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Studying star formation from the stratosphere with the ballon-borne polarimeter BLASTPol

Add Event to your Calendar Fri., Sep. 18, 2020 3:30 p.m. - Fri., Sep. 18, 2020 4:30 p.m.

Location: Zoom

Abstract: An important mystery in astrophysics is why the conversion of diffuse interstellar gas into stars is such an inefficient process. We typically observe of order 1% the star formation rate expected from a free-fall gravitational collapse of molecular gas clouds.This low efficiency is likely due to regulation from a combination of turbulent gas motions, magnetic fields, and feedback from young stars. Of these processes the role played by magnetic fields is particularly poorly understood, largely because of the difficulty of observing distant magnetic fields. In this talk I will discuss what we have learned about magnetic fields in star-forming regions using the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-mm Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol). BLASTPol launched from Antarctica in 2010 and 2012, operating while suspended from 10^6 cubic meter stratospheric balloon 38km above sea level (above 99.5% of the Earth’s atmosphere). By mapping polarized radiation at sub-mm wavelengths from dust grains aligned with their local magnetic field BLASTPol wasable to create highly detail magnetic field maps of the nearby giant molecular cloud Vela C. We find that in Vela C magnetic fields play an important role in the formation of both low- and high-density molecular gas sub-structures. I will also discuss our recent adventures launching a next-generation balloon-borne polarimeter, BLAST-TNG, from Antarctica in January 2020. I will finish my talk by looking at the future of balloon, space, and ground based studies of magnetized star and planet formation.

Speaker: Dr. Laura Fissel, Queen's University