Improving Astronomy through Improved Atomic Data
As part of Dr. Mike Wood's interview he will be presenting a lecture. Dr. Wood is a NIST NRC Postdoctoral Fellow.
Advances in observational capabilities have brought about exciting astronomical developments including the detection of extrasolar planets and the existence of dark matter. With the next generation of instruments, including the James Webb Space Telescope and gigantic ~30 meter diameter ground-based telescopes, a new round of wonders will surely be uncovered. However, this excitement masks a rather embarrassing truth: the scientific return on many billion-dollar astronomical projects is often limited by a simple lack of accurate laboratory data. This talk will highlight the importance of laboratory data in astronomy, focusing in particular on atomic transition probabilities and the research they enable. Following this will be a discussion of the preferred methods for determining experimental transition probabilities which emphasizes areas where these methods fail. I will conclude with a look toward how this failure can be addressed and how future experimental efforts can return laboratory data to the forefront of cutting-edge astronomical research.