Greg Bothun osgc 2007 2009 Final Technical Report




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Greg Bothun – OSGC 2007 – 2009 Final Technical Report

Final Technical Report

Proposal Title: Research and Education at the Pine Mountain Observatory

Principle Investigator: Dr. Greg Bothun, Department of Physics, University of Oregon


Project Duration: Oct 15, 2007 through May 15, 2009
Total Amount Awarded: $81,270

Abstract
The Pine Mountain Observatory is a unique resource in the state of Oregon serving as its only professional observatory that is actively engaged both in Space Science Research and in space science educational outreach. PMO has a long standing commitment to public education and outreach and is one of the largest informal science education centers in the State as it engages 2-3,000 visitors each summer season. In addition, PMO has had a long standing history of working with the K12 community to improve science literacy within the school system. Typically PMO volunteers visit 200-250 classrooms per year. Over the last 15 years, PMO has been able to leverage this program to acquire both State and Federal grants to support teacher training and further professional development. Finally, PMO does have a state of the art research camera which is currently engaged in observational projects that compliment and extend current NASA missions (e.g. SST and GALEX). This camera system can also support various undergraduate research programs. However, both science operations, undergraduate research experiences and outreach activities are severely limited by the lack of sustained funding which limits the overall reach of the observatory’s programs. We therefore request additional NASA Space Grant funding to better maintain our STEM related activities involving professional development in K12 science teachers as well as the observatory’s research profile in terms of supporting NASA science missions.

Background on the Pine Mountain Observatory:
The Pine Mountain Observatory, owned and operated by the University of Oregon has been quite active in educational outreach programs as well as K12 science teacher research partnerships over the last few years (e.g. Kang 2002, 2004). The summer visitor season typically attracts 2-3000 visitors to participate in Friday/Saturday evening viewing sessions which are run by expertly trained amateur volunteers. Internet connectivity to the site was established in 1997 and for many of these initial visitors this was their first contact with the Internet as a means of accessing scientific data and explanations. With the completion of a high quality, wide field prime focus CCD imaging system in June 1999 competitive research ability has been re-acquired by the observatory. However, to date, the research scope of the Observatory has been compromised by severe budget limitations. Therefore, the primary mission of the observatory has been public outreach and education together with K12 classroom activities and K12 science teacher training.
Current funding for the observatory is limited and comes via the following components:


  • Basic funding for maintenance of the grounds and buildings and electricity to the site is provided for by Facilities Services at the University of Oregon. This budget provides for an on site caretaker who does assist with public tours but there is no University budget available for scientific operations.




  • Revenue generated by sales of Tee shirts and cups as well as visitors donations during the summer visitor season helps to sustain that activity.




  • A small endowment for research in astronomy (about $20K per year is used to pay for a part time remote observing/data technician as well as internet connectivity (although some of the latter has now been picked up via University cost-share)




  • One time allocations made by the UO Research office, The College of Arts and Sciences and/or the Physics department are used to perform needed repairs on the telescope or domes.




  • Approximately 10-12 K per year comes from NASA space grant to support our K12 classroom activities program, which is large in scope (250 classroom visitations around the state per year)




  • PI generated grant money has been used to acquire some parts of the CCD camera, the focusing mount, the current filter system and data analysis machines.



PROJECT DESCRIPTION

STEM Educational Activities: The Pine Mountain Observatory Outreach Program.



K12 Outreach and Teacher Training:
For many consecutive years, PMO and FOPMO have been offering K12 science teacher workshops. These workshops are taught mostly by Rick Kang, the education office for FOPMO, with supplemental help/teaching being provided by K. Carr and G. Bothun. These workshops are primarily supported through NASA Funding, although occasionally the State of

Oregon provides some funding. Our training programs are unique and intensive and center around the delivery of real CCD pixel data to K12 science teachers. In addition, we are also actively engaged in the development of astrophysical image reduction programs (supported by an NSF CCLI grant) that can in the Web environment. The prime goal of our outreach program is for K12 science teachers to directly analyze the real data. To accomplish this we have written a quite extensive image analyzer (in JAVA). With this tool, teachers can perform photometry, find stars automatically, measure brightness profiles of objects, determine the sky background, construct color-magnitude diagrams, measure the size of lunar craters, and even make true color CCD images from individual R, G and B frames. These tools help make the PMO educational outreach program somewhat unique and quite robust.


The intent of this educational program is to develop an interactive astronomy curriculum for K12 science teachers, based on the analysis of CCD data acquired at the Pine Mountain Observatory, to facilitate inquiry based activities. The overriding teaching strategy of this project is to get real data and analysis tools into the hands of students. Hopefully, this will kindle the excitement and spirit of adventure that is the very core of scientific research but which is rarely, if ever, communicated to students. Specific exercises and tools have been developed that will allow the students to effectively duplicate the steps of the professional scientist. We only need to train interested teachers in how to use these tools. Partial support is therefore requested in this proposal to continue these summer training workshops. Indeed, some graduates of these workshops are now experienced CCD observers and serve as expert tour guides during the summer visitor season. These teachers obviously experienced very strong professional development and form a community within the schools to engage more students and teacher in the excitement of space science.
Public Outreach and Education:
The public outreach and education mission of PMO takes two forms:


  1. Unstructured informal guided tours and naked eye viewing opportunities through either small amateur telescopes (some summer nights there can be 20 different amateur scopes deployed on the observatory grounds) as well as the 15 and 24 inch telescopes. Digital imaging is introduced to the visitors when they visit the 32-inch telescope + dome. The mountain also has wireless coverage making it possible for a digital image just obtained with the 32-inch telescope to be broadcast to a tour guides laptop screen somewhere else on the mountain. Most visitors think this is pretty “cool”.




  1. Structured classroom visits that emphasize digital imaging reduction/ analysis of digital data, astrophysical concepts through visualization, etc, and remote observing projects in some cases. Our extensive statewide outreach program for grades K12 is the vanguard of our efforts to promote data acquisition from PMO; 2006-2007 has been our 17th school year. We now visit over 250 classrooms per school year (over 10,000 students and 500 teachers at over 100 different schools) mostly in Oregon and occasionally in Washington and California. However, this mission is becoming limited due to increased travel costs (price of gas) and the inability for individual schools to help with cost share.


The primary mission of the outreach program is to encourage students and teachers to perform science as an inquiry based activity. Astronomy naturally lends itself to this approach. We encourage students to perform scientific inquiry: To make observations, analyze data, note levels of uncertainty, draw rational conclusions, and to design questions and further investigations. An additional gain of this program is that it allows students to work with modern technologies and investigative techniques such as telescopes and digital cameras so as to become more technically literate. Success is evident when we hear at least one student per class state "I want to be a[n] astronaut[astronomer] [scientist]". Another common student reaction noted by

teachers is that poorly performing students are often inspired to participate, take interest, and improve their grade for the day when they see the technologies and get to work hands on with the equipment. We also collaborate with local Planetariums and Science Museums to hold classes and workshops at these facilities and to encourage classes to visit. We work with local amateur astronomers to set up sky viewing sessions at schools, solar viewing and/or evening sessions. During evening sessions we offer digital imaging first hand outdoors with one of our small portable CCD cameras. We have active contact with the Oregon Science Teachers Association (OSTA) and with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). We provide several staff development workshops annually at OSTA and ODE functions and conferences, and attend ODE workshops to keep current on changes in State standards. We present a paper or conduct a session at a National Science Teachers Association, American Astronomical Society, or Astronomical Society of the Pacific event usually annually. We view these outreach activities and formal ties to educators in our state as an integral part of the observatory’s general mission, and indeed this may be the most important contribution that the PMO facility can make. We therefore seek modest support in this program to continue this vital outreach.



Undergraduate Research Programs:

One of the principle advantages for a student to attend a public research university is the potential opportunity for them to become involved in research. Most students, however, do not realize this opportunity. The relatively rapid rate at which imaging data can be acquired at PMO does lend itself to a variety of potential research projects. Among those done by undergraduates to date are:







  • Construction and analysis of color-magnitude diagrams of large angular size open clusters.




  • A determination of the readout noise of the camera under various gain settings.




  • Analysis of stellar populations in nearby large angular size galaxies (e.g. M33, NGV 6946, NGC 205) using multi filter imaging.




  • Detecting asteroids via I-band short exposure I-band images in the ecliptic plane.




  • Crater counts and crater diameter frequency distributions on the surface of the moon (data can be obtained in a 10 millisecond exposure through the U filter)

Interest on the part of undergraduates in these kinds of research opportunities remains high.

Thus, PMO has the potential to be a valuable research partner to the UO (and other OSGC affiliates) that could enhance the undergraduate research experience. There is clearly educational value in ramping up undergraduate research activity using PMO and the important of undergraduate research as a regular part of the undergraduate experience is becoming increasingly recognized. Working with astrophysical data sets not only gives a research skill to students but it also teaches students’ very important data management and organizational skills. To enable this kind of activity, however, requires the ability to access PMO data through the remote data acquisition. In addition, students need to be trained on how to use various astrophysical data reduction software. This is best done via a graduate student position with extensive experience with astronomical image processing software and approaches.

Faculty Research Activity: Why are there so many stars beyond the nominal boundaries of Galaxies?



Introduction:
NASA has recently launched two satellite observatories whose capabilities are directly related to current faculty research that is underway at the Pine Mountain Observatory. These missions are

1) The Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) – which is an imaging telescope that operates in the infrared (spectral range of 3-100 microns) and 2) The Galaxy Explorer (GALLEX) which images in the ultraviolet (1000-2500 angstroms). The SST is sensitive to the presence of dust and molecular emission; GALEX is sensitive to the presence of hot stars. The Pine Mountain observatory is currently engaged in a U-band (3500-4500 angstroms) imaging survey both for follow-up observations of SST and GALEX sources as well as identifying new candidates for GALEX imaging. The astrophysical question of interest is related to the baryon extent of galaxies. Conventional modeling shows that star formation can only occur in relatively dense regions of galaxies which harbor giant, cold, molecular clouds. This leads to the expectation that galaxies are density bounded (i.e. would have hard edges). However, SST has discovered sources of emission that are well beyond the nominal edges of galaxies and GALEX has provided truly remarkable surprises. Specifically, the emergence of extended UV disks in spiral galaxies (often those with known extended H I distributions) has been regarded as one of the more interesting and surprising results from the GALEX mission to date.





The above image shows the case of NGC 4569 (see Gil De Paz etal 2007) in which the (green) ellipse denotes the nominal optical extent of the disk. The excess NUV emission is quite obvious. For the purposes of this proposal, the discovery of XUV disks is taken as confirmation that LSB features are most easily detected in the NUV window due to the very low sky background as originally suggested by O’Connell (1987) and shows the ability of GALEX to detect diffuse stellar populations in the very lowest surface brightness regions of the galaxy disk environment. While the existence of young stars obviously helps in this detection (and of course can also be detected via ionized hydrogen) most any stellar population of age a few Giga years will effectively radiate at 2000 angstroms. Results such as these clearly show that there is a significant and unexpected population of stars well beyond the nominal edge of the galaxy. This is important in the following context: currently existing galaxy catalogs contain only about 1/12 of the required baryons to satisfy the results from BBN nucleo-synthesis and/or the WMAP concordance model of cosmology (see Bothun 2003). While some of the “missing” baryons are undoubtedly present in the warm intergalactic medium (IGM), current measured levels (e.g. the X-ray forest; the UV Background) are insufficient to account for most of them. This strongly suggests that most baryons are either in a large population of Low Surface Brightness galaxies (e.g. O’Neill and Bothun 2000) or are located well beyond the conventional edges of known galaxies. Additionally, as emphasized in Ferguson (2007), the distant outskirts of galaxies have been largely unexplored but may hold important clues to the assembly process involved in galaxy construction. GALEX provides another good tool in which to make these relevant measurements
Proposed Research Activity:
This proposal is motivated by two basic considerations. 1) The experience of a seasoned observer (e.g. the aged PI) whom has long known that, beyond the nominal optical radius of galaxies, there is still a lot of stuff (distant H II regions, diffuse H I, carbon stars, stellar clusters, supernova Ia occurrences) that is part of the galaxy. Indeed, all one has to do is observe M31, M33 and M101 to become immediately convinced that both young and old stellar populations can exist at very large radii (see review of Ferguson 2007) 2) The extremely intriguing and unprecedented detection of 10 (uninterrupted) optical scale lengths (depending on how the background is explicitly subtracted) of disk light in the galaxy NGC 300 by Bland-Hawthorne etal 2005. For reference, 10 scale lengths correspond to a surface mass density which is less than 1 solar mass per square pc. The detection of such extended disk light is a dynamical paradox and raises the following issues:


  • How could stars every form in such a low surface mass density environment? Even plowing a spiral density wave through that medium would not work as the Toomre Q parameter would remain high (due to low mass density).




  • Did the stars gravitationally scatter from the inner disk to occupy these regions? (if so, how is the coherency of the disk maintained?)




  • Is this extended disk the signature of accumulated accretion events due to infalling intergalactic gas into the potential of NGC 300 (if so, again, how did the stars form; why is the exponential disk so coherent?)




  • Why hasn’t this greatly extended disk been tidally sheared away? NGC 300 is not totally isolated and does feel an overall tidal field from the Sculptor group and other mass concentrations?

The basic goal of the proposed research program is to identify new candidate galaxies that may have very extended baryonic populations to confirm that the NGC 300 phenomena is not restricted just to that system but instead is a basic feature of certain types of disk galaxies. Our candidate objects consist of large, relatively isolated disk galaxies with ground based U-band observations (obtained at the Pine Mountain Observatory, University of Oregon) that already yield 4-5 scale lengths of disk light. Note that 5 scale lengths of disk light represent the detection limit imposed in this observing filter by the brightness of the terrestrial night sky. Deeper probes require observations from space (e.g. GALEX) and this ground based survey is intended to provide candidate objects for imaging with GALEX in future observing cycles. If successful candidate are found then the existence of such extended disks (with associated long dynamical timescales) must be accounted for in any structure formation scenario. For the moment, NGC 300 stands alone as a theorists nightmare – to pressure structure formation theories, similar occurrences of extended disks require detection and verification.


Relevance to NASA goals
The environment we intend to probe is very much related to the issue of galaxy formation or assembly and thus is related to the overall origin of structure in the Universe. In addition, if significant populations of weakly bounds stars can be detected, then we have another laboratory for studying the motions of objects on extremely low acceleration scales. As such, these systems may ultimately, pending the construction of new facilities, prove to be useful probes of the behavior of gravity on weak acceleration scales and these environments may be useful in helping to prove/disprove MOND or other alternative theories of the behavior of gravity.
References:
Bland-Hawthorne etal 2005 ApJ 629,239
Bothun 2003 The IGM/Galaxy Connection: The Distribution of Baryons at z=0, ASSL Conference Proceedings Vol. 281. Edited by Jessica L. Rosenberg and Mary E. Putman. ISBN: 1-4020-1289-6, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 2003, p.11
Ferguson, A. 2007 astro-ph/0702224
Gil de Paz etal 2007 ApJ 661 115
O’Connell 1987 AJ 94, 876
O’Neil and Bothun 2000 Ap.J. 529 811

Key Personnel:


  • Greg Bothun: Observatory director




  • Cullen Andrews: Graduate student expert on astronomical image processing programs and techniques and can serve to assist undergraduate research projects.




  • Josh Rogers: JAVA programmer and key producer of interactive curriculum as available via The Electronic Universe Project




  • Alan Chambers: Remote data technician – position is crucial for the acquisition of CCD imaging data and for running scientific programs.




  • Rick Kang: Education Office for Friends of Pine Mountain – responsible for coordinating and conducting various aspects of the K12 outreach Program.




  • Greg Hogue: Responsible for Coordinating the Summer PMO visitation session on Friday and Saturday Evenings




  • Dan Gray: Hardware repair consultant on the 32-inch telescope. The 32-inch telescope historically has had a large mechanical drive issue which is very difficult to diagnose. The result is that the telescope is unable to stay tracked on an astrophysical target for any longer than 10-15 minutes. This limits the depth of the exposure that can be acquired and strongly limits the kind of science the telescope can do. Mr. Gray has recently had much success by re-engineering the power supply system into a closed, digital servo loop. This has greatly improved the overall performance of the telescope but continued development of a better tracking system is needed. The goal is to be able to produce exposures of duration 60 minutes.


BUDGET: RESEARCH ACTIVITY


Item

Amount Requested

Institutional Match

Comments

Dan Gray Consulting Salary

$8,000

$12,000

UO will cover the hardware costs associated with telescope drive repair

Allan Chambers

Remote Data Technician Salary Support

$18,000

$18,000

UO will cost share on Mr. Chambers Salary

Cullen Andrews

Graduate Student partial support

$11,000

$11,000

Physics Department Cost Share on Graduate Student Salary

Undergraduate Research Stipends

$4000

$4000

UO Horter Fellowship for undergraduates in astronomy can be used as Match

Publication Costs

$1000

$1000

UO Cost share on peer reviewed research publication

G. Bothun partial support Summer Salary

$3000

$3000

Matched by State of Oregon Teacher Training Grant with George FoxUniversity

Total Direct Costs

$45,000

$49,000




F&A @26%

$11,700




Off Campus Rate

Total Project Budget

$56,700









BUDGET: STEM ACTIVITY


Item

Amount Requested

Institutional Match

Comments

Rick Kang Stipend

$12,000




Stipends will be paid out quarterly to Mr. Kang

Travel Expenses


$3,000




For IN State Travel costs.

Josh Rogers partial salary support for creation of curriculum materials

$3,000

$3,000

Cost share against UO internal Grant

Greg Hogue tour guide coordinator stipend

$1500




PMO Summer Season

Total Direct Costs

$19,500

$19,500

$16,500 UO match in the form of PI salary during the period of performance for overall coordination of various outreach activities.

F&A @26%

$5070




Off Campus Rate

Total Project Budget

$24570










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