The Universe is home to various exotic and fascinating phenomena, such as black holes, merging stars, supernovae explosions etc. Many of these astrophysical objects can generate almost inconceivable amounts of energy, which is more than billions of times the energy of light visible to our eyes.
Some of these emissions can be seen simultaneously with both the recently launched Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (Fermi GLAST) and the ground-based Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS), located at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory near Amado, Arizona. VERITAS is a collaboration of more than a dozen universities and research centers from the US, Canada, and Ireland, with the headquarters at the University of Chicago. A detection of blazars, flaring active nuclei of far remote galaxies, in the high-energy gamma rays is one of the most exciting results of modern astrophysics. Blazars are the most extreme variety of active galaxies and known as one of the most intriguing classes of astrophysical objects ever observed. What is happening inside of these monsters? How do they generate such powerful energy outflows? These generic questions define the scope of a currently running NASA funded project in the Physics Department at PSU, led by Professor Alexander Konopelko.
The PSU student involved in this project, Dong Qing Huang, performs the observing shifts with the telescopes in Arizona. Huang analyzes the scientific data pipelined to PSU through the Goddard Space Flight Center, and the University of California, Los Angeles. The results of this research are encapsulated in the sky maps, emission light curves, and energy spectra, which enable our further understanding of the mechanisms of particle acceleration in the flaring blazars via detailed modeling of the emission processes.
The project welcomes participation of undergraduate and graduate students, who might be interested in finding their way into the inspiring world of Astrophysics.
Pictured above: Dr. Alexander Konopelko, Department of Physics and PSU Student Dong Qing Huang.