At Concordia, students using the GBO are not limited to majors in astronomy and physics, they include biology, chemistry, and mathematics majors and minors. Biology and Chemistry students, for example, are astounded to find clear evidence of chemical elements in the stars. Each element has its own unique spectral fingerprint that can be observed and measured at the GBO. Mathematics students are presented with numerous opportunities to mathematically manipulate GBO image data and to carry out many types of astronomical calculations.
Research is currently in progress utilizing the GBO’s superb site and excellent telescope to measure double star systems, a field known as Astrometry. Currently three Concordia papers have been accepted for publication using GBO data, and another one is being prepared for submission.
Concordia students will soon be using the GBO to study RR Lyrae stars. In RR Lyrae type stars, noticeable intensity changes can be observed over a period of hours or days. The RR Lyrae stars literally expand and contract as if they were breathing. When they are contracted, these stars shine much more brightly than when they are expanded. The GBO will be used to access fainter RR Lyrae stars and measure their characteristic intensity oscillations, which are called light curves.
Soon, Concordia will be partnering with Harvard astronomer Dr. Idan Ginsburg to use the GBO to search for exoplanets orbiting about hypervelocity (high speed) stars. Hypervelocity stars are stars that are speeding out of our Milky Way galaxy into deep space. The Concordia student team will be analyzing archived astronomical data from other observatories to identify potential “galaxy exiting” hypervelocity stars. Once identified, the team will then use the spectroscopic capabilities of the GBO to search for and hopefully detect exoplanets orbiting the hypervelocity stars. The existence of an exoplanet is inferred from small wobbles in the spectra of the star. These spectral wobbles arise from the Doppler effect, the same effect one hears with sound waves as a fast-moving train’s whistle frequency decreases as the train passes the railroad cross. To date, no exoplanet on a hypervelocity star has ever been discovered!