The SC State “Partnership in Observational and Computational Astronomy (POCA)” is a 5-year project funded by the National Science Foundation’s program “Partnerships in Astronomy and Astrophysics Research and Education”.
The mission of POCA is to develop an effective, long-term partnership between SC State, Clemson University and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory that combines the strengths of the three institutions to increase the scientific and educational output of all the partners with special emphasis on enhancing diversity in the field of astronomy. POCA supports a variety of activities in astronomical research, curriculum development and outreach.
POCA’s main research project is a study of pulsating variable stars, specifically RV Tauri and Semiregular types as discussed in detail here.
SC State Astronomers Awarded Time on Space Observatory
SC State astronomers Dr. Jennifer Cash and Dr. Donald Walter have been awarded observing time and funding to use NASA’s Kepler Observatory. They and colleague Dr. Steve Howell of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Arizona were among 27 new teams of scientists selected in a national competition to use the telescope over a period of twelve months beginning in June 2010.
Kepler, one of NASA’s newest observatories, was launched in March of 2009. The telescope is located in orbit millions of miles from the Earth, so all observations made are submitted remotely to the observatory. Once the data is collected by Kepler it is radioed back to a ground station on Earth.
Cash, Howell and Walter will use Kepler data as part of a long-term study of RV Tauri type stars and Semi-Regular variables. These stars are near the end of their life and are becoming unstable. Their light output varies over a period of a few months as the outer edge of the star expands and contracts.
NASA is funding this research using Kepler data, but the three astronomers are also funded by NSF to study these variables using ground-based observations under the 5-year SC State project known as “A Partnership in Observational and Computational Astronomy (POCA)”.