Steven and Clint Hawkins investigating the physics of mirrors.
Steven was a physics major whose astronomy courses left him hooked on the new frontier that lies in outer space. During the summer of 2011, he participated in the CAMPARE program at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory, working with Drs. John Bieging and Yancy Shirley, studying the California Molecular Cloud. He has now graduated and is enrolled in the Cal Poly Pomona accreditation program to become a high school physics teacher. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Noyce Scholarship, which provides $10,000 per year for his further education as a teacher. This is his story.
This summer was an amazing experience for me. I had the opportunity to work Dr. John Bieging and Dr. Yancy Shirley, who were very kind and incredibly helpful to me in their advising on this project. For first half of summer I worked with Dr. Bieging on an OTF (on the fly) mapping of the California Molecular Cloud using two isotopes of the CO tracer. John was my mentor the entire time I was in Tucson and taught me most of what I needed to reduce all the data using programs like Class and Miriad. It was a complicated process, but the results were very pleasing and I was incredible amazed with the maps of the CMC and how much information they carried.
Steven presenting his results from his summer research at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) national meeting in Austin, Texas, January 2012
I was very lucky and thankful to join John in an observation run at the 12 meter on Kitt Peak during my first week in Tucson. On this particular run I witnessed the data taking process that was executed several times in order to obtain reducible spectra from the clouds major cores. It was an experience I will always carry with me because John kindly gave me a tour of the mountain and because I got the chance to monitor the raw data in order to get useful spectra. This is the data that Yancy and I worked with the second half of the summer program. We took a closer look at spectral properties of the dense cores within the CMC in different molecular tracers such as C18O and CS. This data was statistically compared to other cores within Orion and to many high mass cores.
Steven wearing a hard hat ready for anything
This summer was a great learning process for me. Not only did I learn the entire process of how the contour plots are made that we usually see but I also gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from my mentors. Astronomy is something I wish to continue in after my undergraduate studies because there are so many great opportunities for discoveries in the field. For me, the hard work of running a program pipeline many times pays off when the final image comes out and the molecular cloud can be seen. Tucson was some of the best eight weeks for me. Working in the office with my fellow interns as we analyze our data and listen to music. It is something I will carry with me as I progress to my future goals.