Judith Provencal, resident astronomer at the Mt. Cuba Observatory and an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was always curious about the sky. She is an Asteroseismologist, studying pulsating White Dwarf stars, coordinating the collection of data from observers all around the world–all while getting students from PHYS469 and 699 involved in hands on astronomical observation.
Listen to the interview
Judi Provencal (12/13/12)
About our guest
Judith Provencal was always curious about the sky. After achieving her PhD from the University of Texas in 1995, Provencal came to Delaware to work with Harry Shipman, Physics and Astronomy, on postdoctoral research. Currently Provencal is an assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department, the Director of Delaware Asteroseismic Research Center (DARC), and the resident astronomer at the Mt. Cuba Observatory.
Using DARC’s resources, Provencal is researching Asteroseismology: the study of pulsating stars. Provencal specifically studies White Dwarf stars that change their shape or surface temperatures as waves of energy travel through their interiors. The center’s goal is to monitor stars of interest for 2-5 weeks to further universal understanding of our own Milky Way galaxy, and other galaxies in the future:
“Our studies of asteroseismology have a grander goal than simply determining individual stellar structures. We use this information to better understand the physics and evolution of stars, including our sun. In turn, we use that information to better understand our own Milky Way galaxy, and eventually other galaxies in the Universe.” (About DARC)
As resident astronomer at the Mount Cuba Astronomical Observatory since 2000 and Whole Earth Telescope director since 2006, Provencal has access to many resources and uses these connections to promote interactive learning inside the classroom and out. Teaching PHYS469 and 669 Observational Astronomy, Provencal says, “Students get hands-on experience focusing on techniques and analysis of astronomical observation, with emphasis on CCD imaging. Some of the topics include celestial coordinates, telescope handling, CCDs, data reduction, and data analysis.”
- Delaware Asteroseismic Research Center (DARC), promoting the study of stellar seismology.
- UD Department of Physics and Astronomy
- Mount Cuba Astronomical Observatory , a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting learning and open to the public on select Monday evenings.
- Black hole lecture – Vernon Lecture focuses on mystery at center of Milky Way.
- Hungry black hole – 500 attend Vernon Lecture.
- Hubba-Hubble – Hubble telescope to help UD astronomer research white dwarf stars
- Shooting for the stars – Burned-out star offers Whole Earth Telescope team insights into sun’s future.
- A starburst captured – UD students photograph exploding star in Pinwheel Galaxy.