Physics Professor Awarded Observing Time on NASA’s NuSTAR X-Ray Observatory

Dr. Ka-Wah Wong, Assistant Professor of Physics, has been awarded roughly 22 hours of observing time during the next cycle of the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission.

Dr. Wong, Principal Investigator, and co-Investigators, Dr. Jimmy Irwin (University of Alabama), Dr. Dacheng Lin (Northeastern University), and Dr. Rodrigo Nemmen (University of São Paulo, Brazil), will be studying two low-luminosity active galactic nuclei (LLAGNs) using the NuSTAR X-ray Observatory. AGNs are compact radiation regions at centers of galaxies powered by the accretion of gas onto supermassive black holes. The most powerful AGNs can outshine their entire galaxies, but most of them emit much less radiation and are classified as LLAGNs.

Therefore, studying LLAGNs will be the key to understand the full picture of AGNs or supermassive black hole systems. X-ray emission has been detected in LLAGNs, but the origin of the emission is still under debate. It can come from hot gas being accreted toward supermassive black holes, from jets being ejected during the accretion process, or a combination of both. The better sensitivity of NuSTAR in high-energy X-ray compared to previous X-ray observatories will allow the research team to investigate the nature of X-rays from LLAGNs.

NuSTAR is the first satellite to focus high-energy X-rays into sharp images.  Observing time on NuSTAR is awarded after a highly competitive peer-reviewed process. In working with Dr. Wong to analyze the NuSTAR data, students at SUNY Brockport will be among the first to witness some of the most energetic phenomena in the universe. They will learn frontier science while they gain skills in statistical data analysis and computer coding.

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