Students in astrophysics lab.

Ithaca College faculty and students are studying the chemistry and evolution of proto-stellar and proto-planetary objects. We are a member of a team using the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to gather infrared spectra of dust and gas orbiting stars other than the sun. Professor Luke Keller and his students reduce spectra from Spitzer Space Telescope, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, Hubble Space Telescope, and other data archives and analyze the results, looking for atomic and molecular signatures of material orbiting sound stars that may be forming planets. They also use ground-based observatories to gather spectra and images of these objects. Their current focus is on Herbig AeBe stars, a class of stars that are several times more massive than the sun and show evidence of disks of gas and dust orbiting them.

Current Projects

Students with model rockets.

OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Research: Deriving a Geotechnical Model for Imaging and Spectral Data of Rock Properties on Target Asteroid (101955) Bennu. 

Observations and 3-D computer modeling of the early stages of planet formation: We are investigating whether the process of planet formation is different when the abundances of heavier elements (Carbon, Oxygen, Silicon, etc.) are lower so that there is less dust. We have infrared and optical (visible light) spectra, ultraviolet and optical images, and photometric measurements of stars in the nearby Small Magellanic Cloud in which the chemical environment is heavy element poor. Students will assist with data analysis and also learn to use computer models to estimate the physical properties of material orbiting these stars. The project involves work on computers, including programming in Python, but no prior coding experience is required.

Members of the Team