Binary mergers in non-spherical nuclear star clusters

The Milky Way and a significant fraction of galaxies are observed to host a central Massive Black Hole (MBH) embedded in a non-spherical nuclear star cluster. I will discuss the orbital evolution of stellar binaries in these environments and argue that their merger rates are expected to be greatly enhanced when the effect from cluster potential is taken into account in the binary-MBH triple system. I will apply our results to compact-object binary mergers mediated by gravitational wave radiation and show that this merger channel can contribute significantly to the LIGO detections.

Magnetic Fields in the Interstellar Medium

Sensitive, high-resolution observations of Galactic neutral hydrogen (HI) reveal an intricate network of slender linear features. Across the high Galactic latitude sky, this HI is aligned with the magnetic field as traced by both starlight polarization and Planck 353 GHz polarized dust emission. The structure of the neutral interstellar medium is more tightly coupled to the magnetic field than previously known.

Convection Affects Magnetic Turbulence in White Dwarf Accretion Disks

I examine the accretion disks which power outbursts in two types of white dwarf binary systems: dwarf novae (DNe) and AM CVns. Accretion disks in these systems are thermally unstable, causing some of the observed variations. The source of "normal outbursts" in these systems ultimately originates from ionization transitions (H for DNe and He for AM CVns). These ionization transitions cause significant temperature dependence in opacities and equation of states, culminating in the occurrence of convection within these accretion disks.

School of Natural Sciences

The School of Natural Sciences includes nine permanent faculty and approximately fifty postdoctoral men and women working full time on frontier topics in astrophysics, biology, mathematical physics, quantum field theory, particle phenomenology, string theory and quantum gravity.