Current Research Projects

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Below are some of the projects on which I am currently working.

The Herschel DEBRIS Survey

I am the PI of an Open Time Key Program on the Herschel Space Observatory called DEBRIS (Disc Emission via a Bias-free Reconnaissance in the Infrared/Submillimeter). What this mouthful of a title reflects is the fact that we have undertaken an unbiased search for debris disks around 446 of the nearest main sequence stars. Debris disks are a reflection of the remnants of planet formation within a system. They are rendered visible only if there are ongoing collisions between large, unseen, solid bodies (called planetesimals) which result in collisional cascades, generating smaller and smaller solid bodies (boulders to rocks to pebbles to dust grains microns to millimeters in size). When the dust grains are present, they are observable to our telescopes, either through scattered light at optical and near-infrared wavelengths, or in emission at longer wavelengths. Herschel has four key programs targeting known debris disks or conducting debris disk searches. DEBRIS is unbiased, in the sense that the properties of the star do not affect the star's inclusion in the survey.

A comparison of 850/350 micron Polarimetry

With John Vaillancourt of the Universities Space Research Association, I am working on a comparison of the polarization properties of the 14 regions commonly observed by the Hertz polarimeter at the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (at 350 micron) and the SCUBA polarimeter at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (at 850 micron). We plan to compare the polarization properties at these two wavelengths. Differences in polarizing efficiency infers characteristics of the dust grain population, assuming a common aligning magnetic field.

Last Updated Nov 2010