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What I do
I received my PhD in August of 1994 in
astronomy at the
University of Virginia Astronomy Department. My research was part of a
Hubble Space Telescope
images of supernova SN1987A, a star that blew up in 1987. This was
the brightest supernova in 400 years, and was visible to the naked eye
(if you happened to be in the southern hemisphere, that is).
I was initially hired afterward to work on
the COsmic Background Explorer, and then
moved on to work with
the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. I worked on that for five
Now, I do web-based public outreach for
a gamma ray satellite planned for launch in 2005. I am at
the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University
near San Francisco, California, and I love it.
When the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) first observed the supernova in August
we were all surprised to see it encircled by an elliptical ring of gas. It
was known before that there was an oval shaped nebula surrounding the star, but
everyone thought it would be a shell, and not a torus (donut shape). When
I analyzed the images carefully, I was able to detect some of the gas further
away from the supernova that was known to exist from earlier, ground-based
images. But we were all surprised once again when the newly fixed HST
was trained on the star, and the outer nebulosity was shown to be very
discrete rings! Pictures of all this can be found
here, and many more can be found in the pages listed
There are many good places on the Web to find supernova information and
pictures. Here are a few:
I have my own page about the work I did with supernovae, as well
as some pictures
of SN1987A using HST.
There are lots of SN1987A links on the Web.
The Astrophysical Journal has a lot
of articles about it;
here is one by Peter Jakobsen.
has put together a page with lots of info and cool pictures of SN1987A.
He works with the WFPC2 Instrument Definition Team, and so he has
access to all the goodies!
The good folks at the
Center For Astrophysics (at Harvard)
a nifty page with lots of 87a pix. I was once associated
with this group. My slant on all this can be found
A more general SN page at CfA
can be found here.
Jonathan Keohane is a fellow
Goddard Space Flight Center astronomer
who studies supernovae and also runs a
brown bag lunch
seminar at Goddard.
LHEA X-Ray Astrophysics group has a nice page with good info on
supernovae. This page is also maintained by
John Blondin, at NCSU, has done some hydrodynamic simulations
of 87A's eventual interaction with the circumstellar ring, a situation
I am looking into myself. He has a nifty mpeg of his work as well.
Robert Cumming's home page. Robert and I both worked on the
ring around 87A, and even wound up competing for a job or two. He is
now working with Claes Fransson in Sweden.
has an excellent supernova page, with lots of links to researchers.
has some good hard science stuff and is also a regular on sci.astro as well!
was at the University of Virginia for a while, and we collaborated
on a paper. His page has links to some of his papers.
has a very well done
nova and supernova page geared toward the interested layman.
Bill Arnett, as part of SEDS
(Students for the Exploration and Development of Space)
has put together a lot of beautiful images of supernova
and other nebulae on
his page .
Goddard Space Flight Center is
with links and info about
supernovae, as well as a nifty animation for the Java-enhanced.
is a list of supernova type people too.
©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.
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