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Great Lectures in Astronomy
Saturday, February 17, 2018, 01:30pm - 02:30pm

Don Winget and Mike Montgomery present the next talk in the Great Lectures in Astronomy series, sponsored by the Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory Board of Visitors.

From the Telescope to the Laboratory and Back Again: the Center for Astrophysical Plasma Properties

"The core principle of the Center for Astrophysical Plasma Properties (CAPP) is to do "at-parameter" experiments under astrophysical conditions of stars and accretion disks—making astronomy an experimental science. We have designed initial experiments to address stellar opacities, line-broadening, and the physics of accretion disks around black holes. We plan to expand the suite of experiments to other astrophysical environments. This Center will bring to the department full support for five graduate students. CAPP will also support two postdocs in the astronomy department. Also involved in CAPP as Co-Investigators are Craig Wheeler and incoming faculty member Keith Hawkins. Each will work with a graduate student involved in the intersection of astronomy and experimental astrophysics. We will discuss the impact of this on the UT Astronomy Program."

Dr. Mike Montgomery is a Research Scientist in the Department of Astronomy working on stellar astrophysics. His work focuses on the evolution and pulsation of white dwarf stars, and on laboratory experiments that directly test stellar physics. He received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Texas, and held postdoctoral positions in Vienna and Cambridge before returning to the University of Texas in 2004.

Don Winget has an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Illinois, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Rochester. Don is the Harlan J. Smith Centennial Professor of Astronomy and a University Distinguished Teaching Professor. In 1982, during his first year at the University of Texas, Don predicted and discovered a new class of pulsating variable stars. This was the first time in the 300-year-old field of pulsating variable stars that anyone had predicted a new class of pulsating variable stars before their discovery. In 1985, he made the first direct measurement of stellar evolution. In 1987, he developed a new method for measuring the age and assembly history of the Galaxy, currently the most accurate method for dating the stellar components of the galaxy. Winget co-founded, with Prof. R.E. Nather, the Whole Earth Telescope (WET), which uses a network of the major optical observatories around the planet working together to defeat dawn: the sun never rises on the Whole Earth Telescope. Don and his research group use their observations of pulsating white dwarfs to do extreme physics, constraining masses of theoretically proposed particles – such as axions and plasmon neutrinos. This work will help explore the physical nature of dark matter. Don and his collaborators have used the Hubble Space Telescope observations of globular clusters to demonstrate that the dense Coulomb plasma in white dwarf stars crystallize and release latent heat in the process. He is currently involved in a project at Sandia National Laboratories to reproduce the conditions at the surfaces of white dwarf stars in the laboratory, thereby dramatically improving our understanding of these fundamental stellar objects.

Location: POB 2.302 (Avaya Auditorium)