Cara Battersby

The Eye of the Storm: A Detailed Study of Star Formation in our Extreme Galactic Center
Contact information:
60 Garden St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2016
Fellowship institution: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Research Interests:

Since stars form from cool, collapsing clouds of molecular gas which radiate most of their light at long wavelengths, submillimeter observations are ideal to observe deeply embedded star formation in our Galaxy's CMZ. In order to characterize star formation in the CMZ I am leading the first wide-field subparsec survey of the region in submillimeter wavelengths. This survey is the first of its kind and will revolutionize our understanding of star formation in extreme environments, bridging the gap between studies of star formation locally and the distant universe. A detailed understanding of star formation in the CMZ is tenable for the first time as a result of this survey. Over the course of a 3-year NSF fellowship, I will: 1) produce a comprehensive census of the present and future sites of star formation in the CMZ (dense cores), 2) compare their basic properties with those in our Galactic disk, and 3) determine if star formation in this extreme environment is consistent with a hypothesized critical density or universal relationship for star formation. This work will test whether a critical density threshold or universal relation applies to star formation in extreme environments in the one place in the universe we can presently resolve it.

Education and Outreach Interests:

I am working to develop the Com-STARs (Communicating Science, Technology, and Astronomy Recruits) program to provide a mentorship ladder for STEM students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds and the opportunity to do meaningful outreach in their community. The Com-STARs program will: I) foster a strong sense of community for STEM students from underrepresented backgrounds, II) forge connections with graduate students active in research who are experts in science communication, III) develop relationships with teachers and students in their local community, IV) provide training in science communication, and V) bring excellent scientific programs to underserved high schools in the Boston area to inspire the next generation of STARs. Based on my experiences at Colorado and Boston, I will create and disseminate a guide to developing a STARs program.