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2013 SPS Outstanding Student Awards for Undergraduate Research

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ICPS2013The 2013 SPS Outstanding Students Award recipients will represent the United States and SPS and present their research at the 2013 International Conference of Physics Students (ICPS), August 15-21, 2013, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Expenses for transportation, room, board, and meeting registration were paid by SPS and it's parent organization, the American Institute of Physics.

The recipients also received a $500 honorarium and a $500 award for their SPS Chapter. In addition, they will be invited to give their research presentation at a SPS Research Session at a national meeting in 2013-2014.

Patrick Donnan

Patrick Donnan
Auburn University

Feature Article: International Conference of Physics Students 2013

Laser Cooling Antihydrogen Atoms

Abstract

We present a scheme for laser cooling applicable to an extremely dilute sample of magnetically trapped antihydrogen atoms (Hbar). Exploiting and controlling the dynamical coupling between the Hbar’s motional degrees of freedom in a magnetic trap, three-dimensional cooling can be achieved from Doppler cooling in one dimension using the 1s1/2 − 2p3/2 transition. The lack of three-dimensional access to the trapped Hbar and the nearly separable nature of the trapping potential leads to difficulties in cooling. Using realistic models for the spatial variation of the magnetic fields, we find that it should be possible to cool the Hbar’s to ∼20 mK even with these constraints.


John Lurie

John Lurie
Georgia State University

Feature Article: International Conference of Physics Students 2013

Solar Systems Around Nearby Red Dwarf Stars

Abstract

While the overall pace of extrasolar planet discoveries continues to accelerate, less progress has been made in discovering planets around nearby red dwarf stars, which account for 75% of stars in the solar neighborhood. Recent analysis of data from the Kepler mission has demonstrated that a high fraction of red dwarfs host terrestrial planets (Dressing and Charbonneau 2013), but less is known about the populations of Jupiter-mass planets and substellar brown dwarf companions around such stars. Nearly all currently confirmed extrasolar planets have been discovered using transit or Doppler effect techniques. The former is geometrically biased towards planets with small orbits, while the latter is biased towards massive planets with short periods that exert large gravitational accelerations on their host stars. Astrometric techniques, which measure the positions of stars on the plane of the sky, are limited by the minimum detectable perturbation of a star's position due to a planet, but allow for the determination of orbit inclination and an accurate planetary mass.

Here we present results from 14 years of astrometric observations by the REsearch Consortium on Nearby Stars (RECONS, recons.org) from a mountaintop observatory (CTIO) in the Chilean Andes. Astrometric solutions are given for seven nearby stars with known planets: six red dwarfs (GJ 317, GJ 667C, GJ 581, GJ 849, GJ 876, and GJ 1214) and one more massive K dwarf (BD -10 3166). Observations have baselines of two to twelve years, and were made using the 0.9 m SMARTS telescope. Our astrometric techniques are most sensitive to Jupiter-mass planets in Jupiter-like orbits, and we find that the six red dwarfs have no brown dwarf or super-Jupiter companions. We provide improved parallaxes, and have used Monte Carlo simulations to determine the minimum detectable companion mass for each system. In the broader context, these results are consistent with the paucity of super-Jupiter and brown dwarf companions we find among the over 150 red dwarfs searched in our astrometric program. In our sample we find that at least 14% of red dwarfs have an equal or lower mass stellar companion, while less than 2% have brown dwarf companions, and none so far have super- Jupiter companions. Clearly much work remains to discover and understand the companions of our stellar neighbors.

This effort has been supported by the National Science Foundation via grant AST 09-08402 and the long-term cooperative efforts of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories and the members of the SMARTS Consortium.

References: Dressing, C. D. & Charbonneau, D. 2013, Astrophysical Journal, 767, 95, The Occurrence Rate of Small Planets Around Small Stars

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