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Astronomy Colloquium
NIRWALS: the Near InfraRed Washburn Astronomical Laboratories Spectrograph on SALT
Date: Thursday, April 18th
Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Place: 4421 Sterling Hall
Speaker: Marsha Wolf, UW-Madison
Abstract: Advances in astronomical instrumentation propel our understanding of the universe. One example is how integral field spectroscopic surveys of thousands of nearby galaxies over the last decade have revealed unprecedented spatially-resolved views into the details of galaxy evolution. The University of Wisconsin Astronomy Department’s Washburn Astronomical Laboratories specializes in integral field instrumentation. We were involved in the SDSS-IV MaNGA survey that observed 10,000 galaxies, recently commissioned the Near InfraRed Washburn Astronomical Laboratories Spectrograph (NIRWALS) on the 11-meter Southern African Large Telescope (shared-risk science observations begin in May 2024), and are currently developing a speckle imaging integral field spectrograph for the Lowell Discovery Telescope. This talk will focus on NIRWALS with descriptions of its development history, capabilities, early performance on SALT, and a preview into new galaxy evolution studies that it will enable. The near infrared spectral band allows access to nebular lines that are tracers of dust-obscured star formation, AGN activity, and shocks, providing a critical probe into galaxy quenching processes. Recent ALMA observations have shown that post-starburst galaxies, in which optical spectra indicate that star formation has been rapidly quenched, still contain significant reservoirs of gas. So, what stopped the star formation? We are launching a new project to observe 50 post-starburst galaxies with NIRWALS, using them as laboratories to investigate whether their star formation is still ongoing, but hidden by dust, or whether feedback from AGN or galactic winds have depressed star formation efficiency by dominating the ISM energetics in these galaxies.
Host: Ke Zhang
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