BYU Astronomy Research Group Joins the Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC)

As of January 2021 BYU will be a member of the ARC Consortium (Link to Consortium) with access to the ARC 3.5-m telescope and the 0.5-m ARCSAT telescope.  The primary use of the ARC 3.5-m telescope time is for graduate student projects.  This provides a wide array of instrumentation that is currently being used to study objects in the solar system all the way to studies of the large scale structure of the Universe.

Other BYU Astronomy Facilities

In addition to our telescope time from the ARC consortium, we operate a number of our own astronomical facilities

West Mountain Observatory (West Mountain)

This is our mountain observatory at about 6600 ft above sea level.  This consists of three telescopes: 0.9-m, 0.5-m, and a 0.32-m. It is a 40 minute drive that ends in a 5 miles drive up a dirt road. The mountain itself can be seen from campus. We don't provide any tours of this facility.

Orson Pratt Observatory

The Orson Pratt Observatory is named for an early apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It is our campus telescope facility and contains a wide variety of telescopes for student research and public outreach. We operate a 24" PlaneWave telescope in the main campus dome, plus a 16", two 12", one 8", and a 6" telescope on our observation deck.  The telescopes are all fully robotic. Beyond this we have a large sections of telescopes used on public nights.

Royden G. Derrick Planetarium (Planetarium)

This is a 119 seat, 39" dome planetarium with acoustically treated walls to allow it's use as a lecture room. Recently we upgraded to an E&S Digistar7 operating system with 4K projectors.  The planetarium is used for teaching classes, public outreach, and astronomy education research projects.





Selected Publications

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By J. W. Moody (et al.)
Abstract: We have measured Johnson BV and Cousins RI magnitudes for comparison stars near 5 TeV blazars. We compare our values with published values, spanning 25 years in some cases, to identify those stars that are most likely proven stable. To avoid zero-point offsets mimicking long-term variability, we based our analysis on the standard deviation between measurements after a mean offset between data sets was removed. We found most stars to be stable at the 0.04 mag level. We confirm two stars as variable and identify two others as possibly being variable. In each of the five fields there are at least two stars, and typically many more, that show no evidence of variability.
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By J. W. Moody, C. Pace, and R. Pearson (et al.)
Abstract:

Aims. We perform an extensive characterization of the broadband emission of Mrk 421, as well as its temporal evolution, during the non-flaring (low) state. The high brightness and nearby location (z = 0.031) of Mrk 421 make it an excellent laboratory to study blazar emission. The goal is to learn about the physical processes responsible for the typical emission of Mrk 421, which might also be extended to other blazars that are located farther away and hence are more difficult to study.

Methods. We performed a 4.5-month multi-instrument campaign on Mrk 421 between January 2009 and June 2009, which included VLBA, F-GAMMA, GASP-WEBT, Swift, RXTE, Fermi-LAT, MAGIC, and Whipple, among other instruments and collaborations. This extensive radio to very-high-energy (VHE; E> 100 GeV) γ-ray dataset provides excellent temporal and energy coverage, which allows detailed studies of the evolution of the broadband spectral energy distribution.

Results. Mrk421 was found in its typical (non-flaring) activity state, with a VHE flux of about half that of the Crab Nebula, yet the light curves show significant variability at all wavelengths, the highest variability being in the X-rays. We determined the power spectral densities (PSD) at most wavelengths and found that all PSDs can be described by power-laws without a break, and with indices consistent with pink/red-noise behavior. We observed a harder-when-brighter behavior in the X-ray spectra and measured a positive correlation between VHE and X-ray fluxes with zero time lag. Such characteristics have been reported many times during flaring activity, but here they are reported for the first time in the non-flaring state. We also observed an overall anti-correlation between optical/UV and X-rays extending over the duration of the campaign.

Conclusions. The harder-when-brighter behavior in the X-ray spectra and the measured positive X-ray/VHE correlation during the 2009 multi-wavelength campaign suggests that the physical processes dominating the emission during non-flaring states have similarities with those occurring during flaring activity. In particular, this observation supports leptonic scenarios as being responsible for the emission of Mrk 421 during non-flaring activity. Such a temporally extended X-ray/VHE correlation is not driven by any single flaring event, and hence is difficult to explain within the standard hadronic scenarios. The highest variability is observed in the X-ray band, which, within the one-zone synchrotron self-Compton scenario, indicates that the electron energy distribution is most variable at the highest energies.

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By C. Draper and J. W. Moody (et al.)
Abstract: The presence or absence of dwarf galaxies with Mr' > -14 in low-density volumes correlates with dark matter halos and how they affect galaxy formation. We are conducting a redshifted Hα imaging survey for dwarf galaxies with Mr' > -13 in the heart of the well-defined voids FN2 and FN8 using the KPNO 4m Mayall telescope and Mosaic Imager. These data have furnished over 600 strong candidates in a four square degree area. Follow-up spectra finding none of these candidates to be within the void volumes will constrain the dwarf population there to be 2 to 8% of the cosmic mean. Conversely, finding even one Hα dwarf in the void heart will challenge several otherwise successful theories of large-scale structure formation.
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By Nichole M. Maughan and Joseph W. Moody (et al.)
Abstract: Noninvasive blood analysis devices that can measure levels of small constituents of blood are of interest in the medical community. An important step in creating these devices is to understand the interaction of photons with human tissue in increasingly greater physiological detail. Models based on layered biological materials give excellent results for many applications but may not be as accurate as needed when those materials are finely intertwined to the point of resembling a homogeneous mixture. To explore the ramifications of treating materials as layers versus a mixture, we have modeled, using a Monte Carlo technique, the interaction of photons through epidermis, blood, and water arranged both in layers and in a homogeneous blend. We confirm the expected linear relation between photon attenuation and material volumetric percentage in two-layer models. However, when the materials are homogeneously mixed together and volumetric percentage is replaced with interaction volume percentage, this relationship becomes nonlinear. These nonlinearities become significant when the values of the interaction coefficient, mu(t), differ by an order of magnitude or more. (C) The Authors.
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By Cameron J. Pace, Pearson, Richard L., III, J. Ward Moody, Michael D. Joner, and Bret Little
Abstract: We have measured Johnson BV and Cousins RI magnitudes for comparison stars near 5 TeV blazars. We compare our values with published values, spanning 25 years in some cases, to identify those stars that are most likely proven stable. To avoid zero-point offsets mimicking long-term variability, we based our analysis on the standard deviation between measurements after a mean offset between data sets was removed. We found most stars to be stable at the 0.04 mag level. We confirm two stars as variable and identify two others as possibly being variable. In each of the five fields there are at least two stars, and typically many more, that show no evidence of variability.
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By J. W. Moody, B. Boizelle, K. Bates, B. Little, T. McCombs, J. Nelson, C. Pace, Pearson, R. L., III, J. Harrison, and P. J. Brown (et al.)
Abstract: Observatories constructed solely for photometric monitoring make it possible to understand the temporal nature of objects over time scales that historically have been difficult to achieve. We report on one such observatory, the Remote Observatory for Variable Object Research (ROVOR), which was constructed to enable both long-term and rapid cadence observations of brighter objects. ROVOR is an 0.4 m optical telescope located in central Utah and commissioned for scientific observations in 2008. Principle research has been monitoring blazars, x-ray binaries, active galactic nuclei (AGNs), and an occasional gamma-ray burst afterglow. We describe the observatory, its control system, and unique roof.