Karen Knierman

Star Formation on the Edge
Contact information:
ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration
PO Box 876004
Tempe, AZ 85287-6004
Fellowship status:
Starting year: 2015
Research Interests:

This project studies the tidal debris of minor galaxy collisions. The objectives of this project are: (1) characterizing how star formation occurs in tidal debris and (2) determining the origin of the debris. Narrowband infrared images of molecular hydrogen will provide a picture of the hot molecular gas component and how the ISM of the tail has been molded by in situ star formation. This project will provide the first survey of molecular hydrogen in minor mergers. Along with existing optical and H-alpha imaging and new submillimeter observations, these data will give a more complete picture of star formation in tidal debris of minor mergers. By using the metallicity calculated from deep spectra of tidal clumps in minor mergers and comparison regions in the parent spiral and dwarf galaxy, the origin of the tidal debris of minor mergers can be determined: the cannibalized dwarf, the outer regions of the spiral (like debris in major mergers), or the center via a direct encounter. While metallicity has been measured for regions in the tidal debris of major mergers, the tidal debris of minor mergers has not been studied as a sample.

Education and Outreach Interests:

Multicultural Milky Way is a new initiative to partner the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University with local families, particularly in under-served areas. One method to engage under-served populations is to relate the science content to their cultural background. Using the MCC Digital Planetarium and STARLAB portable planetarium, the PI will develop a new planetarium show exploring how the Milky Way is interpreted in different cultures. In addition, new hands-on activities will be added to existing ones to enable families to learn about the Milky Way and other galaxies. To provide a place for families to learn together, Community Astronomy Nights will be held at Arizona schools in inner-city Phoenix and tribal reservations.