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Probing the Ultraviolet Milky Way: The Final Galactic Puzzle Piece

Mohammed, Steven M.

We have observed our Universe in many different wavelengths, from gamma ray to radiowaves and have observed countless stars, galaxies, and everything else in between. These measurements slowly add to our understanding of what our Universe is, how it formed, and where it is heading next.

In Chapter 2 we introduce the Ultraviolet GAlactic Plane Survey (UVGAPS), which produced a high resolution map of the Milky Way’s Galactic plane in the NUV using the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), an orbiting ultraviolet space telescope operated by NASA and Caltech between 2003-2013. Of the many astrophysical phenomena observable in ultraviolet wavelengths, we choose to focus on a few interesting objects: red clump stars and OB type stars, and the Galactic dust that impacts them.

We use an image source extractor to obtain the NUV photometry and apply several cuts to clean the data. We present a catalog of 2,843,399 objects with GALEX NUV band mea- surements. Despite the difference in observing strategy and analysis pipeline, we find good agreement between previously targeted GALEX observations and the UVGAPS catalog in overlapping regions. The data were cross matched to Gaia DR2 and Pan-STARRS DR2, two visible-band surveys that have considerable coverage of the Galactic Plane. We characterize matched objects in color-magnitude and color-color space to highlight a range of objects, from main sequence stars to binaries detected with these data.

Although core helium-burning red clump (RC) stars are faint at ultraviolet wavelengths, their ultraviolet-optical color is a unique and accessible probe of their physical properties. In Chapter 3, using data from the GALEX All Sky Imaging Survey, Gaia DR2, and the SDSS APOGEE DR14 survey, we find that spectroscopic metallicity is strongly correlated with the location of a RC star in the UV-optical color magnitude diagram. The RC has a wide spread in (NUV - G)0 color of over 4 magnitudes compared to a 0.7-magnitude range in (G BP - G RP )0 . We propose a photometric, dust-corrected, ultraviolet-optical (NUV - G)0 - [Fe/H] color-metallicity relation using a sample of 5,175 RC stars from APOGEE. We show that this relation has a scatter of 0.16 dex and is easier to obtain for large, wide-field samples than spectroscopic metallicities. Importantly, the effect may be comparable to the spread in RC color attributed to extinction in other studies.

In Chapter 4 we extend our RC analysis to UVGAPS and include new age and mass measurements. We find that RC stars separate into two distinct populations in the thin and thick disk. Thick disk stars tend to be old, low mass stars while thin disk stars are more heterogeneous, containing mostly young, massive stars but also some old, low-mass stars typical of the thick disk. These last two chapters are just two of many projects that UVGAPS enables.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Schiminovich, David
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 24, 2021