July 25, 2007

Case professor organizes workshop on modeling the clustering of galaxies

Conference attracts astronomers from around the world - and one black bear

Idit Zehavi

When organizers of the Aspen Center for Physics gave a briefing on how to act when encountering bears, Idit Zehavi, Case Western Reserve University assistant professor of astronomy, absorbed the information but filed it away as something she would probably never have to use.

But the Aspen Center was preparing its attendees, just in case—especially since a bear made its way into one of the center's buildings last year.

In prior trips to the Colorado ski resort, where physicists and astronomers gather during summer to discuss astrophysical research, she had never before seen one. But, upon returning from an Aspen Center discussion with astronomers from around the world on modeling galaxy clustering, that changed one evening in June.

In the courtyard to the condominium in which she was staying, what appeared to be a black bear blocked the way to her apartment.

A flashback to the bear survival lessons kept her quietly rooted to her spot instead of running—or screaming—for help. Zehavi, along with other astronomers, held their ground until the bear lost interest in what it was looking for and wandered out of the courtyard to greener places elsewhere.

"It was big" was a memorable impression left by the black bear encounter, according to Zehavi who has taken the incident in stride since returning to the astronomy department office in the Sears Building.

During the three-week Aspen Center session, Zehavi organized discussions in the Modeling Galaxy Clustering workshop she coordinated with Andreas Berlind from New York University and Joanne Cohn and Martin White from the University of California at Berkeley. Forty participants from all over the world attended the workshop.

According to Zehavi, the meeting brought together theorists, modelers, phenomenologists and observers together to build a framework for interpreting and understanding the flood of data unleashed by recent surveys.

Discussing different approaches to studying galaxy clustering and unraveling galactic evolution, Zehavi said, helps the astronomers see where they agree and disagree and the direction that future research might take.

Zehavi is a member of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an ambitious ongoing survey aimed at mapping a quarter of the sky. She is studying the large-scale structure of the universe and the distribution of galaxies. She is primarily focused on studying the clustering properties of galaxies and their implications on cosmological models, galaxy formation and evolution, and the relationship between galaxies and dark matter.

The Sloan Survey collects data by using a 2.5 meter telescope, located on Apache Point, New Mexico. The instrument is equipped with an imaging camera and spectrographs. It has the capability of imaging 8,000 square degrees of the sky and has surveyed 675,000 galaxies, 90,000 quasars and 185,000 stars. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Japanese Monbukagakuso, the Max Planck Society, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and 25 participating institutions, support the research.

For more information, contact Susan Griffith at 216-368-1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, July 25, 2007 09:31 AM | News Topics: College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Research, Science

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