Theses Doctoral

FIREBall, CHAS, and the diffuse universe

Hamden, Erika

The diffuse universe, consisting of baryons that have not yet collapsed into structures such as stars, galaxies, etc., has not been well studied. While the intergalactic and circumgalactic mediums (IGM & CGM) may contain 30-40% of the baryons in the universe, this low density gas is difficult to observe. Yet it is likely a key driver of the evolution of galaxies and star formation through cosmic time. The IGM provides a reservoir of gas that can be used for star formation, if it is able to accrete onto a galaxy. The CGM bridges the IGM and the galaxy itself, as a region of both inflows from the IGM and outflows from galactic star formation and feedback. The diffuse interstellar medium (ISM) gas and dust in the galaxy itself may also be affected by the CGM of the galaxy. Careful observations of the ISM of our own Galaxy may provide evidence of interaction with the CGM. These three regions of low density, the IGM, CGM, and ISM, are arbitrary divisions of a continuous flow of low density material into and out of galaxies.
My thesis focuses on observations of this low density material using existing telescopes as well as on the development of technology and instruments that will increase the sensitivity of future missions. I used data from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) to create an all sky map of the diffuse Galactic far ultraviolet (FUV) background, probing the ISM of our own galaxy and comparing to other Galactic all sky maps. The FUV background is primarily due to dust scattered starlight from bright stars in the Galactic plane, and the changing intensity across the sky can be used to characterize dust scattering asymmetry and albedo. We measure a consistent low level non-scattered isotropic component to the diffuse FUV, which may be due in small part to an extragalactic component. There are also several regions of unusually high FUV intensity given other Galactic quantities. Such regions may be the location of interactions between Galactic super-bubbles and the CGM. Other ways of probing the CGM including direct detection via emission lines. I built a proto-type of the Circumgalactic Hα Spectrograph (CHαS), a wide-field, low-cost, narrow-band integral field unit (IFU) that is designed to observe Hα emission from the CGM of nearby, low-z galaxies. This proto-type has had two recent science runs, with preliminary data on several nearby galaxies. Additional probes of the CGM are emission lines in the rest ultra-violet. These include OVI, Lyα, CIV, SiIII, CIII, CII, FeII, and MgII. Such lines are accessible for low redshift galaxies in the space UV, historically a difficult wavelength range in which to work due in part to low efficiency of the available detectors. I have worked with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop advanced anti-reflection (AR) coatings for use on thinned, delta-doped charge coupled device (CCD) detectors. These detectors have achieved world record quantum efficiency (QE) at UV wavelengths (> 50% between 130 nm and 300nm), with the potential for even greater QE with a more complex coating. One of these AR coated detectors will be used on the Faint Intergalactic Redshifted Emission Balloon (FIREBall-2), a balloon-born UV spectrograph designed to observe the CGM at 205 nm via redshifted Lyα (at z=0.7), CIV (at z=0.3), and OVI (at z=1.0). FIREBall-2 will launch in the fall of 2015.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Schiminovich, David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 25, 2014