Extreme Stars at the Center of the Galaxy
The Stellar Zoo at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy would be quite unfamiliar to a terrestrial visitor. Not only do the types of stars one finds there differ in many ways from what we can see in our serene nighttime sky from Earth, but the stars at the Galactic center are also not behaving like the familiar stars around us. They are densely packed in and are careening around the center at breakneck speeds, sometimes engaging in a cosmic destruction derby. Even their formation process tends to take place in spectacular cataclysmic events. I’ll describe how the Keck Telescopes and their powerful infrared instruments are being used to follow the lives of stars in this unique region, and I'll relate the short, but exciting lifetimes of the most massive stars, and what happens to their remnants after those stars explode as supernovae. I’ll also explain why red giants are sitting ducks for stellar impacts, reveal the curious things that can happen to binary star systems, and describe the fireworks that ensue when a star happens to meet the Galaxy's central black hole.
A graduate of UCR, Morris went on to get his degree in Physics at the University of Chicago in 1975,
working in the then new field of millimeter-wave radio astronomy. After a post-doc at Caltech and a
first teaching position at Columbia University, he went to UCLA in 1983, where he has been teaching
ever since. Using radio, infrared, and X-ray observatories, Morris has explored the central region of
the Milky Way Galaxy, with an emphasis on the properties of the central supermassive black hole and
its stellar entourage, on the strong interstellar magnetic field there, and on the unusual modes of star
formation there. He also investigates the two ends of stellar evolution throughout the Galaxy: star
formation and star death as mass-losing red giants morph into white dwarf stars.
"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by Chris Butler
Pre-meeting Slide Show (~2 MB)
Club Announcements (~2 MB)