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Previous Research Experience Form Essay

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Since January of 1999, I have been doing research in Astrophysics as a member of the Lick Observatory Supernova Search (L.O.S.S) team with Professor Alex Filippenko at the University of California, Berkeley.   We work under the larger auspices of the High Z (i.e. high redshift) Supernova Search Team, headed by Dr. Brian Schmidt at the Australian National University in Canberra.   The big picture goal of the group is to discover large numbers of Type Ia supernovae in distant galaxies, determine their spectra and light curves from follow up observations, and use them to do cosmology.   My research has focused on both searching for supernovae and performing photometry on the follow up observations to obtain the supernova’s light curves, which plot its apparent brightness as a function of time in several different filters (U,B,V,R and I bands).   These light curves are then used to test various cosmological models, and specifically, to measure the acceleration rate of the universe.   Since Edwin Hubble’s 1929 discovery that almost all galaxies are redshifted, and are thus receding from us, we have known that the universe is expanding.   The major result of the High Z Team, which was announced first in 1998, is that the supernovae we observed are consistently 10-15% dimmer than what we would expect from a coasting expanding universe, implying that they were actually farther away than expected, and thus that the expansion of the universe may actually be accelerating.
    When I joined the group in early 1999, the result was even more controversial than it is now because it flew in the face of conventional wisdom that the universe was surely decelerating, as gravity should eventually overcome the energy from the initial expansion. The results also resurrected serious interest in Einstein’s Cosmological Constant L, which in theory could provide a cosmic antigravity force, which resists normal gravity and causes the acceleration.   As it happened, the accelerating universe...

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