UNCG Campus Weekly

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Astrophysicist Miroshnichenko organizes international conference on ‘B[e]’ stellar phenomenon

Photo of Miroshnichenko.Astrophysics is one of the research and teaching directions in UNCG’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. At least two of the three undergraduate courses in astronomy (AST-209, Astronomy: The Solar System and AST-235, Astronomy: Stars and Galaxies) and astrophysics (PHY-330) are offered every semester. The courses include sessions in the UNCG Planetarium (Petty Bldg., room 310) and at the Three College Observatory (TCO, Alamance County), both of which also offer sessions to the general public. Nearly a thousand people go through these two facilities every year. The TCO has a 32-inch reflecting telescope, one of the largest in the Southeastern U.S.

Using the TCO telescope, UNCG astronomers Dr. Anatoly Miroshnichenko, associate professor, and Dr. Stephen Danford, emeritus professor, are carrying out several research projects on stars at various evolutionary stages and collaborating with colleagues from ten foreign countries. The TCO has been very active since the installation of a spectrograph in 2011, which has opened more research opportunities for interested students.

As a result of the international collaborations, Dr. Miroshnichenko has been chosen to lead the Scientific Organizing Committee of the international conference “The B[e] Phenomenon. Forty Years of Studies,” taking place June 26 to July 1, 2016, in Prague, Czech Republic.

Miroshnichenko joined the UNCG Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2005. His research interests are focused on early-type stars (hotter than the Sun) surrounded by circumstellar envelopes (Herbig Ae/Be stars, B[e] stars, Novae, high-luminosity objects, and classical Be stars) as well as on studies of fundamental parameters of stars (surface temperature, luminosity) and stellar evolution.

The main scope of the Prague conference is recent progress in studies of several groups of stars which are surrounded by large amounts of atoms and molecules gravitationally bound to the stars. Such a situation may occur when stars are still forming in clouds of interstellar matter or stars are getting dispersed back into interstellar space due to evolutionary processes. This phenomenon (called the B[e] phenomenon, in which “B” refers to a range of surface temperature of the stars and “[e]” refers to the presence of certain spectral lines in the stars’ spectra) was discovered in 1976 by two astronomers, Jean-Pierre Swings of Belgium (who will be the first conference speaker) and David Allen of Australia, and has been studied by dozens of astronomers worldwide. This conference is only the third one devoted to studies of this phenomenon. The first two were held in 1997 in Paris, France, and 2005 in the Netherlands. Both these conferences attracted roughly 40 astronomers each. The 2016 conference has 85 participants from 12 countries.

The conference will highlight astrophysics research conducted at UNCG through two major oral presentations and nearly a dozen poster presentations, where results of observations and data analysis done by the UNCG astrophysicists will be used.

The conference website is http://bepstars2016.org.

A short video featuring the conference and the leading role of UNCG can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUCmkWhnyOU.