Astronomical Applications of Remote Sensing: A Search for Diffuse Interstellar Band Absorption Features
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At first glance geography and astronomy have nothing in common, but upon further review, astronomy shares many of the same principles of remote sensing. Both rely on data obtained indirectly from distant sources and both their data comes in the form of electromagnetic (EM) radiation. The field of spectroscopy is of particular importance to both; used in climate and atmospheric studies and in almost every aspect of astronomy. Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction of matter with EM radiation, and astronomers use it to identify the molecular components of stars and the tenuous gasses between them and Earth. As light from the stars passes through interstellar material, the material absorbs certain wavelengths and adds absorption features to the spectrum that reaches Earth. One particular class of these absorption features is called Diffuse Interstellar Bands, or DIBs, and both their chemical source and formation site have remained a mystery since their discovery over 60 years ago. The eclipse of the binary star Epsilon Aurigae presented a unique opportunity to search for the DIB formation site in circumstellar material by analyzing its spectrum for changes in absorption at known DIB wavelengths through the first half of the eclipse which began in August 2009. To carry out this investigation high-resolution spectroscopic data from February 2009 to April 2010 were analyzed using the software Image Reduction and Analysis Facility (IRAF). Analysis showed no changes in absorption near DIB wavelengths over this period, leading to the conclusion that the formation site of DIBs is not in circumstellar material such that in the Epsilon Aurigae system.
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