Two Faculty Members Awarded NASA Grants

April 6, 2016

Two Middlebury physicists recently received grant funding from NASA to pursue their research interests.

Eilat Glikman, assistant professor of physics, has been awarded a NASA grant to lead a research project titled Probing Accretion and Obscuration in Luminous Red Quasars. This one year project, involving collaborators from Yale University, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Astronomical Observatory of Rome, and the Leibniz Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany, is based on observations of two luminous quasars with the XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory. These quasars are hypothesized to be growing at their maximally allowed rate, giving off tremendous luminosity. However, because of dust in their immediate environments, their visible light is extinguished. These X-ray observations will measure the amount of gas that is blocking visible light and probe the growth of the quasars independently for comparison with other existing estimates. The result of this work will complete the multi-wavelength study of this key population of quasars.  

Frank Winkler, Gamaliel Painter Bicentennial Professor Emeritus of Physics, has been awarded funding from the NASA-funded Space Telescope Science Institute for his role in two collaborative research projects, both of which entail new observations using the Hubble Space Telescope. One project, "Thermal Equilibration and Cosmic-Ray Acceleration in Astrophysical Shocks: UV Spectra of the SN1006 Remnant," will combine forthcoming Hubble ultraviolet spectra with new data Winkler hopes to gather at the 6.5 meter Magellan telescope in Chile in April, to explore the fundamental physics of shock waves in a cosmic environment. The other, "State Transitions of the Ultra-luminous X-ray Source in  M83," is intended as a follow-up to better understand a highly unusual object in the "nearby" (15 million light years away) galaxy M83, where matter falling into a black hole produces so much radiation that fundamental laws of physics are close to being violated. The projects involve collaboration with colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Johns Hopkins University, and Curtin University in Australia.