Pictured is adjunct faculty member Jason Young, originally from Grand Rapids, MI, where he grew up gazing through a telescope year-round with his grandfather. He earned degrees in Physics and Astronomy with a minor in Latin at the University of Arizona, and a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State. Jason loves giving tours of the night sky, and has over 13 years of experience operating planetariums for public outreach programs. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening and bicycling.
Jason is now a principle investigator in collaborative efforts with three astronomers at various institutions (Penn State, Georgia State, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory) studying low surface brightness (LSB) galaxies. This class of galaxy is so faint that they are nearly invisible and have been missed by many sky surveys, even though Jason’s group is discovering that they are actually very numerous. His team is working to answer the question of why these galaxies have so few stars even though they are near twins to normal spiral galaxies, like our Milky Way in terms of size, mass, and gas content.
Jason adds, “It is our aim to shed light on the process of star formation in general through an understanding of why LSB galaxies have produced so few stars. To this end, our project examines a sample of LSB galaxies with the aims of determining a) how fast they are producing stars, b) where in these galaxies star formation is occurring, and c) how current star formation compares to star formation in the past.”
To accomplish this, his team will have to compare model galaxies against brightness measurements made in the ultraviolet, optical, and infrared portions of the spectrum. Jason mentions, “We've carefully chosen targets for which archival infrared observations already exist, and we're in the process of making ultraviolet and optical observations.”
His team was awarded four nights last November 2013 and recently awarded three nights this December 17-19, 2014, to make the optical observations at the McDonald Observatory in Texas. They were also awarded time on the Swift space telescope to make the ultraviolet observations; these observations are now complete. Jason feels confident that this campaign will likely result in at least four publications, or more depending on their findings.
Additionally, Jason’s team has just received word that their proposal for radio observations on the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia was accepted for spring of 2015. Radio telescopes are ideal for detecting molecular gas, which is a key step in the formation process of stars. They hope that through these observations they can learn at what step the process of star formation is arrested in LSB galaxies. Jason and his team plan to publish a paper on their findings and, depending on what are detected, possible proposals for additional radio observations. Congratulations to Jason Young and his team and we wish them luck in the future!