Using shockwaves to measure the oxygen abundance in the gas in galaxies

Shockwaves in the interstellar medium can be driven by stellar explosions, jets from black holes, and galaxy collisions, and can travel through the interstellar gas at speeds of hundreds of kilometres per second.  These "fast shocks" ionise the gas and produce emission lines that we observe with spectrographs at telescopes.  At RSAA we have a model, MAPPINGS, that can predict the brightness of the emission lines from shocks.

We have recently computed a new grid of shock models.  The results predict how the strengths of emission lines change as a function of the oxygen abundance in the shocked gas.  In this project you will: 1) Learn about how we can measure the abundances of chemical elements in ionised nebulae, 2) Explore the new modelling results to discover ways to measure the oxygen abundances in shocked gas, and 3) Compare your new calibrations to existing calibrations for other (non-shocked) types of nebulae.  The project will improve your programming and data analysis skills, and you will learn about how we can use spectroscopy to understand the physics of the ionised interstellar medium.