Introducing Roy Kilgard

This week features Roy Kilgard. Roy is a research professor of astronomy at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. His job is multi-faceted, involving teaching, research, outreach, telescope maintenance, and student mentoring. Most recently it has also involved restoration of a 100-year-old refracting telescope, a task for which his background in high energy astrophysics has left him woefully unprepared.

Roy’s research focuses on X-ray binary stars in nearby galaxies, especially those that harbor stellar-mass and (maybe) intermediate mass black holes. His work relies primarily on the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and has been featured in several Chandra press releases (http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2014/m51/ and http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2011/m82/). When not working on black holes, he lectures about astronomy in science fiction and pop culture. Roy normally tweets at @rkilgard.

Introducing Breann Sitarski

Breann is a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is a member of the Galactic Center Group and AO-Optimization collaboration. She spends most of her time watching how infrared excess sources go around the supermassive black hole at the Galactic Center and characterizing these sources through imaging (to get temperatures and extent) and spectroscopy (to get their radial velocities and chemical composition). She primarily uses the Keck telescopes in Hawaii to make her observations. 

One of her other projects involves characterizing the point spread function of the NIRC2 camera on the Keck II telescope and seeing how it varies across the field of view of the telescope. This variation can cause a lot of problems for precise astrometry and photometry, so fixing this is pretty important. She normally tweets from @bsit026. She spends her non-science hours playing intramural sports with the rest of the Astronomy Department at UCLA, writing, reading, doing archery, sewing, and studying history.

Introducing Kevin Schawinski

This week, February 3-8, 2014, features Kevin Schawinski. Kevin is an assistant professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland (ETHZ). His research focuses on supermassive black holes. Where do they come from, how do they grow, and how do they shape the galaxies they live in? Almost all galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center and these black holes seem to be linked to their host galaxies in such a fundamental way that we’re not sure what was there first: the black hole, or the galaxy. Kevin uses data from pretty much all wavelengths, from ultra-hard X-rays to the radio to tackle these questions. Kevin is also the co-founder of the Galaxy Zoo and regularly gives outreach talks in Switzerland. You can find him on Twitter at @kevinschawinski