Astro Poems

My graduate career in a series of poems for the Astronomy Department’s annual one-minute colloquium.

1st Year

Hi, I’m Francesca, a first year grad.
I went to William & Mary, which I should add,
is a liberal arts college in VA
that encourages double majors that are not cliché.
So I was a physics and English major
doing research of a diverse nature:
Luminous infrared galaxies galore,
ultra cold atoms, and what more?
The Orion Nebula’s circumstellar disks,
two Northern Italian dialects,
and Shakespeare’s King Lear.
But it became clear
that astronomy is what I held most dear.
Will galaxies, stars, or exoplanets be,
the specific niche that’s right for me?
Or will cosmology catch my eye,
or perhaps a road less traveled by?
I don’t know, but I’m excited to explore
the universe through a novel door.
And no, I don’t normally speak in rhyme
but it helps me stick to the time….limit.

2nd Year

Continuing the tradition of last year
I have another poem for you to hear.
Since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do
Last year I started not one project but two.
First with Alex and Weidong Li
I sought to measure the rates of strange supernovae:
Overluminous ones like 03ma,
calcium rich ones like 05ha,
very faint ones like 99br
and other ones that are quire peculiar.
Lightcurves, I fit and extrapolated many
But rate results, I still didn’t have any
When summer came round and it was time
To move to SSL, leaving HFA behind.
I worked with John Tomsick on a Chandra survey
Of the Norma spiral arm in our Milky Way
Although more detailed analyses are ongoing
Our preliminary data pipeline is showing
Hundreds of new x-ray sources,
but our primary interest in this research is
Discovering new HMXBs,
which are High Mass X-Ray Binaries
Some are shown here, but time’s running short
Come visit my cube for a fuller report.

3rd Year

I’m Francesca, now starting year three
in my graduate study of astronomy.
My interests remain broad, but I will tell
of the project I’ve been working on at SSL.
With John Tomsick I’m exploring a Chandra survey
of the Norma spiral arm in our Milky Way.
We chose this region to search for HMXBs,
which are High-Mass X-ray Binaries,
because INTEGRAL found many hard sources there,
and radio maps show the chances are fair
that star formation recently occurred.
Our data pipeline, in this field we observed,
detected over 1400 sources.
To identify their nature, we used infrared resources
but before heading down to Chile, home of CTIO,
we selected the 70 sources we most wanted to know.
We chose some sources because they were bright,
or because they were variable like candlelight.
Others were selected for spectral properties
using a technique called quantile analysis.
We found 48 infrared counterparts
to the sources selected with these criteria.
and obtained spectra for many of these.
To learn more, visit my cube if you please.

4th Year

I am Francesca, as it’s my fourth year
I thought it time to change my rhyming scheme.
Instead of couplets for you all to hear
This is a sonnet, research is its theme.

I study x-rays coming from the skies
I’ve focused on the Norma spiral arm.
With Chandra and with NuSTAR as my eyes
I learn these sources’ nature and their charm.

Based on their spectra and photometry
most seem to be white dwarfs accreting gas.
From source to source magnetic strengths vary,
Some B fields may fling off accreting mass.

One type of source I cherish and search for
are high-mass x-ray binaries because
I want to know how they evolve and more
discover ones that are less luminous.

I wonder ‘bout their change o’er cosmic time
Stop by my cube for x-ray talk or rhyme.

That ends the sonnet but some time remains
Here’s some more info, with fewer poetic constraints:
I love public outreach, for kids and adults too
If you like it, good news!  There’s much to do!
I’ll ask for volunteers when big events roll around
Come chat about other opportunities that abound!

5th Year

I’m Francesca, now a fifth year
You’ve probably heard I married Karto here.
I’ve been working on a Chandra survey
of the Norma spiral arm in our Milky Way.
We observed the same area with NuSTAR
which works at energies which are higher.
Data from these satellites entwined
and some infrared spectra combined
allow us to classify
the X-ray sources in the sky.
Sources we’ve identified thus far
include isolated massive stars,
colliding wind binaries,  CVs,
and a possible black hole binary.
This survey could also help constrain
the number of HMXBs that are faint.
The main problem I’d like to solve
is how HMXBs evolve:
what fraction of them contain a black hole
and if metallicity affects them at all.
And another thing I like to do
is public outreach, for kids and adults too!
So stop by my cube if you want to learn more
about x-ray photons or outreach galore.

6th Year

Hi I’m Francesca – whoa time flies fast,
It’s my sixth year of grad school, this poem’s my last.
I work with John Tomsick and Mariska Kriek
at the junction of two fields that seldom speak:
rare objects called high-mass X-ray binaries
and the puzzle of the evolution of galaxies.
I’m studying three HMXB populations
in which the process of wind accretion
onto a black hole or neutron star
can be studied safely from afar.
These three groups that make up my thesis medley
can be called the faint, the poor, and the steady.
The faint are those with low-luminosity,
of which models predict there may be a paucity.
To test this we used Chandra to survey
the Norma spiral arm in the Milky Way. 
The poor binaries have few metals
and with MOSDEF we hope to settle
whether black holes are more commonplace
in these HMXBs in deep space. 
The steady systems show no pulsations –
Black holes or magnetars? It’s speculation
but NuSTAR observations will lend a hand.
And there’s so many more mysteries to understand!