The Search for Radio Stars at the Nano-Jansky Scale
Then head of Columbia's Astronomy Department, Dr. David Helfand is one of the world's most recognized radio astronomers. He was one of three head scientists in charge of the VLA's FIRST Survey. During his tenure at Columbia, Dr. Helfand worked with a number of students, for whom he served as undergraduate or graduate advisor and with whom he co-authored papers. During my senior year, Dr. Helfand was my thesis advisor, and Eilat Glickman was his graduate student. Together, Dr. Glickman and Dr. Helfand developed a method for detecting radio objects (primarily quasars) with unprecedented accuracy.
My undergraduate thesis piggy-backed on their work by using their method applied to a different subset of radio objects (stars). Although an undergraduate thesis was not required for graduation, I elected to do this project because I was fascinated with Radio Astronomy, and it was a unique opportunity to work with leading scientists in the field of Astrophysics and to employ the physics and math theory I had spent the previous four years learning in the real world.
The majority of the work involved coding in IDL (Interactive Data Language) and mathematical and scientific analysis of results.
Using known optical stellar positions observed by the Hipparcos Satellite we searched for stars with radio emission using the FIRST survey. A stacking technique developed by Glickman et al. was employed in order to detect radio stars at the nano-Jansky scale. No detections were found, but a limit can be determined of the minimum background necessary for detecting radio stars by evaluating the root-mean-square of the image background.
Click here to download my paper that was the culmination of this work.