Lindsey is a physics major who came to Cal Poly Pomona as a political science major expecting to become a lawyer. After one quarter, she realized that her interests lay elsewhere. After thinking long and hard about what she actually wanted to do, and what she could be happy doing with the rest of her life, she chose to major in physics. She had always had a special interest in astronomy and astrophysics, so she applied to the CAMPARE program as a way to expand her knowledge. She spent the summer of 2012 in Tucson, Arizona, studying "supernovae imposters." This is her story.
This summer I had the opportunity of traveling to Tucson, Arizona as part of the CAMPARE program. I was very fortunate to have worked with Dr. Nathan Smith of the Steward observatory. I was nervous before coming to Arizona because I didn't know exactly what my research project would entail. After talking to Dr. Smith, and informing him that I was very much interested in spectroscopy, we decided that the project that well suited me was spectroscopy of "supernovae imposters" or luminous blue variable eruptions.
The best part of this whole experience for me was being able to communicate with my mentor about what my interests are and being a part of the formulation of my research project. My spectroscopic data was collected using the MMT and the Lick Observatories, and I spent most of my summer reducing this data using Image Reduction and Analysis Facility (IRAF) to produce a simple spectrum of the stars' emission and absorption lines.
This summer I was able to go on three observing runs. The MMT on Mt. Hopkins, the Bok on Kitt Peak and the Kuiper on Mt. Lemmon were all telescopes that I was able to visit along side Dr. Smith. Being able to do some observing was an amazing experience.
I got to learn first hand how astronomers acquire data. The hardest part of observing for me was staying up all night, but I tried very hard to stay up as long as I could so I could get the most out of the experience. The scenery was just stunning. I could see so many stars just with the naked eye. It was a really breath taking sight.
When we weren't working, Nicole, Remington, Austin and I took the time to explore the city of Tucson. We took a trip to the Pima Air and Space Museum, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Steward Mirror Lab.