Post-Mid Eclipse Activities
I've been largely missing from the CS website for the last several weeks and thought it was worth providing an update of my activities, both related to CS and towards my dissertation.
On the CS front, the DSLR team has finished an air-mass corrected reduction spreadsheet that is mathematically sound. We think it's ready to go main-stream and hope to have it online soon. We'll have a new tutorial for using this sheet. A while back Tom Pearson and I wrote an article on DSLR photometry and submitted it to a popular astronomy magazine. It was accepted for publication, but after six months of waiting for it to progress to publication we decided to pull the article and publish in a different venue. We are in the process of adapting the content for the new target.
A new team discussing the historical aspects of astronomical techniques on eps Aur formed out of a discussion at the CS conference I had with Alice Few who, in turn, talked with Susan Kelly. This proto-team is still forming so if you like history or digging deep into documents to find interesting astronomical techniques, the Historical Perspective team might be a good place for you. Another interesting team, the Mira Fourier Coefficient Team has recently formed. If my recollection about this team is still intact, they will be building a Fourier coefficient database for several Mira variables. This could yield some really interesting results.
As for my dissertation work, it's been crazy. I double-checked my math and until the beginning of this week, I had only been home for seven days in the last month. Fortunately, I'll remain here in Denver for the next few weeks and might have an opportunity to get a few things done.
Right now I'm in the process of formalizing the content in my dissertation and will propose it to the committee (which involves defending my choice of topic and methods) in mid-October. The good thing about this is that I've already published on the topic and have some good unifying ideas about eps Aur (some of which I discussed at the conference). I'm hoping my proposal will go through with only a few objections and that the comments will be either totally destructive (i.e. that's a very bad idea) or genuinely helpful. A majority of my work will focus interferometric and photometric data, with some spectroscopy thrown in there as well. I'll try to establish a convincing evolutionary history for eps Aur as well as probe the structure and composition of the disk.
Most of the craziness has involved travel. Dr. Bob and I closed down the Mt. Evans observatory for the winter, opened it back up for the local chapter of the Society of Physics Students, and then closed it again. We've already seen the first hints of snow on the hilltop so it won't be too long and the road to the observatory will be impassable.
Aside from the CS conference and travel to Mt. Evans, I've been back to CHARA twice. Dr. Bob and I were at Mt. Wilson in August just in time to catch the tail-end of the mid-eclipse bump. The big question is "did we see the central clearing" to which I'll say "no." The geometry of the system discussed in the Nature paper basically excludes this as a possibility and the reconstructed images look very similar to those discussed in my blog from earlier this year. I can say that there is something interesting going on with the F-star in the background (probably related to the out-of-eclipse variation).
The second run at CHARA happened just last week. This time Jeff Hopkins took a few days away from his scope in Phoenix and joined me up on Mt. Wilson. The data obtained has great UV coverage and has yielded yet another set of cool images. These data, along with all prior interferometric data, will be re-processed and presented on a poster at the Seattle AAS meeting. This poster will also be posted online a few days after the conference. We have two more CHARA runs before the holiday season... wish us luck!
As a bit of an aside, the quantity of data from MIRC at CHARA is astounding and the original to reduced file size(s) is amusing. The raw data each night is around 120GB. After coadding, and throwing away half of the CCD's frame (it isn't used) the data becomes about 20 GB. After reduction, we get a OIFITS file that is less than 1 MB in size (often just a few hundred kB)!
We've continued our observations at IRTF too. About two days before or after each CHARA run we have observing time on IRTF. The latest set shows no big surprises and, unfortunately, no CO yet. This is somewhat expected as CO didn't show up until about 2/3 of the way through the last eclipse.
In summary it appears that the eclipse is progressing like normal. There's a lot of interesting things going on right now that I'll have to wait for another blog post to summarize. Until then, clear dark skies.