Public Dirac Lecture 2008
A PhD scholarship in astronomy is available to work with Professor Michael Burton
investing the earliest stages of massive star formation. The applicant
should have an honours degree in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics,
Engineering or Computing Science.
The Department of Astrophysics is one of Australia's leading university
research groups in astronomy. We have a particularly strong program in
millimetre-wave astronomy, making use of the world-leading facilities
Australia has for these kinds of observations, which enable us to study
the emission from molecules in space. In particular, we make use of the
22m Mopra telescope, located at Coonabarabran in NSW, together with the NANTEN2 telescope
on the 5,000m elvation altiplano of Chile. These facilities provide
formidable spectrometers which allows one to study the astrochemistry
associated with the formation of stars.
Funded in by part of an ARC Discovery grant, this scholarship will
provide $15K per year. PhD students in the School may simultaneously
accept Postgraduate Assistantships, which provide additional guaranteed
income of up to $10k per year, in return for agreed teaching duties. The
scholarships do not cover tuition fees. Australian and New Zealand
students do not pay tuition fees. The university campus is located in
the East of Sydney, close to Coogee Beach.
For further information, please contact Professor Michael Burton, School
of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052. Tel
02-9385-4553, Email firstname.lastname@example.org. URL:http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/STAFF/ACADEMIC/burton.html
A description of the project is given below:
Research Project: The Earliest stages of Massive Star Formation
The evolution of our Galaxy is driven by the massive stars that reside
within it. These are stars greater than ten times the mass of the Sun,
and thousands of times brighter. Their prodigious luminosities drive
energy flows, which in turn power the cycle of elements between the
stars and the gas, and back to the stars again. Each time the cycle is
passed through it is enriched by the products of nucleosynthesis,
occurring in the cores of the stars. The crucible of this process is
the formation of these massive stars. Yet this remains somewhat of an
enigma, for a number of reasons. Massive star formation takes place
rapidly. The nearest examples are distant from us. It takes place in
clusters with stars at different stages of formation. Many different
physical processes are taking place simultaneously. This makes it a
fascinating challenge to study!
In recent years the advent of sensitive and high angular resolution
infrared cameras has made it possible to detect the forming stars.
Combined with new millimetre-wave telescopes and interferometers that
allow us to observe the rich range of molecules present, we are now able
to determine the physical state of the molecular cores where massive
stars are born, and to follow their childhood as the star passes through
a series of stages being emerging on the Main Sequence.
In particular a time-dependent chemistry is evident, complex organic
molecules created inside "hot molecular cores" surrounding an incipient
star. The molecules present at any time provide a signpost which points
to the stage star formation has reached - if only we could read the
signpost. One aspect of this project is to decode the language the
signpost is written - by determining what molecules are present in a
variety of cores, and how these change as the cores develop towards the
formation of a new star. This involves observation using new
millimetre-wave telescopes, both in Australia and under construction on
the Atacama plateau of northern Chile.
How many stars form in a hot molecular core? Do they follow a universal
initial mass function, and does this vary from core to core? What
physical characteristics of the core determine the range of stars that
form? Such questions can be tackled through deep infrared observations.
These will allow us to uncover the newly forming stars while they remain
deeply embedded in their natal cores, and to investigate their spectral
characteristics to indicate what type of star(s) will emerge from it.
This PhD project will thus involve millimetre-wave and infrared
observations of molecular clouds where massive star formation is
underway, and the subsequent analysis and interpretation of this data.
It will make use of the single-dish Mopra Telescope and the
interferometer of the Australia Telescope to find where the molecular
species are. It will use the new NANTEN2 telescope on the 5,000m
Atacama plateau of Chile to determine the excitation of the clouds. It
will also use infrared telescopes in Chile, combined with data from
space infrared telescopes, to measure the stellar content and determine
what kind of stars are forming.