Dhanesh Krishnarao, assistant professor of physics, was recently awarded a $66,902 grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is a research arm of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.
Krishnarao will be working with four other institutions on the three-year program, entitled “The LMC’s Galactic Wind through the Eyes of ULLYSES.”
The Large Magellanic Cloud is a galaxy currently on an orbit falling into the Milky Way. The LMC is our closest major companion galaxy and provides the ideal venue to study the physics of how galaxies evolve over billions of years. The team from the five institutions will use observations of light from stars in the LMC from the Hubble Space Telescope to study the presence of gas between the LMC and Milky Way, tracing the flow of gas in and out of the LMC as it forms new stars and triggers many exploding stars, or supernovae.
With the grant, Krishnarao and his research students will map the properties of the LMC’s explosive wind of gas, allowing them to better understand how individual stars form and how their formation and lifetime can impact the large environment surrounding galaxies.
“For billions of years, the Magellanic Clouds have been traversing a perilous journey. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds have been colliding with one another while also interacting with our Milky Way, leaving behind trails of gaseous debris. All this time, the Magellanic Clouds have also been actively creating new stars and trying to throw out additional debris in the form of massive ‘winds’ escaping from their hold,” says Krishnarao. “Using hundreds of observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, we will search for signatures of this powerful wind to better understand how galaxies evolve, form stars, and potentially fuel the formation of life in the universe.”
Krishnarao had a paper related to his research published in Nature this week.
“With the help of data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and a retired satellite called the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE), a team of astronomers led by Krishnarao has finally found the answer: the Magellanic system is surrounded by a corona, a protective shield of hot supercharged gas,” a NASA press release states.
“This paper opens up an exciting new research path for me, moving beyond my initial interests of studying gas and dust within our own galaxy, and expanding to hotter gas that encompasses some of our closest companion galaxies and protects them as they fall in towards our mighty Milky Way,” says Krishnarao. “Soon, with the support of my recent grant from NASA/STScI, I’ll be working with students at CC and collaborators across the country to better study how our newly discovered Magellanic Corona relates to and interacts with gas being ejected out from the Large Magellanic Cloud in the form of high-speed winds blown out from some of the most massive, actively forming stars we know of.”