Married astronomers sync up their research to understand the cosmos

Years after tying the knot, two local astronomers tie together their research
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 7:59 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Two local astronomers who tied the knot years ago are now tying together their research.

Dr. Rupali Chandar and Dr. J.D. Smith have always shared an interest in the stars and galaxies above, and not long after meeting at the University of Toledo, they decided to share a life together. For much of that time they’ve looked at the same galaxies, but in different ways.

Dr. Chandar, a professor of Astronomy at the University of Toledo explained, “I look at the stars and the clusters, and he looks at the gas and the dust, what we call the interstellar medium. That’s the raw fuel for the next generation of stars.”

For years Dr. Chandar and Dr. Smith had their students use their respective techniques for analyzing distant galaxies. And it was one of those students that helped to bridge the gap between their different approaches.

“As a young student, you know, you don’t get trapped into one way of thinking right,” reasoned Dr. Smith. “You have in some ways a more open mind.”

In addition to teaching Astronomy, Dr. Chandar has also spent time directly utilizing the Hubble Space Telescope to gather data on distant galaxies. With that access and experience, Dr. Chandar and one of her students looked into the Hubble archives to investigate post-starburst galaxies, a type of system where there was a recent period of rapid star formation followed by a sharp drop-off.

“This one system, which we call S12, had great Hubble data,” said Dr. Chandar. “And you could see just from the preview images that were hundreds of star clusters in them.”

Their findings proved to be a breakthrough, and the conclusions drawn by Drs. Chandar and Smith will continue to improve our understanding of how galaxies change over time.

“We really want to understand how and why that happened,” said Dr. Smith. “For example, whether that is going to happen to our galaxy, and when it might happen. So there’s just a lot of really interesting problems related to the life of a galaxy that these types of systems can help illuminate.”

Like the saying goes, two heads are better than one.

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