Analytical Skills

Previous Research Summary:

The objects that I studied in my previous career as an astrophysicist

are called clusters of galaxies.  They are the largest self-contained

objects in the universe.  They contain hundreds to thousands of galaxies (like the Milky Way) all orbiting around one another.  They also contain massive amounts of dark matter (which we “see” through its gravitational effects) and very very hot X-ray emitting gas in between the galaxies.  The image above is an example of one such cluster of galaxies.  In the picture you can see arcs of light curving around the central galaxy.  These arcs are formed by the incredible weight of the cluster bending light toward it as the light passes by.


Primarily, I studied the hot, X-ray emitting plasma in between the galaxies.  It consists of charged ions and free electrons, and its temperature is greater than 10 million degrees (nearly 2000 times hotter than the surface of the sun!)  I did this by analyzing data taken with NASA X-ray telescopes such as Chandra.  By modeling the energy spectrum of this hot plasma, we can learn the temperature, brightness, and chemical composition of the gas.  Studying many such clusters at varying distances (redshifts) gives us information on their evolution over the lifetime of the universe.  Since these are the largest objects in the universe, studying their evolution also helps us to understand the history of the universe itself. 


For anyone interested in more technical details, please feel free to contact me at ahicks@alum.mit.edu or visit my previous academic website.

 

Contact        About Me        Analytical Skills        Grants & Technical Writing        Communicating Ideas        Project Management