WHAM featured at Natural History Museum in NYC

Aug 30, 2011

An exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York featuring work by UW astronomers recently opened. Recent UW PhD recipient Alex Hill and Senior Scientist Matt Haffner have an active collaboration with museum scientists in which they are working to understand how the most massive stars in our Galaxy impact gas between the stars -- the "interstellar medium" -- at distances of thousands of light years.

The Wisconsin astronomers use the Wisconsin H-Alpha Mapper (WHAM; see previous News & Notes item 2196) to observe the interstellar medium. Recent computer simulations by Museum scientists Ryan Joung and Mordecai-Mark Mac Low use explosions from dying massive stars (supernovae) to stir the interstellar medium. Kenny Wood, an astronomer based at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, models ultraviolet light from hot stars traveling through the interstellar medium produced by the simulations. The results (see figure) are remarkably similar to the WHAM observations of the real Galaxy.

The exhibition, entitled "Picturing Science: Museum Scientists and Imaging Technologies", showcases advanced imaging techniques used in research by scientists at UW-Madison and the Natural History Museum and will be on view through June 24, 2012.

Figure: An image of emission from interstellar gas in our Galaxy from the WHAM Northern Sky Survey. The plane of our Galaxy is horizontal; the bright regions represent interstellar hydrogen that has been illuminated by massive stars.

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