David Morrisroe Professor of Astronomy; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist
Dipl., University of Liege, 2002; M.Phil., 2004; Ph.D., 2006. Caltech, Associate Professor, 2015-2019; Professor, 2019-22; Morrisroe Professor, 2022-; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research Scientist, 2015-22; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist, 2022-.
Research Areas: Astronomy
My research interests lie in the direct imaging and characterization of extra-solar planetary systems - exoplanets, circumstellar disks - with adaptive optics/wavefront control, coronagraphy, and spectroscopy. Benefiting from my hybrid profile of astronomer instrumentalist at the interface between science and technique, I develop, commission, and use advanced innovative technologies to perform remote sensing of other worlds with the largest ground and space-based telescopes in the world. My main angle of attack is high contrast imaging and spectroscopy, an emerging but exciting technique in the study of extra-solar planetary systems, which aims at finding new exoplanets, filling out parts of the parameter space inaccessible to indirect techniques, and, more importantly, characterizing them. Isolating the signal of planets from the glare of their host star enables us to, e.g., measure and constrain orbital motions with astrometry, analyze their atmospheres through spectro-photometry, and understand planet-disk interactions.
Ay 105. Optical Astronomy Instrumentation Lab. 9 units (1-5-3): third term. Prerequisites: Ay 20. An opportunity for astronomy and physics undergraduates (juniors and seniors) to gain firsthand experience with the basic instrumentation tools of modern optical and infrared astronomy. The 10 weekly lab experiments include radiometry measurements, geometrical optics, polarization, optical aberrations, spectroscopy, CCD characterization, vacuum and cryogenic technology, infrared detector technology, adaptive optics (wavefront sensors, deformable mirrors, closed loop control) and a coronography tuturial. Instructor: Mawet.
Ay 122 abc. Astronomical Measurements and Instrumentation. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second terms. Prerequisites: Ph 106bc or equivalent. Measurement and signal analysis techniques througout the electromagnetic spectrum. Courses may include lab work and field trips to Caltech observatories. Ay 122a concentrates on infrared, optical, and ultraviolet techniques: telescopes, optics, detectors, photometry, spectroscopy, active/adaptive optics, coronography. Imaging devices and image processing. Ay 122b concentrates on radio through submillimeter techniques: antennae, receivers, mixers, and amplifiers. Interferometers and aperture synthesis arrays. Signal analysis techniques and probability and statistics, as relevant to astronomical measurement. Ay 122c (not offered 2019-20) concentrates on X-ray through gamma-ray techniques. Instructors: Howard, Martin, Hallinan, Ravi.
Ay 123. Structure and Evolution of Stars. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. Prerequisites: Ay 101; Ph 125 or equivalent (undergraduates). Thermodynamics, equation of state, convection, opacity, radiative transfer, stellar atmospheres, nuclear reactions, and stellar models. Evolution of low- and high-mass stars, supernovae, and binary stars. Instructors: Hillenbrand, Kirby.
Ay/Ge 198. Special Topics in the Planetary Sciences. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. Topic for 2019-20 is Extrasolar Planets. Thousands of planets have been identified in orbit around other stars. Astronomers are now embarking on understanding the statistics of extrasolar planet populations and characterizing individual systems in detail, namely star-planet, planet-planet and planet-disk dynamical interactions, physical parameters of planets and their composition, weather phenomena, etc. Direct and indirect detection techniques are now completing the big picture of extra-solar planetary systems in all of their natural diversity. The seminar-style course will review the state of the art in exoplanet science, take up case studies, detail current and future instrument needs, and anticipate findings. Instructors: Howard, Mawet.