Postgraduate Research Projects
This page lists some potential research projects that could
be undertaken by a postgraduate student supervised by Dr. Michael Burton.
Please contact him at
M.Burton@unsw.edu.au for further information.
- The Galactic Centre. Probing the stars and gas in the
centre of the Galaxy through near-IR imaging, spectroscopy and
polarimetry. There is particular emphasis on understanding the nature of
the clusters of young, massive stars recently dicovered both in the
nucleus, and in the central 50 parsecs of the Galaxy, and also how these stars
interact with the molecular clouds which surround them. The project
also has opportunities for combined radio-IR investigations, seeking
sources for many of the unexplained radio emission features within the
central 100 parsecs of the Galaxy.
Telescopes: AAT, ATCA, HST
- The Shock-Excitation of Molecular Clouds in Star Forming
Regions. Studying how outflows and mass ejection from proto-stars
interact with their surrounding cocoons of gas, shock-heating the
molecules and leading to intense emission in the infrared lines of
molecular hydrogen. There is particular application to the study of the
`bullets' in Orion, the explosive ejection of planetary mass shrapnell
recently observed from the core of the Orion molecular cloud.
Telescopes: AAT, HST, UKIRT
- The UV-excitation of Molecular Clouds. The study of
photodissociation regions, the surfaces of molecular clouds heated by
UV radiation from massive young stars, yielding copious emission
in spectral lines across the entire IR wavebands from 1 to 1000 microns.
Of particular interest is determing new spectral probes through which we
can study the dynamical evolution of these regions. Recently we have been
applying the SPIREX telescope at the South Pole to imaging the 3.3um PAHs
emission from extended regions of massive star formation in the southern
galactic plane. This illuminates the surfaces layers of the shells of
gas surrounding the young stars, allowing us to probe the
feedback mechanisms between star formation and cloud collapse.
Telescopes: AAT, SPIREX, UKIRT, La Palma
- The Interaction of Supernova Remnants with the Interstellar
Medium. Studying the interaction of supernova blast waves with
molecular clouds, and the role these events play in the life cycle of
the interstellar medium and the triggering of star formation. Offers
the chance of cross-fertilisation of infrared and radio techniques,
studying the gas at high spatial resolution through the near-IR molecular
hydrogen lines, and at high spectral resolution through the mm lines of
CO and HCO+. The recent discovery of 1720 MHz OH maser emission
with SNRs offers a new signpost to the interaction of these remnants
with molecular clouds, sites where molecular shock waves may be present
and observable through their H2 line emission.
Telescopes: AAT, ATNF
- Star Formation in Embedded Clusters. Infrared imaging
and spectroscopy of young clusters of stars, still deeply embedded
within their natal molecular clouds, classifying the nature of the
stars present to determine the initial mass function of clusters and
search for `brown dwarf' stars. Surveys of the molecular gas content of the
southern Galactic plane can be undertaken with the upgraded Mopra millimetre
telescope, investigating the star formation efficiency of the clouds and its
dependency on the local environment.
Telescopes: AAT, ANU 2.3m, Mopra
- Methanol Masers as a signpost for Massive Star Formation.
Through Andrew Walsh's (my recent graduate student) work it has become
clear that methanol masers are associated with a very early stage of
massive star formation, before an ultra-compact HII region (or ball of
ionized gas) forms around the star. Several interesting research
projects have presented themselves as a result of this work, including
searching for embedded mid-IR sources associated with the masers,
searching for molecular outflows and shocked H2 emission
that may excite the masers, and searching for further embedded
protostars by detecting their methanol maser emission.
Telescopes: AAT (UNSWIRF + MANIAC), Mopra
- Astronomy from the Antarctic Plateau for Astronomy.
In the development of the Antarctic Plateau for astronomy a range
of projects are possible, from site testing, IR imaging, development of
new instrumentation, and the application of new engineering technology.
Current projects include the `AASTO' site testing observatory, to be
deployed to Dome C on the high plateau, the SPIREX/Abu thermal
infrared array camera at the South Pole, and the SPIRIT 2.5-m IR optimised
telescope for the Pole or Dome C.
Likely sites: South Pole, Dome Circe, Dome Argus
Further information on Michael's research interests, including his
biography can be found on his home page. Enquiries
can be made to M.Burton@unsw.edu.au .
If interested in applying to UNSW for a postgraduate place further
information can be had through the School web site, at
Author: Michael Burton
Last updated: 27 August 1998