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Nifty Fifty – Bring a Top Scientist to your Middle or High School

Dr. Loren Anderson

Years Participated: Nifty Fifty 2014/2015
Anderson Loren

Nominated by: 

WV Gold124

Inside the Mysteries of Massive Stars Within Our Galaxy!  

Loren Anderson, a noted physicist at West Virginia University, works in an elite and highly specialized area of astrophysics. His research focuses on Galactic HII regions in our galaxy. HII regions are ionized zones around young and very massive stars. The stars powering HII regions are more than twenty times the mass of the Sun, and there are a few thousand HII regions in our Galaxy alone.

"These regions are one of the primary mechanisms that inject energy into the Galaxy," says Loren, professor in the Department of Physics at WVU [known already?]. "They are relatively rare but have a large impact on their surroundings."

As testament to the importance of this research, Loren was recently awarded a $255,000 grant from NASA to create a catalog of all HII regions," in our Galaxy. "This catalog," Loren explains, "will have numerous functions: It will allow us for the first time to better characterize the statistical properties of HII regions, trace Galactic structure, determine differences in star formation properties in a variety of environments, and compare our Galaxy with other galaxies in the universe." Plus, he adds, it will "examine the impact of evolved HiII regions in triggering the creation of second generation stars."

The NASA grant will fund the project titled "A Complete Census of Galactic HII Regions" with the noted unmanned satellite project known as WISE (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer). WISE, also NASA-funded, is carrying an infrared-sensitive telescope that images the entire sky. "The problem," says Loren, "has been that it's very difficult to get a complete sample and survey of the whole sky that can find all of the HII regions in the Galaxy. WISE allows us to fix this problem."

This project will continue with follow-up radio observations using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope, to learn about the properties of HII regions and their distribution in the Galaxy.

Loren comes to WVU by way of Marseille, France, where he spent two years working on data from the Herschel Space Observatory. He earned his Ph.D. from Boston University in 2009.

Listen to a Nifty Fifty podcast with Dr. Loren Anderson speaking to Tuscarora High School in Leesburg, VA in 2015.


For more information click here.