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Thumbnail of The Colors of Saturn from Cassini
What creates Saturn's colors? The featured picture of Saturn only slightly exaggerates what a human would see if hovering close to the giant ringed world. The image was taken in 2005 by the robot Cassini spacecraft that orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Here Saturn's majestic rings appear directly only as a curved line, appearing brown, in part from its infrared glow. The rings best show their complex structure in the dark shadows they create across the upper part of the planet. The northern hemisphere of Saturn can appear partly blue for the same reason that Earth's skies can appear blue -- molecules in the cloudless portions of both planet's atmospheres are better at scattering blue light than red. When looking deep into Saturn's clouds, however, the natural gold hue of Saturn's clouds becomes dominant. It is not known why southern Saturn does not show the same blue hue -- one hypothesis holds that clouds are higher there. It is also not known why some of Saturn's clouds are colored gold.
Mount Timpanogos with sky above
Check current conditions and historical weather data at the ESC.
Image for Dr. Ragozzine's Nice, France Obersvatoire Sabbatical
Darin Ragozzine collaborates with leading planetary scientists in France
Image for New Faculty Member, Dr. Greg Francis
Dr. Greg Francis joins faculty, specializing in Physics Education
Image for Steve Summers' Insights for Students
Alumni Steve Summers answers interview questions for current students
Image for Wesley Morgan Doubles AP Physics Enrollment
Y Magazine recognizes finalist for the 2023 National Science Foundation’s Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Selected Publications

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By Aleksandr V Mosenkov, Savanah Turner, and Crystal-Lynn Bartier (et al.)
Abstract:

In this paper, we look to analyse the spiral features of grand-design, multiarmed, and flocculent spiral galaxies using deep optical imaging from DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys. We explore the resulting distributions of various characteristics of spiral structure beyond the optical radius, such as the distributions of azimuthal angle, the extent of spiral arms, and of the spiral arm widths for the aforementioned galaxy classes. We also compare the measured properties for isolated galaxies and galaxies in groups and clusters. We find that, on average, compared to multiarmed and flocculent spiral galaxies, the spiral arms of grand-design galaxies exhibit slightly larger azimuthal angles, greater extent, and larger widths in the periphery of the galaxy. Furthermore, on average, isolated galaxies tend to have slightly smaller widths of outer spiral arms compared to galaxies in tight environments, which is likely related to the tidally induced mechanism for generating wider outer spiral arms. We also report that breaks of the disc surface brightness profiles are often related to the truncation of spiral arms in galaxies.

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By Michael D. Joner (et al.)
Abstract:

We fit the UV/optical lightcurves of the Seyfert 1 galaxy Mrk 817 to produce maps of the accretion disk temperature fluctuations delta T resolved in time and radius. The delta T maps are dominated by coherent radial structures that move slowly (v c) inward and outward, which conflicts with the idea that disk variability is driven only by reverberation. Instead, these slow-moving temperature fluctuations are likely due to variability intrinsic to the disk. We test how modifying the input lightcurves by smoothing and subtracting them changes the resulting delta T maps and find that most of the temperature fluctuations exist over relatively long timescales (hundreds of days). We show how detrending active galactic nucleus (AGN) lightcurves can be used to separate the flux variations driven by the slow-moving temperature fluctuations from those driven by reverberation. We also simulate contamination of the continuum emission from the disk by continuum emission from the broad-line region (BLR), which is expected to have spectral features localized in wavelength, such as the Balmer break contaminating the U band. We find that a disk with a smooth temperature profile cannot produce a signal localized in wavelength and that any BLR contamination should appear as residuals in our model lightcurves. Given the observed residuals, we estimate that only similar to 20% of the variable flux in the U and u lightcurves can be due to BLR contamination. Finally, we discus how these maps not only describe the data but can make predictions about other aspects of AGN variability.

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By A. V. Mosenkov, S. K. H. Bahr, and Z. Shakespear (et al.)
Abstract:

Polar-ring galaxies are photometrically and kinematically decoupled systems that are highly inclined to the major axis of the host. These galaxies have been explored since the 1970s, but the rarity of these systems has made such systematic studies difficult. However, over 250 good candidates have been identified. In this work, we examine a sample of over 18 000 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Stripe 82 for the presence of galaxies with polar structures. Using deep SDSS Stripe 82, DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys, and Hyper Suprime-Cam Subaru Strategic Program, we selected 53 good candidate galaxies with photometrically decoupled polar rings, 9 galaxies with polar halos, 6 galaxies with polar bulges, and 34 possibly forming polar-ring galaxies, versus 13 polar-ring candidates previously selected in Stripe 82. Our results suggest that the occurrence rate of galaxies with polar structures may be significantly underestimated, as revealed by the deep observations, and may amount to 1-3% of non-dwarf galaxies.

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By Samuel Bellows and Timothy W. Leishman
Abstract:

Directivity measurements characterize the angular dependence of source-radiated fields, often through discrete measurements made over a spherical surface. Despite the AES56-2008 (r2019) dual-equiangular standard's ubiquity for directivity applications, no well-known spherical quadrature rule directly applies to its sampling scheme. However, this work shows how Clenshaw-Curtis--type Chebyshev quadrature rules adapt efficiently to equiangular spherical integration. Numerical experiments compare the reliability of Chebyshev, Chebshev-Lobatto, and Chebyshev-Radau quadrature rules for sampled pressure fields. The results show that significant aliasing effects do not occur until nearly twice the previously assumed limit. They also highlight the benefits of the AES approach of equivalent polar and azimuthal angle sampling intervals.

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By Aleksandr V Mosenkov and Jonah Seguine (et al.)
Abstract:

Spiral structure can contribute significantly to a galaxy’s luminosity. However, only rarely are proper photometric models of spiral arms used in decompositions. As we show in the previous work, including the spirals as a separate component in a photometric model of a galaxy would both allow to obtain their structural parameters, and reduce the systematic errors in estimating the parameters of other components. Doing so in different wavebands, one can explore how their properties vary with the wavelength. In this paper, second in this series, we perform decomposition of M 51 in 17 bands, from the far UV to far IR, using imaging from the DustPedia project. We use the same 2D photometric model of spiral structure where each arm is modelled independently. The complex and asymmetric spiral structure in M 51 is reproduced relatively well with our model. We analyze the differences between models with and without spiral arms, and investigate how the fit parameters change with wavelength. In particular, we find that the spiral arms demonstrate the largest width in the optical, whereas their contribution to the galaxy luminosity is most significant in the UV. The disk central intensity drops by a factor of 1.25–3 and its exponential scale changes by 5–10\\% when spiral arms are included, depending on wavelength. Taking into account the full light distribution across the arms, we do not observe the signs of a long-lived density wave in the spiral pattern of M 51 as a whole.

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By D. Hodge, T. Buckway, R. Camacho, E. Christie, A.M. Hardy, M. Ware, and R.L. Sandberg (et al.)
Abstract:

We present measurements of X-ray Parametric Down Conversion at the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron facility. Using an incoming pump beam at 22 keV, we observe the simultaneous, elastic emission of down-converted photon pairs generated in a diamond crystal. The pairs are detected using high count rate silicon drift detectors with low noise. Production by down-conversion is confirmed by measuring time–energy correlations in the detector signal, where photon pairs within an energy window ranging from 10 to 12 keV are only observed at short time differences. By systematically varying the crystal misalignment and detector positions, we obtain results that are consistent with the constant total of the down-converted signal. Our maximum rate of observed pairs was 130/h, corresponding to a conversion efficiency for the down-conversion process of 5.3±0.5×10−13.