Massive stars in our universe are rare, but are frequently born with one or more companions. For a high percentage of these cases, the separation between the stars is close enough that they will interact and transfer material on a scale and with a spectacular splendor that most of us can barely imagine. That is, most of us except Dr. Geraldine J. Peters, who has devoted her professional life to studying these extraordinary systems. Dr.
Peters is a Research Professor at the University of Southern California (Department of Physics & Astronomy and Space Sciences Center) and she will highlight key advancements in her research in a free public talk, entitled “Close Binary Stars: What Spacecraft Observations have Revealed about their Interaction”. This talk will be presented on Thursday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Okanagan College’s Kalamalka campus.
This free event is sponsored by the American Astronomical Society as part of its Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureship program and is also part of the Science in Society Speaker Series.
Dr. Peters is the principal investigator on 65 former and current NASA grants. She uses spectroscopic and photometric observations from spacecraft to study the mass transfer in close binary stars. Valuable insight has been provided from spectra obtained with the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE), the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and more recently photometry from the Kepler spacecraft. “We have confirmed the presence of a gas stream from a cool giant star”, Peters says, “that impacts the surface of a hotter companion and heats its surface. The process also results in the loss of material from the system in the form of splashes and jets.” High mass stars evolve quickly and changes can be quite dramatic with bi-polar jet streams, hot spots where mass transfer is “hitting” the surface of the star, and “splashes” off the surface – all extraordinary events to be discussed in this talk!
Dr. Peters has been involved with the analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data on early type stars since 1974 (missions include Copernicus, IUE, Uhuru, ROSAT, SAS-3, HST, Voyager UVS, Pioneer 10/11, EUVE, ORFEUS-SPAS 2, FUSE, GALEX, & Kepler). She is the author of more than 145 publications in refereed journals and books and major conference proceedings.
The Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and the Okanagan College) is also sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, Starbucks Coffee, Cooper’s Food, and the Vernon Morning Star.