Professor presents supernovae research

Professor Tabetha Hole from East Tennessee State University visited Weber State University on Monday and presented her published research on the phenomena known as supernovae, or exploding stars. Her research is on Novae Class 1A white dwarf stars and the reactions at the center that cause nuclear fusion.

“Type 1A supernovae are really important in astronomy,” Hole said. “They’re used to try and figure out how far away things are in the universe. That’s actually one of the biggest challenges in astronomy because you can’t just use a ruler to figure out how far away something is.”

According to Hole, her research is also significant because the explosions of these stars are how most heavy elements are generated, which, in theory, contributes to planet formation.

However, it is difficult to learn about these stars because they are so far away. Hole’s research is in developing ways of studying these novae over the distances.

Hole’s research consisted of generating model arrays of Class 1A supernovae by studying their electron polarization. She explained that polarization is an alignment of electric field orientation. In an exploding star, electrons are shot in different directions and Hole’s model is based on polarization density, or the clumps of electrons heading in particular orientations. Hole uses this to create maps of supernovae as reaction ‘flames’ travel through the expanding star. This modeling is being developed to learn more about the actual reaction phenomena that can only be observed through absorption and emission spectroscopic methods.

Ian Cox, a sophomore physics major, said he enjoyed the presentation despite his area of interest being on a much smaller physical scale.

Hole is an applicant for a visiting professorship in the physics department at WSU. After completing a phone interview, she was invited to visit the campus.

“It was an invitation for me to see the campus and for them to see me try to teach people,” Hole said.

Following the seminar, a few students and many of the physics department faculty were able to ask her questions. According to Cox, it was an obvious situation where the faculty was sort of testing Hole’s ability under pressure and, despite the pressure, she remained calm and answered the questions clearly and effectively. Michael Shaw, a senior physics major, also commented on Hole’s ability to remain composed under the questioning of her potential colleagues.

“They’re very nice and all of the questions were very reasonable and intelligent,” Hole said of her potential colleagues.

Cox mentioned that he would enjoy taking a class from her.

“She paid attention to every detail of the question that was asked and was sure to answer each part,” Shaw said. “It was a good presentation and she seems very comfortable in her teaching abilities.”