "Interactions Between Massive Stellar Feedback and Interstellar Gas in the Eagle Nebula" on Tuesday, March 26th. Ramsey heads next to New York to join Schroedinger, Inc., a provider of advanced molecular simulations and enterprise software solutions and services for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and materials science research. Congratulations Ramsey!

March 2024

  • Tony Farnham was quoted in a Mashable article about the possibility that comet 12P/Pons-Brooks could photobomb the total solar eclipse on April 8. "To locate it, Farnham recommends looking to the left of the totally eclipsed sun. About a hand's length away should be Jupiter, which will look like a bright point of light, like a star. Using the planet as a reference, you may find the comet nearby while scanning around it with binoculars." Obviously, be extremely careful with binoculars anywhere near the Sun, and especially so near the predicted end of the eclipse, when the limb of the Sun again becomes visible. Tony also notes that this comet is prone to outbursts, so we might get lucky to have it bright enough to see by naked eye.

  • Jessica Sunshine starred in Maryland Today's "Take this Class" series that highlighted ASTR220, our collisions in space class. Melissa Hayes-Gehrke and Derek Richardson also appear in the piece.

  • The PDRS4All project continues to produce exciting, high impact papers. The latest, A far-ultraviolet-driven photoevaporation flow observed in a protoplanetary disk, is the cover image of Science this week. The paper, with co-authors Marc Pound and Mark Wolfire, presents and analyzes JWST and ALMA observations of an irradiated protoplanetary disk in the Orion Nebula. Heating and ionization from the Trapezium stars will cause this disk to evaporate in under a million years, limiting potential giant planet formation.

  • JWST cycle 3 awards have been announced, with Eliza Kempton, Sylvain Veilleux, and Matthew Nixon all PIs, along with former CTC Fellow Shmuel Bialy. Other familiar names on the PI/co-PI list are Jinji Yang, Feige Wang, Adina Feinstein, and Megan Mansfield. Congratulations to all!

  • Another superb visit for the prospective grad students set up by Jordan and Giannina, assisted by committee members Katya, Matt, Ell, Arjun, Mark, Emeline, Yash, and Calvin (apologies to any of the main organizers I've missed). Barbara, Katherine, Yesnia, John, and Susan dealt with food, travel, and other support. Not to forget everyone else in the Department who pitched with talks and joined for meals and breaks and visits and everything else. Thank you all, with particular thanks to Jordan, Giannina, and the grad students -- you are what make the visits special.

  • Congratulations to Benedikt Diemer on receiving a CAREER award from the NSF! His $1M award will enable Benedikt to lead new supercomputer simulations to see how galaxies form and evolve under different properties of dark matter and gravity. The virtual universes that they create will stretch for hundreds of millions of parsecs and contain millions of galaxies to identify the imprint left by the distribution of dark matter. The CMNS release: UMD Astrophysicist Benedikt Diemer Receives National Science Foundation CAREER Award. Congratulations Benedikt!

  • Jialu Li gave a talk on her IC342 paper at the Green Bank Observatory Science Community Zoom.

  • 11 Mar Update: And in an update on last week's mention of the Physical properties of asteroid Dimorphos as derived from the DART impact paper. Apologies to Tony Farnham for missing his name among the coauthors, and also for using the past tense in noting that Brian May spent a chunk of his career as the lead guitarist and backing vocalist of the rock band Queen. According to Brian May's website for such things, the "Queen + Adam Lambert The Rhapsody Tour 2024" played Japan in February, and there was a US tour in 2023. So May is still an active rock star.
    Former student Harrison Agrusa is one of several familiar names on a paper titled Physical properties of asteroid Dimorphos as derived from the DART impact. From the abstract: "... These findings suggest that Dimorphos is a rubble pile that might have formed through rotational mass shedding and reaccumulation from Didymos. Our simulations indicate that the DART impact caused global deformation and resurfacing of Dimorphos. ESA's upcoming Hera mission may find a reshaped asteroid rather than a well-defined crater." The DART impact on this loosely-bound body generated a large debris cloud that subsequently reaccreated the material, changing its shape. The NY Times story about this has some cool simulation videos and speculation on how this could affect planetary defense. Thanks to Derek for noting the fun fact that the last author on the paper, Brian May, spent a chunk of his career as the lead guitarist and backing vocalist of the rock band Queen. Queen was led by Freddie Mercury. So, astronomy and astrophysics all the way through his career.

  • Zorawar Wadiasingh was a corresponding author on a Nature paper titled Rapid spin changes around a magnetar fast radio burst. The paper uses x-ray observations to explore coupling between the neutron star's intense magnetosphere and crust as a mechanism to produce fast radio bursts.

  • The University of Maryland's annual Giving Day is this Wednesday, March 6. This is the University's largest 24-hour push to raise critical funding for our institution.
    If you are able, I encourage you to make a gift to one of our highlighted funds:
    • Neil Gehrels Memorial Endowment in Astrophysics - This endowment fosters Neil's long-standing commitment to educating young people with strong scientific interests by supporting collaborations between UMD early-career scientists and NASA Goddard scientists. As Chief of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a College Park Professor of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, Neil was a key figure in establishing the Joint Space Science Institute.
    • Mike A'Hearn Endowed Lectureship - Mike Francis A'Hearn (November 17, 1940 - May 29, 2017) was a Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and a renowned cometary astronomer. This lectureship is an annual prize lecture on the topic of planetary astronomy and reminds the many colleagues and students inspired by Mike of his influence as a scientist and human being.
    • Andrew S. Wilson Prize for Excellence in Research - The Andrew S. Wilson Prize for Excellence in Research is awarded in early fall to a graduate student nearing completion of the Ph.D. dissertation who demonstrates the high standards for research and scholarship exemplified by Professor Andrew S. Wilson. The student must be applying for jobs in astronomy during the upcoming academic year and must be advised by a member of the Department of Astronomy.
    If you want to support a different fund, you can view all CMNS funds, or go directly to givingday.umd.edu/ to support a different area -- the Student Crisis Fund, Campus Pantry, and others are all very worthy of a thought and a contribution if you are able.
    Thank you for your generosity!

February 2024

  • As you may have heard, UVEX, the UV Explorer mission, was selected for launch! UVEX is a NASA Medium Explorer mission to explore the ultraviolet sky, with an expected launch date in 2030. With a wide-field, two-band ultraviolet imager and long, multi-width slit spectrometer, UVEX is equipped to address key scientific themes identified in Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy & Astrophysics for the 2020s (Astro2020). Brad Cenko, Leo Singer and Igor Andreoni belong to the UVEX science team. Here are the Press release and Science goals paper (submitted) if you would like more details.

  • Mark Wolfire and Marc Pound are co-authors on a Nature Astronomy paper (also arXiv) that was released Friday of last week. "OH as a probe of the warm water cycle in planet-forming disks" describes the detection of OH as a dissociation product of water in an FUV irradiated protoplanetary disk. The work is part of the PDRS4All JWST Early Science Release project which mapped the Orion Bar with MIRI and NIRSPEC.

  • Congratulations to JSI Fellow and UMD-Physics Asst Professor Sasha Philippov on being awarded the highly prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship! There's more in the very nice article by CMNS, also picked up by Maryland Today last week. Congratulations Sasha!

  • 26 Feb: There was quite a gathering of former students and staff, faculty, and friends at John Trasco's memorial service on Sunday. Stuart Vogel, Dorinda Kimbrell, and Olivia Dent dug through the files to provide information for a really nice obituary for John, and the Department donated three trees in John's memory. Thanks to all who participated -- it meant a lot to everyone who knew John.

    19 Feb:I am sorry to relay the news that John Trasco died last week. John was essential in running first the Astronomy Program (when we were a Program in Physics) and then the Department for many years. His knowledge of, and contacts throughout, the University were vast, and his steady hand kept things running smoothly. His wry sense of humor was a joy and smoothed many interactions. We will miss him.

  • Congratulations to Jordan Ealy for winning two awards at the Sciences and Exploration Directorate New Year's Poster Party: On January 23, researchers from across the directorate were invited to display their posters from 2023 meetings and mingle with colleagues. Jordan won the Piers Sellers Interdisciplinary Award and also the award for Best Graphic Design! I hope we can see the poster, and congratulations again!

  • Feel free to congratulate Lia Hankla and Alex Dittmann when you see them! More on this later.

    Also, former Jansky Fellow Andrew Baker (now Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey) has been elected as a Fellow of the American Astronomy Society "For essential work in fundamental radio and submillimeter studies of dusty star-forming galaxies at high redshift, leadership of international collaborations, an exemplary record of service to the field, and inspirational mentorship to the next generation of astrophysicists."

January 2024

  • Quoting from the Washington Post article "How does falling into a black hole feel? A new song imagines the sensation",
    Over the past few years, NASA has tried to convey images of space through sound so that even people who are vision impaired can imagine what the galaxy looks and feels like. ... composer Sophie Kastner recently used NASA's data and images to create her own song depicting the sensation of traveling through the Galactic Center... A Canadian ensemble began a performance this year with slow and suspenseful notes that gradually increased in tempo. As the musicians neared the end of the song a few minutes later, the sounds from different instruments began overlapping in a repetitive rhythm. Loud notes came from cellos and glockenspiels until the song abruptly ended on a high-pitched piano key.
    The whole story (not a lot longer) is at the link above. zzzzzzzzzzzPing!

  • Former student Che-Yu Chen lead a collection of former and present department members Shaye Storm, Leslie Looney, Eve Ostriker, Jialu Li, Lee Mundy, and Andy Harris in a project of large-scale spectral imaging of cloud cores reported in "Investigating the complex velocity structures within dense molecular cloud cores with GBT-Argus."

  • 26 Feb: AGU obituary for Surja Sharma -- The European Geosciences Union published this appreciation of Surja Sharma.

    Jan: One of Astronomy's distinguished Research Scientists, Dr. A. Surjalal Sharma, passed away on Friday Jan 5th.
    A pioneer in the prediction of space weather, Surja was awarded many honors and prizes, including the Lorenz Prize, the top AGU prize for nonlinear geophysics. He was Associate Director of PHaSER and of the Goddard Planetary Heliophysics Institute.
    Surja was a key member of our space physics group for more than 45 years, joining our department in 1987. In 2011, he was the inaugural winner of our college's Distinguished Research Scientist Prize. In addition to his research, he frequently taught our undergraduate courses, and was .a superb mentor to many of our students and local high school students, winning our department Mentoring award the first year it was offered.
    Those of us who had the good fortune to interact with Surja know that he was unfailingly kind and thoughtful, and will be greatly missed.
    More on Surja and on his distinguished career is available in this tribute.

  • USA Today recently published a special edition "NASA at 65 On Target" with several interesting articles. "Pathway to NASA" mentions CRESST (p60), UMD is mentioned in "Universe-ities" (p64) while GSFC is mentioned several times. But the highlight (for us!) is the article "Rumbling in the Cosmos" (p70) featuring Dr. Elizabeth Ferrara talking about her research on pulsars and gravitational waves.

Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science & Technology II    Joint Space-Science Center    Two intriguing investigations -- One flight-proven spacecraft    UMd Astronomy-Cote d'Azur Observatory Scientific Cooperation and Academic Exchange