A Partnership in Observational and Computational Astronomy

The SC State “Partnership in Observational and Computational Astronomy (POCA)” is a 5-year project funded by the National Science Foundation’s program “Partnerships in Astronomy and Astrophysics Research and Education”.

The mission of POCA is to develop an effective, long-term partnership between SC State, Clemson University and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory that combines the strengths of the three institutions to increase the scientific and educational output of all the partners with special emphasis on enhancing diversity in the field of astronomy. POCA supports a variety of activities in astronomical research, curriculum development and outreach.

POCA’s main research project is a study of pulsating variable stars, specifically RV Tauri and Semiregular types as discussed in detail here.


Goals and Results, Year 5

Goal 1: Walter and Cash continue to strengthen their research at SCSU

a) Co-PI Howell and PI Walter prepared a paper on the variable R CrB. While preparation occured during the reporting period, the paper was submitted to PASP in April 2013, outside the current reporting period.
b) In January 2013, Walter submitted a proposal to the NASA Kepler Mission GO Cycle 5 program with Cash and Hinkle as Co-Is. Observations were approved in April but no funding was provided.
c) Walter conducted 3 observing runs using the Coude Feed telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO).
d) d) Cash, Walter, Howell and Hinkle are preparing a paper on the Kepler light curves of RV Tauri and Semiregular variables.

Goal 2: Use of small telesccopes at NOAO

a) The SCSU faculty and collaborators used the 1.3 meter Robotically Controlled Telescope and the Coude Feed telescopes at KPNO
b) Clemson used the SARA North (KPNO) and SARA South (CTIO) telescopes. These obsevations support the research on RV Tauri and Semiregulars.

Goal 3: Increase the number of underrepresented minorities pursing graduate degrees in astronomy

At the beginning of the award period there were 3 full time and 1 part time POCA-funded, underrepresented minorites enrolled in the graduate program in astronomy at Clemson. Shortly thereafter, the part time student withdrew for medical reasons. The other 3 have remained with the program. One of those (S. Hampton) successfully defended his M.S. thesis work on April 8, 2013. He will graduate in May 2013. The other two graduate students (A. Delgado-Navarro and J. Lalmansigh) have continued in the program. Lalmansigh will complete his M.S. in August 2013 and seek employment. Delgado-Navarro will take her qualifying Ph.D. exam in the Fall of 2013. Despite recruiting a few potential candidates, no new underrepresented students were enrolled in the graduate program this year.

Goal 4: Increase the number of undergraduates at SCSU engaged in astronomical activities

During the reporting period, two new undergraduates at SCSU selected the physics major with the astronomy option (J. Eleby and C. Laursen), thus increasing to 5 the total number currently enrolled in the program. One of those (C. Kurgatt) will graduate this May, 2013. Additionally, 2 other underrepresented students (M. Martinez and G. Hernandez) were funded by POCA to attend a summer 2012 internship in astronomy at SC State. Kurgatt, Hernanedz and B. Pugh all presented posters at the AAS in January 2013. Eleby, Kurgatt and McKay presented their research at the Quadrennial Physics Congress in November 2012.

SCSU undergraduate B. Pugh participated in a summer 2012 undergraduate internship at SCSU, presented at the AAS in Janauary 2013 and has been accepted by the University of South Carolina into their summer 2013 undergraduate internship program.

Goal 5: Share resources at KPNO

The NOAO/KPNO Coude Feed telescope is being used by SCSU faculty and students for research and in the case of students, for training. The 1.3m RCT is being used by SCSU faculty and students for research and training. The SARA North 0.9m recently had a spectrograph installed and Clemson has offered SCSU access to the spectograph to support its RV Tauri research. Hinkle will acquire high-resolution near-IR spectra with the Phoenix spectrograph on the KPNO 2.1-meter telescope as part of the ground support for the Kepler stars he, Cash and Walter are studying.

Goal 6: Develop & distribute inquiry-based, lab exercises and web-based activities related to cosmology

Smith has developed 2 new labs and 5 new simulations and updated 1 existing lab during this reporting period. See the Products Section for specifics. These are being used in science classes at SCSU. They are available to the community via his web page. Attempts to publish the results during the reporting period were not successful.

Goal 7: Enhance and expand the existing outreach programs

A Venus Transit event was held by the POCA faculty and students at SC State on June 6, 2012. Approximately 100 members of the community attended.

The POCA project partnered with the SCSU physics program to host the 3rd annual "Physics Visitation Day" on November 3, 2012. A total of 149 students from 19 schools around the state applied. Attendance had to be limited and eventually 26 students and 12 parents or teachers attended. The all day event featured demonstrations and hands-on activities on light, sound, motion, medical physics, astronomy and atmospheric science.

A number of POCA-supported activities were held on campus and at schools around the state. These included recruitment events and science talks. Approximately 250 additional K-12 students and teachers were reached through this means.

Unfortunately SCSU has been without a planetarium manager for nearly two years, so there were no POCA activities related to that facility during this reporting period.