"Rather than dig in the dirt, I dig in the sky."
This week on You're the Expert, the Indiana Jones of the cosmos, MIT's Dr. Anna Frebel, discusses the expansive field of Stellar Archeology.
Dr. Frebel admits that the human mind, even one as sharp and experienced as her own, has great difficulty comprehending the true origination of matter. But, through the process of breaking stars down to their elemental compositions, Dr. Frebel has chiseled away at some of those burning existential quandaries that have perplexed all who have dared ask the question: Where do we come from?
Dr. Frebel began this process of cosmic discovery at the age of 14, when she first knew she wanted to study the stars. And in 2007, her childhood passion was realized when she discovered the oldest known star in the galaxy, one that dates back a whooping 13.2 billion years. Though some of her fellow Stellar Archeologists discovered a star that originated 13.7 billion years ago in 2009, Dr. Frebel continues to embrace the mantra: "If it's cloudy, apply again." In stellar archeologist lingo, that translates to: 'Just because your star is a mere .5 billion years older than mine doesn't mean that on a clear night, and with adequate grant funding, I won't discover something older.'
Dr. Frebel has won numerous awards including the National Science Foundation Career Award, the Annie Jump Cannon Award, and the Biermann Young Astronomer Award. She has also authored several papers on dwarf galaxies, nuclear astrophysics, and the oldest stars in the galaxy.
So the next time you to want wish upon a star, we hope you think of Dr. Anna Frebel, and how she's probably carbon dated, classified, and wished on that star first.
Cue Indiana Jones theme song.
For more on Dr. Anna Frebel:
-Visit her MIT faculty home page at: http://afrebel.scripts.mit.edu/www/
-A great interview with Dr. Frebel in New Scientist: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/new_scientist/2014/02/the_oldest_star_in_the_milky_way_a_pure_second_generation_star.html
-Read an article on Dr. Frebel and her work in Harvard Magazine: http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/05/stellar-archeology