Dr. Todd Hillwig
Arts and Sciences
Physics and Astronomy
Planetary nebulae are some of nature’s most beautiful yet most mysterious objects. Many of these PNe have intricate shapes not expected to be produced by a spherical star. We want to further understand how their unique shapes are produced, especially those that do not fall within conventional classifications, and thus we must do further research into their physical characteristics. Our research aims to study the effects binary star systems have on PNe. We are able to get in-depth looks into these objects using data collected from the observatories affiliated with the SARA (Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy) Consortium, of which Valpo is a member institution. We then use photometry, measuring the magnitude (brightness) of an object, to get better measurements of magnitude, temperature, and distance, among other values. While performing photometry is the main part of our research, we have another part of the project designed to make the process easier for users to compare the data. We are working on creating a new Python code that more efficiently takes the resulting large amount of information and parses it into a smaller amount of specific information that we can work with and analyze. The code takes the original images and measures the brightness of each star, allowing us to use these values to arrive at our final brightness measurements. We are improving existing code by adding more efficient Python packages that will further aid in the ease and speed of analyzing the data from these objects.
Krugman, Olivia, "Photometry and Python: Painting a Picture of Planetary Nebulae Central Stars" (2021). Summer Interdisciplinary Research Symposium. 86.