Heather Kaluna was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  She is currently a junior pursuing degrees in Astronomy and Mathematics at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.  Heather is the vice president of the University Astrophysics Club as well as the president of the Ohana of Future Mathematics and Science Teachers.  Her future goals are to obtain a PhD and work as a professor at a university, where she can both teach and perform research.

Home Island: Big Island

Institution when acceptedUniversity of Hawai’i at Hilo

Akamai Project: Serendipity in the DEEP Survey

Project Site: Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz

Mentors: David Rosario Advisor: Puragra GuhaThakurta

Project Abstract:

Galaxy formation and evolution constitutes one of the largest inquiries in astronomy today. Some of the faintest and most distant galaxies are found accidentally as spatially super-imposed or offset emission lines on a main target galaxy’s spectrum. These serendipitously detected galaxies are referred to as serendips, some of which are dwarf galaxies. By measuring a galaxy’s redshift, the degree to which its light has moved towards the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum, we are able to determine its distance. The goal of this project is to gain insight into galaxy evolution by studying the properties of 392 serendips, which cover a distance that corresponds to a look-back time of half the age of the universe. To search for these serendipitous galaxies and find their redshifts, we used an IDL program called ZSPEC, which looks at galaxy spectra from about 40 slit masks taken with the Keck telescopes for the Deep Extragalactic Evolutionary Probe (DEEP) survey. By studying the same serendips in a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) image of a DEEP sub-region, we were able to look at dwarf galaxy building blocks and compare them to more luminous, fully assembled galaxies. The serendips were then categorized into several groups based on what was found in the HST images. In about a third (65/184) of the images I inspected, there were clear candidates on the images that could explain the presence of the serendipitously detected spectra. At least seven percent (13/184) were found to be physically associated with the target galaxy on the same slit, and more serendips might be associated with galaxies not on the slit. Further work on this study should provide insight into the evolution of galaxy luminosities, morphologies and star formation processes.