December 22, 2015
An image from a Texas Tech University astrophysicist’s research has been included in TIME Magazine’s list of the Best Space Photos of 2015.
Paul Sell, a postdoctoral research fellow in astrophysics and astronomy instructor, was intimately involved with multiple studies of Circinus X-1, a binary star system, which has a neutron star feeding on gas from its orbiting companion star. The neutron star was formed from the leftover core of a star that exploded in a supernova.
“This TIME image was focused on the large ring features created by scattered X-rays from Circinus X-1,” Sell said. “This is an image made from observations with very different telescopes that help tell a more complete story and show all three main features we have discovered, which I have been heavily involved in.”
From the center of the image outward, these three features are:
Sell said studying this system could help scientists to better understand how binary star systems behave when the lives of their constituent stars end. This is important because a large percentage of stars live in such systems, rather than living alone like the Sun.
“The most basic takeaway is these new observations have helped us put together a more complete picture to much better understand how this system evolves and maybe how other such systems evolve,” Sell said.
The Department of Physics is active in a broad range of research and teaching activities designed to prepare undergraduates for challenging careers in science and technology. Graduates of the department have gone on to successful careers at universities, national laboratories, and in industry.
The department offers the Bachelor of Science degree in physics, and in cooperation with the College of Engineering, also offers courses leading to the Bachelor of Science in engineering physics.Society of Physics Students at Texas Tech University