Home > News and Activities > MIT students visit UDP to research supernovae

MIT students visit UDP to research supernovae


Stellar explosions was the popular subject of research during the stay of MIT students Lulu Russell and Holly Jackson, who the Astronomy Nucleus from UDP had the pleasure to host for a 2 month visit.  Both students came to work on short-term projects supported by the MISTI programme.

Observing run: Twin 6.5m Magellan telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory, Atacama desert in Chile. Picture taken by Paula Jofre on July 2019, at Sunset.
Lulu Russell worked together with Dr. Cristina Romero-Cañizales  on a project aiming at constraining the environment around a red supergiant star that went supernova in the Fireworks galaxy (at approximately 25 millions of light years). For this, Lulu learned different tools such as the basics of the linux operating system, latex and python, which will serve her well in her future career. In particular, she got a good handle on processing and analysing data obtained with the Very Large Array, a radio interferometer consisting of 27 radio antennas. Lulu analysed the first 140 days of the evolution of the supernova that exploded in the Fireworks galaxy in 2004. She plans to continue this work by analysing all the available radio data of this supernova, and thus provide the most complete study of the evolution in time and frequency of the light emitted by this supernova, which will give us further information on the life of the progenitor star previous to its explosion.


Holly Jackson, hosted by Dr. Paula Jofré, worked on reconstructing the chemical enrichment history of our Galaxy using phylogenetic tools. While chemical evolution is triggered by the death of stars, either via explosions or winds, it is the surviving stars that help probing the chemical composition of the Milky Way at different epochs and places. Therefore, considering the chemical composition imprinted in the spectra of long-lived stars as their DNA, Holly systematically developed a systematic procedure to create phylogenetic trees for solar twins. Excited about her preliminary results, Holly will continue working on this subject. In addition, Holly had the chance to participate on an observing run to take stellar spectra with the MIKE instrument mounted on one of the twin 6.5 Magellan telescopes in Las Campanas Observatory, in the Atacama dessert. The observed stars are believed to be originated in a dwarf galaxy and were accreted onto our Galaxy about 8Gyr ago. This merger has been recently evidenced by Gaia.

It was a great experience working with Lulu and Holly, we look forward to conclude these projects and wish them all the best in their careers!
Cristina Romero-Cañizales, Holly Jackson, Lulu Russell and Paula Jofre celebrating the conclusion of the research projects with presentations and cake.