Travis is from Seattle, Washington and currently attends the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo where he will major in Astronomy and Physics. After he completes his bachelor’s degree, Travis plans to go to graduate school and complete his Ph.D. in Astronomy. Then, hopefully he can conduct his own research or teach at a university. Travis’s areas of research interest include exoplanets, solar system formation and star formation. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar, traveling, and learning other languages.
Home State: Washington
Institute when accepted: University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
Protostellar Dynamics: Modeling the Effects of Magnetic Fields on Gravitational Collapse
Project Site: Smithsonian Submillimeter Array (SMA)
Mentor: Ramprasad Rao
Star formation is still one of the many unsolved mysteries in modern astrophysics and is one of the principal areas of research conducted by the Smithsonian Submillimeter Array. In the standard model of low mass star formation, stars form from dense clouds of molecular gas that undergo gravitational collapse. As they become more massive and dense, their internal gas pressure is not strong enough to support hydrostatic equilibrium. The star formation rate based on gravitational free fall timescales is much faster than that determined from current observations, so there must be some mechanism to provide support against collapse. One possibility is the manifestation of magnetic fields in these molecular clouds. The Submillimeter Array has recently collected polarization data of the protostellar system NGC 1333 IRAS 4A in order to try and understand the ‘hourglass’ morphology seen in the structure of these magnetic fields. By examining different mathematical models, my goal was to produce numerous programs to visualize and fit linearly polarized data in the form of maps of Stokes Parameters to find equation constants to measure the strength of these magnetic fields. Various methods of trying to determine the magnetic field have been explored and progress toward measuring the strength of the magnetic fields will be presented. Ultimately, this will help determine the validity of our mathematical model and the significance of magnetic fields within the early stages of stellar evolution.