News and Events

Distorted galaxy NGC 2442 can be found in the southern constellation of the flying fish, (Piscis) Volans. Located about 50 million light-years away, the galaxy's two spiral arms extending from a pronounced central bar have a hook-like appearance in wide-field images. But this mosaicked close-up, constructed from Hubble Space Telescope and European Southern Observatory data, follows the galaxy's structure in amazing detail. Obscuring dust lanes, young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions surround a core of yellowish light from an older population of stars. The sharp image data also reveal more distant background galaxies seen right through NGC 2442's star clusters and nebulae. The image spans about 75,000 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 2442.
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The BYU Department of Physics and Astronomy invites applications for two faculty positions to begin August 2021. The application deadline is October 15, 2020.
Notice of Intent to File a Labor Condition Application to Employ an Alien H-1B Temporary Worker at Brigham Young University
A new study from researchers at Brigham Young University and Pennsylvania State University provides the most accurate estimate of the number of Earth-like planets in the universe. The team looked at the frequency of planets that are similar to Earth in size and in distance from their host star, stars similar to our Sun. Knowing the rate that these potentially habitable planets occur will be important for designing future astronomical missions to characterize nearby rocky planets around Sun-like stars that could support life.
Physics professor Ben Frandsen recently received an Early Career Award from the United States Department of Energy

Selected Publications

BYU Authors: Burke Boyer, Zacory D. Shakespear, Christiana Zaugg, Mayalen Laker, Daniel Jones, Nicholas Van Alfen, and J. Ward Moody, published in Res. Notes AAS
The stellar mass function is assumed to be constant through time. If it is constant, then the flux contribution to HII regions from hot, high mass stars would remain uniform with redshift. If this contribution has changed, then the mean H ii region temperature would change with increasing redshift. To quantify how mean stellar temperature may have evolved with time, we mapped the temperature of H ii regions to a redshift of about z = 0.7 using SDSS spectral data. We find no distance dependence with temperature.
BYU Authors: Darin Ragozzine and Keir Ashby, published in Astron. J.
We characterize the occurrence rate of planets, ranging in size from 0.5 to 16 R⊕, orbiting FGK stars with orbital periods from 0.5 to 500 days. Our analysis is based on results from the “DR25” catalog of planet candidates produced by NASA’s Kepler mission and stellar radii from Gaia “DR2.” We incorporate additional Kepler data products to accurately characterize the efficiency of planets being recognized as “threshold crossing events” by Kepler’s Transiting Planet Search pipeline and labeled as planet candidates by the robovetter. Using a hierarchical Bayesian model, we derive planet occurrence rates for a wide range of planet sizes and orbital periods. For planets with sizes 0.75–1.5 R⊕ and orbital periods of 237–500 days, we find a rate of planets per FGK star of <0.27 (84.13th percentile). While the true rate of such planets could be lower by a factor of ∼2 (primarily due to potential contamination of planet candidates by false alarms), the upper limits on the occurrence rate of such planets are robust to ∼10%. We recommend that mission concepts aiming to characterize potentially rocky planets in or near the habitable zone of Sun-like stars prepare compelling science programs that would be robust for a true rate in the range fR,P = 0.03–0.40 for 0.75–1.5 R
⊕ planets with orbital periods in 237–500 days, or a differential rate of  0.06–0.76.
BYU Authors: Manuel Berrondo, published in Physica D

A natural feature of a flock of birds is to develop time-dependent coherent patterns that spontaneously emerge during their flight. The origins and quantification of this phenomenon have been less studied. Here, we computationally show that this state can be reproduced by employing canonic interaction rules (radial and topological) together with a simple frustration rule; and characterize it introducing global and local order parameters. Using these parameters, we prove that both canonic interactions are able to generate this state; although it is observed that a topological interaction rule is more effective in reproducing it. Extra information is obtained after uncovering their respective interaction networks in time. In particular, the network efficiency measure in time for radial and topological rules is found and used to show that networks following topological interactions are more efficient through time. The presented analysis is general and can be used to quantify emergent phenomena in other groups of animals like fish, insects, ants or even humans performing collective motion.