Astrophysics Professor Earns NSF Grant to Research Cataclysmic Variables

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Matt Wood, Florida Institute of Technology professor of physics and space sciences, has earned a $219,000 award from the National Science Foundation for work related to NASA’s Kepler space mission.

Wood and his students will simulate fluid flows in interacting stellar binary systems known as cataclysmic variables. Several of these systems are being continuously monitored by the Kepler planet-finding mission, offering a comparison between the theory and the data. This should allow the researchers to better determine the nature of astrophysical viscosity, which is “friction” for fluids.

“The light curves of binary cataclysmic variable systems revealed through the Kepler mission provide unprecedented detail, which will help us refine models of astrophysical viscosity,” said Wood.

The Kepler spacecraft, equipped with a space observatory, is specifically designed to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars in a portion of our region of the Milky Way galaxy. The spacecraft was launched on March 7, 2009, with a planned mission lifetime of about 3.5 years.


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