MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — As intergalactic zombies — that eat their sister stars and wander galaxies like the walking dead — neutron stars and black holes have all the makings of a hit movie.
Now, there’s a “first-of-its-kind” map showing exactly where these roaming corpses of stars were born and how far they’ve traveled, thanks to a Georgia College professor and a string of physics students over the past seven years.
“No one else has done this — collected all this data into one map,” said Astrophysicist Dr. Arash Bodaghee. “We are the ones who’ve made the most updated list of neutron stars and black holes in the world.”
“This type of research is typically done at Harvard or UC Berkeley. So,” he said. “it’s kind of surprising to see Georgia College students taking the lead. That’s because I brought some of this data with me from my Ph.D. 20 years ago, and we’ve been updating it ever since.”
The difference between a neutron star and black hole is the mass of its weight. Both are collapsed cores, born from supernova explosions of dying stars much larger than our sun. But black holes are denser and less frequent.
Since 2014, four Georgia College students have helped Bodaghee chart neutron stars within the Small Magellanic Cloud. It’s a companion galaxy bound to the Milky Way by gravitational pull. The group just published their map and a research paper on the speed of neutron stars in that galaxy.
With the help of senior physics major Cody Cox of Milledgeville, Bodaghee is now updating a map of the Milky Way he created in 2012. Instead of finding neutron stars and black holes the old way — piling through publications and websites — the team uses a computer program Cox created. It instantly pinpoints the location of these roaming dead stars.
To do what Cox has done, Bodaghee said, would take a Ph.D. student years to accomplish.
Cox did it last year as a junior in college, mostly in his free time.
Eventually, the two maps will be put on Wikipedia so people and scientists all over the world can access them, update information and make edits. Bodaghee and Georgia College will maintain a controlling interest in the page.
The two maps can be overlaid to show similarities and differences in neutron stars and black holes. The maps could determine if and why collapsed cores from separate galaxies move at different speeds. They might also indicate the life cycle of these entities and how far they migrate before fizzling out.
Cox transferred to Georgia College precisely for opportunities like this.
“This level of undergraduate research just isn’t available elsewhere,” Cox said. “There’s such a close connection between the professors and the students here that allows a level of research you can’t find anywhere else.”
Bodaghee and Cox conduct their research at 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A raw video clip of Bodaghee and Cox talking about their work can be found at https://vimeo.com/589458958/206acc8415.
Another video can be found here: https://vimeo.com/589033564/0742285a4f.